Chocolate tasting in Wellington

Most boutique chocolate companies tell more or less the same story; machinery sourced from all over he world (the older the better), small-scale farmers in exotic places, micro scale production and a vision/passion to make artisan chocolate from bean to bar. With this in mind, how does the average consumer make head or tail of the competition? A tasting is a great place to start. In a recent tasting with Jo Coffey, prior owner of Wellington's L'affair au Chocolat I tasted bars from Canada, Holland, Australia and the Philippines, which all used imported beans, and two locally produced bars from Vanuatu and Fiji. The tasting threw up some surprising results.

Without going into too much detail, the favourites were Gabriel 80% Chuao (Venezuela) and Sirene's Ecuador 70%; someone commented they could eat more of the Fijana 72% due to it's lack of intensity; the Aelan Chocolate from Vanuatu (made with Santo Criollo beans) competed on flavour but suffered from more than a hint of smoke. The least favoured were Indonesia's Pipilten range and Australia's Bahen & Co Brazil 70%.

Getting hold of these bars is not straight forward, some coming from friends (we supplied the two Pacific Island bars) and others from online distributors of which there are at least two based in NZ. Between them they stock some of the highest rated bars made. Amedei is arguably the world's best and is available at All about Chocolate, and very well regarded American brands Taza and Dick Taylor can be found among others at The Chocolate Bar

How good is good chocolate? We had a group of friends for lunch recently and had the chance to compare a bar of Grenada Chocolate Company's 60% organic nib with a favourite New Zealand brand's 'boutique' range. Despite being stored in a fridge for nearly a year and looking much the worse for wear, the Granada chocolate left the competition in the dust and was ecstatically and unanimously praised.

On another occasion, a friend of ours was determined we would not change her preference for her supermarket purchased, NZ made favourite chocolate. After tasting a selection of bars from Pralus (including a 100%), she spat out the NZ product when asked to compare, saying it now tasted like plastic and berated us for destroying her favourite thing.

For those who want to become chocolate snobs, help is here.  The International Chocolate Awards are in their 7th year and have become well-known arbiters of good chocolate. They run regional and international awards each year. NZ made bars have already had some favourable reviews and it would be great to see NZ chocolate feature in the awards some day. Photos all taken on phone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GoodBuzz in Wainuiomata

Kombucha, booch and SCOBY are new words in my vocab after a visit to photograph the GoodBuzz soft drink factory in Wainuiomata. The GoodBuzz process combines sugar, tea and water (from the Te Puna Wai Ora artesian aquifer in Petone) with the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and turns into an effervescent, healthy, non-alcoholic  drink.

In the short time GoodBuzz has been operating they already have  five kombucha brews in more than 60 cafes in Wellington, Christchurch, Hawkes Bay, New Plymouth and Nelson, and recently have been included in Auckland’s Nosh outlets.

The drinks come in five flavours - Origins, Green Jasmin, Lemon and Ginger, Jade Dew and Feijoia. A new brew made with coffee cherry (the outer red skin of  discarded coffee beans from  Go Bang in Petone)  with an amazing light apple flavour is coming soon.

Each  brew takes 8-10 days to ferment and another 7-10 days of bottle conditioning before heading out the door. The best before date is four months unchilled (a bonus when there is space restrictions in the fridge), and can be extended to nine months if refrigerated.

Another buzz emanating from the factory came from discovering owner Alex Campbell and I grew up in the same small Northland town – Kaikohe. This is where Alex’s first memories of kombucha came from – his grandmother Amy made what she called Manchurian Mushroom tea in the 1970’s. Kaikohe Kombucha - who would have thought?

 

 

 

Buying Local Food | Murray Lloyd Photograph

The markets will be crammed with lovely fresh produce now spring has arrived and in NZ we can find locally produced food easily. Not so elsewhere.

In Britain, a local government report said a quarter of food could not be verified as local in one county. In North Wales only half the meat sold as Welsh lamb was found to be Welsh and in an English restaurant "Hampshire spring lamb" was sold which was actually from New Zealand.

In Canada the government have changed the criteria on what constitutes local. The government say the food just has to come from within the same province to be called local. In Canada this could mean a 1500km journey. Previously a 50km radius was deemed local.  Here is a funny take on local food.

Oritain is a New Zealand company based in Dunedin specialising in food verification. Their mission statement states Oritain can independently and scientifically verify the origin of food products to a forensic standard. The consumers in Canada and Britain would clearly benefit from their services.

 

Italian Flavours in Paraparaumu | Murray Lloyd Photography

Basil grown from seed in full sunshine, Isle of Capri tomatoes freshly plucked from the garden and fresh buffalo mozzarella - Insalata Caprese -  It is quite simply one of the greatest pleasures of summer and is one of my favourite dishes . The flavours and textures work together brilliantly - here's to Italian food.