• White Rabbit chocolate can be found at Raeward Fresh Queenstown
Alison Holland, mild-mannered mother of two and hard working entrepreneur, is the first person in New Zealand (after Whittakers, but then they're not a person) to create chocolate from cocoa bean to bar. This is no small feat, especially given the extraordinary level of quality Alison has achieved in just five years with White Rabbit Cacao. Her one woman business, with the occasional help of her handy wine-making husband, is yet another fine example of Kiwi ingenuity coupled with a dedicated commitment to quality... meaning, Alison is taste testing chocolate all day long to make sure she delivers snappy, full-bodied bars to a store near me (and you).
Thank you Alison!
Like most of us, Alison has always loved chocolate. Constantly on the lookout for a special flavour, she would often "sample" whatever really good chocolate she could find on family road trips and travels. On one of these trips her husband gave her a book about making candy and the section on chocolate struck home. She was taken with the concept and process of roasting, grinding, fermenting and creating chocolate bars from raw beans. So, Alison got online (as you do these days) and found a helpful forum covering all of the steps and even offering a supply of great cocoa beans from around the world. She procured a basic lentil grinder from India and a small coffee roaster from America, then started at it.
Alison says it didn't take long to get hooked, especially with the discovery of how different each and every batch was and how creative she could be at every step of the process. An amateur hooked on a new hobby is one thing, but what's truly remarkable is how quickly Alison developed her craft. Within 12 months she was taking the fruits of her new endeavour to local farmer's markets with some top tasting single origin bars. Buoyed by the encouragement at the Cromwell Farmers Market in particular, Alison and Matt decided to expand her chocolate company-of-one by getting a larger grinder and a dedicated bean roaster. With the help of her husband, she converted a second hand chicken rotisserie (you know, those huge ones that can roast 20 birds at a time) into a purpose-built bean roaster - christened the "henny penny". It took days of cleaning and tinkering to get it just right. She sourced more cocoa beans from around the world and developed her own flavours. This is the heart of artisan chocolate making, as every batch of beans is different. It's a skill of the palette akin to that required for wine-making, requiring the maker to extract just the right flavours according their own roasting, cooling and fermenting profiles.You'll find these nicely explained on the back of each bar of White Rabbit chocolate.
A day in the life of White Rabbit Cacao begins with sending the kids off to school. Then, its off to the shed to spend the next six hours playing with chocolate. Alison hand sorts the beans to select the best ones before placing them in "henny penny" to roast. She then sets them out to cool, allowing the husks to separate from the bean. Next, Alison cracks the beans in a mill, then winnows out the husks. From there the beans, sugar and cocoa butter go into a large stone grinder for three to five days, depending on how much acidity she wants in the flavour mix of the final product. The beans are pretty well ground after 24 hours, but the longer they remain in the grinder, the more acidity they release. Alison will continue to taste the cocoa throughout these three days, noting the various changes the chocolate goes through and deciding when it's just right. Finally, she puts the chocolate into a proper chocolate temperer (the only gear in her line up actually designed for making chocolate), adding the final touches necessary to get the right shine and snap. All this, Alison tells me, shows just how far a person will go to service their addiction!
When the kids come home it's on to the other projects for Alison and Co., like the house they're building at the same time.... I think she's pretty extraordinary, and I don't mind bragging about the people who make the artisanal products we stock at the Mediterranean Market. If you try a bar of her Venezuela Ocumare (72% cocoa) or Costa Rican, you'll be tasting some of the smoothest, richest flavours of any chocolate in the world. Seriously, this woman makes a fantastic product. She says that she "bribed her way into the market" by giving samples to us but the truth is she's incredibly gifted and we're so glad she's just down the road.
• Inch Valley Preserves can be found at Raeward Fresh Queenstown
Imagine living on a wee, well-established orchard budding with black currants, red currants, gooseberries, plums, quinces, crab apples and damson plums. Now, add a lovely historic home equipped with a commercial kitchen in which to create jams, jellies, mustards and even verjuice to your heart’s content. Put yourself in a perfect growing climate where the summers are hot and the winters are cold but dry, on land blessed with rich river loam soil, all situated just a few kilometres from the Otago coastline and your dream is complete. Such is the life of Inch Valley Preserves owners Maria Barta and her husband Jim Hinkley.
