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  • Transparency


    One of the things I love about selling craft chocolate is the amount of information and transparency offered by people in the industry. I always ask about the beans makers are using and more often than not I receive extensive information, data and footage from the farms. Curating our January subscription box was a classic example of this - I asked Kylie at Cuvée Chocolate for information about the beans in their Soleo bar, and rather than just the country of origin or cacao varietal, I received stories of the farmer (Lenard) and his family, the farming techniques used and the exact location of the farm. It was a similar story with the bars from Shirl & Moss and Juan Choconat - stories of the farmers and their family history, along with incredibly specific data about the cacao. And when I spoke to Alejandro at Revival Cacao to find out about the beans in the Miann Mexico bars, oh-my-lord what a wave of information and footage! An eleven page report detailing the stories of the farmers, how much they are paid, the genetic and flavour profile of the beans, fermentation data tables, you name it! And all of this alongside a huge selection of photos and video footage from the farms and fermentation facilities.

    All of this might sound extremely geeky (it is) but the reason it matters so much to us is that transparency is the foundation of trust. If you buy industrial chocolate at the supermarket, or chocolate from chocolatiers using mass-produced couverture, you’d be lucky if you could even find the country of origin, never mind the name of the farmer and how much they got paid. Often industrial chocolate makers don’t even know this information themselves; they buy their cacao from brokers without asking too many questions about where the beans come from, because it’s easier to plead ignorance and wash their hands of responsibility for any wrongdoing.

    Personally, I like to know where my food is coming from, which is why I choose to celebrate transparent, ethical trade. It’s such a joy to work with people who embrace this ethos, and to feel truly connected with my favourite treat. I hope I can help all of our customers to experience that same connection and trust.

    chocolate subscription new zealand

  • The Chocolate Bar Interview 020: Deniz Karaca, Cuvée Chocolate

    The Chocolate Bar Interview 020: Deniz Karaca, Cuvée Chocolate

    For my latest interview I caught up with Deniz Karaca from Cuvée Chocolate, who feature in our January subscription boxes. Based in the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne, Australia, Deniz and his wife Kylie started Cuvée Chocolate in 2014. Deniz has over twenty years experience as a pastry chef and chocolatier, working in chocolateries, restaurants and hotels around the world, and in 2019 he decided to make the transition from using couverture to making his own chocolate from the bean. It's fantastic to see somebody with such a wealth of experience and talent embracing the craft chocolate movement. When I received samples of Cuvée's bars I was blown away by the quality, and it's an absolute pleasure to share them with our subscribers this month.

    cuvée chocolate

    What was your background before starting Cuvée Chocolate?

    I have been a pastry chef and chocolatier for almost 20 years now, working for a number of chocolateries, restaurants and hotels in Melbourne and across the world. I always had a love for chocolate and much of my career in hospitality I focussed on honing in on my chocolate skills.

    There seems to be a heavy wine influence behind your branding. What inspired the design process?

    When I represented Australia at the World Chocolate Masters in Paris in 2013, I teamed up with South Australian wine maker Penfolds to present the judges a taste experience with a unique Australian twist, matching my creations to their famous Grange wines. The judges and crowd loved the concept and upon my return to Australia it had me inspired to start working on creating a chocolate specifically made for this purpose.

    The Mornington Peninsula is renowned for its Pinot Noir. Do you find that lovers of fine wine are more receptive to the concept of single origin craft chocolate?

    We find that most people who appreciate fine wines have, in general, a more developed palate and are therefore, more often than not, more receptive to flavours and textures that are not as mainstream as a lot of commercially produced chocolate. So the answer is definitely yes.

    cuvée chocolate

    You recently transitioned from using couverture to making all your own chocolate from the bean. How did you find this transition and what are some of the benefits of making chocolate from bean to bar?

    The transition came quite naturally to us. Our focus is - and always was - to provide our customers with a unique and excellent product that is somewhat unmatched to anything else available on the market.

    The huge growth we have seen in the past few years across the bean-to-bar and craft chocolate sector has meant significant improvements in regards to machinery, equipment, accessibility to cocoa beans and resources in general for bean-to-bar makers, all paving the way for small businesses like ours to be able to compete in the ever growing chocolate market.

    The opportunity to actually create our own chocolate from scratch was just too good to pass by, so when the time was right we jumped at it! It has been an amazing journey so far, bean-to-bar opened up the doors to creating a range of chocolate that is truly unique to us, and gives us 100% traceability of all of our ingredients.

