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  • Chocolate Platter

    Chocolate Platter

    If you're looking for a fun and delicious way to share chocolate with friends, how about creating a chocolate platter? We've put together this suggestion using four bars from our January subscription boxes. All of the things that surround each chocolate are designed to pair with it, and hopefully you'll find that they enhance your chocolate tasting experience. Here are the ingredients...

    With the Cuvée Amphora 65% - cherries, plums, blueberries and almonds.

    With the Juan Choconat 76% Unroasted- coconut chunks, gouda, blueberries and lemon & coconut snack balls.

    With the Miann Mexico 70% - pomegranate, cashews, dried cranberries and almonds.

    With the Shirl + Moss Fig & Nib - blue cheese, walnuts and green grapes.

    These are just suggestions to inspire you. Have a play around, try something new and wow your guests with an unforgettable chocolate tasting session!

    chocolate platter

  • The Chocolate Bar Interview 017: Gabe Davidson, Wellington Chocolate Factory

    The Chocolate Bar Interview 017: Gabe Davidson, Wellington Chocolate Factory

    For my latest interview I caught up with Gabe Davidson from Wellington Chocolate Factory. Gabe has been a big influence on what I do at The Chocolate Bar, having introduced me to the world of craft chocolate back in 2012. Wellington Chocolate Factory's voyage to Papua New Guinea in 2015 was an eye-opener in terms of Pacific Islands cacao, and perhaps the first little spark of inspiration that led to me creating the Exclusive Pacific Chocolate Box. Gabe and his team created a stunning Solomon Islands bar for the box, so it was good to catch up with him and learn more about the life of a craft chocolate maker in the South Pacific. 

    exclusive pacific chocolate box

    What sparked your interest in making bean-to-bar chocolate?

    I have a long history in the specialty coffee and drinking chocolate scene, so when I discovered that chocolate, like coffee and wine, can have so many different flavours, I was hooked. I swapped coffee beans for cocoa beans and never looked back.

    You were one of the first craft chocolate makers in New Zealand, back when nobody had heard of it. Do you feel a growing public interest in small-batch and high quality chocolate?

    Absolutely. Together with half a dozen or so craft chocolate makers who have opened since we started back in 2010, we have collectively been working hard to educate people on the many flavours and origins of good chocolate. I see a steady stream of people coming into our factory for tours and tasting their first cocoa bean. It's a really exciting time for our industry and I feel privileged to be able to share what we learn with a wider audience.

    Your Bougainville voyage - back in 2015 - really got me thinking about Pacific Islands cacao. What inspired you to take on a project like that?

    It started when I visited James Rutana in Bougainville and was talking to him about how the cocoa industry and agriculture in general is a great alternative to mining in the region. James planted his first cocoa tree in 1948 and has been a champion of the industry ever since. The trouble was that farmers were barely making a living selling cocoa to the large players at a low price. I was really impressed by the quality of his beans and joked about the fact that the only way we could have direct trade is if we learned to sail and pick up the beans ourselves. Fast forward a few months and we ended up back there on a traditional waka, transporting our first ton of beans into Wellington harbour. A supposed six week voyage ended up taking three months due to weather and a few hiccups - but we made it! An incredible life changing experience, the first time goods have been exchanged traditionally like this in 250 years.

    What are some of the benefits of sourcing cacao from the Pacific Islands?

    I see so many great benefits of sourcing beans from our Pacific neighbours. Paying a fair price for quality beans can improve the livelihoods of farmers and their families. The quality of their beans is good and often with a few small changes in the way the beans are fermented and dried we are getting some world class cocoa to make chocolate with, and showcase the quality of this region with chocolate lovers around the world.

    You’ve created a limited release Solomon Islands bar for our Exclusive Pacific Chocolate Box. How did you go about sourcing those beans?

    Every year we have the privilege of being invited to judge at the Solomon Islands Chocolate Festival. Here we have the opportunity to grade 150 or so samples of beans for farmers throughout the Solomons. Our choice of beans was from the 2018 winner. 

    What are some of the benefits of trading directly with farmers? 

    One of the best parts of our job as chocolate makers is getting to visit farmers around the world. Here we get to build a long lasting relationship and get a greater understanding of life in the cocoa industry and the opportunity to sample some incredible cocoa which may not be available though traditional channels.

    wellington chocolate factory solomons

    Do you have a favourite bean to work with? If so, why?

    That's a hard one! There are so many different types and flavours out there. I have enjoyed using Vanuatu beans, the chocolate often shared floral and other characteristics  that remind me of Trinidad and Tobago beans, and as I found out later, a lot of the Vanuatu cocoa trees have their ancestry traced back to there.

