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chocolate, Chocolatiers, Uncategorized

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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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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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. 

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