Meet the Maker

From Lindt to vegan praline manufacture: an interview with Solvejg Klein

Solvejg Klein von der Pralinenmanufaktur "das Bernsteinzimmer"
Even as a child, Solvejg Klein loved experimenting with ingredients in the kitchen. In 2015 she fulfilled her dream and opened her own praline factory: The Bernstein Room stands for handmade, vegan pralines made from selected, fair and completely plant-based ingredients. We were allowed to visit Solvejg in their factory in Wuppertal. You can now find out how she made chocolate her career, what conclusions she drew from her time at Lindt and why all of her chocolates are now vegan.

What was your favorite food as a child?
That has changed many times. I was quite picky as a child, but I actually always liked toast.

How did you go from toast to praline?

It wasn't a really direct route. (laughs) I always enjoyed cooking and baking. I made my first cake when I was five years old. I just put everything in the bowl that I thought belonged in a cake. My mother barely saved him. Later, when I was 15 or 16, I saw the film “Chocolat” and was completely fascinated. But not from Johnny Depp, but from the chocolate! (laughs) Since then I have experimented with praline recipes with more or less success. Back then it was just normal chocolate from the supermarket.

How did you make chocolate your career?

First I trained as a media designer in Salzburg. On the side, I was always interested in chocolate and working on my own creations. By chance I discovered a training position at Lindt & Sprüngli. I was accepted and trained as a “confectionery technology specialist”.

I learned a lot during the training. But I also realized that shift work and these huge, loud machines weren't for me. My own ideas simply cannot be implemented in such an industrial company. Sometimes I felt more like a grain of sand in the gears.

How did you get from a company like Lindt to such high-quality chocolate?

I really enjoyed trying out different chocolate shops and tried really high-quality bean-to-bar chocolate for the first time. That was like an eye opener! I always had the dream of owning my own chocolate café or chocolate factory in the back of my mind. It was clear to me: if there was chocolate, then it would be really good, fair and vegan.

Why vegan chocolates?
This is a matter close to my heart. During my training I came into contact with industrial factory farming. Since then I have consistently eaten a vegan diet. I'm not saying that the whole world has to go vegan, that's utopian. But I do think that everyone needs to question their own consumption.
Eating vegan is not a restriction at all, on the contrary: you discover so many great flavors. We have many customers who don't even know that our chocolates are vegan. They simply say “this is the tastiest praline I have ever tasted”.
Especially when it comes to chocolate, I find it really exciting to look for plant-based alternatives. Which plant grows where our cocoa grows? Which flavor goes well with our cocoa? Ingredients like cashew milk often go much better with chocolate than any milk powder from the other side of the world. Think more locally and creatively!

Vegan chocolates from the Wuppertal chocolate manufacturer 'The Amber Room' Vegan chocolates from the Wuppertal chocolate manufacturer 'Das Bernsteinzimmer' ©Das Bernsteinzimmer

What doesn't belong in good chocolate?

Emulsifiers. When someone tells me they can't make chocolate without emulsifiers, I just laugh. Sure, cocoa is a flexible raw material. Some batches melt beautifully, others have less fat and melt more like pudding. But such fluctuations are completely natural. When I make chocolates, I have to react flexibly to these fluctuations and add cocoa butter if necessary.

What I don't think belongs in chocolate are dairy products. Butterfat is a very cheap fat, but has no place in good chocolate.
I also think it's great when cocoa doesn't alkalize. This way, even more flavors are retained.

What should customers pay attention to when buying chocolate?

Good chocolate is the big picture. On the one hand, I look at the company and its lived values, including political attitudes. Greenwashing, as the square chocolate from Germany is currently doing, is not possible!

And I have to like the chocolate. It's great if it's fair, organic, sustainable, etc., but the taste quality simply has to be right.

The chocolate that Solvejg Klein processes in her Bernsteinzimmer chocolate factory has to be vegan, fair and of course really good. You can find your handmade, delicious chocolates at 'Das Bernsteinzimmer' in the fine online shop !

Header photo of 'The Amber Room'

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