Artisan chocolate subscription box from The Chocolate Tour with a Kiwi Classics theme
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Kiwi Classics (May 2018)

The May theme is Kiwi Classics.

First up was Hogarth Craft Chocolate’s new Alto Beni Bolivian Dark Milk chocolate. As a long time milk chocolate lover, but someone who’s in it for the creaminess and chocolate rather than the sugar, I love that dark milk is a current trend. Less sweet, more chocolatey – and still that smooth dairy goodness. This bar displays the Hogarth’s exceptional chocolate-making skill, with notes of malt featuring strongly. The story woven to fit this into the Kiwi Classics box spoke to childhood milos and buttered malt biscuits – great taste memories to associate with this amazing chocolate.

House of Chocolate bonbons were next on our tasting menu. The flavours are coffee (a national obsession), peanut butter, and jelly tip. The coffee bonbon was rich and dark, full of flavour and hubby’s favourite. Peanut butter is also a deeply chocolatey peanut bonbon – nice and rich and I love this one. And the jelly tip is a fun combo of wobbly berry jelly and oozing vanilla bean filling – my favourite and definitely reminiscent of jelly tip ice creams and childhood joy.

Also from House of Chocolate is the dark chocolate feijoa; crisp, freeze-dried feijoa covered in dark couverture chocolate. While we’ve had the standard seasonal glut of feijoas here recently I enjoyed having the familiar tart flavour in a different textural context.

Koa chocolates make just one product; a Manuka honey ganache-filled chocolate. These are tasty and sweet, with prominent honey flavours, and even sweeter – all profits from sale go to supporting Bois Gentil Kiwi Creche, a facility that protects kiwi eggs and chicks, helping ensure the birds survive into adulthood.

The Remarkable Chocolate Company’s marshmallow, raspberry and toasted coconut bark is a very generous helping of organic dark chocolate, and a grown up take on rocky road. This is both delicious and highly textured.

Subscribe now to get your hands on our next fabulous chocolate subscription box, or grab the Kiwi Classics collection as a one-off purchase (while stock lasts). 

New Zealand chocolate subscription The Chocolate Tour Perfect Pairs collection
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Perfect Pairs (April 2018)

April’s theme is Perfect Pairs. The idea was to match various chocolate treats with food and drink. I thought this was a really interesting concept: especially the decision to let you choose your own pairings. Advice on pairing was given via a web article, which proved to be a handy guide. Personally, I’m a fan of eating chocolate with a good cuppa, so for this experiment I purposefully steered clear of tea and chose some other pairings so as to be a bit more adventurous. For foods, I had a creamy blue brie, some smoky cheese, yoghurt, plum paste and crackers. I thought about opening a bottle of wine but, knowing I wouldn’t get through it all during the tasting, I decided on sips of port instead (from an already open bottle).

I started with She Universe’s Sassy Sesame Snap which, in itself, is an interesting pairing. Dark chocolate coated in sesame seeds is not something I ever thought I’d eat. On its own, it’s almost like eating savoury chocolate, with the sesame flavour and the sweetness competing for taste supremacy. I tried pairing this with plum paste, but found the paste too sweet. It drowned out the savoury moreishness. Unfortunately the port also overpowered the taste of the chocolate. Contrastingly, the smoky cheese worked quite well and complemented the savoury sesame. The soft blue was also a nice match.

Next was something completely different: Chocolatier Mirams’ White Chocolate, Lemon, Olive Oil and Poppy seed tablet. Again, this is an amazing combination in itself. Lemon and poppy seeds are a great combination (think lemon poppy seed cake): add white chocolate and olive oil and you have a divinely inspired recipe. I tried it with the creamy brie, which worked exceptionally well.

I’m afraid that I don’t like coffee, so She Chocolat’s Chocolate Coffee Beans were wasted on me. I did try one and the chocolate coating was lovely. They will certainly make a great gift for a friend or family member.

Ocho’s 70% Cacao Solomons was just beautiful on its own, but also worked well with white bread, much like a chocolate pastry. The plum paste wasn’t a bad taste partner either as it complemented the fruity undertones of the chocolate.

