The Sweet and Salty Symphony:
Exploring the Secret Behind Chocolate and Salt’s perfect pairing.

19 June, 2024

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Gregorie and Whirly Marshall are the masterminds behind Blackthorn Salt.

So, you’re sipping on your rich, velvety drinking chocolate, when your discerning palate is met with the subtle, yet delightful undertone of salt, taking it to the next level of deliciousness!

But why does this combination work so perfectly?

Well, read on my friends, because this Blendsmiths blog is about to delve into why chocolate and salt make such a perfect pair. But not only this, we will also reveal the extra special story behind an even more exclusive salt. A salt more innovative and unique than you could imagine. A salt that we now use in our latest chocolate blend.

The salt in question? Blackthorn Salt, our newest partner who we have collaborated to make our Chill’d Salted Choc so mind-blowingly brilliant and spectacularly scrumptious.

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The Salty Choc Science

Sweet & Salt Harmony

We’re sure you already know the basics of taste, right? Our taste buds can detect five basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. Each taste plays a unique role in how we perceive flavours.

Taste receptors on our tongue interact with different molecules in food, sending signals to our brain that interpret these sensations. It's this interaction that creates the complex flavours we experience.

So what role does salt play?

So when it comes to sweetness, salt can actually function to ENHANCE the sweetness we taste by suppressing bitterness and making flavours more vibrant.In the human intestines, there is a sensor known as SGLT1. When both glucose and sodium are present, this specific sensor acts as a transporter, moving into the ‘sweet taste cell’, triggering the cell to register sweetness.

When salt is added to your chocolate, it’s not just balancing the flavours of the cocoa, but the salt literally becomes a detector, highlighting any sweetness from the chocolate, thus enhancing it!

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Salt & Chocolate Specifically

Components of Chocolate

The Primary components of our drinking chocolates are cocoa, (and in our case, organic coconut) sugar, and salt. The cocoa itself contains a compound called Theobromine which contributes a bitterness to chocolate’s complex flavour profile.

So, with this in mind, to perfectly balance the flavour of cocoa to its fullest potential, it’s not just sugar that is needed to create the sensational sweetness and pronounced cocoa flavours, but salt is the real secret to suppressing that bitterness of the Theobromine and enhancing the whole cocoa experience by bringing out hidden notes of caramel or fruitiness which you enjoy so much.

So, even though we know what qualities a cocoa must have to make a really good drinking chocolate, we also know just how to showcase the cocoa to its fullest potential with a sprinkle of salt.

So why all the salty focus? 

We’ve always known that chocolate & salt are a perfect pairing, just look at our Original Blend- salted from the start! So why now are we sharing this special salty feature? Because when we sat down to develop a new special Choc Blend for our Chill’d collection, we knew we wanted to sing the salted chocolate specialty to the heavens. Never settling for anything average, we like to blend differently for you, and that is when we delved to discover a fascinatingly unique and note-worthy type of salt from the West Coast of bonnie Scotland. Enter Blackthorn Salt…

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Blackthorn x Blendsmiths- the ultimate Salt & Sweet Pairing

To start, we’d like to note that Blackthorn salt simply cannot be described in words that fully do it justice. So we will try to capture their magic in a few paragraphs as a mere taster into their fascinating world in the art of salt making. Trust us, once you get digging, you’ll find their ethos, method, team and process just gets more and more fascinating.

The Blackthorn Story

Co-founded by Whirly and Gregorie, whose family heritage is deeply rooted in the salt industry, Blackthorn Salt was born from a dream to revive the Scottish salt-making tradition.

The whole backbone of Blackthorn is their ethos that Salt is the single most transformative ingredient of all time. Clean and unrefined, the taste of their Salt is everything a discerning palate requires – sweet, with a mouth-watering tang.
Used cleverly it can transform the mediocre, enhance a range of flavours or add a suggestion of rolling moreishness and sophistication to any meal.

Blackthorn’s Mind-blowing Method

Much like Blendsmiths loves to put a modern twist on ancient traditions; such as our blend of traditional Chai for the new age, Blackthorn uses a modern version of the ancient graduation tower method. This method dates all the way back to the sixteenth century!

Inspired by structures in Poland and Germany, Gregorie, an architect, revitalised this age-old technique for the 21st century. By using the incredible natural forces of the West Coast of Scotland, (principally the wind, but also sun when it comes out) Blackthorn captures all that they were looking for.

Every crystal comes from pure seawater, gathered locally and evaporated on the only working Thorn Tower in the world. This incredible structure harnesses the power wind and sun to dry off 90% of that water. In the Pan House, their Salters then use unique skills and patience to retain as many of the natural minerals as possible and gently draw off the beautiful Blackthorn crystals.

There are no chemicals or industrial processes used; no bleaching, seeding or adding.

Full of Flavour.

When selecting a salt to use in our latest blend, we of course had to prioritise one of our core values - FLAVOUR. Blackthorn’s flavour profile has all the characteristics we look for in a salt - it gives an echo of the sea, but there is also a depth and mellowness (provided by those precious minerals and bark tannins) which respects and elevates flavours allowing them to resonate satisfactorily and leaving a lingering taste of moreishness.

In particular, Blackthorn work hard to capture around 6x more calcium (enhancing sweeter characteristics), potassium and magnesium (for the sour and bitter) to work alongside the sodium chloride (salty) and the tannins (savoury umami) so that their salt is not simply salty per se, but works to elevate each of the 5 basic tastes- which is why it works so beautifully with the slightly bitter flavonoids of our Ivory Coast Cocoa.

Echoing our Ethos

With all our partnerships, it is fundamental that Blendsmiths find like-minded brands who are as passionate about their people and the credentials and quality of their products as we are. Like us, Blackthorn tests all of their business decisions against implications for sustainability and checks whether further innovation is needed to ensure they are being the best that they can be.

Being very much a family business, they are also aware of the long term and local environmental impact they may have. With this in mind, they also commit to supporting schools and colleges; inviting them to regularly learn about the Blackthorn way, whether from a culinary, business, sustainable or innovative angle.

We always stand by working with other specialised ‘small brands’ as an important part of keeping the small brand effect alive, and further spreading the missions and values we have together.

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The Blackthorn x Blendsmiths Magic

“We are extremely proud that Blackthorn is sometimes chosen by artisan manufactures to highlight specific flavours and are always, always excited by a chocolatey combination – it is such a joy! Blendsmiths’ Salted Chocolate is a great example where the character of the drink really stands out and shines, it just keeps giving, with its rich cocoa, the subtle bitterness tempered, yet somehow elevated by the Blackthorn, those delightful caramel notes have depth and a discernible savoury element too – it is a lasting taste that brings much happiness!! Absolutely scrumptious..!"

Whirly, Blackthorn Co-Founder

Anyway, enough reading for now; true salty sweet symphonies are best experienced through real-life tasting! Why not conduct your own salted chocolate taste testing to see exactly how you can level up your senses!


Credited to the author:.

Jasmine Feingold

Marketing Manager, Blendsmiths