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How You Should Store Chocolate

Chocolate is one of life’s luxuries that should be enjoyed at its absolute best. While for some of us it may be impossible to put aside a box or bar of chocolates to eat slowly as a treat, others have more willpower!

Regardless of whether you are stashing your carefully selected chocolate away for an hour or two, or want to keep it for longer, it is important that you know how to store it correctly.

After all, it would be heartbreaking for good chocolate to go to waste!

Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to. We will talk you through the process to store chocolate, so when it’s time to indulge, you get the full flavour and texture that the artisanal creators intended.

 

Does Chocolate Go Bad?

First things first: you will be pleased to know that technically, chocolate in itself doesn’t go “off.” If stored correctly, it can last years.

However, it can undergo some changes to the taste or texture that make it less delectable if not stored correctly.

The exception to this rule is if your chocolate has inclusions or is of the truffle variety. In which case, you need to take extra care when storing it and may need to consume it more quickly than regular varieties.

 

How Long Does Chocolate Last?

Stashed away correctly, dark chocolate can last up to two years, while milk chocolate will be good for around one year. Both varieties can last double this time if kept in the fridge or freezer, but there will be some unpleasant side effects, which we outline below.

Truffles and chocolate with fillings have a much shorter shelf life. You only have a few months to scoff them if you keep them in the pantry. Always pay attention to the best before labels so that you can enjoy your choccies when they are at their best.

 

How To Store Chocolate

Good quality chocolate, without preservatives or nasties, is temperamental and needs to be stored with care.

The ideal storage temperature is between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius. As we well know, chocolate has a low melting point, so anything warmer than that will compromise the texture and quality.

Put your chocolatey treats into a dark, cool, dry cupboard to help retain their delicious qualities.

If you have already opened your chocolate, it is best to store it in an airtight container. This is because cocoa butter has the annoying habit of absorbing odours and flavours from the surrounding environment and can attract pests like ants.

The reason we recommend storing your chocolate in a dark place is that light (both natural and artificial) can oxidise chocolate over time. This strips away some of the rich flavours and changes the texture.

 

Can I Store Chocolate In The Fridge?

Generally, it is better to stick to the temperatures described above. But if it is too hot or there is no suitable storage spot, you can keep chocolate in the fridge.

Keep in mind that refrigerating chocolate is likely to cause the flavours to become dull over time. Your precious chocolate will also likely experience “sugar bloom.” This is when a white film appears on the surface. It is caused by increased moisture, which brings sugar crystals to the surface. But don’t fret, the whitening is only cosmetic and won’t impact the texture.

To help prevent this from happening, store your chocolate in an airtight container in the fridge. If possible, leave the chocolate out at room temperature before eating, to allow it to develop those full flavours again.

 

Can I Freeze Chocolate?

Again, it is possible to freeze your chocolate, but it is better to store it in other ways. But, if you are in it for the long haul, you can pop your chocolates in the freezer. Make sure they are in airtight containers and be prepared for some texture and flavour changes long term.

 

There are a number of ways you can protect your chocolate from the light and the heat. The ideal way to store it is in a cool, dark place between 18 and 20 degrees celsius. But if you have no other options, then you can refrigerate it. However, if you do, be prepared for some changes in flavour and appearance!

Luckily, the chocolates in our Chocolate Tour subscription boxes are so yummy that they won’t hang around for long! Check out the range in store.

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How Artisan Chocolatiers Are Different To Larger Makers

The chocolate that many of us know today is a far cry from the chocolate of old. Those mass manufactured, supermarket shelf offerings are certainly not traditional flavours.

But it is not just the flavours. Mass produced by machines and stuffed full of ingredients to make it smell, taste and feel a certain way, the larger makers lack the artistry and craft of smaller, artisanal chocolatiers.

Artisan or craft chocolate makers are small businesses with a focus on hand producing authentic products in smaller quantities. They take great pride in their craft. They spend a lot of time and effort perfecting the “alchemy” of creating truly delectable and distinctive chocolate offerings.

Much like the craft beer scene – which has erupted in a big way in New Zealand – artisan chocolate makers are passionate about the quality of their offerings. In fact, many of these humble chocolatiers have won national and international awards for their innovative and mouth watering products!

Here at The Chocolate Tour we LOVE artisan chocolate. We would almost go so far to say that you haven’t really tasted chocolate until you have sampled artisanal chocolate.

It is so different from large-scale brands in the following ways:

 

How An Artisan Chocolatier Is Different To A Larger Maker

 

The Cacao Beans

Much like grapes and coffee beans, the flavour of chocolate can vary greatly depending on where the cacao beans are sourced from. Artisan chocolatiers put a great deal of effort into sourcing unique beans from around the globe and bringing out the inherent taste characteristics in each type.

