Hand made chocolate from all natural ingredients with fair trade cacao – it sounds too good to be true but two lovely ladies in Jan Juc on the Surf Coast of Victoria have come through with the goods.
After Nikki Hillier, a British fashion industry creative found herself for health reason unable to eat any of the dark chocolate on the market her partner Leo Kats, a Dutch furniture maker, turned her hand to making chocolate for her sweetheart and sharing with loved ones. Foodie friends then persuaded them to turn the chocolate making into a business, that was 2 years ago.
Asked to describe their business in 4 Words: ‘A small responsible luxury’. They find their inspiration for flavours from their kitchen at home ‘like the pure pomegranate molasses that we make by hand and use endlessly when we're cooking. This and our love for fine food that is also ethical, natural and organic is what drives us.’ The cacao is fair trade and sourced from Peru, they believe cacao from Peru is the finest in the world and gives an intense, rich flavour. The chocolate is sweetened ‘with pure maple syrup from Canada for its unique caramel notes and low fructose content. The other ingredients - like the oak smoked salt, we source from small Australian growers and artisan makers who work in the old ways.’
And you may ask how does one go about hand making such large quantities of chocolate by hand? ‘We have a small chocolate workshop with a large marble slab for hand tempering, a compact Italian artisan chocolate tempering machine for larger batches and a vast wine fridge for the final stage of the tempering process.’ With such success there is always challenges, although these ladies have taken it all in their stride they explain their biggest challenge to date is ‘Scaling up from our original hand-tempering approach on the marble slab to larger batches without compromising on the artisan quality of the finished chocolate. We spent six months researching tempering machines from all over the world. In the end, we went with an Italian machine by Selmi - far away the most expensive on the market, but the only one that gives us the exact quality we were looking for.'
What do they do when they’re not making the chocolate? 'Cooking! Eating. Walking the dogs on the beach. Motorbike rides down the Great Ocean Road and Leo is learning to surf.’
And finally, their words to live by -
"Follow your heart. Eat with the seasons."