News

  • Academy of Chocolate Awards 2017

    academy of chocolate awards 2017

    Last night the results of the prestigious Academy of Chocolate Awards were announced and we were delighted to discover that eleven of the bars that we currently stock won awards.

    Most exciting for us was the fact that Hogarth Craft Chocolate picked up two silvers for their Haiti and Peru bars and a GOLD for their Gianduia. It's amazing to see New Zealand being put so firmly on the craft chocolate map.

    Congratulations to all the winners and of course to the farmers who work so hard to produce the beautiful cacao.

    Here's a rundown of the winning bars that we stock...

    Hogarth Gianduia - Gold

    Hogarth Peru 66% - Silver

    Hogarth Haiti 68% - Silver

    Marou Ben Tre Coconut Milk - Silver

    Chocolate Tree Madagascar Ambanja - Silver

    Chocolate Tree Whisky Nibs - Silver

    Sirene Kokoa Kamili (part of the Ecuador/Tanzania duo pack) - Silver

    Original Beans Cusco Chuncho 100% - Silver

    Dick Taylor Belize, Toledo - Bronze

    Map Chocolate Meteor Shower - Bronze

    Zotter Labooko Peru Barranquita - Bronze

     

  • Hogarth Craft Chocolate - Matasawalevu

    Hogarth craft chocolate fiji

    Have you tried the new Hogarth Craft Chocolate Fiji bar yet? If not then you're in for a treat!

    This is the first bar in our collection to be made from Amelonado cacao, which is a subspecies of Forastero, the most commonly grown cacao in the world. You don't tend to see Forastero used in craft chocolate very often as it is generally considered to offer less interesting and fine flavours, compared to other cacao varieties like Trinitario or Criollo. But this bar is a great example of how there is no golden rule for these things - you can have beautiful Forastero and you can have crap Forastero, just like you can excellent or poor sauvignon blanc.

    Splitting cacao into these core species and trying to identify quality or flavours this way is a little outdated and simplistic. Really it comes down each specific plantation and situation - the climate, the region, the terroir, the fermentation and drying methods, the particular harvest, etc etc. This bar is a great example of how incredible Forastero can be when it reaches its full potential and is properly cared for.

    This is why we love craft chocolate. Instead of one 'chocolatey' taste there are a million possibilities for flavour and a huge range of factors that affect every single bean. It's endless and fascinating.

  • Defining the Industry

    Have you checked out The Slow Melt podcast yet? It's a great place to learn more about the craft chocolate industry and about cacao from all around the world.

    Episode 7 of The Slow Melt is about how the craft/bean-to-bar/small batch chocolate industry is so new that it’s still defining itself. This is something that we think about a lot. We try to clearly communicate with our customers exactly what we look for in chocolate and what we consider to be the highest quality, but there is a lot of different information out there and some often ill-informed media representation.

    We used to focus heavily on the term ‘bean-to-bar’ but recently we’ve tried to use the term ‘craft’ more. Although we only stock bean-to-bar producers, a lot of the large scale industrial producers also make chocolate from scratch (from the bean) and some of them are starting to cash in on the term, now that it is becoming suggestive of higher quality. Having said that, it is only a matter of time until large-scale producers start to put ‘craft’ on their wrappers, seeing as there’s no legal requirements or regulation on the term.

    To break it down, we thought we’d highlight these five key areas that we look for when deciding which chocolate to stock...

    1. Is it made from high quality, rare and fine flavour cacao?

    This is the area that we most often see misunderstood or misrepresented in the media - they often talk about cacao origins and chocolate making techniques, but there doesn’t seem to be a huge understanding of the difference between high-end specialist cacao varieties and the kind of mainstream, mass produced cacao that goes into most of the world’s chocolate. This is probably the biggest difference between what we stock and what is commonly available.

    2. Is it bean-to-bar?

    As most of you probably know by now, this means that the chocolate makers receive the fermented and dried beans from the farmers. From here they control everything, including the sorting, the cracking and winnowing, the roasting, the grinding and conching, the ageing, the tempering and the moulding. This is the art form we are interested in.

    3. Is it handcrafted in small batches?

    This is predominantly what we focus on, although we do stock a couple of exceptional larger scale producers such as Original Beans and Zotter.

