A freelance writer living and loving in the northern beaches of Sydney...travelling, writing, outdoor activities, gardens, and Pilates are a few of my favourite things. Visit me www.potpourritravels.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/potpourritravels/
Published November 22nd 2016
What has Chocolate got to do with Napoleon Bonaparte
It's just after 3pm and I'm getting that all-familiar craving for a mid-afternoon sweet. Probably should have a piece of fruit or some yoghurt, you might say. But the sandwich board on the corner of Apollo Avenue and McPherson Street, Warriewood, advertising "Chocolate Factory & Café" seems to have a gravitational pull, too strong to resist. Out on an afternoon walk, with my energy levels waning, I take in the inviting covered outdoor seating area, complete with lounge chairs. Knowing my blood sugar levels will never make it to dinner time, I surrender to its beckoning and head inside.
Mmmmm, my saliva glands kick in as I stand in the store front of Lindsay & Edmunds Hand-made Chocolates & Cafe. I'm surrounded by chocolate. Even the smell is delicious. I peek through the glass dividing wall towards the back of the store and see in the kitchen area a staff member pouring golden brown liquid into tart moulds ready to be filled.
My taste-buds are in for a treat, and I immediately start to relax. What is it about chocolate that has the ability to lure you in, to satiate, to forgo a perfectly healthy and nutritious salad sandwich in favour of a chocolate praline tart? Science says cocoa flavonoids have a stronger anti-oxidant effect than those found in red wine, that cocoa and dark chocolate are completely cholesterol-free, and that moment when it melts in your mouth is equivalent to a passionate kiss. Then I shouldn't feel too guilty for what I'm about to do - these chocolates are pretty special. They are certified organic, which means the couverture base product is made without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers or pesticides, is free of genetically modified ingredients, contains no preservatives, colours or flavours, no extracts, essences or oils, and is single origin which gives its own distinct flavour.
Plus, they are certified Fairtrade, which means that the product had to be sourced from places where no child slave labour was involved in its production. Over half the cacao in the world is grown in West Africa and Mali, where severe poverty and child slavery is commonplace. Participating in Fairtrade ensures good farming practices, and that community projects such as schools and hospitals are provided for. No child slavery is allowed at any stage from bean to bar. Farmers and their families earn a fair living for their work.
Peter Edmunds, a former chef, started the business around 10 years ago. After living in France for a couple of years and enjoying the high-quality French and Belgium chocolates, Peter set out to reproduce the fine European tradition of chocolate-making once back in Australia. He could easily have mass-produced organic chocolate bars, but driven by the desire to continue eating top quality chocolate, Peter also wanted his chocolates to be good for his health, and to be environmentally friendly. Many chocolate brands use palm oil instead of cocoa butter. This means thousands of acres of wildlife habitat are being destroyed as palm plantations are destroyed each week to supply the western world with palm oil - a choice they make because it's cheaper and has a more stable shelf life.
Peter and his staff also run Chocolate-making Workshops. As I enter the almost sacrosanct kitchen space, Millie and Ali are busy at work, whisking, stirring and pouring this gorgeous molten product into a variety of shapes and moulds. How do they work here and stay so slim and gorgeous, I wonder? I'm sure I'd be the side of a house with all that salted-caramel-whatever and choc-coated-ginger-bits-and-pieces-of-fig in front of me every day. "I do have a taste of most things", says Millie, who runs the Saturday morning classes. "I've always loved to bake, and the classes are a lot of fun. Sometimes it's someone wanting to know the technicalities, or just a group of friends who love chocolate." Back in the store-front café section, Ali, also a trained chef, fixes me a delicious large cappuccino. She has more the cast-iron will about her she says. "I don't taste everything. It's just more relaxing and rewarding to be working in this environment, rather than the high-stress and crazy hours of a restaurant."
Introductory classes are a great way to have fun, learn the different varieties of chocolate - including yummy tastings, hand-piping and tempering, and you get to take home $30 worth of chocolate. The two-hour classes cost $85.00 and bookings are essential. Intermediate classes are $145.00, are run over four hours, and you'll learn how to make your own moulded chocolates, a variety of truffles, de-moulding and packaging your chocolates, and you'll go home with over $60 worth of chocolates.
Rumour has it Napoleon Bonaparte was a chocoholic, that he carried chocolate with him on his military campaigns for a quick energy snack. And the Mayan and Aztec cultures considered cocoa so valuable they used it as their currency. So this pleasurable, luxurious 'fruit of the jungle' is my afternoon delight - a freshly baked florentine, packed with slithered almonds on a thick, chewy dark-chocolate base to accompany my cappuccino. If it's good enough for Napoleon, it's good enough for me.