We finally released the Haiti. We think its or best chocolate yet. Rich and dark with notes of butterscotch and fresh date, absolutely delicious.
I have made a blog post about the journey to get the chocolate out to you. It was quite a challenge and took ways longer than we imagined, but we had to get it right. Love to hear your feedback about it.
Forget Whittaker’s and Cadbury’s there is a hot new chocolate maker on the block.
Hogarth Craft Chocolate is a boutique chocolate maker based in Nelson which hand crafts chocolate starting with a raw cacao bean and finishing with a tablet of deliciousness.
Karl and Marina Hogarth have been selling their handcrafted chocolate at the Nelson market for a while now but have recently started selling their premium product through retail outlets. These chocolates aren’t flavoured with caramel, peppermint, peanut butter or other additives, they are simply single origin cacao beans made into chocolate with different levels of pure cacao, each has a distinctive flavour that reflects its origins.
The 72 per cent dark chocolate from Venezuela for example has subtle flavours of tobacco and a fresh, almost juicy aftertaste while the Conacado bean from the Dominican Republic, used to produce the 75 per cent chocolate, has quite distinctive tangy mandarin citrus and toffee flavours.
Let’s deal with the cost upfront – not cheap at $14 about 65 grams of chocolate – it definitely sits in the premium chocolate treat market and that is where it deserves to be.
Last week I visited Karl and Marina to find out what makes their chocolate so special.
While Marina was working with a photographer creating wonderful images of their products, Karl showed me the chocolate-making process from beginning to end, including tasting raw cacao beans, freshly ground cacao nibs (the middle bit of the bean that becomes chocolate) and dipping a gloved hand into liquid chocolate going through various stages of the production process.
I got to taste some partially processed, very special chocolate, made from rare white beans called porcelana that tastes like truffles and if this small sample of beans sent to Karl were to be fully processed it would sell for about $25 for about 65gms. It won’t be on the market anytime soon so I felt very privileged to taste a treat like this.
The thing that I find really interesting and inspiring is that Karl Hogarth left school when he was 16 and went to sea fishing for Sealord back in the 80s. He became a skipper at the young age of 26 for another company and had “a few escapades around New Zealand, Australia and South Africa before I decided I wanted to do something different”.
He gave up fishing in 2003 and went to NMIT where he completed a diploma in business and then to Victoria University where he did a bachelor of commerce in marketing and commercial law.
“I came out thinking I would be the most employable person in the world but couldn’t get a job. Who wants a 30-plus year old ex-fisherman with a couple of degrees and not much experience. So I went travelling. What was going to be a month in Bali surfing ended up being a year travelling from the bottom of South America to Mexico.”
While chocolate was to feature in his future – in the whole time he travelled in countries that grow cacao, he never visited a cacao farm.
So how did he get into making chocolate?
“It started with a trip to South America in 2009 where I came across chocolate in Guatemala that was made by the Mayan. It was pure cacao beans made with little panela (evaporated cane juice) and was the first time I realised how good chocolate could taste when it is handcrafted using the very best ingredients rather than produced on a huge commercial scale in a style designed for the mass market and as much profit as possible.
“As I continued the trip, I continued tasting chocolate and read about guys in the US making chocolate and thought ‘what a great way to make a living’.”
He met Marina, who has a background in marketing and was head of PR for Converse Argentina when they met in Buenos Aires, and they lived in Argentina for a year before they came back to New Zealand and started a family.
“I found some work going back to sea but with kids I was looking for a way to stay at home and this little chocolate making seed was growing in my mind.”
Karl and Marina bought a little bag of cacao at an organic shop in Golden Bay and started working out how to turn it into chocolate.
“Not overly successful the first time” says Karl.
But after more research he found an online forum of people making chocolate at home and found out the machinery he needed was available in Singapore, where he travelled regularly for work at the time. That was the beginning of an exciting new future for the Hogarth family.
Hogarth Craft Chocolate sources the highest quality cacao beans from around the world to create small batches of chocolate using traditional techniques. From “Bean to Bar” means Hogarth’s sort, roast, crush and classify, winnow, grind and conche, age, melt, temper, mold, and wrap their hand crafted chocolates. Each bar is literally wrapped by hand.
As their website says: “Our process uses minimal ingredients and is focused on preserving the natural flavours within the cacao to bring fine and exquisite chocolate.”
They source five types of raw cacao beans, each with distinctive flavour profiles, direct from reliable plantations and from co-operatives via TradeAid.
However, this is just the beginning for this premium artisan producer. Karl and Marina have a range of things they are working with and trialling, they have plans to produce gianduja which is an Italian chocolate made with hazelnuts. They have bought the entire next harvest from a local hazelnut orchard.
As Karl says: “In the craft world, makers focus on making great products as well as they can, not as cheaply as they can. We are bean to bar chocolate makers so we focus on very high quality cacao, rather than cheap bulk beans. With a focus on the best quality beans with the best flavours we don’t need to add any flavouring to the chocolate, the cacao is all that is needed.”