Like many Otago pioneers, Maria and Jim bring a substantial background of diverse education and experience to their food craft. Maria, for instance, studied design, tourism, marketing and various food sciences on her way to becoming an English teacher. She taught in and around Dunedin for some time before the commute made her rethink her life and creative possibilities. She and Jim decided to convert part of their home into a commercial kitchen and Inch Valley Preserves was born. Jim got to bring his love of cooking as well as a career of graphic design and marketing to the business. They love the collaborative community of Inch Valley where sharing pastured eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, and artisanal skills is the normal way of life. From the start they realised that they were manufacturers first and foremost. However, now they also enjoy selling at the Oamaru and Palmerston Farmers markets.
Maria's parents were from Vienna and fostered a diverse food culture with a mix of Hungarian, Austrian and Jewish cuisines. They emigrated and settled in the South Island, and Maria was fortunate to be raised where goulash and Wiener Schnitzel appeared frequently at meal times, and even the occasional Apfel Strudel. Her lunch box had salami and wurst and potato salad while her schoolmates had vegemite sammies. This diversity made its way deep into Maria's psyche, as she now has over 30 jams, preserves, mustards, honeys, spreads and verjuice on her product list. And what's really interesting is that each of her condiments has a unique twist, harkening back to that diverse culture of her origins. Inch Valley's Quince and Rose Quiddany jelly, Pickled Shallots with Saffron or the Green Fig and Armagnac Preserve all share glimpses of other lands and times, reborn for New Zealanders today on the borders of Central Otago.
At the Mediterranean Market, we stock Maria's Pickled Lemon Slices which she hand cuts perfectly thin, so that each piece is ready to lay on top of your very own herbed couscous or freshly grilled salmon. We also have Inch Valley's Kiwi classic, Lemon Honey, as well as their South Pacific twist on the theme — the Lime and Passionfruit Honey (made with fresh pastured eggs from their Inch Valley neighbours). Rounding out the Market's offerings, we carry their Beetroot, Horseradish and Clyde Walnut relish. Each jar is a brilliant combination of local ingredients (except for the lemons, shallots and figs which come all the way from Blenheim:-) and which Maria and Jim concoct on a daily basis.
Maria and Jim might be living the dream, but running your own business, even in a lovely valley settlement that's been around since the 1860s gold rush, is still hard work. There's heaps of food prep to be done (mostly by Jim) and hundreds of labels to be placed on jars that the couple have carefully selected to match the gift-like nature of their products. There is not a lot of machinery in their kitchen either, which means most of what comes out of Inch Valley Preserves has been made by hand.
Maria carefully selects the places where Inch Valley Preserves are sold (predominately in the South Island), as she likes the intimate interactions with customers and purveyors, whether it's at local farmers markets or over the phone with the likes of Angela, or Kim (our nutritionist at the Market). Accounting, which Maria finds tedious, is outsourced, but they work very hard on the things they love. I think it shows, whether it's in the tasteful design of their packaging or Maria’s insistence on consistently making products of the highest quality with the best ingredients largely grown in her very own beautiful garden.
Maria and Jim have been in Inch Valley for 27 years. They love tending the garden that is their one acre property and they love the ongoing education of crafting artisanal foods. They appreciate being part of a supportive community and have been glad to share the goodness that surrounds them.
PS: “Inch” is a Scottish term meaning an island in a river or a meadow flooded by a river — and, yes, it does!
Where it all comes together - Kokako's cafe & roastery in Grey Lynn
Kokako started in Auckland (in Waitakere actually, where the NZ's native Kokako lives) with fairtrade coffee beans back in 2001. The present owner, Mike Murphy bought the company in 2007 and for the last seven years has focused on three main areas:
• Everything Kokako does from bean to cup must be traceably sustainable.
• Design matters for every aspect of the Kokako experience.
• The quality of Kokako coffee and chocolate (and their cafe etc.) must match their passion for design and sustainability.
The business and design savvy of Mike and his team filter down into every aspect (the small things) of their brand and products. For instance, with regard to sustainability, a lot of producers are now using Trade Aid's cocoa (Kokako uses cocoa from the Conacado Cooperative in the Dominican Republic). Mike, however, wasn't satisfied with making a drinking chocolate from sustainable sources if it meant selling it in plastic bags destined for landfills. So, he and his team came up with packaging that is both compostable and recyclable, with the bag containing the Drinking Chocolate mix which is made from food grade compostable wood pulp sourced from sustainable Aussie plantations. Kokako also takes food provenance (the origins of what we eat and drink) very seriously which has Mike flying out to PNG to check out his growers fairtrade compliance (which includes profits going back into local education and community infrastructures) and keeping up with NZ organizations like OXFAM and Biogro NZ to maintain Kokako's involvement in the overall community.