    In general we like to support the craft producers because they are able to achieve things that are not possible on an industrial scale. We like the feel and taste of handcrafted products that have been painstakingly cared for by passionate artisans.

    4. Has the cacao been ethically traded?

    We only stock bars made with ethically traded cacao. There are many ways that cacao can be ethically sourced - some of the chocolate we sell uses cacao that comes through Fair Trade, whilst some comes through organisations such as Uncommmon Cacao or Kokoa Kamili. There is also the option of chocolate makers working directly with the farmers, which can be hard to setup but has the potential to reap great rewards for everybody involved. Read our article on fair trade vs direct trade if you’d like to know more. 

    5. Is high quality and deliciousness the primary goal of the chocolate?

    All the producers that we stock strive to make the best chocolate possible, using the highest quality ingredients possible. No corners are cut in order to save time or money.

    craft chocolate new zealand buy online

    So there you have five key factors that we consider when looking at which products to stock at The Chocolate Bar. Obviously the taste and texture of the chocolate is vital as well, but we won’t even get to the point of tasting new things if the above criteria are not met.

    Hopefully this post makes the new wave of craft chocolate a little easier to understand. It can be confusing at times as there is so much happening in the chocolate world right now, but it’s a very exciting time to be involved and we can’t wait to see what will develop over the next five to ten years.

  • Recipe: Chocolate, Coconut and Porter Pudding

    craft chocolate recipe

    This is a reasonably easy and mind-blowingly delicious dessert. Technically you can use any dark chocolate but if you use higher quality chocolate, the end results are going to be even better. I would really recommend using the Spencer Cocoa Dark or the Taza Cacao Puro.

    Also, you can serve this in any kind of vessel but using little glass jars definitely looks the coolest. I used chocolate shavings as a garnish but you could also try using cinnamon or thinly sliced banana.

    Ingredients (Serves three or four)

    350ml porter

    4 large egg yolks

    500 ml coconut cream (kept in the fridge overnight)

    115g dark chocolate (around 70%)

    170g coconut sugar

    4 Tbsp icing sugar

    craft chocolate recipe

    Step 1

    1. Whisk together 170g of coconut sugar with the four egg yolks in a large bowl.

    2. Pour 120ml of porter and 300ml of coconut cream into a saucepan. Set over medium heat, whisking occasionally until bubbles begin to form.

    3. Stir in 115g of dark chocolate and whisk until smooth.

    craft chocolate recipe

    4. Slowly pour this mixture into the eggs and sugar, whisking constantly.

    5. Return your mixture to the saucepan and place on a low heat. Whisk regularly for around ten minutes, until the mixture thickens up.

    6. Pour your mixture into the glass jars, leaving a few centimetres of room at the top. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours.

    craft chocolate recipe

    Step 2

    1. Bring 230ml of porter to the boil and simmer until reduced to about 2 Tbsp. Be careful not to over reduce - you’ll end up with a very sticky pan. (Yes, I did that the first time.)

    2. Pour 200ml of cold coconut cream into a bowl and add in 4 Tbsp of icing sugar. Whisk until thick and gloopy - an electronic whisk is best but you can do it with a hand whisk. If you’re struggling to get it thick, place the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes and try again.

    3. Add in your porter reduction and whisk again.

    4. Get your jars out of the fridge and top them up with the whipped coconut cream.

    5. Garnish with chocolate shavings (or whatever you like) and you are ready to go.

    craft chocolate recipe

  • Craft Beer and Craft Chocolate Pairing

    craft beer and chocolate pairing

    It’s probably due to my background and interest in craft beer but of all the chocolate pairing events that I run, the beer and chocolate nights are the ones I enjoy the most. It’s always a lot of fun coming up with the pairings and teaching people about the parallels in both flavour and production methods between craft beer and craft chocolate, so I wanted to share this with a wider audience and recommend a few things you can try at home.

    A lot of the information you can find about beer and chocolate matching is very simplistic and outdated. They’ll often recommend pairing ‘dark beers’ with ‘dark chocolate’, as if those two vast areas don’t contain a myriad of possibilities. You’ll also find guides that suggest pairing chocolates that have added ingredients such as cherry, caramel or coffee, and rely on these flavours to make the match work, rather than matching with the chocolate itself. Although I’ve used a couple of chocolates with added flavour ingredients in this guide, the flavour of the core chocolate and the terroir of the cacao are the main reason for those choices. As most of you will know, craft chocolate made with specialist cacao varieties can have a huge range of flavours that come just from the bean, exactly like all the different flavours that come hops, malt and yeast. It’s a real joy to explore how all these flavours can be friends.

