This article was created in partnership with The Chocolate Bar.
Luke Owen Smith was managing a craft beer bar when a colleague introduced him to a bar of chocolate that changed his life.
The Wellington Chocolate Factory Peru 70% bar tasted nothing like the chocolate that he knew. It tasted like apricots and honey and was a total light bulb moment. He discovered that small scale bean-to-bar chocolate was as different to mass produced chocolate as craft beer is to mass market beer.
Craft chocolate is a world away from the mass produced equivalent, both in terms of the production technique and the quality of ingredients used. There are flavour notes to pick out, different varietals of cacao, and so much to learn. Luke became obsessed and educated himself, reading books and online articles and talking to people in the industry, alongside tasting as much bean-to-bar chocolate as he could get his hands on. He discovered that, like coffee, chocolate tastes different depending on whether it is roasted for a short time or a long time, and the final taste depends on so many factors in the farming and chocolate making process, including, like wine, the terroir of the location where the cacao is grown.
It’s facts like those that Luke now shares with fellow chocolate enthusiasts through his business The Chocolate Bar, New Zealand’s premier craft chocolate retailer and subscription service. They have all the bars you need to taste your way through bean-to-bar chocolate, or you can order a subscription (for yourself or a friend) that comes with unique chocolate bars to taste, as well a letter from Luke that offers chocolate facts, tasting guides and information about the producers each month.
His new Grown Up Chocolate Box is special even among that line up - it showcases four bars of world-class chocolate specially created for The Chocolate Bar and infused with famous New Zealand tipples. This limited edition box shows you not only the chocolate of Hogarth Chocolate Makers, Shirl + Moss, Baron Hasselhoff ’s and Foundry Chocolate (recent winners of the Supreme Award at the 2020 NZ Chocolate Awards), but each has been paired with a local liquor producer.
Hogarth chocolate is paired with Stolen Rum for a Piña Colada bar; Shirl + Moss chocolate is matched with The Hunting Lodge for the Wine Biscuit bar; Baron Hasselhoff's Beer and Salted Nuts bar is a collaboration with Behemoth Brewing, and Foundry Chocolate’s single origin Indian beans are complimented by Thomson's Manuka Smoke whisky. To eat one of these bars is to celebrate the team spirit of New Zealand’s artisans. Supporting local never tasted so good.
Like Luke’s other boxes, the Grown Up Chocolate Box comes with chocolate facts, a tasting guide and information about the producers, so you can peruse and learn while you taste these delicious bars. Only 250 of each bar will ever be made and the collection comes in an elegant, limited edition gift box.
It bears pointing out how much of a match made in heaven a boozy chocolate tasting box is. Luke notes that his customers like to make an occasion of the tasting, to sit down and think it over, savour it and picking out the flavours, just as you would with an artisanal craft beer, a whisky, a rum or a wine. Fans of craft liquor will be familiar with a thoughtful tasting experience, and here's a way to have that with chocolate as well.
What better way to hone your taste buds, educate yourself or treat a loved one?
The Chocolate Bar