|Queue outside the chocolate factory, shortly before 10am.|
Fortunately, I turned up shortly before 10am, as there was already a queue before the opening time. Although it was no Willy Wonka factory, the Glen Innes warehouse was visited by 1300 guests, and they only had capacity for 500. Stu took the massive crowd in his stride, maintaining his good humour and making a waiting list for the tours and demos. To look after as many of us as possible, he doubled the size of the groups to 40, and continuously ran sessions rather than just on the hour and half-hour as advertised.
ShoppingWhile waiting, we had the opportunity to look around the shop area, which had discounted chocolates ($1.50 instead of $2.50 for individual pieces, for instance), truffle making kits, ingredients such as glucose, invert sugar and couverture, and various useful equipment like moulds, scrapers and colour powders.
|Part of the chocolate selection on display at the front counter.|
|Chocolate making ingredients and equipment for sale.|
Chocolate TastingWe also got to sample two different chocolate flavours, at least one of which must have included alcohol as children were not allowed to participate. By writing down your feedback (what flavours do you taste, what was good/bad?), you also went into a draw for a prize, as well as the possibility of being invited back as an official chocolate taster.
|Chocolate tasting station - people were really thinking hard about what they were tasting!|
Factory TourWhen it was finally time for us to do the factory tour, we were taken to a temperature controlled area at the back, which was basically a commercial kitchen. The first thing Stu pointed out was not really part of the chocolate making process, but crucial to making lives easier for the staff: the dishwasher, which could clean and dry their chocolate moulds in 3 minutes.
He then talked us through the quality of their ingredients, including using real fruit for their fruity chocolates. He seemed particularly proud of their white chocolate, which had a much higher percentage of cocoa butter than the stuff you get at the supermarket, and he broke some leftover Easter eggs apart for us to have a taste, along with some other chocolate samples.
|White chocolate shells, ready for filling.|
I was surprised to learn that a lot of things were done by hand. One person had the job of polishing the moulds with a bit of cotton, and that was the only task they had. Another worker specialised in filling the chocolate shells with their flavoured centres. I forget how many chocolates they make each day, but it was something like in the high thousands. I would be bored after 10 minutes!
The most interesting part for me was seeing their custom machine for spraying the moulds with colour. I had always wondered how they made the chocolates look so pretty, and now I knew! Unfortunately, we didn't get to see it in action.
|Colour sprayer in the corner.|
After putting the splashes of colour on the mould, you were ready to make the chocolate shells. A machine with multiple streams of molten chocolate made it easy to fill all the holes in a mould at the same time. Tip out the excess chocolate, let the thin layer touching the mould set a little, run a scraper over the top, and you were pretty much done! (For best results, Stu left the moulds on their sides for the chocolate to finish setting.)
|Kind of like a chocolate fountain.|
There were a couple of other machines of interest. One was used for roasting nuts, used to make their peanut butter from scratch, for instance. The other made it easy to cut strips of toffee. These devices made it seem a little more like a factory, rather than just a large kitchen.
Chocolate Making Demo
The chocolate making demo took place in the same room. Stu showed us how to make truffles, pretty much the exact same thing you would be doing if you purchased one of Kāko's kits. It turns out that the filling is just chocolate ganache, made from an emulsion of cream and chocolate. For their commercial truffles, they also add some glucose to the mixture, which naturally extends the shelflife by two weeks.
|Filling a piping bag with the cooled chocolate ganache.|
A common mistake that people make is heating the cream and chocolate directly in a saucepan. Apparently chocolate burns at 60°C, which is why many recipes tell you to set up a double boiler. While we waited for the ganache to cool, Stu told us about the chocolate making courses his company offers, and gave us discount vouchers to attend one of the classes.
We then watched as he filled a piping bag, skilfully squeezed the ganache into each pre-prepared chocolate shell, and demonstrated sprinkling some toppings on top, which could be chopped nuts or whatever you fancied. We didn't have time to wait for the filling to set. I bit into mine straight away, and it was dark, rich and delicious.
|Chocolate truffle, still warm in the middle.|
Kāko's excellent chocolates make it easy to support a local producer. I am glad the company has branched out into offering classes and kits too. And what a great idea to open up their factory for a day—sure, they had to stop production and give out plenty of free chocolate, but I'm sure they've made a lot more people excited about the stuff!