Friday, January 7, 2011

Chocolateria & International Grocery/Aji, Mt Pleasant, Christchurch

One of the foodie landmarks in central Christchurch was Aji, which was a wee store on Manchester Street selling delicious chocolates and other wonderful goodies. Unfortunately it was in one of the areas most affected by September's earthquake, and the shop got red-stickered - essentially made a no-go zone.

The shop is the one on the left. Slightly bedraggled!
Fortunately, though, a relocated shop is now operating in limited hours in Mt Pleasant - with all the same goodies.

The location is unusual - there aren't really any shops up there - but a sign shows where it is, and you open the gate and go down a few steps and you're there. And it's very welcoming and cosy once you get inside!

There are two main shelves, with other bits and pieces around the store, and more than half the stock is either chocolate or other sugary treats - this is my kind of place! There is lots of Michel Cluizel chocolate - an amazing French brand I was introduced to on my She Chocolat chocolate tour in November. There's also a special in-house hot chocolate blend, which sounded fantastic - were it not midsummer I certainly would have stocked up on that. And lots of other wonderful and nearly irresistable goodies, of course...

I had a very difficult time choosing what to get - so many yummy things! - but in the end opted for a tasting box of Michel Cluizel chocolates, which consisted of four squares each of seven different chocolates - five dark varieties, each from a different plantation, as well as milk chocolate versions from two plantations.

Inside the box was a booklet giving information on each plantation so you get the background stuff. We worked through the box from lightest to darkest - the chocolates ranged from 47% to 67% cocoa solids. It was very interesting, as the percentage of cocoa solids didn't necessarily correlate with how 'dark' each variety tasted. There were very discernable differences, including one (the Maralumi noir (64%), from Papua New Guinea) which had a definite fruity flavour - to the point where you might think there was dried fruit in it. Three of us favoured the Mangaro lait (50%, from Madagascar), with Mr Cake preferring the Los Ancones noir - it was the darkest tasting of the lot, so no surprises there.

It was quite fun working through the box - we did it one evening at the bach, and I made everyone tell me what they thought of each type, so it was quite the experience. If you want to do your own chocolate tasting at home or just feel like filling your pantry with yummy things head on up to Mt Pleasant - the shop was open from 2-5pm daily before New Years', and the website doesn't give current hours so it might pay to call first to ensure it's open, but it's well worth a visit!

Chocolateria & International Grocery/Aji is located at 189 Mt Pleasant Road, Mt Pleasant, Christchurch, ph 021 2222 485,

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