    How did you decide which beans to source?

    The two things that matter to us the most are, taste/overall quality and sustainability. Whilst most of the cocoa we use is fair trade and organic certified, we do not insist on it but instead we endeavour to source our beans as direct as possible.

    We have learned that the best and most reliable way to ensure common values is to focus on building genuine and solid relationships with all our suppliers, on the basis of mutual trust and respect.

    All of your bars come with suggested wine pairings. What’s one of your favourite wine and chocolate matches?

    Too be honest, that’s a hard one to pin down! And like my taste in wine, it’s also highly seasonal for me. I think there’s not much better than our Soleo milk chocolate and a Provence-style rosé on a summer day. But then there is nothing like our 75% dark chocolate with a Australian Shiraz on a cold night in! 

    cuvée chcoolate

    There seem to be a lot of bean-to-bar chocolate makers popping up in Australia. Do you feel the public awareness of high quality craft chocolate growing over there?

    Yes, I definitely would say so. There’s still a lot of work to be done when it comes to public awareness, but we are lucky in Australia to have some very passionate people who are making fantastic chocolate and doing a great job at spreading the word!

    You have some fantastic dessert recipes on your website. Are many chefs and restaurants in Australia starting to embrace craft chocolate? 

    Not as many as we would like to, but I think the main issue here is consistency in supply and quality.

    Being a pastry chef myself, I know what it’s like when you source a great product to include on your menus just to find out that after all the recipe development it is suddenly not available or has drastically changed. 

    We ourselves have simply not been able to keep up with demand to even contemplate servicing restaurant kitchens. However, this is changing in the New Year with two more melangeurs coming on board at our Cuvée HQ in late Feb, which will see us introducing our 1kg restaurant range. 

    cuvée chocolate melbourne

    Are there any chocolate makers who particularly inspire you?

    They are many really, and it would be very hard for me to pin point here. If I had to though, I’d say the standout guy would have to be Paul Kennedy from Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School in Melbourne. He’s one of the greatest guys you’ll ever meet, an amazing friend and one of the most passionate people I know when it comes to anything chocolate.

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

    Eating exorbitant amounts of chocolate without any guilt at all, all in the name of research. I’m joking of course, although not that far off!

    The bit that I always enjoy the most about working in the kitchen, creating my desserts, sweets and now chocolate, is witnessing the expression on people’s faces when they get to enjoy them. I don’t think there is anything more rewarding than sharing your passion and labour with someone who truly appreciates it!

    deniz karaca

    Thanks so much to Deniz and Kylie for taking the time to participate in this interview, as well providing us with such beautiful photos. If you've interested in trying Cuvée Chocolate, we have a few bars of their Amphora 65% available from our online store.

  • 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 019: Heinde & Verre

    The Chocolate Bar Interview 019: Heinde & Verre

    For my latest interview I caught up with Ewald Rietberg and Jan-Willem Jekel from Heinde & Verre, who feature in our November subscription boxes. Based in Rotterdam, Heinde & Verre translates to 'Near & Far', which alludes to the company's desire to find the perfect blend of the past and the future, both in terms of chocolate making and design. I think they capture this ethos beautifully.

    I was excited to place Heinde & Verre's first ever international order and to share their exceptional Porcelana bar with our subscribers. Be sure to have a read of this interview if you'd like to know more about what's happening behind the scenes...

    heinde & Verre chocolate

    Who is behind Heinde & Verre and what is your background?

    We are Ewald Rietberg and Jan-Willem Jekel, the founders of Heinde & Verre. Our business careers in life started in quite a different field. We met when we were working as corporate strategists for the Dutch incumbent telecom company. Over the years we found out that we share our passion for good food, wine and chocolate. This led to many discussions about food and culinary study trips in the field to discover new food.

    Ewald has a degree in oenology from the Dutch Wine Academy (registered Vinologue) and, as he stems from a family of farmers, he has a weak spot for special cow races and cow milk. Jan-Willem is a life long amateur pastry chef, has a deep love for chocolate and is addicted to desserts. He also has a fascination for design and packaging.

    What inspired you to start making chocolate?

    Culinary trips abroad made us realise there is more to chocolate than mass produced simple supermarket bars. Like fine wines and quality food, the complexity of natural, fine flavour cacao surprises us each time we taste it.

    One of our trips led to the Northern UK. After visiting the award winning chocolate maker Duffy (Red Star), driving through the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, we started imagining ourselves what it would be like to start our own chocolate factory. 

