A visit to the Pump St Bakery in Orford, Suffolk
When my friend Mendy (@angrybaker) asked if @richardleemassey and I were up for a trip to Suffolk to visit the Pump St Bakery in Orford, on Suffolk’s heritage coast, I was so thrilled – I’ve enjoyed their chocolate for a while now and had always wanted to see the bakery itself, with its highly Instagrammable pink walls! So last weekend we travelled from London for the day to have brunch there and to do a tour of their chocolate factory, just outside the village.
The bakery was founded in 2010 by Chris and Joanna Brennan, a father and daughter team who share a love of bread, baking and chocolate. Chris was a self-taught breadmaking hobbyist before starting the business, and Joanna changed career to join him. They took over what was originally a 15th century building on Orford’s main square (also home to a lovely seafood restaurant and antiques shop) and this is where the cafe and bakery are located. Chris manages the baking and chocolate team while Joanna takes care of the shop and cooks for the cafe.
In the bakery they make sourdough bread daily, selling it only on the day it was made and donating any leftovers at the end of the day to a shelter in Ipswich. They also bake pastries, including the ever-popular Eccles cakes, as well as bear claws, croissants, pastéis de nata, brownies, gibassiers (a breakfast pastry from Provence), doughnuts and palmiers. On the day we visited, the whole shop was cleaned out by about 3.30pm, and people had queued throughout the day for a seat at their lovely communal table, which goes to show how deservedly popular this place is.
The idea for their expansion into chocolate came when Chris started to draw connections between the sourdough fermentation process and the fermentation that takes place as part of the cacao bean extraction process. Along with only a few other UK producers, they now make small-batch, handmade chocolate from beans imported directly to them from family farms and cooperatives around the world, primarily south and central America. They applied the same principles to their chocolate making as they did to their bread: using only the best quality ingredients, making everything by hand, and obsessive attention to detail during the production process. One of their biggest stockists is Liberty in London but their chocolate is sold in a variety of smaller outlets around the world – they also operate a monthly mail-order “rare batch” service.
It was a fascinating insight into the chocolate-making process and a rare glimpse into a truly family-run, artisanal business offering the highest quality products and a wonderful warm welcome to their lucky customers. I was left wondering whether I could buy a holiday cottage in Suffolk just so I could be closer to this wonderful place.
Thanks to Joanna, Simon and Chris for welcoming us and for arranging a tour of the chocolate factory - it was a real treat.