Meet the Maker

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

Von Lindt zur veganen Pralinenmanufaktur: Solvejg Klein im Interview
Even as a child, Solvejg Klein loved to experiment with ingredients in the kitchen. In 2015 she fulfilled her dream and opened her own praline factory: The Bernsteinzimmer 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 profession, what conclusions she drew from her time at Lindt and why all her chocolates are vegan today.

What was your favorite meal as a kid?

That has often changed. I was quite picky as a kid, but I've always liked toast.

How did you get from toast to praline?

It wasn't really a direct route. (laughs) I've always loved to cook and bake. 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 just saved him. Later, when I was 15 or 16, I saw the film "Chocolat" and was totally fascinated. But not from Johnny Depp, but from the chocolate! (laughs) Since then I've been experimenting with praline recipes with more or less success. At that time I still used normal chocolate from the supermarket.

How did you make chocolate your profession?

First I did an apprenticeship as a media designer in Salzburg. On the side, I've always been interested in chocolate and have been working on my own creations. By chance I discovered an apprenticeship at Lindt & Sprüngli. I was accepted and trained as a "confectionery technology specialist".
I learned a lot during the training. But I also noticed that shift work and these huge, loud machines are not for me. My own ideas simply cannot be implemented in such an industrial company. Sometimes I felt more like a grain of sand in a gearbox.

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

I really enjoyed trying my way through 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 my own chocolate café or chocolate factory in the back of my mind. For me it was clear: if chocolate, then really good, fair and vegan.

Why vegan chocolates?

This is something close to my heart. During my training I came into contact with industrial factory farming. Since then I have been eating consistently vegan. I'm not saying that the whole world has to go vegan, that's utopian. But I do think that everyone has 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 chocolate I've ever tasted".
Especially when it comes to chocolate, I find it really exciting to look around for plant-based alternatives. Which plant grows where our cocoa grows? Which aroma goes well with our cocoa? Ingredients like cashew milk often go much better with chocolate than any powdered milk from the other side of the world. Think local and creative!

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

What does not belong in good chocolate?

emulsifiers. When someone tells me they can't make chocolate without emulsifiers, I just laugh. Of course, cocoa is a flexible raw material. Some batches melt wonderfully liquid, others have less fat and are melted more like pudding. But such fluctuations are quite natural. When I make pralines, I have to react flexibly to these fluctuations and add cocoa butter if necessary.
What I also don't think belongs in chocolate are dairy products. Butterfat is a very cheap fat, but has no place in good chocolate.
I also love that cacao is not alkalized. In this way, even more aromas are preserved.

What should customers look out for when buying chocolate?

Good chocolate is the big picture. On the one hand I look at the company and its lived values, also political attitudes. Greenwashing, as is currently being done by the square chocolate from Germany, for example, does not work at all!
And I have to like the chocolate. It's great if it's fair, organic, sustainable, etc., but the quality of taste just has to be right.

The chocolate manufacturer Bernsteinzimmer: Awards chocolates Now also in the Theyo shop: The award winners from 'The Amber Room' ©The Amber Room

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

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