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The Chocolate Dictionary

With this month’s focus on the cacao bean, there’s some chocolate jargon popping up around the place. I thought it might be good to have a bit of a glossary here; I’ll add words in from time to time as they come up, but we’ll start with the basics.

Bean-to-bar: Made in small batches, from raw ingredient to finished product by the same artisan. Often these producers source beans directly from farmers, enabling them to ensure an ethical supply chain (see Direct Trade).

Cacao bean: The all-important pod from which chocolate is made. The three most commonly referenced varieties are Criollo (rare but fine), Forastero (common and robust), and Trinitario (a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero).

Chocolate: The finished product, made from cocoa solids, (usually) sugar and (sometimes) extra cocoa butter, milk and other flavourings.

Chocolate maker: Someone who processes cacao into chocolate, e.g large chocolate makers include Valrhona and Callebaut, or closer to home, Whittaker’s; smaller local chocolate makers include Hogarth, Ocho and Wellington Chocolate Factory.

Chocolatier: Someone who uses chocolate to create filled, dipped or otherwise flavoured chocolates. A chocolatier does not make cacao into chocolate (although some chocolatiers are also chocolate makers).

Cocoa butter: The naturally occurring fats from the cacao bean, which give chocolate its magical meltiness, because it liquifies just below human body temperature. Extra cocoa butter is sometimes added to give a smoother finish to chocolate.

Cocoa mass/liquor: Pure liquid cacao – the main ingredient in chocolate. Includes both cocoa solids and cocoa butter in their natural proportions. This is what is referred to when percentages are used to describe chocolate.

Couverture: Fine chocolate, made to be remelted into new products. This is usually what is used for filled and dipped chocolates. Common options include Valrhona and Callebaut; some bean-to-bar producers also make couverture for other chocolatiers to work with.

Direct trade: Means the chocolate-maker sources directly from the farmer, rather than through intermediaries. This means more work for the chocolate-maker but usually results in higher prices for the farmer than Fair Trade agreements offer.

Single-origin: Made from beans from a single geographical location (sometimes a single farm). Most bean-to-bar products are single-origin, and many couverture chocolates are too.

Tempering: The process required to set couverture chocolate properly when making chocolates. This involves heating to a specific temperature to melt, cooling to a lower temperature to allow the correct crystallisation, and then raising the temperature sufficiently that the chocolate is workable but doesn’t lose the crystals that have formed. There are different methods of tempering. Properly tempered chocolate should be glossy, set firmly, and should snap when broken.

There are a few for starters – what chocojargon have I missed?


chocolatier mirams meet the chocolatier
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chocolate, Chocolatiers

Meet the chocolatier: Chocolatier Mirams

Chocolatier Mirams is the trading name of Chris Mirams, a Hawkes Bay-based chocolatier who produces exceptional chocolates using top-notch ingredients and stunning finishes. 

He left school at 16 to start as an apprentice at the luxurious Huka Lodge in Taupo. After four years he moved to Melbourne to work as a pastry chef at Gordon Ramsay’s maze restaurant, working alongside Josh Emmett, then in 2012 he moved back to the Hawkes Bay and is now busy working in local eateries there, as well as experimenting and creating with chocolate. Here he tells us a little about what makes him tick. 

What inspired you to delve into the world of chocolate?

I’ve always loved chocolate, but never worked closely with it. So I decided to learn all I could about it. What you can do with it amazes me everyday.

Who is your chocolate idol?

My chocolate hero would have to be Kirsten Tibballs. I was lucky to spend a week at her Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School in Melbourne.

What types of chocolate do you work with?

I use Cacao Barry and Valrhona chocolate for my products. Single origin where possible, if you can get your hands on some double fermented chocolate, I recommend trying it. My favourite chocolate is Valrhona Illanka 63% from Peru.

Are there any other ingredients you hold especially dear?

Pailleté Feuilletine – caramelised crepe flakes. Used in confectionery to add a crunchy texture.

What’s your best chocolate tasting tip?

My tasting tips would be to get ahold of Hogarth’s bean to bar chocolate in Nelson. It’s extremely good!

