Writing for pleasure to showcase the best Australia has on offer.
Published April 20th 2019
Award-winning honeycomb, sweet tooth delight at Carobana
When you locate a confectionery that is suited to your taste buds, you tend to source it out every time the sweet tooth takes you; yet often wonder if the manufacturer has Australian roots or is from overseas.
I came across Carobana Confectionery in literature I sourced in preparation for the New South Wales holiday and put it down on my list of places to visit. Carobana Confectionery is located in the small community of Korora Bay, which is approximately nine kilometres north from Coffs Harbour.
Korora Bay is a straight stretch of beach approximately 650 metres long and a favourite for people looking for a relaxing morning or evening walk. The bay is protected by Diggers Head to the south and Fowlers Head to the north and is unpatrolled so when swimming there, you must take added precautions. Hill Beach provides an avenue for families to have a picnic with playgrounds, shelters, tables and bar-be-que facilities.
Carobana is a family owned and run factory and retail shop where you will find an abundant variety of carob coated products, honeycomb, rocky road and nut brittles. The history of this amazing enterprise is quite unique and came out of a necessity to improvise.
Lots of Varieties Here to Purchase (Author's Photo)
In 1938, newlyweds Edwin and Emma Hamey purchased a property of 96 acres and established a banana plantation on twenty of those acres. One year just before harvesting, bats descended on every plantation in Coffs Harbour leaving the bananas edible but unable to be sold. To avoid massive losses Emma Hamey had an idea to venture into dried bananas, thus creating another market for their business as well as introducing the dried bananas into the health food industry as a fruit free from artificial preservatives. They also helped other plantation owners by taking their seconds, thereby maintaining the market requirements and keeping growers afloat.
Emma came from a farm, so it was not unusual for her to experiment with recipes in her kitchen. She purchased two blocks of plain carob, melting one down on her wood burning stove and dipping small chunks of bananas into the mixture. The taste was wonderful and so Carobana began in 1982. Emma could not eat chocolate and the carob purchased was for her weekly treat.
A second-hand enrobing machine and cooling tunnel was set up along the back wall of the drying factory. Over the years as production increased the banana drying business and banana plantations were sold to local families. After the deaths of Edwin and Emma, their son Ian and his wife Jean have continued with the business. On the day of my visit, Jean told me that they have grandchildren and great-grandchildren who have a keen interest in taking over the business when they go.
Five favourites remain of their original line; these being Ginger, Banana Pieces, Fruit & Nut, Coconut Rough and Red Dates. New lines where introduced in the years below.
2000 – Honeycomb, has won awards all over Australia. The recipe was perfected over a two-year period with a fine control of the bi-card soda making the difference. You can purchase Honeycomb plain, in small bits for ice-cream and desserts and carob coated.
2001 – was the year of the brittles, which includes Cashew, Macadamia, Peanut and Macadamia & Ginger Brittle as well as Popcorn Crunch.
In 2003, Carobana turned twenty-one years old and opened to the public. It is now in its eleventh-year selling to the public.
2005 – Soy Carob arrived and for those with dietary needs this was a welcome prospect. On the day of my visit, the factory had boxes of Soy Easter Eggs available for purchase. As well, Carobana now offers a good range of cluster options in soy.
2006 – Honeycomb Syrup. This delightful syrup cannot be sourced anywhere else in the market place and is a real winner on desserts.
2007 – The arrival of Honey Whip, which is a soft marshmallow honeycomb, Australian honey then rolled in toasted coconut and carob. This is no longer available as it took a considerable amount of time to produce.
2008 – Carobana entered their honeycomb and peanut brittle in the Melbourne Fine Food Awards and won Gold for the brittle and silver for the honeycomb. A full range of their products can be seen on their website.
From this time on, they have gone from strength to strength adding picnic tables and barbeques at the front entrance of the building and the addition of new equipment. Do not expect a flash outside façade; this is a working factory and what they make up for in their products far out-way any outside perception. Walking into the building, you will see several rooms set aside for the variety of production, a shop front and a small auditorium with rows of pews in readiness for the buses that frequent their facility.
Sit down in readiness for the video to begin (Author's Photo)
I was in between bus tours and so I had the auditorium to myself sitting right down the front watching a video from the television screen. I am sure during bus visits there is audio as well as the video, however, I found just watching and not having to listen made my understanding of making the products easier, plus I have made confectionery myself, so I understand the various methods used seemed logical. Quite interesting is that the Rocky Road mixing is made entirely by hand!
Carobana Confectionery is open Monday to Friday for tours and shop from 10.00am to 4.00pm. Only the shop is open on Saturday. Bus, coach and school group tours are welcome, however, need to be arranged twenty-four hours in advance. Parking and public toilets are located near the outside picnic area.
The shop is well stocked with products and you will most likely find a plate with small pieces to taste-try. I had to walk around the shop twice to make certain I had everything I wanted. For $5.00, you can purchase the Carobana Story Book, which has recipes in the back for you to try.
Carobana Story Book - History & Recipes (Author's Photo)
The Carobana Confectionery is located at 125 James Small Drive Korora, just one kilometre from the Big Banana. If you are interested in a particular production time, please ring ahead as products are made on different days. This is one tourist stop I will definitely be returning to when heading south or you can order online.