When I opened up the package containing Choco Loco’s Chocolates, I breathed in a beautiful, heady, deep chocolate scent. Beneath a thick layer of couverture chocolate, lay blackcurrant and absinthe in one (A Currant Affair) and raspberry and wasabi in the other (Pepperberry Delight). Bold flavour choices: what to match them with? Cheese didn’t seem right and I just wasn’t in the mood for (any more) Port. Creamy yoghurt wasn’t too bad with the Pepperberry delight but it didn’t work so well with the Currant Affair. I think this would work well with another liqueur or perhaps a malty beer. Unfortunately, I didn’t have either on hand.

Chocolatier Mirams’ Ginger and Sesame Bonbons were an interesting melange of savoury sesame and subtle ginger. I didn’t really find a good match for these, but they were so unusual on their own, that that didn’t matter. And trying out different pairings is all part of the fun, even if you don’t find that perfect one.

Experimenting with different food and chocolate pairings was a great way to really savour the flavours and think about what might complement them. This was a fun tasting adventure and I look forward to more.

Subscribe now to get your hands on our next fabulous chocolate subscription box. 

The Chocolate Tour chocolate subscription artisan New Zealand chocolate
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Fruit & Nut (March 2018)

The theme for March is Fruit and Nut. Like Rosa, as a child, fruit and nut was definitely not my favourite kind of chocolate. Why spoil all the sugary goodness with stuff that’s supposed to be healthy?! As my tastes have matured, I’ve come to love both nutty and fruity chocolate and I was intrigued to see what this box had in store for me. I was also interested to note that all of this box’s chocs were made in Auckland. Is Auckland the next new Chocolate mecca?

My tasting session started with Chocolate Brown’s Florentines. I was interested to try these first as I remember tasting the biscuit version in Europe. These are just as tasty. Instead of a biscuit base, the three florentines were simple discs of milk chocolate topped with a chewy mixture of almonds, peel and glace cherries. Glace cherries are not always my cup of tea, but they work in this instance.

Next up was Flint’s Hazelnut & Orange bar. The thing I noticed first was the beautiful jungle print on the wrapping. I love that so many companies put as much thought, love and care into their packaging design as they do their chocolate. Once unwrapped, the organgey aroma was lovely. The chocolate was dark and smooth, despite containing ground hazelnuts, and had a crunchy hazelnut layer on top. The hazelnut flavour was stronger than the orange, but they worked well together.

I am a big fan of Caramilk, so I was really looking forward to trying House of Chocolate’s Caramelised White Chocolate & Hazelnut tablet. The caramelised chocolate wasn’t as sweet as the supermarket variety, which is a good thing. What sweetness there is is balanced by the delicious, crunchy hazelnuts. It’s a combination I wouldn’t have thought of, but it’s a delicious match.

Honest Chocolat’s Bonbons were almost too pretty to eat.There were three flavours. The Raspberry & Ginger was a cute, little, square morsel topped with a zing of freeze dried raspberries. The filling was dense and rich, somewhat like a raspberry drenched, fudgy chocolate cake with a hint of ginger, inside a chocolate shell. The circular, orange, white-flecked bonbon was an orange and cardamom pairing. The filling was cakey, orangey and cardammomy, as expected. The last bonbon was Preserved Strawberry. The outer layer was a deep pink with white speckles. The filling was fudgey strawberry. Just delicious.

My absolute favourite was Honest Chocolat’s Fig & Almond Tablet. Again, I loved the packaging for this bar, but this time it wasn’t about the look of it. What I enjoyed was the description of the chocolate on the inside of the wrapper, along with tasting instructions and an explanation of where the beans came from (Ecuador’s last pacific cloud forest). I opened up the inner wrapper to find four mini blocks of chocolate, with individual little pieces marked out as with a larger chocolate bar. They were too small to break apart and eat individually, but very visually pleasing. The chocolate itself was lovely and smooth, juxtaposed with the crunchy fig and almond pieces. This was by far my favourite mixture of flavours.

Having tried March’s satisfying collection, I have to admit that I’ll now be on the lookout for more Fruit and Nut combinations to keep maturing my palate!