Editor note: Hogarth’s incredible bean-to-bar chocolate will feature in our May collection, so if you’re keen to heed Chris’s advice sign up for The Chocolate Tour before the 23rd of April. If you’re subscribed already you’ll get to try one of Chocolatier Mirams’ decadent chocolates in our April delivery. For orders email, and for drool-worthy teasers be sure to follow @chocolatiermirams on Instagram.

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Meet the chocolatier: Little Blues Chocolates

Little Blues Chocolates is an Auckland-based business putting a luxury artisanal spin on American flavours. Ryan is the chocolatier behind the brand, and I spied some of her incredible treats while scrolling through Instagram one day.  She kindly sent me some to try and I was instantly sold. One of her amazing products will feature in our April delivery – a perfect fit for “The Inner Child” theme.

Ryan trained in pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America and spent 8 years working as a pastry chef before moving into the chocolate specialty. She then spent three and a half years working alongside French-trained chocolatiers in both Napa Valley and Auckland, before launching Little Blues. She agreed to answer a few questions to tell us a bit more about her background and passions. 

What inspired you to delve into the world of chocolate?

I’ve always had a sweet spot for chocolate. While I only opened Little Blues Chocolates last year, I’ve been dreaming about this business since I was a little girl in my mother’s kitchen. After baking my way through childhood, I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and then trained on opposite sides of the globe with several reputable chocolatiers. And now, Little Blues Chocolates is introducing New Zealand to classic American flavours wrapped up in artisanal chocolates.

Who is your chocolate idol?

It’s hard to choose one person to call my chocolate idol when there are so many people in this world that contribute to the industry. A lot of people might idolise the chocolatier that makes complex showpieces and beautiful creative bonbons. And these people absolutely deserve accolades for their show-stopping work, but I find that people often overlook all the other amazing folks that make up the chocolate industry. I idolize the growers and pickers working in the hot sun, the scientists creating flavour profiles of delicious craft chocolate, the chocolate makers producing bean-to-bar, the chocolatiers finding the most innovative and delicious uses for chocolate, the pastry chefs in restaurants who make glamorous desserts using chocolate as a medium, the small business owners creating equally beautiful chocolates and bean-to-bars that most people will never hear about because they prefer to only sell locally. And let’s not forget the teachers and mentors out there passing on their expertise to the next generation. Every person’s position in the industry is just as important as the others. Without all of us, chocolate wouldn’t be the sought after speciality item that it is.

What types of chocolate do you work with?

I work primarily with Valrhona Chocolate, which is a high-quality chocolate from France. I love the acidity of their range and find it compliments my style and custom flavours. Valrhona is constantly adding new chocolates and products to their line, which then provides me with more to work with and choose from. I feel there is a place for all percentages and origins. If I’m making a solid chocolate item, I prefer to use a darker chocolate, but I prefer milk chocolate for many fillings. Recently, Hogarth’s Madagascar chocolate has become my favourite craft chocolate and I would love to incorporate this in a new product (although it does not need to be made into a confection or bonbon as it’s amazing on its own!).

Are there any other ingredients you hold especially dear?

I also love to feature local products in my artisanal chocolates. I recently worked with Forty Thieves of the Hibiscus Coast to make my Salted Macadamia and Brown Butter chocolates, which are one of my best sellers. I believe that sourcing local and organically grown ingredients elevates the flavour and integrity of my chocolates. It’s been fun using New Zealand’s finest to create flavours and combinations with American roots.

What’s your best chocolate tasting tip?

Don’t let others’ opinions influence your chocolate tasting experience. Everyone has a different palate and what might seem delicious to you could be too strong or too sweet for someone else. And also, we shouldn’t ever settle for just one favourite kind of chocolate. I love high quality dark acidic chocolates, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a bag of M&M’s in my freezer at all times too!

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

As a child, I loved chocolate covered pretzels. I remember crumbling pretzels into chocolate ice cream for that sweet and salty combination. At age eight, my friend and I decided to make our own chocolate covered pretzels. We poured out Hershey’s chocolate syrup into a bowl, dipped pretzels in it, and let them set in the freezer. In retrospect, it was an absolute mess, but to a couple of eight year olds, it was pretty perfect.

Sign up now for The Chocolate Tour and you’ll get to try one of Little Blues Chocolates’ top treats in our April delivery. Little Blues Chocolates will also be available soon directly from