A new range of chocolate flavours is set to contest traditional favourites this Easter as a new generation of West Australian chocolatiers continue to take a brave leap into the unknown.
- The four chocolate producers in the Margaret River region are pushing the boundaries with their chocolate flavours
- Craft chocolate flavours include pear and parsnip, the sushi bar, carrot cake
- Mini chocolate factory tours are fast becoming popular in the region, which producers say compliment the area’s renowned vineyards
It has not just been gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan chocolates in demand; there has been an even more eclectic mix flying off the shelves.
Western Australia’s Margaret River region is traditionally known for its wine but has fast been becoming a chocolate mecca too.
There are now four chocolate producers in the region, with three open to the public — enabling a mini chocolate factory tour boom, following in the footsteps of wine tours.
The region’s newest chocolate producer, Temper Temper, just south of town, has been experimenting with craft flavours.
Chief chocolatier Georgia Aughton has a chef background, is a self-confessed foodie, and has enjoyed creating unusual concoctions including a sushi chocolate bar.
“We’ve taken toasted nori with sesame, pepitas and a bit of sea salt to give it a bit of that savoury element — which is beautiful — so we’ve got a little bit of Asian influence as well,” Ms Aughton said.
“We really like to push the boundaries in chocolate and do the unexpected as well.
“We take some really familiar foods and put them into delicious hand-crafted chocolate such as pear and parsnip, the sushi bar, carrot cake.”
Dark chocolate making waves
Chocolate flavours are no longer limited to traditional lines. (ABC South West WA: Roxanne Taylor)
Gabriel Chocolate in Yallingup has been specialising in single-origin, bean-to-bar chocolate making, performing the whole process at the small factory.
Owner Gabriel Myburgh said he sold more dark chocolate than milk chocolate, even at this time of year.
“People are aware that Easter eggs, sometimes, is a real cheap chocolate. So if you get a higher quality one and a dark chocolate it’s actually much nicer for you,” Mr Myburgh said.
“We roast all our beans so it’s all different origins and … we actually hand sort the beans before we go through.”
Mr Myburgh said creating single-origin chocolate allowed him to control the whole process and support small farmers.
“There’s a lot of small farmers out there,” he said.
“They’re too small to sell to the Cadburys and those big companies, but they do produce very high-quality beans.
“As a small producer we can buy those beans and make a really nice chocolate out of them.”
Old favourite brings new sensations
The longest standing chocolate factory in the region, Margaret River Chocolate Company, has been preparing to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
The company has seen an entirely new coloured chocolate take off this year.
“Ruby chocolate is the fourth chocolate, they’re calling it,” General manager Daniel Robe said, with it now alongside milk, dark and white chocolates in the showroom.
Ruby chocolate was invented and trademarked in Belgium in 2017 and has only been available in Australia since late last year.
“It’s only just come into Australia,” Mr Robe said.
“It’s a little bit different, really fruity, berry sort of flavours. [It is] quite sweet but it can really be tasted with a lot of other more savoury styles.
“I think there’s a lot more to come with Ruby and I think that it’ll blend and be involved in a lot of different trends in the coming years because it’s so diverse with its unique citrusy and berry-style flavour.”
The chocolate’s pink hue and unique flavour is created by stopping the fermentation process sooner than its brown bean counterparts.
“Colour is always impressive and attractive so having a bright, pink-coloured chocolate is obviously going to have some sort of appeal, but I think the flavour is quite unique and different,” Mr Robe said.
“There was a lot of interest already generated before we could get it onto the shelves and we really struggled to keep up with demand for the first couple of months that it was on the shelves.”
Wine and chocolate come together
Mr Myburgh said the growing interest in craft chocolate has resulted in people doing their own chocolate tours across the wine region’s chocolate factories.
“Some come and chocolate taste as well,” he said.
“It’s an eye-opener to a lot of them. They realise suddenly there’s all sorts of different flavour without us having to add flavours into the chocolate.
“Cocoa has got 3,000 different flavonoids in there so you’ll get everything from fruity right through to earthy flavours and it’s much more pronounced than wine.”
Mr Robe agreed chocolate moulded in well with the region’s cellar doors, and said the chocolate could pose as a bribe for families.
“I think a lot of people do wine tours and they might use the chocolate element as a bit of a bribe at the end of the day, ‘if everyone’s been good we’ll go and get some chocolate’.
“I think with another couple of places, people have a real sweet tooth and there’s a lot of different things that you can do with chocolate, so there’s enough diversity that you could have a chocolate tour.”