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URKU Chocolate

Home > Melbourne > Chocolate | Fun Things To Do | Organic | Vegan | Vegetarian
by Fiona Anderson (subscribe)
A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published May 9th 2022
Sharing the untold stories behind cacao
Partners in life, Ecuadorian born Sebastian and Carolina, are the force behind URKU, a self-described 'specialty cacao trader'. The two are passionate about cacao, and committed to sourcing chocolate made with cacao that is organic, sustainable and ethically sourced directly from farming families in Ecuador.

URKU - Specialty Cacao Traders
Carolina and Sebastian, the faces behind URKU. (Image courtesy of URKU.)

The name 'URKU' has special meaning for Sebastian and Carolina. As Sebastian puts it:

"Urku means 'mountain' in Kichwa, one of the main Indigenous languages of Ecuador. Mountains are considered to be spirits that watch and protect what surrounds them. In our hometown, we both (Carolina and I) were raised surrounded by these mountains, our natural protectors."

They established URKU as a platform to showcase the unique characteristics of cacao. "We bring to the table the stories that foster chocolate, both as a product as well as a means of living. We envision the creation of a space for conversations that raise awareness about sustainability and inspire action for fair trade commerce while highlighting its cultural and biodiversity values," said Sebastian.

URKU - Specialty Cacao Trader
Sebastian serves a customer at their QVM pop up store.

Carolina has a qualification in Sustainability, and it shows in their business model. There is no shop front at this stage, but rather, a modest pop up stall at Queen Victoria Market, and an online presence. A visit to URKU's market stall confirms their commitment to lessening their impact on the environment, for example, with their display stands made of recycled kraft paper.

URKU - Specialty Cacao Trader
The chocolate sold by URKU is made from single-source, organic cacao. Note the display stands are made of recycled paper.

All the chocolate URKU sells is made from single-source, organic cacao. We tried the Herencia Esmeraldas range, including the Dark Chocolate (70% cacao) with Banana, which is delicious! The cacao is sourced from over 800 cacao farming families in Ecuador. The chocolate is hand-made in Ecuador.

Part of URKU's charter is to educate Melbournians about quality chocolate, through tasting sessions. I recently attended a Dark Chocolate and Coffee tasting, at The Hive in Collingwood. This involved tasting three dark chocolates - 70%, 75% and 85% cacao from the Kallari Chocolate range. Kallari grows and crafts its chocolate in the Amazon basin of Ecuador, and will be part of URKU's winter range, available from August.

Accompanying the chocolate was two blends of coffee, expertly prepared by Takuya Sato (a former chef, also known as Taku). The coffees on offer were a Kenyan and an Ethiopian blend - the latter a little softer than the former - served black to complement and enhance the chocolate flavours.

URKU - Specialty Cacao Trader
Chocolate tasting underway with Seb sharing his knowledge. In the background is Taku preparing the coffee.

Sebastian took us through the tasting in a structured and very knowledgeable way. In the photo, you can see a tasting chart, showing the range of flavours you may encounter when tasting chocolate. Sebastian explained that the cacao grown by their suppliers is not produced via monoculture - it is still grown as it traditionally was, with the Theobroma cacao tree, from which the cacao pods are harvested, scattered amongst other trees and vegetation on the farms. The vegetation near the cacao tree, along with the local climate, influence the flavour of the cacao, which in turn affects the flavour of the chocolate. So if you peer at the tasting chart and see, for example, 'fruity' notes, such as strawberry or blackberry, these are not additives to the chocolate, but rather, the rich accents coming from the cacao.

URKU - Specialty Cacao Trader
Getting ready for the tasting

To me, the only 'real' chocolate is dark chocolate, and so it was no surprise that I greatly enjoyed the tasting experience. It was immersive and informative. A tasting session experience would make an ideal gift for a true chocolate lover or gastronome. There is another chocolate and coffee tasting session taking place on 21 May (from $75 for a two-hour tasting session).

In addition, URKU offers solo dark chocolate tasting (from $25), chocolate and tea pairing (from $78), and a dark chocolate and barista coffee session (from $100). You'll find the information about the tasting sessions here.

Sebastian and Carolina have ambitions to grow URKU. "Thanks to the support and interest from our customers, we will be opening a permanent store in June at Queen Victoria Market," said Sebastian. "We'll be bringing our plant-powered chocolate goodness this winter. Stay tuned!" Follow them on their Facebook page to keep up to date with developments.

If you want to source URKU's chocolate now, you'll find it on sale at Queen Victoria Market (Shed I, Organics) each Saturday, or you can buy it online at URKU Chocolate. Chocolate blocks are priced from $9.00 each (slightly cheaper per unit if you buy in a pack of 3).

Except where indicated, the images in this article were taken by the writer.
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*Fiona Anderson was invited as a guest
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Why? Sustainable, ethically sourced, organic chocolate that tastes like chocolate SHOULD taste.
When: Check website for tasting times
Where: Pop up stand in Shed 1, Queen Victoria Market; tasting sessions held at The Hive, 92 Rupert Street, Collingwood
Cost: From $25 for a solo dark chocolate tasting.
Your Comment
Ah... chocolate - say no more.
by Neil Follett (score: 3|4054) 18 days ago
I love the cultural influemce behind this business. Complements the wonderful chocalate beautifully
by Gillian Ching (score: 3|4688) 18 days ago
Create chocolate is an art. Glad to see 'Vegan Friendly'.
by SocialHummingBird (score: 3|1451) 17 days ago
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