It seems like specialty chocolate purveyors are popping up all over the place. One of the newest is Bright Chocolate, a boutique chocolate factory and store that has recently opened in the north-east Victorian town of Bright.
Handcrafted, single origin chocolate - very special!
This chocolaterie is pretty much strictly for adults, though. The range is small, focusing on blocks of single-origin chocolate, with a small range of handmade truffles and, when I was there, chocolate lollipops for the kids.
The block chocolate range focuses on dark chocolate, with one milk chocolate option, and the whole chocolate-making process is conducted onsite at the factory's premises in old brick stables near Bright's Howitt Park.
Unlike some other chocolate makers, Bright Chocolate doesn't bring in any pre-made base chocolate. What they buy is the cacao beans, and everything is done in-house - sorting the beans, roasting, cracking, winnowing, refining, tempering, moulding. It's a process that's reflected in the strong chocolate smell that emanates from the place - so strong my five-year old daughter had to wait outside, but I had no problem with it.
This illustrates the fact that this chocolate is seriously special and very adult. And so it should be, at about $10 per 75 gram bar (slightly less if you buy the multi packs). This is not chocolate to be wolfed down by the kids after dinner. I bought a five-pack and it was really interesting to try it with friends and listen to their reactions. Four of the five bars I bought were dark chocolate, and there is nothing but cacao and sugar in there.
As a result, it's not like eating a sweet; it's more like eating a food; a food that pairs fantastically well with red wine or coffee. We worked hard to describe it too each other - it was like being at a wine tasting, the complex flavours were so aromatic and almost savoury. In fact, they even provide tasting notes for the dark chocolate. For example, the Madagascar 72% is described as "floral notes with a citrus undertone"; the Trinidad 68% as "notes of fresh spice, tropical fruits and caramel".
I can imagine this chocolate would be wonderful as an ingredient in a very special meal, like a mole sauce or an extra-special chocolate mousse.
According to their website, Bright Chocolate also makes "Bright Fancies", such as Rose Jelly in Dark Chocolate or Kaffir Lime Ganache in Dark Chocolate available in beautiful wooden boxes, though I can't recall seeing them when I was there, which was only a few days after it opened. I'm sure the range has expanded since then.
If you are a chocolate connoisseur, I highly recommend a visit to to the friendly and helpful people at Bright Chocolate to get a special treat for yourself. You can buy the chocolate online at their website, but if you're in the area it's a treat to have a look at where it all happens in the cute old stables.
You can also take part in one of their special educational sessions, starting with the chocolate maker Simeon Crawley running through their processes and providing tastings of the chocolate at each step of the way (over a cup of chocolate tea!). This is then followed by a hands-on cooking class at the renowned Simone's of Bright, where you can learn how to turn this lovely chocolate into traditional Italian sweets with Patrizia Simone.