Grow Your Own Chocolate

Since I’m fascinated with where food comes from, the next logical step in my ‘farm-to-table’ ‘bean-to-bar’ chocolate adventures was to try growing my own cacao trees…in London!

It was a challenge, with the first hurdle being to get fresh pods back from Ingemann in Nicaragua through US customs. After enduring a good hours’ worth of questioning by a typically Texan border enforcement official,Β the pods were let through!

My cacao pod stash, on arrival at Heathrow!
My cacao pod stash, on arrival at Heathrow!

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A Northern Ireland Chocolate Quest

When you’re asked by the Academy of Chocolate to attend and speak at the Finnebrougue Fine Food FairΒ in Killyleagh Castle, Northern Ireland, courtesy of Food NI 2016 – the obvious answer to this request is ‘yes’.

The trip was all planned out by Food NI, and after an exhilaratingly turbulent 55 minute flight from Gatwick, I touched down in Belfast City Airport, greeted at the airport by Sharon Machala of Food NI – my chauffeur for the next 28 hours (this was very much a flying visit).

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A Little Bit of Culture

Whilst my trip to Nicaragua was predominantly based around cacao research, I did take some time to explore my surroundings, absorbing the beauty and culture this amazing country had to offer at every opportunity. Morning tortillas made by the roadside, hummingbirds in the city parks, and some really stunning churches!

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Before the Bar

After our foray into the Nicaraguan jungle in search of the ancient heirloom cacao, meeting with farmers along the way, it was now time to harvest the beautiful golden-red pods of deliciousness we had gathered. Have you ever wondered what makes chocolate taste like, well, often many more things than just chocolate? It’s not as simple as you might think.

chocolate-flavour.jpg
What puts the chocolate in chocolate?

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Settlers of The Far North

HOUHORA TAVERN

Now for a little history of Northland. The nearest harbour to Ngataki – Houhora Harbour was home to whalers and Dalmatian Gum Diggers (no, not the dogs, but people from the balkan area now known as Croatia, but this is also where dalmatian dogs are from). The old Post Office and Dance Hall next to Houhora Tavern date back to these pioneering days when the Dalmatian Gum Diggers were digging their fortunes of kauri gum burried below the surface of surrounding areas such as Waiharara, where the Gum Diggers Park sits now.

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The Edge of the World

We’re off to the edge of the world, or Cape Reinga – basically the ‘Lands End’ of New Zealand. In Maori “Te-Rerenga-Wairua” means ‘the leaping-off place of spirits’. This is the place where two oceans – Tasman and Pacific visibly meet in a violent exchange of boiling water (obviously it’s not actually boiling, but it’s still pretty frothy and choppy!) The Maori see this as the ‘male’ sea ‘meeting’ the ‘female’ sea.

The two seas having a meeting
The two seas having a meeting – you can see the froth of the waves in the distance

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Fishing in The Far North

No more driving around! So we’re going to go fishing instead! Aside from fishing a large wild gold fish out of a village pond in Swindon in the heady uni days of 2005, this will be my first proper fishing trip…in the sea! Hopefully I’ll catch something bigger! Not quite sure how I feel about having to kill these beauties tho, that will be the hard bit. Continue reading “Fishing in The Far North”

Happy New Year – Happy New Chocolate

Happy New Year :)
Happy New Year πŸ™‚

MAKANA CONFECTIONS – KERIKERI

Having said our good bye to an awesome year and tided in an equally good one, with great company, it was now time to head north, even further north. Because of where Russell was situated, and the road we needed to reach, it was quickest to take the ferry back across (earlier on in the Coromandel we had decided dirt tracks were out of the question). A good tip off from our friends lead us to the most amazing chocolate shop and factory in Kerikeri – The Boutique Chocolate Factory, part of Makana Confections. This was essentially elevenses, having cooked an epic fry up storm for our hosts to try and cure our hangovers before we left. Continue reading “Happy New Year – Happy New Chocolate”

Hell Hole of the Pacific

URUPUKAPUKA ISLAND

Next morning, after a much-needed lie-in, we were off on a (very bumpy) ferry ride to Urupukapuka Island. We were warned when we arrived on the island and before we left Russell that due to there being no natural predators or pests on the island could we please help keep the island pest-free by checking our bags for rats, mice, stoats and seeds before disembarking along the litchen covered weather worn pontoon to the shore.

looking over the pontoon
looking over the pontoon

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Road Trip to Russell

After a restful sleep in Tokoroa we were up at the crack of dawn, with the dew still fresh on the grass and a long drive ahead of us, we said our goodbyes and hit the road, to make a quick pit stop to fill up on gas, pies and coffee before the long journey ahead. It’s worth noting that here in New Zealand, service station pies (and coffee) are an art form, nothing like the ‘Wild Bean’ cafe’s you get at service stations in the UK with watery coffee and soggy pies, no, these pies are like gourmet pies and the coffee even features latte art!

Truly. Amazing. PIES!
Truly. Amazing. PIES!

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