Decked out with bright yellow chevrons, oversized light bulbs and the angelic faces of Ziggy Stardust, the Eva Street laneway in Wellington is undeniably a visual treat. It’s also home to some of my favourite food-related spots in the city: Six Barrel Soda Co’s tasting shop, Leeds Street Bakery, Pomodoro Pizza and of course, my subject for today, the wonderful Wellington Chocolate Factory…
Likely misled by Roald Dahl, I half expected Wellington Chocolate Factory to be a large operation. The opposite is true; everything is contained within one spacious room. In fact, every machine that’s shown during the tour is visible to you (and the general public) immediately as you walk through the door. They’re behind screens for obvious hygiene and safety reasons, but they’re still very visible.
The space is welcoming, almost cosy. As well as a working factory, it’s part shop and part café, with comfy seating (including sofa cushions made from old cocoa bean bags) and a clean, modern-industrial aesthetic. The shop’s focus is naturally the company’s own chocolate bars, but there are other specialities and local products for sale (think lollipops, cacao nibs, Wellington Apothecary cacao balm and Six Barrel Soda Co syrups).
The tour began at a large table with an introduction to the company and their processes, getting the group up to speed on the meaning of terms like single origin, bean-to-bar and fair trade.
The guide hooked us rather quickly with our first gustatory experience at this stage: tasting a roasted cocoa bean! Have you tried one before? I can’t say that I would seek them out in the future, but I really enjoyed tasting something so purely chocolate flavoured without any additives.
This experience is enhanced further by learning about the pods themselves and their journey from tree to cacao nib, which is a far more complex procedure than I’d ever imagined. (It’s something along the lines of: grown on tree – picked – fermented – dried – shipped – x-rayed – crushed – threshed. And that’s all before it even becomes chocolate!)
Perhaps the most fascinating thing I learnt, however, was how pure chocolate bars can be. Many of Wellington Chocolate Factory’s bars are simply cacao nibs mixed with sugar (70% nibs and 30% sugar) and the difference in taste between their chocolate and what I’m used to took me completely by surprise. More on that below!
We moved to some of the little windows to observe the machines that crush, thresh and grind the beans, and where the ground nibs are slowly combined with sugar into a liquid. The labels written on the wall denote the country of the single origin beans in each machine.
Even though it looks very much like melted chocolate at this stage (and tastes yummy too), it remains a few steps away from its final form. The liquid is poured into large containers and left to age. It comes out looking rather like a chocolate loaf of bread!
After that, the chocolate is tempered before being put into a specially-made mould and into the fridge. After it’s set, the bars are hand wrapped in foil and then into a paper wrapper.
The wrappers are quite literally works of art – a design company in Wellington commissions different New Zealand artists for each design, and some of the original works are displayed on the walls of the factory, either framed or as a mural.
We then returned to the table to really get down to business: tasting some of the chocolate! We tried the two single origin bars (Peru and Dominican Republic), then the coconut milk chocolate and the milk chocolate.
We took only a little square and were instructed to let it melt on our tongue and to try and detect the flavours.
In general I consume chocolate without giving much of a thought to any depth of the flavour, so this was a new experience for me. With the exception of the coconut milk bar, which had a strong coconut flavour, I was amazed to find a sort of raisiny/fruity taste to each one I tried. Especially the Peruvian one. The flavour is more intense than supermarket chocolate, too, making it much harder to eat too much in one sitting.
The tour was rounded off with an order of hot chocolates all around (including a vegan version!) and we were left to savour these at our leisure in the café area.
Eva Street & Leeds Street
I couldn’t leave you without sharing some shots of the lovely Bowie mural and other cool design elements of the Eva Street / Leeds Street laneway. Be sure to check it out if you’re ever in Wellington!
- Where – 5, Eva Street, Wellington
- When – The tours run every Saturday at 11am. We got there at 10:45, which was plenty of time to pay and admire the surroundings before the tour began.
- How – We booked by email, but see their website for the most up-to-date information
- How much – When we visited, the tour cost $15 each. It’s a short tour, but that entry fee does include tasting and a yummy hot chocolate at the end. Considering that both the tastings and the hot chocolate included vegan options, I thought this was especially worthwhile.
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