    You guys have some incredible wrapper artwork. If you could commission any artist in the world to create a wrapper, who would it be?

    If I could resurrect someone I think it would be Keith Haring! I'm also really enjoying the work of Revok at the moment.

    wellington chocolate factory pacific islands

    Are there any other chocolate makers who you find particularly inspiring?

    I discovered craft chocolate through Dandelion in San Fransisco. I could not believe that a simple two-ingredient chocolate from Madagascar beans could taste like strawberry flavour had been added!  

    What’s your favourite thing about being a chocolate maker?

    I like that we get to work in an industry where we sell something which simply makes people happy and can do so while knowing every link in the chain of what we create is a force for good.

    wellington chocolate factory

    Thanks so much to Gabe for taking the time for this interview. If you'd like to learn more about Pacific Islands cacao and chocolate, be sure to grab yourself an Exclusive Pacific Chocolate Box!

  • Exclusive Pacific Chocolate Box

    Exclusive Pacific Chocolate Box

    I am so excited to announce the launch of our Exclusive Pacific Chocolate Box!

    This box showcases some of the finest cacao grown in the Pacific Islands and some of the best craft chocolate makers in New Zealand. Over the past nine months or so I've been working with four of my favourite chocolate makers to create some incredibly special and rare chocolate bars.

    wellington chocolate factory

    Each box contains four bars that have been crafted exclusively for The Chocolate Bar, in batches of just 250 bars each. The cacao origins featured are Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, and the four makers involved are Wellington Chocolate Factory, OCHO, Miann and Foundry Chocolate. 

    Alongside these bars you'll receive information about the chocolate makers and cacao growers, a guide to tasting fine chocolate, drink pairing suggestions and a beautiful cacao pod illustration print by Wellington-based artist Forest Drawn. The whole collection comes packaged in one of our beautiful gift boxes.

    exclusive pacific chocolate box

    There are three main aims of this box...

    1. To highlight the exceptional quality of cacao that is now being produced in parts of the Pacific Islands
    2. To highlight the exceptional quality of chocolate being produced in New Zealand's emerging craft chocolate industry
    3. To highlight this new and delicious way that we can collaborate with our neighbours 

    This is the cutting edge of what is happening in the chocolate industry right now. Cacao has been grown in the Pacific Islands for over a century but until recently the quality has often been poor, mostly due to a lack of knowledge and proper facilities for high quality processing (fermenting and drying.) With the emergence of the craft chocolate movement and increasing customer awareness of high-end chocolate, we have seen things develop over the past ten years and Pacific Islands cacao is starting to shine. Craft chocolate makers in New Zealand and Australia are starting to form direct trade relationships with farmers, while ethical cacao distribution companies and co-ops are helping to provide education and build infrastructure for processing and exports. It's very early days but there is clearly a huge potential for growth in this area.

    exclusive pacific chocolate box

    I can’t wait for you to experience this extremely delicious and rare chocolate. It’s an opportunity to tour the South Pacific from the comfort of your couch, and to experience Pacific Islands terroir in a way that has never been possible before. This promises to be an eye (and mouth!) opening experience.

    Due to its limited nature, this box will not be around for long. Grab yours today!

    foundry chocolate nz

    ocho chocolate nz

    miann chocolate auckland

    exclusive pacific chocolate box

  • The Chocolate Bar Interview 016: Tania Lincoln, Flint Chocolate

    The Chocolate Bar Interview 016: Tania Lincoln, Flint Chocolate

    For my latest interview I caught up with Tania Lincoln from Auckland's Flint Chocolate. I first met Tania at The Chocolate and Coffee Show in 2017, where she unveiled her chocolate to the public for the first time. I was very impressed with her selection and it was very popular with the public as well, so not long after this we added two Flint bars to our online store. The Almond Butter bar has been a best seller ever since.

    It's been great to follow Tania's chocolate journey over the past couple of years, and I know many of you would love to know more about what's happening behind the scenes. Stick the kettle on, grab some chocolate and enjoy reading this interview...

    flint chocolate auckland

    What got you interested in chocolate making and how long was the journey from your first batch to retailing your bars?

