valentines day
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chocolate, Uncategorized

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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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.


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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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.