Chocolate is one of those omnipresent and adored culinary delights we’re very fortunate to enjoy as humans. It’s also increasingly subject to a lot of bad press surrounding how it’s grown, by who, and the treatment of the people that do. Kiwi company Wellington Chocolate Factory is doing its best to improve the world of chocolate and educate consumers at the same time.
Rochelle Harrison and Gabe Davidson share a passion for provenance and sustainability of ingredients, as well as a love for chocolate. They founded the Wellington Chocolate Factory in 2013 to produce organic, ethically traded, bean-to-bar chocolate from a factory which is open to the public.
Back in 2014, the pair successfully met their Kickstarter goal of $36,000 for what they dubbed “The Wellington Chocolate Voyage.” The multilayered Kickstarter project revolved around the improvement of the growing, trading, and eating of chocolate. Its goals included:
1) Support a farming community in Bougainville that grows the high-quality chocolate varietal, ‘Criollo’. This allowed Wellington Chocolate Factory to purchase enough of the unique beans at a fair and premium price.
2) The “voyage” itself. Harrison and Davidson transported a ton of Criollo beans from Bougainville – beside Papua New Guinea – to the Wellington harbour by sailing ship, before turning them into chocolate at their factory in the city centre.
The team made it to Bougainville in September last year – the ship, ‘Uto ni Yalo’, came from Suva, Fiji. After a 29-day voyage through the Pacific, the ship was welcomed into Wellington in October, and Wellington Chocolate Factory finished the resulting chocolate bars in December. Wellington Chocolate Factory has this week put up a ‘Wall of Fame’ commemorating all the Kickstarter backers who made the trip possible.
Harrison is herself a master chocolatier and leads production. The exotic chocolate varietals she makes boast two ingredients: beans and sugar. As with most artisan products, a great deal of care goes into the entire experience and The Wellington Chocolate Factory is ensuring every aspect of the product is as enjoyable as the taste of the bar. The packaging is designed by local artists to capture the unique story behind each bar, in a similar approach to Wellington artisans Garage Project and their packaging art.
The most important part of creating lasting change in an industry with so much negative momentum is education. The Wellington Chocolate Factory operates a “factory store” that wafts beautiful smells, offers an insight into the process, and is staffed by passionate people who actually make the product. It’s a brilliant opportunity for people to witness a handcrafted product being created that supports every aspect of its journey from bean to bar.