If you've been reading my blog for, well, any longer than a week, you've probably worked out that I'm pretty keen on chocolate.
Driven by this obsession, I will admit to: undertaking chocolate "tours" (a.k.a. shopping sprees) in Christchurch, Wellington and Melbourne; learnt how to temper chocolate; made all sorts of chocolate treats, including those with ridiculous names; replicated the magic of long-lost Caramilk with caramelised white chocolate; organised holidays around chocolate shops; eaten chocolate-centred meals; gone way over the top decorating cakes; and probably already having consumed a lifetime's worth of the stuff despite having hopefully not yet hit the halfway mark.
So obviously I was pretty excited to learn there was a new chocolate business in Wellington. Called The Chocolate Bar, it's an online store (with some market presence at the moment but no physical shop) specialising in craft chocolate, especially single-origin bars.
As with wine, chocolate made from cacao grown in specific locations has different flavour notes and qualities. My discovery of this was five years ago, when we got a chocolate tasting box from Aji in Christchurch (though unfortunately they don't seem to have this in stock anymore). It had chocolate made from beans from five different estates, and going through the box the different flavours were quite striking.
While I reckon there's still plenty of room in the world (and my belly) for the likes of Whittaker's and Lindt, where the beans are sourced from different locations and blended together, I love that chocolate is beginning to get a bit of the love, because there are some amazing varieties - and artisan producers - out there.
I had spied on Facebook that The Chocolate Bar would be at the Shelly Bay Market last weekend, so we made the journey to enjoy a light lunch at the Chocolate Fish Cafe followed by a bit of a look around the market (by which I mean, I bought chocolate while everyone else looked at other stalls).
Luke, who runs the business, was very friendly and offered samples for me to try before I committed to buying. I particularly like that he stocks milk chocolate varieties, as I have encountered plenty of chocolate snobs who think dark is the only way to go. Personally, while I can appreciate a nice dark chocolate, I prefer mine with milk (I guess it's like with coffee - some folk like espresso and others prefer flat whites).
We came away with three interesting new chocolates to try - Ocho is an Otago brand I've been keen to try for a while; Spencer Cocoa is made in Australia with beans from Vanuatu, and the chocolatier is involved with the growing; and Dick Taylor is an Oregon brand with some really interesting flavour combos. We haven't broken them out yet but I'm sure there'll be some artificially pretentious conversation about the subtle aroma of lemongrass when we do - and I'm also sure that we'll enjoy every bite.
The Chocolate Bar stocks heaps of other boutique brands, so would be a great place to put together a tasting pack for the chocolate lover in your life. In fact, despite my aforementioned commitment to the stuff, I have only previously tried one of the brands they sell (Wellington Chocolate Factory), so Mr Cake now has a clear view of where to get my birthday present from this year.
Are you a chocolate fiend like me? Have you had the opportunity to taste different beans side-by-side, and if so what did you think?
The Chocolate Bar sells its wares via www.thechocolatebar.nz, and can also be found at various markets around Wellington on a regular basis.