    We both have a great love for milk chocolate (a faux pas in the chocolate world!) which we believe can be great as well. But only if the recipe is right: the right milk combined with the right cacao, in the right quantities.

    Inspired by the visit to Duffy and following the rise of the early American bean-to-bar movement we felt it had to be possible to produce our own high quality chocolate, and our enterprise was born.

    heinde & verre chocolate

    What was it like learning how to make chocolate from scratch, and how long did it take to become good at it?

    It was a process of learning by doing that took us over four years. Visiting other chocolate makers who were willing to share a secret or two gave us a headstart. One of the challenges obviously is to source the right beans. We have built quite an extensive cacao library of different single origins to learn about the flavours and aromas of fine flavour cacao. By following the development of the chocolate over time, we found out that high quality chocolate tends to develop its aromas and flavours when it ages. For that reason, Heinde & Verre chocolate is aged for at least three months to reveal its complex nature.

    Another challenge was to have the right machines. As the bean-to-bar industry is still in its infancy, it is not possible to buy a ready made factory. During the four years of preparation we have built machines to our specifications. Obviously the choice of machines and tailored modifications are never “one time right”.

    There is still a lot to learn though, not only for us, but also for the chocolate industry. We believe there are exiting times ahead for the chocolate crafters. Compared to winemaking, the chocolate industry still has a lot of room for improvement: think of DNA sampling, cloning of genotypes, research on flavour profiles, terroir, production techniques, chemical analyses, professional tasting skills, etc. We hope to contribute to continued quality improvements to the chocolate industry.  

    How do you decide where to source your beans from?

    As a Dutch maker of chocolate we are in a favourable position. Amsterdam is the largest cacao harbour in the world. Because of this tradition it is still the meeting place for cacao farmers and traders from all over the world. For the origins of choice, we were inspired by the former Dutch chocolate brands that - unfortunately - have ceased to exist. For example, Porcelana cacao was used in the past by the famous Dutch chocolate brand Van Houten. Similarly, our other bar called 'Dutch Blend’ is a combination of origins that existed in the past, but never realised its full potential, as in the old days, fine flavour cacao was hard to source at sufficient scale.

    We think it’s important to work with traceable cacao and trade directly with the farmers when possible to ensure they get a fair price.

    Your branding and packaging design is immaculate. What inspired the design process?

    In the way we approach chocolate (and other culinary experiences) we are inspired by the concept of “reinvent the past”: take valuable traditions to the next level by adopting a modern approach. Thus our packaging is designed to express a synthesis of craft and modernity. The Heinde & Verre design is made in-house and is meant to underpin the relaunch of Dutch quality chocolate.

    Quality comes from experience, not from frills. Natural rich quality chocolate is thus best reflected in the minimalistic approach of the design. Particular attention is given to unboxing of our bars. Like the complex flavours of chocolate are slowly revealed by letting the chocolate melt in your mouth, unwrapping this bar slowly reveals the Heinde & Verre philosophy. When opening the box your journey starts with our ‘leitmotiv’: "chocolate is only one of the many flavours the cacao bean may reveal." Then our logo invites to further disclose the Heinde & Verre story, and finally you get a glimpse of our factory.

    heinde & verre chocolate

    Is there a strong following for craft chocolate in Rotterdam and the Netherlands?

    Craft chocolate production in The Netherlands is only just taking off. Basically three small brands in The Netherlands are producing quality craft chocolate. There is a growing number of chocolate afficionado’s in The Netherlands that appreciate craft chocolate, but the larger audience is by and large not aware of the growing bean-to-bar movement. Obviously we aim to change that. Our mission is to let more consumers learn to appreciate the magic of fine flavour cacao.

    Are there any chocolate makers who particularly inspire you?

    Brands and chocolate makers that have inspired us are the historic Dutch chocolate brands at the time they were still making quality chocolate: Tjoklat, Kwatta, Driessen, Korff, Ringers, Bensdorp, etc. Some Dutch brands do still exist, such as Droste and Van Houten, but they do not produce chocolate themselves anymore; unfortunately, their chocolate is made with bulk couverture sourced from elsewhere.

    We’re featuring your Porcelana bar in this month’s subscription boxes. What’s it like to work with such light and delicate beans, and were they tricky to source? 