     

    1. Garage Project Tournesol with Sirene Cayenne

    The Tournesol is a refreshing and complex spiced saison - one of my favourite beer styles. This beer is brewed with added citrus, coriander and white pepper, which makes it a perfect match for the Sirene Cayenne, a 73% chocolate made with Madagascan cacao. As with most Madagascan chocolate, this bar has beautifully light and citrusy notes and the warmth from the cayenne pepper that follows is a perfect match with the peppery finish of the beer.

     

    2. Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta IPA with The Smooth Chocolator Tanzania

    Pretty much all beer and chocolate matching guides say to steer clear of IPAs but we don’t need to listen to that. While the intense bitterness of some IPAs can make them overpowering in a match, there’s so much incredible flavour that comes from the hops that it would be crazy to ignore such delicious potential.

    The Gunnamatta is brewed with an addition of Earl Grey tea that gives it an amazing citrus/bergamot aroma and a beautiful floral aftertaste. It’s a beast but also has a soft subtlety, so I chose to match it with The Smooth Chocolator’s Tanzania bar. At 70%, this chocolate has enough depth to stand up to big flavours but also has really light notes of sour cherry and rose the mingle well with the gentler side of the beer.

    It’s important to remember that both good quality beer and chocolate have complex flavours that develop over time. Take your time when tasting and let each thing reach its own potential - we’re not looking to wash one away with the other.

     

    3. Tuatara Tu-Rye-Ay with OCHO Solomons

    The Tu-Rye-Ay is an IPA made with rye and heavily roasted malts, creating a beer with a deep, dark and robust body but with the fruity and citrus notes of Amarillo hops. This makes it a good match with the new OCHO Solomons 70% bar, which has the unusual combination of being quite deep and dark and chocolatey, yet with distinct notes of citrus and raspberry.

     

    4. Renaissance Stonecutter with Wellington Chocolate Factory Bougainville Bar

    The Stonecutter is a classic Scotch ale brewed with nine different malts and clocking in at a hearty 7%. Classic toffee and caramel notes prevail in this beer, with a slightly tart aftertaste that is reminiscent of raisin or port. Such a powerful beverage needs a strong chocolate so it makes sense to turn to Papua New Guinea, where some of the world’s most intense and distinctive cacao is grown. Wellington Chocolate Factory’s Bougainville Bar is one of my favourite examples of this origin, with wonderfully smooth notes of raisin, port and a hint of fresh tobacco.

     

    5. Kereru For Great Justice with Dick Taylor Maple Coconut

    This coconut porter is made with coconut that has been toasted in a wood-fired oven over manuka wood and manuka bark. As you would expect from a porter, it has a sweet, malty and chocolatey aroma and taste, though quite a light body for a beer of this style. The subtle hint of coconut is an obvious match with the maple roasted coconut on the chocolate, but the chocolate itself is meant as more of a contrast - it’s made with a cacao from Belize that has a distinctive tart/sour cherry taste to it. Sometimes I like to pick things that are opposites rather than parallels, and I guess I get a kick out of matching a chocolatey beer with a not-very chocolatey chocolate.

     

    6. ParrotDog Otis with Hogarth Craft Chocolate Acul du Nord

    This is the nostalgic and comfortable match - one to enjoy by the fire in a big soft chair. Otis is an oatmeal stout with a texture as smooth as the singer’s voice it’s named after. Notes of chocolate, coffee and burnt toffee make this beer a thoroughly pleasurable match with Hogarth’s Acul du Nord - a 68% chocolate made with cacao from Haiti. This bar is super smooth and has a rich sweetness that is reminiscent of butterscotch and medjool dates. It has so much depth and complexity yet is totally accessible and unashamedly yummy.

     

    craft beer and chocolate matching

     

    These are just a few suggestions using some of my favourite chocolates and some classic Kiwi craft beers. Have a play around at home and see what you come up with - it’s a great way to legitimise having a massive beer and chocolate session.

    Also, if you’re in Wellington, keep your eye on our events page or Facebook page for future beer and chocolate tasting events.

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