    I was making “raw chocolate” (cacao powder, coconut oil, maple syrup) for many years, purely for health reasons and as an alternative to overly sweet, commercial chocolate. Shoot me I know; I was very uneducated. I had a massive chocolate addiction, and I knew Cadburys wasn’t the answer. I remember my first “wow – so this is chocolate” moment, I purchased a bar of Madecasse (Heirloom cacao from Madagascar) from a gourmet grocer on Broadway Market (London) in 2014. And it tasted crazy good. The bar was deeply chocolately (unlike “raw” chocolate!) with fruit notes and a flavour that just lingered… I felt so satisfied after just a few pieces. I wanted to learn how to make THAT kind of chocolate. So, I started reading all about where cacao was from, the different origins, how it was processed… down the rabbit hole I went! With bean-to-bar chocolate making it’s endless, I could still be learning and discovering at the age of 80, and so I felt that it was a hobby worth investing in! When I moved back to Auckland, I bought my first tabletop stone-grinder, and almost cried with happiness when the nibs ground into chocolate for the first time. I sold my first bar at the Auckland Chocolate Festival in 2017. I was under-prepared and completely out of my comfort zone! But everyone was so supportive and encouraging, it’s a such a great industry to be part of. 

    How does using coconut sugar in chocolate differ from using cane sugar?

    Coconut sugar holds more moisture and is therefore harder to work with for a chocolate maker! It also has its own fragrant, caramel-like flavour which works wonderfully with some origins, but not all. The reasons why I have chosen to only use coconut sugar is that it’s a minimally process product and is more sustainable than other sugars. Coconut sugar comes directly from the sap of the coconut flowers, retaining all the prebiotic fibers and trace minerals. The coconut palm grows in diverse areas, with a positive impact on the environment (powerful soil builders, provides shade for other crops, minimal resource use, produces more sugar per acre than cane sugar)

    flint chocolate new zealand

    What inspires you to do what you do at Flint Chocolate?

    I am inspired to make the best tasting chocolate I can from quality, sustainable ingredients. I want to encourage people to appreciate and consume good, quality chocolate and feel good about it. With so many nutritional benefits, as well as being good for the soul, there doesn’t need to be any guilt! It’s possible to feel good about the food we eat when we make the connection to where it’s from, who’s grown it and how it’s produced. I think we need to shift our ideas (or perhaps habits) around how we consume chocolate. Understanding that for cacao farmers to be treated and paid fairly, chocolate needs to be more than just a cheap commodity or quick sugar hit.

    How do you source your cacao beans?

    Currently I source my cocoa beans through Trade Aid NZ, but I am very excited to be importing beans through Meridian Cacao for the first time. This is only possible through a shared bean order with another couple of Auckland bean-to-bar chocolate makers (the freight costs are too expensive otherwise). The special thing about this industry is that we are all incredibly supportive of each other and our work.

    What is it like to be a chocolate maker based in Auckland, and how does the city affect what you do?

    Auckland is a great city to live in, there are so many local businesses doing cool and interesting things. I only need to take the time to look around me to be inspired by all the makers, creators and passionate people doing their thing! I believe there is so much opportunity in collaborations; it’s a way for small businesses to get creative, share resources, and together get their message out into the world. 

    flint chocolate auckland

    Do you feel a growing interest for craft chocolate in New Zealand?

    Yes I do, well I hope so! There are more makers than there were a few years ago, together we are trying to grow awareness for craft chocolate in New Zealand, and for the quality and craft that goes into making our chocolate. I think there is a growing interest in general for knowing where our food comes from; understanding the benefits of buying from small, local food producers who really care about the ingredients they use and food they produce.

    What do you enjoy about being a chocolate maker?

    I love working through the whole process, watching raw fermented beans turn into smooth, luscious chocolate! My favourite part is testing out new bean origins. If I could, I would just make 1kg batches from every origin I could get my hands on – I guess that’s where the excitement lies, discovering new beans and flavours!   

    What are some of your favourite foods/drinks, other than chocolate?

    I love coffee, it gets me out of bed in the morning. While I am meditating, the filter coffee is dripping ha! Rice noodles soups, miso ramen, spaghetti – or really, anything in a bowl that resembles noodles. Crispy sweet potato or kumara chips are my ultimate comfort food. I also love a good glass of red wine (with chocolate is even better!)

    What are some of your favourite chocolate bars that you’ve tried recently?

    Recently, the Porcelana bar by Hogarth, which they aged for a year before turning into bars! It has lovely light floral notes. I’m a big fan of the Tumaco (Colombia) beans, Foundry Chocolate and Miann both make the most delicious bars with this cacao. The history of this origin is fascinating too and makes me appreciate the chocolate on a whole other level.

    tania lincoln flint chocolate

    Thanks so much to Tania for taking the time for this interview. If you haven't tried Flint Chocolate yet, the ever-popular Almond Butter bar might be a good place to start...

     

    *Photos 1, 3, 4 & 6 by Tracey Creed 

  • Why Do We Focus on Bean-to-bar Craft Chocolate?

