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When I want to thank someone for doing something nice for me or need to buy someone a special birthday present I head off to Xocolatl either in Maling Road or more recently at their newer shop in East Kew.
This extraordinary place is one of Melbourne's only handmade chocolate shops. And I sometimes think it is as much a present for myself as the person I am buying for, as I adore deciding on which individual chocolates will go into the box as they are all so superbly decorated with twirls of colour or drops of gold.
Xocolatl Facebook image
There are some 50 different chocolates to choose from. And it is quite a procedure. The shop assistance puts on white gloves while I go: "I'll have a balsamic strawberry chocolate, a cherry liqueur, one with coconut, no, no make that a lychee-rose-strawberry."
Then my little package, which is usually only 4-6 chocolate, depending on the occasion is carefully gift wrapped with a flourishing big bow.
The name Xo-co-la-tl (Sho-ko-la-tl) is an adjective which means where flavour, artistry and passion meet. The owner is Christos Partsioglou who not only has a passion for chocolate but a background in fine art as well which is why his chocolates are so exquisitely decorative.
Christos is helped out by those he likes to call his "oompa loom pas" (daughters Tina and Madelaine and wife Jenny).
The business imports Belgian chocolate from Callebaut which prior to that is sustainably grown in West Africa.
Only the freshest ingredients are used such as freshly squeezed orange juice in orange ganache and real honey which is piped into the honey chocolate.
There are two stores. The Maling Road store opened in 2005 but the larger store, where the chocolates are now created, opened in Kew in 2007.
With the larger store the family can now run chocolate-appreciation and chocolate-making classes. They cost $90 and you can find more out about those here.
One that I think is particularly interesting is the three hour class which looks at the health benefits of chocolate. It begins with a talk by nutritionist and chocolatier Tina Partsioglou and then the class moves into producing chocolate creations that fall in line with the paleo and raw food movement. There are of course plenty of take home treats.
There are also a couple of chocolate appreciation nights coming up as part of the Kew Community Festival. These are at 7.30pm on the 18th and 25th of March and include an understanding and appreciation of chocolates; the different types and what to look for in this delicious foodstuff. These sessions only cost $10 and include a show bag of goodies. Try not to stampede. Bookings are essential on 9857 0971
The newer store where these sessions take place is at 11 Strathalbyn Street, Kew East. During their normal trading hours this is where you can also buy meals, drink some of Melbourne's best hot chocolates and design one of those special boxes of chocolates I was telling you about.