From Guatemala and Papua New Guinea to Fiji and Haiti, artisans often work directly with small growers to source their beans. They also care about sustainability and ethical purchasing, supporting local communities by paying what the products are worth.

 

The Elaborate Process

Making chocolate by hand is a true craft. Artisans painstakingly work from bean to bar, overseeing each stage of the process to create one-of-a-kind chocolates. From roasting and milling to pressing, tempering and moulding, they have complete control over each batch.

 

Creativity And Innovation

Because artisanal chocolate makers craft small batches by hand, they have endless opportunities for creativity and innovation. A quick browse through any artisan chocolatier’s offerings, and you will find diverse flavour combinations you had never dreamed of.

While the larger manufacturers tend to stick with the tried and true favourites, smaller makers love to experiment and create new tastes and textures.

 

Quality Ingredients

Artisans rely on carefully selected, quality ingredients to create the superb taste and texture of their chocolate. The larger maker’s pile in extras like milk solids, emulsifiers, flavours, cocoa powder and vegetable fat. Not to mention going overboard on the sugar!

An artisan chocolate bar will often only feature cacao beans and sugar. The emphasis is more on cacao content than sugar.

 

Supporting Local Chocolatiers

When you purchase artisanal chocolate, you are supporting local businesses and individuals who live and die by their craft. You get to experience the different flavour profiles of cacao beans from across the globe, while supporting developing communities in the countries of origin.

Artisanal chocolate is a treat for the senses that allows you to appreciate the craft of chocolate making as it was intended to be: pure, natural, and a little bit decadent.

So, if you would like to try some “real” chocolate, why not consider a Chocolate Tour subscription. With monthly or quarterly options, we deliver an amazing range of different pieces from artisan chocolatiers all over New Zealand. Check out the options now.

 

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The Health Benefits Of Eating Artisan Chocolate

Did you know there are health benefits to eating chocolate?

I know right, you are intrigued now…

But it isn’t just any old bar. Don’t start popping choccies out of the forgotten advent calendar in the cupboard! You want the good stuff. It is the artisan stuff that has all the benefits.

From the time of the ancient Aztecs, chocolate has been prized for its ability to strengthen the body and mind. Not to mention its supposedly powerful aphrodisiac properties.

Funnily enough, researchers are still heavily delving into the mysterious healing powers of chocolate. Of course, this is research we heavily support! While this research continues, there are already plenty of studies which show there are definite health benefits hidden within the humble cacao bean.

However, not all chocolate is created equal. Those highly processed, big-brand blocks that line the supermarket shelves are a world away from small batch, lovingly-crafted artisan varieties. They provide very little of the same benefits – if any.

Let’s delve into some of the health benefits you can expect when enjoying delicious artisan chocolate.

 

The Health Benefits Of Artisan Chocolate

 

Lower Sugar Content

Artisanal chocolate doesn’t rely heavily on sugar for flavour or enjoyment.

While there is indeed sugar in most varieties of the sweet brown treat, artisan varieties contain a great deal less than the bigger brands. Many artisans add sweetness using natural sugars or ingredients. That adds to the flavour and means you can enjoy their treats in moderation without massive sugar spikes.

 

Rich In Antioxidants

Science has proven that cacao beans are high in flavonoids. That is what gives chocolate its powerful antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants can reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and help prevent heart disease. They also fight free radicals that build up in the body, damaging cells. Therefore, they can potentially prevent a whole lot of nasty diseases.

Dark chocolate is the best source of antioxidants. So, go for chocolate with at least a 70% cocoa content for these benefits.

 

Increased Brain Function

Eating quality artisan chocolate can boost your brain power!

A compound called theobromine works in a similar manner to caffeine, improving memory and focus. As a bonus, theobromine can even harden your tooth enamel more effectively than fluoride. Choccie infused toothpaste anyone?

 

Natural Ingredients

When you read the back of a big brand chocolate bar, you can guarantee there will be a long list of ingredients that you don’t recognise.

In comparison, artisan chocolatiers take great pride in their craft. Every component used in the creation of their masterpieces is carefully selected. Many prefer to use organic products.

You won’t find any hidden nasties in their chocolates. So you don’t have to worry about added fats, sugars, chemicals and preservatives. And because the aim of creating artisan chocolates is to accentuate the flavour of the cacao bean, there is minimal processing involved throughout the journey from bean to bar. That means you get all the possible goodness from those natural ingredients.

