Here at Farro, we are lucky enough to know some fascinating food producers who are passionate about their products, meticulous about the ingredients that make them, and go the extra mile to wow our tastebuds. But, every now and then, we meet someone who raises the bar that extra notch.
Mahurangi-based David Herrick and his wife Janelle started crafting chocolate in micro-batches in 2018. This year, Foundry Chocolate swept the board at the NZ Chocolate Awards, taking home a clutch of seven gold medals, five silvers, and the Supreme Winner Award for their exquisite single origin, bean-to-bar chocolate, made from scratch using only two ingredients: cacao beans and organic sugar.
Their painstaking efforts produce chocolate that elicits exotic flavour notes: blossoms, citrus and stone fruit through to caramel, malt and mocha, transporting you straight to equatorial heaven.
“We love introducing people to the flavours found in different harvest and origins, and watching the expressions of disbelief that two-ingredient chocolate can have such a variety of tasting notes,” says David.
With not an ounce of food production background between the two of them, David more than makes up for it with his magical ability to coax such distinctive natural flavours from the cacao.
The idea of making chocolate was bubbling away in David’s mind for a long time. He extensively researched chocolate making techniques, sampled the very best craft chocolate from around the world, made some of their own equipment, and, finally, after much experimentation, he began making chocolate that they were proud of.
David started by sourcing over 50 tiny samples from the best craft farmers in the world, making nano-batches from them, and then developing the range of diverse single-origin chocolate.
“Making chocolate is complicated and time-consuming, with many variables,” explains David. “Ironically, the fewer ingredients you use, the harder it is to make, as you’ve got nowhere to hide. We add no soy lecithin, no additional cocoa butter, and no vanilla.”
The entire process begins on the cacao plantations in remote locations around the world – Tanzania, India, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Peru. The trees are nurtured and grown, the ripe cacao pods harvested, and the beans fermented and dried by the farmers.
David sources the beans either directly from farmers himself, or through specialist cacao sourcing companies, ensuring he selects those who run well-cared for, ethically-managed farms, and who have learned the best fermentation techniques. He then concentrates on the lengthy chocolate production – sorting, roasting, cracking and winnowing (a step to remove the husk), stone grinding, ageing, tempering, moulding and bar wrapping – while Janelle uses her art direction and design background to work on the branding, packaging and social media content.
Unwrapping a Foundry Chocolate bar is a lot like opening a present – the intricately folded wrappers (inspired by the opening of a cacao pod) and beautiful artwork reflect the flavour personality of the chocolate, and each re-sealable bar is hand-numbered with its batch code and bar number.
“The exciting thing is each harvest from each farm is different. A more industrial chocolate approach wants to provide consistency of taste for their customers. But we take the polar opposite approach to this and celebrate the difference in each cacao origin and harvest.”
David likens it to a new wine vintage each year, enjoying the process of re-roasting and re-profiling each new cacao harvest and discovering the exciting flavours he can get from the chocolate.
It would be doing Foundry Chocolate a disservice to compare David to Willy Wonka, but we think the journey his chocolate takes you on, is equally as spectacular.