Melbourne is internationally renowned for its food and its laneways – brought together in a delightfully sweet way by the team at Chocoholics Tours.
Founded in 1995 when Suzie Wharton realised her vision of a chocolate and desserts walking tour while working at the Melbourne Convention and Marketing Bureau, today Chocoholics Tours operates seven days a week offering a range of different tours for those with a sweet tooth.
Whether you’re more partial to organic, fair trade chocolate; only consume chocolate of the darker variety or profess to be a chocolate lover of any kind, Chocoholic Tours has got you covered.
We took their Bittersweet Chocolate tour for a test walk one Sunday and did a lot more than just consume chocolate.
The two-hour tour kicked off with a briefing session from tour guide Sue who first explained that the majority of chocolate produced in Australia is made from cocoa sourced overseas, with the exception of Daintree Estate, Australia’s first cocoa plantation based in Far North Queensland.
We were invited to feel, smell and taste different stages of the Daintree Estate journey “from plantation to plate” including a cocoa pod which has no scent and looks like a percussion instrument. Each pod takes five to seven months to grow on the trunk of the cocoa tree and once they are ripe, are harvested by hand.
Cocoa beans are removed from the pod by hand, fermented and dried in natural sunlight. While similar in colour to chocolate the beans themselves smell quite unpleasant!
Before we set off Sue gave us a few tasting tips: don’t just eat the chocolate. Look at it. Smell it. Snap it. Press it against the roof of your mouth. Experience the different flavours.
Equipped with our “I’m a chocoholic” badges, a tour map of our stops – Cacao Lab, Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar, Koko Black, Haigh’s Chocolates and Ganache Chocolate – and a complimentary bottle of water we hit the laneways of Melbourne.
With her brown “Chocoholics Tours” balloon overhead, Sue lead our procession to Cacao Lab in Driver Lane where she explained the finer details of becoming a master chocolatier. We discovered that anyone trying to open a chocolate lounge in Europe without their Masters in Chocolate Making is considered a fraud and can be fined!
Cacao Lab produces Belgian chocolate combined with locally sourced, all natural ingredients such as fruit and nuts, and no artificial colours or flavours.
On to our first tasting – a beautifully decorated Café au Lait coffee caramel ganache chocolate which we learnt take three days to make due to their complex three step process. First cream and cacao is combined to make ganache and left to cool, then the ganache is rolled and piped into pieces, on day three the chocolates are rolled in chocolate and finally decorated – certainly makes you appreciate fine chocolate even more after hearing all that!
Second stop on our tour, Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar is located in one of Melbourne’s newest shopping destinations, The Emporium. Originating in New York, the bar’s menu is based on the New York version but has been given a local twist. Particularly intriguing were the ‘Flavours of Asia’ featuring Sticky Rice, Green Tea with Ginger and Yuzu Caramel. The Melbourne store is one of only three locations outside the US with the others located in Qatar and Dubai.
Starting to feel the chocolate endorphins kicking in, we marched onto our next destination.
Including its flagship ‘salon’ in the beautiful Royal Arcade, Koko Black now has 14 locations around Australia and recently opened in Christchurch, New Zealand. The salon’s Master Chocolatier, Vincent Kwek, happened to be on site the day we visited, so in addition to tasting a delicious mango and vanilla dark chocolate (my favourite of the tour) we were also given the opportunity to try some freshly made raspberry chocolate ganache from Vincent himself!
Next stop: Haigh’s Chocolates in the Block Arcade. This year Australia’s oldest family-owned chocolate business celebrates 100 years in business and is now run by fifth generation family members. Haigh’s Chocolate is made from the family’s own secret recipe – only known by three people within the business – which gives their product its own unique flavour.
Their chocolate pastilles, which literally melted on the tongue, were followed up by a slightly more ‘challenging on the teeth’ Almond Vanilla Nougat, but was equally delicious.
What better way to end a tour for chocoholics? With more chocolate of course! A quick wander over Collins Street and we reached our final destination, Ganache Chocolate, where we were greeted by owner and Master Chocolatier Arno Backes.
After presenting us with a beautiful Hazelnut Chocolate Layer Cake for afternoon tea, Arno made us all feel a little better about our indulgent day with the revelation that he consumes at least one kilo of chocolate per week.
With a full belly and a happy heart, it’s safe to say that this chocolate lover had her cake and ate it too.