 

Mood Booster

Chocolate has long been the favoured gift and snack of lovers. And for good reason. Although science hasn’t conclusively proven that the cacao bean has aphrodisiac properties, there is no questioning that it’s a great mood booster. Triggering a burst of serotonin – the feel-good hormone – in your body, it is a natural mood lifter which mimics the delicious sensation of falling in love.

 

No Binging Required!

Because artisan chocolate has higher amounts of cacao, it is incredibly satisfying. A sweet craving can be fixed with only one or two pieces of high-quality artisan products. You get all the health benefits of cacao without overloading on fat and sugar.

 

Artisan chocolate is designed to be a treat for your body and taste buds. But as with anything, you can have too much of a good thing. All the research agrees that these health benefits come from eating small amounts of high-quality chocolate. Make sure you enjoy your journey into the world of craft chocolate in moderation!

That is why our subscription boxes are the perfect amount to indulge… but not too much. We hunt out 5-8 varieties of the yummiest on-theme items we can find and then deliver them to your door.

Sound good? Shop the selection here.

 

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Why We Give Chocolate On Valentines Day

V-Day is fast approaching. The day of love. The day you get to show your significant other just how much they mean to you with a meaningful gift.

Or really just a good excuse to eat some deliciously decadent chocolate!

Whether you are looking for a sweet gift to woo a crush or a tender gesture for your other half, chocolate is a go-to Valentines Day gift that epitomises romance and affection.

Did you know, in the U.S. alone, people spend around $1.7 billion dollars on candy for the day dedicated to love? And, they spend 75% of it on chocolate. It is not just the Americans that go ga-ga for chocolate. In fact, the same spending behaviour is seen in many countries around the world.

Naturally, we think that every day is a good day to receive the gift of chocolate. But, we were curious as to how the most revered of sweet treats became the go-to gift on Valentines day.

Here’s what we discovered…

 

Where It All Began

Any chocolate lover knows that cacao beans are what makes the chocolatey magic happen. For centuries, that humble bean has been considered an aphrodisiac. Cacao was thought to stimulate desire and provide energy for — shall we say — romantic encounters.

It seems to have begun back in the time of the early Aztecs, by a rather raunchy emperor called Montezuma. He was rumoured to eat cocoa beans and chug rich cacao beverages as a way of fueling his encounters with the ladies. Even the infamous playboy Casanova referred to cocoa drinks as “the elixir of love.”

So, how did this potent and sexy brew cross over into the mainstream, commercial realm of Valentine’s Day?

 

Featuring In Valentines Day

A kind of Valentines Day has existed for centuries. But, the gift giving component only became popular in the Victorian Era. Up until the 1840s, chocolate was considered a luxury product. It was unaffordable for the average Jane or Joe. But, around this time, a marketing genius (who we will be forever grateful to) produced the first chocolate “bar”. This little invention transformed the world of chocolate.

During the Victorian era, chocolate boxes became a popular way for a man to declare his love to a woman. A combination of cultural trends and some clever marketing caused waves in society. In fact, Victorian etiquette books warned single women against accepting chocolates from a man that they weren’t engaged or related to! This was because such raunchy connotations were attached to boxed chocolates!

 

A Chocolate Love Story

As the product became more affordable, it increased opportunity. One of the grandfathers of chocolate, Richard Cadbury, had a marketing lightbulb moment in 1868. He decided to create a heart-shaped box full of chocolatey goodness specifically for Valentine’s Day. Ornately decorated with hearts and kittens, the boxes were a huge success.

The swooning recipients of the elegant gift, treasured the boxes as much as the contents. The pretty boxes were lovingly used to store love letters and other mementos within.

From that point, chocolate manufacturers simply utilised the power of advertising to firmly establish chocolate as the gift of choice on the most romantic day of the year.

 

Does Chocolate Deserve The Reputation?

There isn’t a lot of scientific proof to back up the aphrodisiac properties of cocoa. However, cocoa does contain components that affect the pleasure and reward centres of the brain. Meaning that eating it causes your mood to lift and, potentially produce feelings similar to those of falling in love.

Whatever the reason for the link between love and chocolate, there’s no doubt that receiving a box of carefully selected, decadent chocolates on Valentine’s Day makes one feel special and spoiled – the perfect recipe for a sweet, romantic rendezvous.

So on that note, why not treat your special someone to a gift of specially selected, delicious NZ artisan chocolate this Valentine’s day? Select a one-off gift box, or you can even purchase them a gift subscription (or one for yourself!) Shop the boxes here.

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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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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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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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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 chocolatiermirams@hotmail.com, and for drool-worthy teasers be sure to follow @chocolatiermirams on Instagram.