    Why Do We Focus on Bean-to-bar Craft Chocolate?

    Something that’s quite unusual and confusing about the chocolate industry is that chocolate producers all have different techniques, and all start from different stages of the process. Most food and beverage producers - such as bakers, cheesemakers or brewers - start with raw ingredients and end with a finished product, but that’s often not the case with chocolate. At one end of the spectrum you’ve got chocolatiers, who generally start with finished chocolate in the form of couverture, which they melt down and transform into their own creations. Then at the other end of the spectrum you’ve got bean-to-bar (or even tree-to-bar) chocolate makers, who make chocolate from scratch, from the cacao bean. In between these two there are many other starting points in the process - some producers start with the cacao nibs (skipping the roasting, cracking and winnowing stage), others start with a cacao liquor (ground up nibs), and some even start with cocoa powder and cocoa butter (the separated fats and solids of the cacao nibs), using these to create what is usually described as ‘raw’ chocolate. This can be difficult for customers to understand, especially when there’s little to no information on the wrapper to differentiate between the many styles.

    When you hear people talking about these different types of chocolate businesses, whether it be industry professionals or the media, they’ll often refer to all of them as ‘chocolate makers’. However at The Chocolate Bar we only really use that term to describe people who make chocolate from bean to bar and, as you’ve probably gathered by now, we only sell chocolate made by small-scale bean-to-bar chocolate makers. The occasional exception to this would be a ‘private label’ chocolate business, which is usually where a company outsources the chocolate making and focusses on the cacao sourcing, marketing, distribution etc. A high quality example of this would be Original Beans or Akessons.

    artisan chocolate nz

    Sometimes customers ask us if we can source a particular brand, or a producer might contact us directly and see whether we’re interested in their product, and if it doesn’t fit in with our focus on high quality, ethical and bean-to-bar chocolate, we explain that we won’t be able to stock it. This has the potential to come across as pedantic or cliquey, so we wanted to explain why that’s our chosen focus.

    Firstly, it’s important to clarify that our primary concern is the quality, flavour and texture of chocolate, and this needs to be backed up by an ethical and fair business model. Whether or not the chocolate is made from bean to bar is a minor technicality, but it just so happens that - in our opinion - the highest quality and most delicious chocolate in the world is currently being made by bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers. If somebody gave us some of the best chocolate we’d ever tasted and it was made by a massive industrial chocolate maker, we would still consider stocking it, as long as it was ethically produced. It’s just unlikely that would ever happen, at least at the current time. One of the main reasons for this is that it would be difficult to replicate the level of quality we look for in a large industrial chocolate factory. As with any type of manufacturing and production, when you’re able to pay very close attention to small details, and when you create a product that is extremely time and labour intensive, the end result is almost always superior to a product made quickly and with minimal human involvement.

    foundry artisan chocolate nz

    It’s that level of attention to detail and craftsmanship that attracts us to bean-to-bar craft chocolate, and the art of chocolate making is what we choose to promote. We love hearing about the unique techniques of chocolate makers - the way they figure out roasting profiles, the machinery they use to crack, winnow, grind and conche, the timings they prefer and their mastery of tempering. These details are often an extension of the chocolate maker’s personality, and help us to feel truly connected to the chocolate we choose to put in our bodies. All of this appeals to our extreme food-geekery, and as learning about this process is something new to most people, it’s one of the main things we enjoy talking about with our customers.

    In summary, we’re not saying that bean-to-bar craft chocolate is the only good chocolate in the world and the only thing worth spending your money on. There are varying levels of quality and innovation in all areas of the chocolate industry, and there are certainly a lot of chocolatiers who we absolutely love. We choose to specialise in this area because it excites us the most, and because it’s generally where we find the highest quality, most advanced innovation and the strongest connection between consumer, producer and farmer. As well as bean-to-bar, we’re person-to-person advocates.

  • The Chocolate Bar Interview 013: David Herrick, Foundry Chocolate

    The Chocolate Bar Interview 013: David Herrick, Foundry Chocolate

    For my latest interview I caught up with David Herrick of Foundry Chocolate. It was an honour to host Foundry Chocolate's launch night at our Ponsonby pop-up last September, and it's been great to see the public's reaction to this exceptional single-origin chocolate over the past few months. As so many of you have been enjoying David's bars, we thought you might like to know a little bit more about them...

    david herrick foundry chocolate

    Who is on the Foundry Chocolate team?

    The husband and wife team of David and Janelle Herrick. I'm the chocolate maker, inventor and machine repairer and Janelle has designed and illustrated all the branding and packaging.