    When working with delicate beans you always run the risk of over-roasting. If roasted correctly, it is a delight to experience the flavours and aromas that our precious Porcelana develop during the pre-grinding, grinding, conching and ageing stages. Notes of honeysuckle, nuts and white fruit can be discovered and linger on when you taste it. As the bean is naturally low in acidity and bitterness you don’t have to conche them for very long.  

    We work with a family of cacao growers in Venezuela. The country is going through some tough times, but fortunately we have built up enough stock of Porcelana beans to overcome difficulties in the supply chain.

    heinde & verre chocolate

    What are some of the benefits of making chocolate on a small scale? 

    Quality optimisation is the main benefit of small scale chocolate making. In every step of the chocolate sourcing and making process, we get the opportunity to optimise because we control every aspect of the process. All cacao beans are selected by hand. The bean selection process by the way, is outsourced as much as possible to the farmers themselves, in order to let them benefit form higher value share in the supply chain. This integration makes it possible to focus on monitoring quality throughout the process. After selecting the best beans, the roasting process is carefully adapted to each type of cacao bean. Numerous roasting experiments result in the optimal roasting profile, which highlights the flavours we would like to get out of the cacao. The  grinding and conching time is optimised for each type of chocolate, and finally we age the chocolate up to several months, to further develop and optimise the flavour.

    What’s your favourite thing about making chocolate?


    heinde & Verre

    Thanks so much to Jan-Willem and Ewald for taking the time for this interview, and for providing us with most of these photographs. We have a small amount of their Porcelana bar available, so be sure to give it a try!

  • The Chocolate Bar Interview 018: Simon Godsiff, Shirl + Moss

    The Chocolate Bar Interview 018: Simon Godsiff, Shirl + Moss

    For my latest interview I caught up with Simon Godsiff from New Zealand's newest bean-to-bar chocolate maker Shirl + Moss. Simon and his sister Aimee decided to start making chocolate from scratch back in 2016, and after a couple of years honing their craft they launched their first range of bars in June of this year. Simon and Aimee (pictured above) have been customers of mine for a while but I had no idea they were making chocolate, so it was a great surprise when they emailed to let me know! I've been so impressed with the delicious, high quality chocolate they're producing, not to mention the absolutely stunning presentation. A fantastic and welcome addition to New Zealand's craft chocolate scene.

    shirl + Moss chocolate wellington new zealand craft

    What inspired you to become a bean-to-bar chocolate maker?

    There is actually a single moment that kicked it all off. It was a few years ago when I was flying down to Christchurch to visit family. I was reading an article in the KiaOra magazine about Wellington Chocolate Factory, the door was opened for me that day, and I don’t mean the plane door! Before that moment I knew very little about craft chocolate. I don’t think I even knew chocolate starts on a tree. It all kind of snowballed from that point. The­ next day my sister and I were in the car driving to Ballantynes. After purchasing nearly every bean-to-bar chocolate they had we spent the afternoon eating it all. We were certainly looking for something to sink our teeth into. My sister and I had always wanted to create something meaningful together, chocolate just kind of presented itself to us.

    What was it like learning how to make chocolate from scratch, and how long did it take you to become good at it?

    It was a huge learning curve! I don't think we fully understood what we were getting into. It’s much more complex than we thought it would be. It’s one of those crafts that is built on failure, which we’ve had our fair share of. I’d say after about 6 months we were making chocolate that we were proud to share, anything before that we would hide inside our pantry, some is possibly still there! So many steps of the process are reliant on the success of the previous step. You can do everything perfect, and one small anomaly can change the entire outcome. This is why small 2-3kg test batches are really important for us. It’s a massive part of our process which does take a long time, but it guarantees an accurate blueprint that we know will get the best out of the cacao bean. I’m a pretty determined kind of guy. If I don’t know how to do something, I’ll research the hell out of it until I do. Someone once said “those who control the process, control the outcome” - that quote has stuck with me. I will dive into the mechanics of a process to really understand how and why. The downside is some painfully late nights! 

    shirl + Moss chocolate wellington new zealand craft

    You’ve named your business after your grandparents - how did they influence what you’re doing now?

    We wanted to build a business based on our values and the people who we look up to. Our grandparents were a huge part of our life growing up, and still are to this day! They have the biggest hearts and possess the most encouraging, supportive, and fun attitude to life. They visited us often on the farm as kids. They would make the lengthy drive up from Christchurch and spend a good couple of months with us at a time. Shirley and Maurice, known by friends and family as Shirl & Moss, the name was a no-brainer. It’s a sweet little daily reminder of them too. There has been a few times Aimee has been mistaken for Shirl. I’ve yet to be mistaken for Moss, but I’m sure it won’t be long!