Subscribe now to get your hands on our next fabulous chocolate subscription box. 

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behind the business

Where it all began

This month The Chocolate Tour is celebrating our first birthday, and I wanted to spend a few minutes sharing the inspiration behind the business.

I’ve always been a committed chocolate lover, and this has manifested in various ways over the years. Eating it, of course. Moulding chocolates. Making cakes that feature more chocolate by weight than all other ingredients combined. Experimenting with many, many recipes. Tracking down all the best chocolatiers and chocolate makers. Planning holidays around visiting their shops. Eating more.

After my second child was born in 2016, I was looking for a way to have a wee indulgence that I didn’t have to plan out – my head was too full as it was. I knew chocolate subscriptions existed elsewhere and I thought that was perfect; something new each month, no thinking, just sign up and it arrives. Magic! The only problem: there weren’t any in New Zealand. And shipping chocolate internationally on a monthly basis is both risky and expensive.

I googled; I found nothing. End of story, right? Except I couldn’t leave it alone. Every couple of months I found myself searching again, all to no avail.

Then I started thinking about going back to work, and it all fell into place – I thought perhaps I should have a crack at creating this thing I had been compulsively looking for.

Months of research, planning and sourcing later, we launched; our first boxes were sent out on the 1st of April 2017. There have been heaps of challenges; some things haven’t gone to plan, and others have worked out far better than I could have hoped. The rollercoaster of business! But I love it. I get to apply my compulsive chocolate-stalking behaviour to making other people happy (and yes, I get to taste-test along the way, although that’s a fairly small proportion of my work!).

I’m so thankful to everyone who has supported me in getting this far – to our subscribers and customers, all the amazing chocolate makers and chocolatiers who supply us, and my lovely family: thank you! Long may we continue sharing the finest chocolate in Aotearoa with you all.

Meanwhile, my daughter – the one who starting me thinking about it – is almost two, and this morning she asked for chocolate for breakfast. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree… 😉

colour themed chocolate subscription box with New Zealand artisan chocolate
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Colours (February 2018)

February’s subscription box was the Colours collection. When I think of colour, I think of rainbows, warmth, light and childlike fun: all those things that give you warm fuzzies. Chocolate does the same thing for me, so I was excited to taste what all the colours would represent.

I enthusiastically unwrapped the largest block from its yellow paper: Wellington Chocolate Factory’s Salted Brittle Caramel bar. This bar consists of beautiful dark chocolate coated in crunchy, salted caramel brittle. WCF likes to make chocolate blocks with great texture and this was no exception. The smooth chocolate base and the crackling caramel are a contrasting yet complementary pair.

Next I unwrapped orange: She Universe’s Orange and Mandarin bar. The first thing that struck me was the amazing look of this bar with its leaf and cacao pod designs. Creamy chocolate is infused with subtle citrus flavours and gives off a lovely jaffa smell. Of note, the ingredients list includes love and creativity and it’s dairy and sugar (but not sweetener) free.

Purple was Chocolatier Miram’s Blackcurrant and Cacao Chewy Caramel Nougatine Crunch, which is a mouthful linguistically and taste-wise. It has lots of different flavours and textures going on: a berry exterior, crunchy nougat, chewy caramel, flavoursome chocolate. But this unique wee creation works! For a delicate little bar, it packs quite a punch…  I needed at least four more!

The green package contained representatives for both green and blue, in the form of House of Chocolate’s Bonbons. Two exquisite looking (light and dark) green bonbons and one blue. The exteriors are tiny works of art, with polished, marbled swirls of colour. Inside, the mastery continues: the light green contains a lush, creamy peppermint filling; the dark green a slightly grainy, but creamy and fruity feijoa; and the blue an almost liquid, salted caramel. This last one was my favourite, reminding me of old-fashioned toffee. A word of warning: eat it all at once. If you take a bite and come back to it later, the filling oozes out into the packaging. Don’t ask me how I know this…

Last, but not least, was my stand out favourite… Once the red paper was shed, it revealed Cacao for Me’s Raspberry Chocolate. I loved how it essentially gave me a free pass to eat it all myself, given its name. I did, however, allow my husband a wee nibble as it was just too good not to share! This was rich, decadent and rewarding: a perfect pairing of moussey, fudgey chocolate resting on a rich raspberry jam-like pate de fruit, covered with a smooth chocolate coating. Just as the wrapper says … Chocolate happiness!

