The secret to making vegan chocolate is to use just two ingredients

On a rural estate in Mahurangi, north of Auckland, David and Janelle Herrick make some of the best vegan chocolate in the country.

The foundry The chocolatiers said they got into the bean-to-bar business five years ago because they “really love the food”. David, who has a background in marketing, was stung by an article about a Londoner making chocolate on a small scale. And then taught himself.

“If you think about how grapes are different all over the world and how wines all taste different from each other, it’s actually the same with chocolate.”

David Herrick, co-owner of the chocolate foundry.

Provided

David Herrick, co-owner of the chocolate foundry.

The Herricks source cocoa from seven different origins, in Tanzania, Peru, Vanuatu, Uganda, India and Papua New Guinea. Their bar Kilombero Valley Tanzania was the top winner at the inaugural Vegan Chocolate Awards, hosted by the Vegan Society Aotearoa in April, as well as the winner in the bean-to-bar category.

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“The way we roast the beans, each origin with just two ingredients tastes completely different,” David said.

Because the bars are made only from cocoa beans and organic cane sugar, they are naturally vegan.

There are different grades of cocoa, they explain. Most supermarket chocolates use cheap cocoa beans and then have to amp up the flavor with powdered milk, butter, vanilla, etc. “to make it more palatable”, as well as consistent with whatever bean crop a major brand is dealing with. .

Single origin chocolate artisan smores.

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Single origin chocolate artisan smores.

“When you’re dealing with the absolute best cocoa in the world, you can make chocolate like this that tastes amazing and feels amazing as is,” David said.

Janelle added: “Think of it like stealing wine. Each harvest is slightly different.

David spent four months profiling the flavors of their 2020 Tanzania beans, which have “refreshing and fruity tasting notes” of stone fruits, Christmas cake and even cherries.

And not all vegan chocolates have to be dark, as we know. Supermarket dark chocolate has a bitter quality, but two-ingredient Ugandan dark chocolate tastes like berries, cream and marshmallow, according to the Herricks.

The ultimate winner chocolate bar from Foundry Chocolate - the Kilombero Valley in Tanzania.

Provided

The ultimate winner chocolate bar from Foundry Chocolate – the Kilombero Valley in Tanzania.

“And you’d swear it’s milk [chocolate]but that’s actually not the case,” David said.

“All our lives we’ve been told that chocolate is a flavor,” Janelle said. “Chocolate milkshake, chocolate cake, chocolate cookies. But chocolate actually has a flavor – different flavors.

Most Foundry customers are foodies rather than vegans, they said. But the audience is growing.

“When a child with food needs asks us ‘what can I eat?’ and we answer ‘everything’, that’s the coolest part,” Janelle said.

The Foundry’s single-origin range is 70% cocoa, so you can taste all of these individualities. But they also do 90 and 100% “seriously dark” for die-hard dark chocolate fans.

A tight-knit community of around 10 chocolate enthusiasts make every treat from bean to bar in New Zealand, including the Herricks’ friend Gabe Davidson of the Wellington Chocolate Factory (WCF).

WCF has been making its internationally acclaimed Peru Bar dark chocolate bar, “since [its] very beginning” in 2013. It won a seventh distinction in the Vegan Society awards, for the best dark chocolate.

“I feel a very strong connection to Peru,” said Davidson, who regularly visits his farmers, but the week we spoke had flown to Auckland to offer specialty hot chocolates at a pop- up Karen Walker.

Typically, the Peruvian bar’s flavor profile includes stone fruit, apricot, raisins, and honey. But depending on the seasonal variations of a crop, one characteristic may be more exaggerated than the others.

And although it’s been on the shelves for more than a decade, “we’re kind of nerds, so we’re still tweaking the recipe,” Davidson said.

Chocolaterie Wellington adds another award to the cabinet for its internationally acclaimed Peru bar, winning the dark chocolate category at the Vegan Society of Aotearoa New Zealand's first-ever chocolate awards.  This is the seventh accolade for the bar made from beans from Peru.

Provided

Chocolaterie Wellington adds another award to the cabinet for its internationally acclaimed Peru bar, winning the dark chocolate category at the Vegan Society of Aotearoa New Zealand’s first-ever chocolate awards. This is the seventh accolade for the bar made from beans from Peru.

Quality bass comes down to knowing the grain well. “We play with how we roast, how long we roast, what temperature and how long we hone the nibs in the grinder,” Davidson said.

He also scooped the award for best milk chocolate, for his new coconut milk chocolate bar – something he admits he “never thought he would do”.

“I’m too purist,” he said.

However, his own plant-based food journey pointed him towards alternative milks and how he could use them. “I thought it would be fun – ask, can we make a delicious chocolate bar, using only coconut and cocoa ingredients?”

The Wellington Chocolate Factory won the awards for best milk and dark chocolate at the first edition of the Vegan Chocolate Awards.

Provided / Stuff

The Wellington Chocolate Factory won the awards for best milk and dark chocolate at the first edition of the Vegan Chocolate Awards.

But how to make milk chocolate without milk?

Farmers collect sap from unripe coconut pods before they flower. They put this sap in a high-tech wok with a wooden spoon, where it is crystallized from a liquid. The resulting coconut sugar has a lower GI than regular sugar.

“So it’s basically a health food.”

It is then added to coconut milk powder to make the bar.

The sweetness is somewhere between what you might expect from a dairy milk chocolate and a dark chocolate bar. “If someone is not a fan of dark chocolate, they will definitely like coconut milk chocolate. It’s a little sweeter and very creamy. It’s a little softer and it doesn’t slap the same way.

Davidson tries to balance competing flavors, so when you bite into the sea bass, the coconut isn’t overwhelming.

He is also excited about what this experience will mean for the future of his craft. Coconut is a fairly ubiquitous ingredient in the plant-based food pyramid, but theoretically WCF could do something similar with almonds or oats.

“We intend to do more vegan bars. We are always experimenting.

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