Hogarth Craft Chocolate is already fielding calls from the US and the UK after just three month’s commercial production. The rest of the world is already discovering this wonderful Nelson producer and their handcrafted products, it is time you did too.
Blackenbrook Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2015 RRP$19
This Sauvignon Blanc has bright, fresh flavours with a certain purity we have come to expect from Blackenbrook. Ripe melon, apricots, passionfruit, zesty green capsicum and firm lime characters dominate the flavours while the ripe acidity leaves a wonderful juiciness in the long finish. Perfect summer drinking.
The following is taken from an April 2015 review posted here
I believe as the artisan chocolate market grows in NZ, a bean-to-bar industry will begin to flourish, and have been on record saying as much. Up until today, the NZ bean-to-bar market has seen a few small brands start up and the chocolate has been OK – some quite nice in fact. But not up to the standard you find elsewhere in the world. Often gritty, poorly emulsified, too niche (eg, not wanting to use real sugar), and more often than not, the roasting doesn’t fully express the flavour notes of the bean. And the beans are often Forestero…over 85% of the world’s chocolate supply comes from forestero, it is fast growing, double the yield of Criollo trees, but rather dull in flavour.
Well, today that has changed for me. Today, I tasted some New Zealand bean to bar chocolate that is up there with the best in the world, and leaps ahead of any other bean-to-bar chocolate in New Zealand. Not because the others are bad – this is just THAT good. And it is made in Nelson by a small start-up company called Hogarth Craft Chocolate. There are five in the range, all single origin and made from the best beans. They are perfectly roasted, so much so that the subtle nuances of flavour come through crisp and clear. Five similar strength dark chocolates, but each very different and unique in it’s own right. If you think all dark chocolate tastes the same – then you must try this, it will change the way you think about dark chocolate. This review is totally unsolicited, and the first time I have publicly endorsed a New Zealand bean-to-bar chocolate brand.
The five varieties are single origin from Madagascar, Peru, Venezuela, Equador, and Dominican Republic. My personal favourite was the Peru 66% Criollo. Only about 1% of the worlds chocolate supply comes from the Criollo tree, which produces aromatic, deep flavoured beans. The other 14% or so is from Criollo-Trinatario hybrids which also produce wonderful beans (the pure Trinatario tree was sadly wiped out by a virus).
The Peru 66% is absolutely divine – this is what REAL dark chocolate is supposed to taste like, not like the over processed supermarket 70% varieties. The caramel and honey notes are underscored by a light fruity aroma (think peaches and nectarine), and the taste lingers long after the chocolate has melted away. And it isn’t just the depth and clarity of the flavours – the chocolate is well refined. Refining is the process that makes the chocolate less gritty, and the better the refining of the chocolate (measured by microns) the smoother the finished product, and the better the flavour develops on the tongue.
I am tremendously excited by the discovery of Hogarth Craft chocolate. Importing Pralus and Amedei, my two favourite bean-to-bar brands, is rather expensive. And I don’t do it that often. But I am more than happy to have Hogarth Craft chocolate moving forward, and won’t feel like I am missing out in any way. Unfortunately, you can only buy it in markets in Nelson for now (I managed to talk Karl Hogarth, the chocolate maker, into sending me some via courier after depositing some funds into his account – money well spent!). But based on how good this chocolate is, it won’t be long before you see it popping up all over the world. This is a huge development for the NZ chocolate industry. We can be the best in the world, from our bean-to-bar, through to our artisan filled chocolates. NZ can be a world leader in chocolate (hey, Belgium and Switzerland don’t grow cocoa trees either you know), and today, we are one very big step closer to that reality.
I predict a very bright future for Hogarth Craft Chocolate
New shipping rates are now available with great deals on national and international deliveries. Please check our shipping and returns page.
At Hogarth Craft Chocolate we source the highest quality, organic and fairly traded cacao beans from around the world. At our factory in Nelson we roast, grind and age small batches of chocolate using traditional techniques.
The debut range features Trinitario and Criollo cocoa beans from Peru, Madagascar, Venezuela and Dominican Republic. These varieties are noted for their natural fruit and spice flavours that are allowed to shine through in the chocolate. Each origin has a distinct flavour profile; Peru 66%, Stone fruit, honey and caramel collide in this wonderfully complex chocolate; Madagascar 70% – A fruity chocolate with bright berry and warm raisin notes; Venezuela 72% – Bright cherry, coconut and tobacco notes feature in this smooth dark chocolate; Dominican Republic 75% – tangy citrus notes provide bitter fruitiness over a dark toffee finish.
With unparalleled attention to detail Hogarth Craft Chocolate is presented in a beautifully embossed wrapper using high quality textured paper. The whole product exudes quality and craftsmanship.