February’s box definitely delivered on my expectations of warm fuzzies. It was a great way to showcase some quite different, but equally delicious, chocolate creations from around Aotearoa.

Subscribe now to get your hands on our next fabulous chocolate subscription box. 

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Gold (January 2018)

January’s box was the Gold collection. This theme made me think of summer heat and golden lager, but I was also excited to try some top shelf, gold award-winning chocolate!

I started with She Universe’s Pineapple Lumps. I was slightly hesitant to try these as I’m not a big pineapple fan. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The pineapple flavour wasn’t too strong, with the passionfruit providing an exquisite sweetness which lingered on the tongue. With a creamy, crumbly, white chocolatey, fruity filling and a deep, dark chocolate outer, these were lovely!

After trying the wonderful contribution from Hogarth in September’s High Tea box, I had to crack into Hogarth’s Gianduia next. I love the gold wrappers on these bars: I feel like I’m unwrapping a treat from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory! This golden package was full of creamy chocolate goodness that melted in the mouth, with a subsequent taste of almost burnt hazelnut. This bar has a really satisfying, rich flavour and was just the ticket for what I was craving.

Next was Honest Chocolat’s Salted Caramel and Buckwheat Tablet. This bar is an unusual combination of delicious milk chocolate, salty, tangy caramel pieces and sweet, crunchy buckwheat. For me, this was a winning combo, with a particularly lovely aftertaste and great textures.

Chocolatier Mirams’ Crunchy Hazelnut and Milk Chocolate Sticks are just plain gorgeous. Crunchy and creamy and coated with cocoa. The only problem I had with them was that there was only one. I wanted more!

Chocolatier Mirams’ Bonbons were an interesting choice, with three unusual flavour amalgamations. The banana passion was divine; the honey and rosemary was a masterful combination of dark chocolate and savoury rosemary, softened with honey; and the lemon meringue was like a tiny, delightful version of the bigger pudding.

Another surprise for me was Colestown Chocolate’s Peanut Bar. I’ve tried combinations of peanut and chocolate before and have been distinctly unimpressed. This bar was simply delicious and, I have to admit it, my favourite. With crunchy peanuts cresting the top of the milk chocolate outer layer and a chocolate and peanut butter filling that was beautifully creamy, smooth, sweet and salty, this was a real winner.

This month’s selection really was worthy of the name: it was gold class, top of the range chocolate. Roll on February and more deliciousness from The Chocolate Tour!

Subscribe now to get your hands on our next collection of chocolatey goodness. 

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chocolate

2017 – a very chocolatey year

We’ve had an amazing first year at The Chocolate Tour. This time last year I was spending my summer holiday working flat out to pull everything together for launch and boring everyone I know with talk of chocolate. So not much has changed…

Our first subscriptions were sent out at the start of April, and since then we have spread plenty of chocolatey love around New Zealand, drawing attention to the delicious creativity of New Zealand’s incredible chocolate makers and chocolatiers along the way.

I want to say a big thank you to you all – to the subscribers and customers, chocolate makers and chocolatiers, and friends and family – you’re all amazing, and I’m so grateful for your support. Here’s to a bigger and chocolatey-er 2018!

A bit about 2017:

Our themes for the year have been:

  • The Inner Child – inspired by childhood treats, but with the sophisticated twist
  • Back to Basics – with a focus on cacao, this collection featured deep flavours and gave a closer look at the origins of chocolate
  • Herbs & Spices – heaps of different herb and spice flavoured bars and bites
  • Time for Dessert – dessert-inspired, plus a couple of ideas for incorporating the chocolate into dessert
  • Nuts & Seeds – chocolate featuring lots of different nuts and seeds used in innovative ways
  • High Tea – replete with dainty morsels and delicate flavours
  • Textures – chewy, crunchy, gooey, brittle – texture is so important in food and this box had heaps of it
  • Storytime – inspired by famous children’s books, this collection was full of whimsical treats
  • Fruits of Summer – summer fruit is magnificent, and even better when combined with chocolate

We’ve featured chocolate from 18 amazing chocolate makers and chocolatiers, and delivered to customers as far north as Whangarei, and as far south as Owaka (which is a smidge below Invercargill – we delivered there too!).

