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  • Liane Morris

International Secrets of Exquisite Chocolate Right Here in Wine Country! | Hunter Valley Chocolate Co.


For 25 years, Hunter Valley Chocolate Co. has been one of the

premier destinations in the Hunter Valley, delivering the very definition of luxury, indulgence and deliciousness.

 

And, of course, Easter is the ideal time to visit. It’s more than a chocolate shop – it’s an attraction where you can watch the master chocolatiers creating chocolate and fudge and walk away with a basketful of treats that will put the Easter Bunny to shame.


Hunter Valley Chocolate Co. has two locations. The first being the factory and showroom at Twenty-3-Twenty on Broke Road, Pokolbin and the second at Peterson House where the bubbles and chocolate form the ultimate gastronomic partnership. The showroom has recently undergone extensive renovations and now sports a light and airy interior with a large circular display counter in white, offset by the warmth of timber floors.


Owner Jo Clarke, at 84 years young has travelled the world for her inspirations. The idea for a circular display counter came to her in the original home of chocolate, South America.


“I was in Bariloche, just south of Buenos Ares in Argentina, where there are 23 chocolate shops on one street. It was here that I saw a circular counter, and the idea just never went away. When we were looking to freshen up our space, I made a rough sketch of what I wanted, and the draftsman took over from there.


“The counter replaces the old fixtures and fittings that included a three-tier cabinet that necessitated customers bending down to see the chocolates on the bottom shelf. Our new counter is much easier for customers to see our wares and for our sales staff to serve”.


The international inspiration hasn’t been limited to the renovation. Jo has introduced a variety of new packaging for some of the ranges to complement the redesigned space and was inspired by trends she saw in her travels to Europe last year – most particularly Paris, Brussels and Spain.


It was her eye for quality and innovation that began the Hunter Valley Chocolate story over 25 years ago. Jo came from western Queensland, a country girl who then spent 30 years in Sydney. She had grown tired of the city and wanted to create a small business in a country town.


“Back in 1999, there was nothing here in Pokolbin except a few cellar doors, one cheese shop and one art gallery. We visited every weekend for six weeks, looking for a property. One evening, as I was sipping my coffee, I looked down at the selection of glossy magazines on my coffee table. Every single one of them had something about chocolate on the cover, and the idea just clicked. Everyone loves chocolate, and it was an ideal product to complement the wine-growing region of the Hunter Valley.”


Jo’s son, Pete Carpenter, who began his career as a photojournalist in London, studied chocolate at Melbourne’s William Angliss Institute to become a chocolatier, and today, his daughter, Jo’s granddaughter, is learning from her father, ensuring the family legacy continues through the generations.


Despite the challenges of the past ten years, Jo is excited about the future. “It hasn’t been easy in the valley – we’ve had fires, drought and COVID, but you know, that’s life, and I won’t be knocked over or knocked down. Our business operates mostly on word of mouth, and I’m very proud of the reputation that we’ve gained over the years.”


With a dedication to quality, the team continually strive for perfection and uses only the finest Belgian couverture chocolate in white, dark and milk, as well as a little Swiss milk base because it is creamier, together with Australian dried fruits and nuts. A distilled pure fruit oil is used for infusion and results in a subtle but authentic flavour of the fruit.


The secret to the exquisite chocolate is in the freshness and the high quality of the base and other ingredients. It’s made in five-kilogram batches and packed in-store – so nothing has to travel. Due to the small batches made almost every day, the chocolate is turned over quickly, guaranteeing its freshness.

"We use over eight tonnes of chocolate every year – five tonnes of milk chocolate, two tonnes of dark and one tonne of white."

“Dark chocolate has gained in popularity because people are becoming more health-conscious, and it also doesn’t contain dairy, which is great for vegans. The big chocolate companies extract as much as 70 per cent of the cocoa butter from the chocolate mass and replace it with animal fats. That’s what leaves a greasy taste on the roof of your mouth when you eat mass-produced, low-quality chocolate. It’s the cocoa butter that gives chocolate its smoothness and flavour and makes it melt when you hold it in your hand or as soon as you put it in your mouth.”


Both stores are fully geared up for Easter with loads of little bunnies, bilbies, eggs that are freckled or marshmallow filled, colourful chocolate eggs with all sorts of fillings, chocolate chicks hatching from eggs, hampers of every size, as well as a made to order service. Prices start from as little as $5.90 for a 100-gram bag of foil eggs or $6.90 for the marshmallow bunnies, so there’s no excuse to buy inferior supermarket chocolate.


The regular range of speciality chocolates comes in an extraordinary number of flavours and colourful concoctions, including caramel frogs, golf balls, echidnas, chilli bombs, peppermint creams, Nutella bon-bons, strawberries and cream, honey milk ganache, cherry liquors, salted caramels, and so many more. The top sellers are still peppermint thins,

closely followed by Rocky Road, and if chocolate isn’t your thing (what is wrong with you?), there are over 20 different flavours of handmade fudge, Italian style gelato, candies and a café where you can sit back and ponder what your selection will be whilst sipping on your hot chocolate (or coffee of course) and nibbling on a dessert or two – why not try the chocolate fondue while you’re there?


Visit the Chocolate and Fudge Factory at 2320 Broke Rd, Pokolbin or Peterson House at 2457 Broke Road, open seven days a week from 9am to 5pm. And if you can’t make it to the valley, you can purchase online at www.hvchocolate.com.au.


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