    What got you started with chocolate making and when did you decide to turn it into a business?

    I’ve always loved chocolate, and then I learnt it was possible to make great chocolate on a small scale in 2015. I tracked down some bean to bar craft chocolate bars and we were pretty amazed with the taste differences. After two years of learning and experimentation, in late 2017 we decided to start our business. It took about a year from then to have our first bars ready for sale.

    How have you sourced your different bean origins?

    To start with I sourced small 1 kg samples of over 40 single origins from around the world - all organised by email and phone call - and made them into nano-batches of dark chocolate. From these we made a shortlist of our favourites, developed and tested roast profiles for each and now we have launched seven of them.

    Some origins we’ve brought direct from the growers, and others have come from specialist fine cacao suppliers. For example I’m buying our Kulkul origin direct from the Goodyear family on Karkar Island, Papua New Guinea. Dealing direct is very rewarding as you’re dealing with the actual person responsible for growing the cacao and you know you’re paying them a fair price for their cacao beans that reflects all the hard work put into growing and preparing it.

    Our other bean origins have been sourced from Meridian Cacao and Uncommon Cacao in the USA, who make it possible to purchase smaller quantities of fine cacao you normally would have to buy in much larger quantities if you were buying direct from the grower.

    david herrick foundry chocolate

    Why did you decide to dedicate yourself to two ingredient chocolate?

    Two reasons – I like the challenge of making it, as it’s definitely harder to make than if I added cacao butter or lecithin. But primarily because I love the remarkable flavours that can be accentuated with just two ingredients. People continue to be amazed that there are no other flavours added yet they are experiencing all these different tasting notes: from floral to citrus to honey to caramel to warm spices – which is just the personality of the cacao coming through and our healthy obsession for the preservation of provenance.

    What are some of the benefits and disadvantages of making chocolate in very small batches?

    One of the benefits of making micro-batches is that we’re able to offer a broad range to our customers, allowing them to explore many different regions of the world.

    We also have the ability to adapt and respond on a batch-by-batch basis – as each batch behaves differently to previous ones. I’ve been known to set alarms to check how a chocolate batch is going in the middle of the night – factors like humidity, temperature and the beans themselves are all ongoing variables that on a micro level you can respond to very quickly.

    And because our batches are so small, we have the ability to hand write individual limited edition numbers on each bar; meaning for example someone might get bar 3 of 52 from micro-batch TK008.

    Some disadvantages are that if we choose to scale up our business then we’re in for some significant expenditure; and that we don’t have the capacity to make large batches of any of our origins.

    foundry chocolate new zealand

    How has the public reacted to your chocolate so far?

    They have absolutely loved it, customer feedback has been incredible and we’ve loved converting people to two-ingredient bean to bar chocolate. Customers also love the way our packaging can be resealed, to recreate the “unboxing” experience again and again.

    Do you have a favourite bean to work with? If so, why?

    Two beans actually – the Ucayali River from Robin Jordan (Ucayali’s founder) in Peru, as it’s so well sorted and makes a delicious floral chocolate that’s different to the Peru’s made by other NZ bean to bar makers. And the Kulkul from Papua New Guinea, as it’s very technically challenging to work with, yet once you get though the challenges it makes the most vibrant and quirky chocolate.

    What are your hopes and plans for the first couple of years with the business?

    Just to grow slowly and carefully, remaining true to the way we think things should be done; introduce more people to the amazing flavours of two ingredient craft chocolate; and build a loyal customer base. And we would love to visit the growers when things allow!

    foundry chocolate david herrick

    What are some of your favourite chocolate bars you’ve recently tasted? (Other than your own!)

    The Mantuano, Venezuela from Dandelion; the Cab Sav from Raaka; and pretty much anything from Sirene. And I’m still partial to a sneaky Bounty Bar.

    What’s your favourite thing about being a chocolate maker?

    Being able to eat incredible chocolate whenever I want. And that I’ve ended up creating a job that involves so many facets of my interests: my foodie side, building machinery, fixing machinery, inventing things and sourcing things from all over the world. And a job that is based where I love to live, accessible to my family and the outdoors.

    Plus the craft chocolate community is really fantastic; it’s supportive; they’re a bunch of good people; and we are learning from each other (especially when we’re going through the same machinery challenges…).

    foundry chocolate bar

    Thanks so much to David for taking the time for this interview. If you haven't tried Foundry Chocolate yet then you are in for a serious treat. I recommend trying their India and Vanuatu bars side-by-side if you'd like to experience how amazingly different two cacao origins can be.