Chocoholics of the Hunter rejoice – Easter is nearly upon us! While for Christians it is the holiest time in the Church calendar, for many people, Easter is simply a time to celebrate being with family and friends – and the chance to indulge in a chocolate egg or two!
Eggs have been associated with the Christian celebration of Easter since the early days of the church, used to symbolise new life through the resurrection of Jesus.
Dyed or decorated hen and duck eggs were displayed or given as gifts since the earliest times, while egg-shaped toys were manufactured in the 17th and 18th centuries and given to children at Easter.
Chocolate Easter eggs first appeared in France and Germany in the early 19th century. However, it wasn’t until the Dutch invented a press for separating cocoa butter from the cocoa bean in 1828 and the Cadbury brothers introduced the use of a pure cocoa in 1866 that the production of Easter eggs started to take hold.
Today there are literally hundreds of different eggs and novelty-shaped Easter chocolates to choose from. However, for those looking for something truly indulgent this Easter, there’s nothing better than the smooth, delicious taste of a handcrafted chocolate treat.
The Hunter Valley Chocolate Company has been creating the finest chocolate products since 1999.
The destination of choice for those looking to indulge in something truly unique, the artisan chocolate makers lovingly craft their wares using only the highest quality Belgian or Swiss couverture chocolate, together with Australian dried fruits and nuts and distilled pure fruit oil infusions.
Owner Jo Clarke said what started out as a simple idea to set up a small chocolate shop in Hunter wine country has grown into a booming business venture that now includes three stores and 40 staff.
Easter is undoubtedly their busiest time of year, as more and more people seek out something finer than the mass produced eggs lining the shelves of their local supermarket.
“The difference begins with the chocolate that is used for the product,” Jo said.
“The major commercial companies extract a high quantity of the cocoa butter from the raw material before they use it, but it is the cocoa butter that actually gives chocolate its richness, smoothness and overall taste sensation.
“We are very conscious about using a quality Swiss or Belgium couverture as the base of what goes into our melting tanks because it is like any recipe that is prepared by a chef - the best end result comes from using top quality ingredients."
“People’s tastes have changed over the last 15 to 20 years, people appreciate the better quality, and we are proud of our products and the reputation we have earned.”
That reputation has developed on the back of Hunter Valley Chocolate Company’s amazing array of handcrafted products, which are available seven days a week online as well as in-store at their “Twenty-3-Twenty” Chocolate & Fudge Factory on Broke Road and their retail outlets at Hunter Valley Gardens and Peterson’s House.
There’s sure to be something to cater to every taste bud, with dark, milk and white buttons and blocks a staple of the range.
Those looking for a chocolate-coated treat can choose from a selection of nuts including the ever-popular almonds and macadamias, as well as ginger, liquorice, honeycomb and orange peel.
Pure fruit oils are used to create mouth-watering chocolate infusions, with flavours such as raspberry, lime, mint and orange, as well as the newest addition to their line – musk.
Jo said their most popular product at the moment would have to be their salted caramel chocolates, while their previous top seller – their famous chilli chocolate range – was inspired by request from a pair of Scandinavian tourists around 16 years ago.
When it comes to Easter, though, Hunter Valley Chocolate Company branches to include a few sensational seasonal lines.
“We’ve got a selection of moulds to make the bunnies and the duckies and the hollow eggs people love,” Jo said.
“We also do candy-coated eggs, freckled eggs, which were very popular last year, and for something more novel, we use a real egg shell with chocolate piped into it via a tiny hole. The kids can crack the egg shell, peel it off and find a solid chocolate egg underneath.
“Easter is our biggest time of the year, and with this one being in the middle of April with the cooler weather, and in the school holidays, it should make for a good weekend.” For more information about the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company visit www.hvchocolate.com.au