    How did growing up on a farm affect your approach to making chocolate?

    Growing up on a farm certainly gives you an appreciation as to where food comes from and what recourses are needed to produce it. We would help Dad with the animals, like feeding the cattle and attempting to be useful in the sheering shed. Our farm was a good 2-3 hours drive from a local grocery store so growing your own produce just made sense. Mum was exceptionally gifted in the garden. She effortlessly managed to supply a family of four vegetables for my entire childhood. Aimee and I would help in the large vegetable garden. It’s what most likely fostered our appreciation for sustainable foods. Knowing how it is grown and where it comes from. That connection to the land from an early age really stays with you.

    shirl + Moss chocolate wellington new zealand craft

    For your first three releases you’ve used beans from just one farm - Fazenda Camboa in Brazil. How did you decide which farm to work with?

    We found Fazenda Camboa pretty early on, actually before we even set up our business. They made our shortlist of cacao farms we were sampling based on bean quality. We then studied the farm’s practices in more detail, particularly workers remuneration to ensure all is fair and above board. We were really impressed with the support Fazenda Camboa offer to the local school and bus network. Finding a farm that shares similar sustainable values to us is really important. Our approach is a little different from most bean-to-bar chocolate makers. We’re more interested in exploring the full flavour potential a single farm’s bean can offer. This results in less variety of single origin bars, but a greater range of flavoured chocolate from the same farm’s bean.

    What inspired your design and branding process and who did you work with on the design?

    Fortunately I have a good friend who is an extremely talented graphic designer. Lucky us! Emily Macrae worked with us early on to design a brand that flowed through the packaging and bar moulds. It was Emily who presented the idea of topographic lines from aerial maps. Drawing inspiration from the area where we grew up in the Marlborough Sounds, she painstakingly traced along individual topographic lines. She then incorporated the lines into the embossed pattern on our cartons. We used a scaled up section of the same line work on our bar mould to connect the two. We always wanted packaging with a touchy-feely vibe, something tactile. Local Wellington printer Valley Print did an amazing job on our packaging; Shelly and her team were fantastic to work with. We are really happy with the result. I like to think the experience of eating bean-to-bar is not just about the chocolate inside the wrapper, it’s about that connection to the bean’s origin, the makers who craft the chocolate, and the packaging that holds it.

    shirl + Moss chocolate wellington new zealand craft

    What are some of the benefits of making chocolate on a small scale?

    The ability to be hands-on throughout the entire process is great. Once those cacao beans arrive at the door we can control every single step. It’s extremely satisfying witnessing the transformation. Also working with small quantities of ingredients allows us to be more selective when it comes to sourcing. We can have a more direct and casual relationship with farmers and suppliers.

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

    We have our favs…those ones that stick with you. My all time favourite would be Dick Taylor’s 72% Black Fig. It’s great! I love the citrus fruits coming through, paired with that sweet fig. Delicious! Hogarth have consistently made amazing chocolate. Their Milk Hazelnut Chocolate Log is fantastic, it is literally fit for the Queen. Foundry 70% Kilombero Valley is a beautiful dark, love that one. Wellington Chocolate Factory’s 70% Peru Norandino will always hold a place in my heart. I’m also a big fan of bars from Chocolate Tree. I could keep going…  

    shirl + Moss chocolate wellington new zealand craft

    What are your hopes for the next few years at Shirl + Moss? 

    We’d like to expand our farm range to another continent and fully explore as many flavour matchings as we can. We’ll see where the wind takes us, another benefit of being small I guess. We are starting to dip our toes into hot chocolate which has been fun. Aimee and I have a lot of laughs while making chocolate. That loving yet brutal sibling honesty plays a big part of our method. Two years down the track and we think we’re finding our chocolate making groove. We’ve been overwhelmed at the support from the New Zealand bean-to-bar scene, it’s such a great bunch of people. We feel honoured to be part of it. 

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

    Number one test roast of a new bean, without a doubt. It’s that first reveal of what flavour has been hiding inside. Very satisfying!

    shirl + Moss chocolate wellington new zealand craft

    Thanks so much to Simon for taking the time for this interview, as well as providing us with the beautiful photos. If you haven't tried Shirl + Moss chocolate yet then you're in for a treat. We have all three of their current range of bars available from our online store.

  • 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!