OCHO’s Gold Medal chocolate

OCHO was pretty stoked to win two gold medals for our dark chocolate at this year’s NZ Chocolate Awards. What made the win even more special was that it was in the prestigious New Zealand bean-to-bar category.

There were six main categories and over 20 sub-categories. Who knew chocolate could come in so many different forms? OCHO chocolate can taste quite different from ‘normal chocolate’ the first time you try it and that’s because it is single-origin craft bean-to-bar chocolate. We’ve had a crack at explaining what that means, and why comparing it to other chocolate is not as straightforward as you might think.

Chocolate comes from beans, not cocoa powder.

Bean-to-bar means that every step of the chocolate making process is done in-house, from sorting and roasting the beans to refining and conching the chocolate and finally moulding it into bars. Each of these steps is an important part of the final product.


OCHO 100% Cacao Solomons on raw cacao beans.

All OCHO’s cocoa beans come from the Pacific and we use our skill and taste preferences to showcase the different flavours of the beans. Chocolate is a bit like wine, in that the place the beans were grown has a big impact on the flavour.

Cacao pods are grown on trees, and when they are picked and split open, the small beans are covered in a white pulp. They are then added to fermentation bins lined with banana leaves. After about a week, they are dried out usually in the sunshine on a tarpaulin. They are then tested for low moisture and taste before being put in large sacks and shipped off to us in Dunedin.

Cacao beans in a fermentation bin with banana leaves and sacks.

We don’t blend any of our cacao so all our bars are strictly single origin - right down to the farm where the beans were grown. And our dark chocolate is made from only two ingredients - cocoa beans and sugar - with absolutely nothing else added (except for the 100% bar, which only has one ingredient - cocoa beans).

Big chocolate is big and bean-to-bar is small, right?

Most people understand that brands like Cadbury’s, Lindt, Nestle, and even our own Whittakers are making chocolate on a big, industrial scale. This is what people refer to when they think of ‘normal chocolate.’ They too make chocolate bars from beans all under their roof, but they don’t use craft processes. The objective is to turn out large quantities of chocolate with a uniform flavour profile.

One of the key indicators of a craft process is the amount of hands-on involvement the chocolate maker has in producing the final product. For a long time, it was widely believed that you could only make chocolate in a big factory and you needed really big machines.


OCHO's Vogel St Factory.

The craft movement has bought back the traditional methods like roasting beans one small tray at a time, rolling out the nib into fine fibrous sheets, and grinding the beans in small spinning drums with wheels made of rock. It’s very dependent on the taste preferences and skill of the chocolate maker too. This is what makes craft chocolate a high quality, premium product.

Another misconception is the difference between ‘boutique’ and craft. Boutique relates to the size of the business whereas craft is all about the process and philosophy. When you look at the craft beer industry you will find a huge variance in the quantity each maker produces, but the way in which the materials are treated is largely the same.


One of the other categories in the chocolate awards was Chocolate Products including bark or brittle and dipped fruit or nuts. This is where it doesn’t matter where the base chocolate was made, it matters how the added bits work with chocolate to create a product or treat that looks good and has an interesting flavour. The most popular base chocolate used in New Zealand is Barry Callebaut from Belgium so often the chocolate part tastes similar from brand to brand. People often call these ‘chocolates’ or ‘bonbons’.

NZ Craft Chocolate Makers

The companies that are 100% craft bean-to-bar makers are a small group within the New Zealand chocolate world, but we’re all excited about making chocolate and want to encourage consumers to try something new. There’s OCHO, Hogarths, Wellington Chocolate Factory, Ola Pacifica, Flint and Raglan Chocolate, plus a few more in development.

It feels like craft chocolate is about where beer and coffee were a few years ago. Exciting things are starting to happen, but the real explosion in the industry is yet to come. That will happen when chocolate lovers realise how much there is to learn and enjoy about different chocolate styles. 
Maybe one day there’ll be a craft chocolate section in the supermarket like there’s now craft beer sections. And who would have thought New Zealand would become famous for the quality and variety of its coffee roasters. Our vision is that one day the same will be said of our chocolate makers.
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This month we have two suggested pairings for our subscribers. For the dark chocolate, we recommend the @ocho.chocolate Fiji 75% alongside a rich and chocolatey brown ale. And for the milk, we recommend the @wellingtonchocolatefactory Raspberry Milk Chocolate alongside a crisp and zesty pilsner. We tasted ours with these beautiful beers from the good people at @bravebrewingco. Yum! 🍺🍫🍫🍺 . . . . . . #beantobar #craftchocolate #finechocolate #craftbeer #beer #chocolate #newzealand #nzmade #chocolatelovers #chocolategeek #chocolateaddict #foodpairing #foodmatch #pilsner #brownale #milkchocolate #darkchocolate #subscriptionbox #subscription #subscribe #monthlybox #nzgifts #giftideas #finefood #onlinestore #locallymade #shoplocal #delicious #ethical #Twitter

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