This Mahurangi business produces liquid gold – the delicious, chocolatey kind
A weekend hobby led a couple to create an award-winning range of drinking chocolates from minimal ingredients.
Words: Nicole Barratt Photos: Gareth Moon
Malt, stonefruit and Christmas cake aren’t traditionally associated with drinking chocolate. Yet, according to David and Janelle Herrick, quality drinking chocolate can boast as many tasting notes as a fine wine. The best time to deduce them? Right before breakfast.
“You need a clear palate to try craft chocolate. You’ll be blown away by what you can taste. You might get a note of honey first, then stone fruit and spice — it’s magical,” says David.
Early morning tastings are a part of the job for the duo behind Foundry Chocolate. Blocks are crafted on their rural Mahurangi property north of Auckland, and their beans are sourced worldwide. In their workshop, only two ingredients are welcome: cacao beans and organic sugar.
“Chocolate has so many layers of flavours, but not many of us have been exposed to them. Every harvest of cacao beans is like a vintage and depending on where they’re from and the roasting, the flavours are all different,” Janelle says. The couple grinds chocoate bars into powder to make the drinking chocolates.
Their property hasn’t always housed a chocolate factory. Six years ago, David worked full-time in marketing and Janelle in art directing. “I read this tiny article about someone in Britain making chocolate from their garage, and it captivated me. I didn’t realise you could make chocolate on a micro-scale, so I tracked down some cacao beans overseas and started experimenting,” says David.
He didn’t mention his foray into chocolate-making to Janelle, although periodically, her hairdryer would go missing. “You need to remove the papery husk from the beans, so I had to do that somehow.” He’d long been a foodie, but a culinary business had never been on his radar. “I spent months reading everything I could about chocolate, playing around roasting beans in our kitchen, working out how to extract their best flavours.”
David is a confessed lover of spreadsheets and logistics, so it wasn’t long before he ran the numbers on creating a micro bean-to-bar business. “I took it to Janelle and said, ‘We could do this.’ So, we chose 51 samples of single-origin cacao beans worldwide and started crafting 51 batches of chocolate. It took months,” he says. There were roasting mishaps and roasting triumphs. Confident in their punchy flavours a year later, they launched a range of bars of Bolivian, Peruvian, Colombian, Ecuadorian and Tanzanian descent in 2018.
Janelle inspired their range of drinking chocolates, created in late 2021. “I’d see her breaking up pieces of our bars and melting them, turning it into drinking chocolate. I thought, ‘Hang on, there’s another category we could branch out into. No one is really making single-origin drinking chocolate made purely from chocolate,’” he says.
“We tried all seven of our current bars melted into drinking chocolate to test their strengths and flavours. Some were exceptional, and others became too intense when heated, so we settled on three bars using our beans from Tanzania, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.”
The couple roasts beans on-site, and the smell is reminiscent of baking brownies. The papery husk is removed, and the nibs caught. In a stone grinder, granite wheels transform the nibs into smooth liquid chocolate before sugar is added. “We’ll refine them for 72 hours, or even longer, depending on their origin. I’ll often be up at 2am tasting and checking the flavours,” David says. Chocolate is set in four-kilogramme blocks and left to age for five to eight weeks, stabilising its flavour notes before being ground or tempered.
“It’s all a pretty technical and nuanced process,” says Janelle. Adding emulsifiers or cacao butter would allow for easier making but honouring the beans’ natural qualities is Foundry’s mission. “We’re at the mercy of the bean. But for us, it’s our jam.”
In 2022, all six of their entered bars and drinking chocolates won medals at the Outstanding New Zealand Food Producer Awards. Then, at the NZ Chocolate Awards, their single-origin Kilombero Valley (Tanzania) Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands), and Pinalum (Malekula Island, Vanuatu) drinking chocolates scooped up gold medals, the latter variety claiming the category win. “We were blown away. I feel like we haven’t taken it all in yet — we’ve just been trying to keep up with orders,” David says.
They’re operating close to capacity — 2023 started with empty shelves, with no tempered chocolate bars left. Stockists such as Farro Fresh and Moore Wilson’s keep them busy, alongside website orders and three international stockists. Says David: “I’d love to see more of us appreciating quality drinking chocolate as we do coffee and tea. Imagine a collection of single-origin drinking chocolates alongside your teas in your cupboard — that’s the dream.”
David says people assume Foundry is bigger than it is, but they’d be surprised. He’s in charge of relationships with growers, importing beans, production and fixing machinery. Janelle spent months designing Foundry’s branding, each package representing the cacao beans’ origins. The pair take turns to pick up beans in Auckland, hessian sacks stacked to the roof in their station wagon. The scent lingers long after the beans have been unloaded. “The car will be chocka with beans. You must have the windows down on the drive back. It’s a heady scent,” David says.
DRINKING CHOCOLATE TWO WAYS
Foundry drinking chocolate is delicious made with water or milk (dairy or plant-based). “Our little secret? Whizz with a stick blender for 10 seconds for a thicker, more luxurious result,” says David.
David’s choice: Combine 1¼ cup of milk or water (just off the boil) with 2 tablespoons (heaped) of drinking chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate has melted. (Janelle makes her drink the same way but adds an extra tablespoon of drinking chocolate for a richer flavour.)