It's a long way from Bayonne, the chocolate capital of France, to the seaside surf village of Whangamatā, but great chocolate travels well. The new artisan producer in The Coromandel, Thomas Capdevielle has spent a lot of time setting up his roaster and other gear, but now his sweet confections are quickly gaining local attention and acclaim.

Yes, Thomas is French and making chocolate in the traditional way in Whangamatā after studying law in France and then going on to learn his métier as a chocolatier in Bayonne. After graduation he travelled, ending up in Whangamatā, where he fell in love with the place and one particular person named Jess.

After a stint away at another Kiwi chocolate maker the family, now three, have returned to Whangamatā, the place where they found love. Coromandel Chocolate is a family-owned business hand-making artisanal chocolate using traditional French methods, from cacao beans sourced from specially selected Pacific growers.

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First, the cacao beans go through a process of roasting, cracking, winnowing, conching, and refining. Next, the art of the chocolatier comes in to melt, temper, mold, and sculpt the chocolate, blending local and organic ingredients with the flavour profile of the cacao beans to create the chocolate we can enjoy.

With so many steps involved it is easy to see that passion, tradition, hard work and consistency are the essential ingredients to Coromandel Chocolate. And a vision that goes beyond creating silky treats, although many would elevate good chocolate to be one of life's essentials.

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Thomas and Jess want to help people understand their power to support small-scale chocolate makers and cacao farmers in an industry with some exploitative sides. The chocolate starts with ethically sourced cacao beans from growers in the Malekula Islands in Vanuatu. Supporting local Pacific growers is important to Jess and Thomas. As a bean-to-bar maker, Coromandel Chocolate stands for fairness, transparency and change, with a mission to help elevate the reputation of Pacific-origin cacao for quality and flavour to a status that it fully deserves. So there is another story unfolding here; just how did Thomas and Jess find the cacao plantation in the village of Pinalum? What it does show is the commitment the team has to share the message and the love.

The bars, hot chocolate mix, and cacao tea are available through their shop at 100 Hunt Road Whangamatā, Coromandel Chocolate online store (great gift ideas, just saying), at the Weekend Markets in Whangamatā over summer and watch out for special collab events with their mate Liam at Salt District Brewing.

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