Kokako's emphasis on design is extraordinary for a small coffee company. Most producers will hire a good graphic artist (hopefully) to design packaging that matches their product. But Mike and company see great design as a differentiator in the market place and put a premium on design at every level of their company. Their graphics are fresh but design at Kokako ranges much further - into their cafe experience, including their services to help design other food environments, as well as into their creation of the very products themselves. Roasting, for instance, is a design driven process and Kokako's head roaster Chris Unkovich ensures that each blend and single origin coffee they create is conceived and produced with artisanal flair.
In terms of quality, Kokako really stands out in my opinion. Design and sustainability can be just so much hipster-speak, but Mike is determined to produce extraordinary flavour across the board.. Their cocoa to sugar ratio is the highest of any drinking chocolate in the country. Their espresso blends benefit from regular cupping sessions (sampling coffee beans via a range of smelling and tasting procedures) which garner constant feedback from their customers and industry nerds alike. This feedback gets systematized into procedures that maintain the discipline of Kokako's craft. Like in Kokako's Aotea blend, which Mike's roasters describe as having been "selected from three distinct origins of green coffee beans from Fairtrade cooperatives in Papua New Guinea (HOAC), Mexico & Sumatra to create a floral, fruity and earthy blend with a medium acidity. This blend has hints of apricot with a sharp, malty mouthfeel." In fact, Mike loves quality so much that when he finds another outstanding product (like Cosset's whimsical chai syrup pictured below), he distributes it for the small cafe in Mt Albert that dreamed it up because it's simply the best chai around.
The Mediterranean Market loves stocking Kokako's products because we know that behind every box and bag is an intense love of the bean, whether it's cocoa or coffee, and a massive skill set drawing out the very best of the hard work put into growing, harvesting and producing it.
Recipe: How to Make a Great Cup of Coffee at Home with a Moka
(which you can also find at the Market)
This beaut, chunky little device was designed in 1933 by Luigi De Ponti and now sits in design museums all over the world, including NYC’s MoMa... and on my stove top. This, along with a simple stove top milk frother (also available at the Market), with which you heat the milk on the stove and then pump it with the mesh top for the desired foam, is all that's needed to produce a fantastic home made espresso. My technique with the moka pot is simple:
• Grind your coffee using the store's grinder set to "espresso".
• Bring some water to just about boiling and pour it into the moka base, filling it up until right below the steam release point.
• Put your coffee in the filter part, filling it to the brim and leveling it off with your finger - no tamping!
• Screw on the top really tightly, then place on the stove over a medium heat with the lid open.
• Watch for the crema and then the coffee oozing out of the central spout. Keep it on the heat until it reaches up to around a third of the container, or starts to bubble, hiss, spit or steam out of the top.
• Remove from the heat, put the lid down and let it finish for another 30 seconds while you get your milk ready.
With freshly roasted Kokako beans and some decent raw Jersey milk (Retro Organics is the best around), I can make as good a latte or flat white at home as most cafes I’ve been.
Who we are
This blog is written by Patrick Dodson and is a collaborative effort from the entire Raeward Fresh team of purchasers, chefs, nutritionists, butchers, grocers, baristas and other food creatives.
Crystal Gardens Lettuce
Chef Dave Miller
Retro Organics Milk
Basil & Parsley
Jenny Lamond Cakes
Canter Valley Turkey
Wanaka Organics Eggs
Chef Anne Halson
Chef Jonathan Rogers
Off Our Tree Cherries
Goodies On The Gorge
The Raeward Fresh Queenstown Kitchen
Kim Malcolm on Coconuts
Cairnmuir Olive Oil
Provisions Jane Shaw
Fix & Fogg Peanut Butter
Make It Raw
Kokako drinking chocolate
Inch Valley Preserves
White Rabbit Cacao
The People' Bread
Weka Olive Oil
White Heart Hazelnuts
Karamaya Black Garlic
Muesli & Co
Soda Press Co
Dr Feelgood Frozen Pops
All Good Drinks
She Universe Chocolates
A Cracker Of A Nut
Raglan Coconut Yoghurt
Pinoli Pine Nuts
Bonnie Goods Oatcakes
Taste of Provence
Tom & Luke Bars
Pure NZ Ice Cream
Clevedon Buffalo Mozzarella
the Kefir company
Pure Wasabi Coppersfolly
Benneto's Drinking Chocolate
Blueskin Bay Honey
Hogarth Craft Chocolate
Something To Crow About
Fresh As dried Foods
Holy Smoke Salmon
Rebel Foods Nutribombs
Vigour & Vitality
East Imperial Tonics
Abel Methode Cider
Wild Fennel Co.
Covet Nut Milks
Tio Pablo Foods
First Light Wagyu
The Chocolate Workshop