The top five chocolates of the year (as rated by our subscribers) were:

We’ve got plenty of new and exciting things planned for 2018, starting with our brand new mini subscription. Our January box is Gold – full of award-winning treats and other golden delights. And we know that many of the marvellous chocolate makers and chocolatiers we work with have great things planned for the year – which means great things for our subscribers as well.

I hope you’re having a lovely summer, with plenty of fun, sun and chocolate, in whichever order you please. Happy New Year!

Rosa xx

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Fruits of Summer (December 2017)

Fruits of Summer, for me, conjures up memories of raspberries from our childhood garden, strawberries with icing sugar, stone fruit juice dribbling down my chin, crunchy pavlova and real fruit ice creams. I was looking forward to receiving a chocolate box bursting with the taste of summer, and this did not disappoint!

I started out with the Schoc Passionfruit Chocolates, and what a way to start! They smelled divine (quite floral) and had a lovely marbled pattern. The filling reminded me of the passionfruit coulis you might have on a summer pav: the taste was fruity and sweet, with a delicate texture.

Next was Solomon’s Gold Dark Berry Bar. The texture of this bar was not as smooth as some of the other chocolate. However, it had a lovely deep cacao flavour with a subtler berry taste behind it and I still couldn’t stop eating it!

The Ocho Beekeeper chocolate was lovely and smooth with a hint of honey, which strengthened the more bites I took. I liked the look of the bar with its OCHO imprint as well.

The pack of four Bohemein chocolates was a clever collection of four quite different chocolates. The coconut cream truffle was my favourite, with the unusual Rosemary and Apricot a close second. An enjoyable ensemble of contrasting tastes.

The freeze dried strawberries from House of Chocolate were sweet and crumbly on the inside and smooth on the outside. They crunched going in and melted on my tongue like sherbet.

Finally, the piece de resistance was the House of Chocolate Fig, Cherry and Pistachio tablet. This bar looks like summer! It is colourful, textured and tastes simply delicious. Even better, it’s vegan and dairy free so almost anyone can eat it. The chewy, sweet fruit sits in a base of lovely creamy dark chocolate. This was without a doubt the star of the show!

All in all, The Chocolate Tour’s Fruits of Summer box was a lovely combination of complimentary fruit flavours, all based in well-made, delicious chocolate. I can’t wait for January’s box of deliciousness!

Subscribe now to get your hands on our next collection of chocolatey goodness. 

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chocolate, chocolate makers, Chocolatiers

Chocolatier vs Chocolate Maker

We talk a lot about chocolate makers and chocolatiers at The Chocolate Tour, but aren’t they the same thing? Well, no.

The craft chocolate industry is very young, so the need for distinction between the two is relatively new. Until recently if you were an artisan who worked with chocolate you’d almost certainly be a chocolatier. So what’s the difference between a chocolate maker and a chocolatier?

Chocolate maker

While big players (Callebaut, Valrhona, Whittaker’s) have been making chocolate for a long time, the assumption until recently was that you had to have industrial-scale machinery to make chocolate that was worth eating. So chocolate making didn’t happen at an artisan level until quite recently.

Luckily for us, over the last 15 years or so, the perception that you have to have a big company and big machines to make good chocolate has been repeatedly disproved. Craft chocolate makers often start out in a shed or garage, working with repurposed equipment and small batches of beans to create chocolate with distinctive characteristics.

Most craft chocolate makers use single-origin beans, and many strive to achieve an ethical supply chain – something which has historically been lacking in the trade of cacao. This can be via direct trade (where the chocolate maker buys from the farmer), via farmer co-operatives, or via other Fair Trade or equivalent channels. As well as helping ensure a fair outcome for the grower (obviously very important!), this focus on the origin illuminates the different characteristics of beans from different areas.

The chocolate making process also allows a lot of room for variability, and therefore control of the flavour of the chocolate itself. For example, the chocolate maker can control the roasting process, the length of conching, and of course the ingredients and proportions. All of this means that chocolate made from the same beans by two different makers can taste markedly different – which is a big part of the fun.

Chocolate makers you might see in our boxes include Hogarth (here’s a video clip that shows some of their setup), Ocho and Wellington Chocolate Factory.

Chocolatier

Chocolatiers work with couverture chocolate to make new and delicious treats – they don’t make the chocolate themselves (well, some do – but then they are both chocolatier and chocolate maker).

Chocolate is a tricky medium to work with, and so being a chocolatier is not a lesser art – just a different one. Chocolatiers can create all kinds of treats, from classic filled or dipped chocolates to beautiful enrobed bars and nuts, and every artisan has their own focus.

Melting chocolate is pretty easy, but tempering – the process that ensures the proper crystalline structure forms as chocolate cools – is not. And of course that’s before we even think about the invention and refinement of all the flavours, fillings and concepts that are required to create an excellent chocolate confection.

In New Zealand, most chocolatiers use couverture from international suppliers like Callebaut, Valrhona and Cacao Barry. Some craft chocolate makers can also provide chocolate for molding, but as yet I’m not aware of any local chocolatiers featuring New Zealand craft chocolate in their products (tell me if you hear of any!). Each particular couverture chocolate has slightly different characteristics and craft chocolate is likely to be trickier to work with, and will probably have more prominent flavours in the chocolate itself.

Chocolatiers that we work with include Honest Chocolat, Little Blues Chocolates, chocolatier mirams, and Baron Hasselhoff’s, among many others.

 

So that’s the difference between chocolate makers and chocolatiers. And here’s a little confession from me – I only recently learnt the importance of this distinction myself. I knew both terms but had missed some of the nuance – so now that I know the difference I thought I’d share with you.

Did you know the difference? Have you tried your hand at either process?

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Chocolatiers

Meet the chocolatier: Honest Chocolat

Nico Bonnaud is the chocolatier behind the innovative Honest Chocolat, based in Snells Beach. Honest Chocolat’s bonbons feature a water ganache filling, which allows the chocolate to shine through. And the chocolate used here is incredible single-origin chocolate from Original Beans, with plenty of flavour to share with the world – so worth tasting properly. Nico kindly agreed to answer a few questions for us. 

What inspired you to delve into the world of chocolate?

Passion for chocolate is rooted in my youth. Growing up in France, we often had artisan chocolate at home and it was a special moment to savour. Growing up I decided to become a pastry chef and after many years the love of chocolate was calling and I decided to start Honest Chocolat.

Who is your chocolate idol?

I don’t have an idol as such but I admire artisan chocolatiers from around the world that have a passion for quality ingredients and a true craftsmanship.

What types of chocolate do you work with?

We use single origin, organic and sustainably sourced chocolate from a company called Original Beans. We loved to be able to trace back to the origin of the chocolate and the fact that it doesn’t contain soy lecithin and palm oil. We have chocolate from Bolivia, Ecuador and The Congo for example.

Are there any other ingredients you hold especially dear?

We love citrus and for example during the winter months we use oranges from our local winery Brick Bay in Snells Beach, to make treats for their café/restaurant. It is a great way to work closely with the locals and to be more sustainable.

What’s your best chocolate tasting tip?

To savour chocolate, let a square begin to melt on your tongue. This lets the cacao butter coat the palate and work with the bitterness of the cacao solids. With any good chocolate the aromas should linger for some time after you have eaten it.

And lastly, do you have a favourite childhood chocolate memory?

I have many fond memories but the strips of candied oranges covered in dark chocolate or “orangette” as we call them in French are possibly my favourite.

A trio of Honest Chocolat bonbons featured in our May Back to Basics collection, and future collections are bound to feature lots more from this amazing chocolatier. 

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