Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Chocolate Mill - Knowledge Is Power + Darrell Lea Going Bust

After moving to Melbourne, my second day-trip out of the CBD as an "official" resident involved the aptly named "Gold Rush Trail" which is essentially the motorway that connects Ballarat and Bendigo. During this excursion though I deviated and also visited the "Hanging Rock" which is best known from the Aussie classic Picnic At Hanging Rock which is near Woodend.

The day started off rather innocuously in sleepy Ballarat. Whilst wandering around what they refer to as the central business district, I spotted one of the barmaids that works in Bar Americano. She actually resides in Ballarat and commutes to the Melbourne CBD to work in Der Raum's sister bar. I thought that was intriguing. Mad, yet intriguing.

A quick drive to Sovereign Hill encouraged me leave the area and Ballarat when I saw not only the price to enter this tourist area but the abundance of tour buses. I really doubt that I missed anything worth seeing.

Fleeing Ballarat via the Midland Highway (A300) I came across "The Chocolate Mill" which is just south of Mt Franklin and north of Daylesford. It was 1:50PM and their sign was advertising a free demonstration of the chocolate making process at 2:00PM which seemed interesting enough since I knew nothing about the it.

What I discovered would change my outlook and appreciation for chocolate as knowledge is indeed power.

Their chocolate is all made onsite. They only use Callebaut Belgian Couverture (Certified Fair Trade) chocolate to prepare their offerings along with cocoa beans, natural bourbon vanilla, 100% pure cocoa butter and no palm oil. During the demonstration, I learned that the one of the keys to making "proper" chocolate products that can be differentiated from staple products sold by Cadbury and other brands on offer in the local supermarket is that "proper" chocolate does not include any use of palm oil and always uses natural vanilla. After tasting some of the fresh chocolate that was available for sale at The Chocolate Mill, all I could say is "WOW!" along with a few expletives as the difference between the other generic and substandard products that I have consumed throughout my life was evident after tasting this superior product.

On my recent trip to Sydney, I called into the Darrell Lea chocolate shop on King Street and George Street. This was after the news reports that Darrell Lea went bust and punters with a sense of nationalistic pride flooded their stores thinking that they could save the sinking ship at least if you believe the news. This particular shop was empty at the time despite its close proximity to Pitt Street Mall and surprisingly because it is on a main CBD pedestrian thoroughfare. I quizzed the attendant who appeared very bored and asked if their offerings were made with palm oil. She didn't know. I asked her the percentage of cocoa solids that was used in a product that I was pointed at. She didn't know. I asked if the products were Halal certified. She knew the answer to this and she replied "No, but we are working on getting that certification" which was interesting. No wonder the chain went bust. I found the staff at The Chocolate Mill to be extremely knowledgeable with their products.

My education at The Chocolate Mill made me a more informed consumer and I am not only grateful for this as up to the point of my visit, I never really went out of my way to taste chocolate regardless of type. Now I am always keen just to be able to compare and contrast the tastes from not only the aforementioned experience but with the offerings that I have since purchased from their on-line shop and had shipped to me. Although they do not offer chilli-infused chocolate which I highly recommend for purchase on-line, and the offerings available on-line are limited compared to what they have for sale on-site, one can only be encouraged to pack up the kids and take a drive and experience everything that The Chocolate Mill has on offer in person. This place and its products are highly recommended and I regret not taking the time to have a hot chocolate in their cafe.

The exact location of the Chocolate Mill and the other pertinent information with respect to demonstrations, opening times and links to their story and on-line store can be found here.

The Chocolate Mill

Chocolate Mill
Link to review
5451 Midland Highway  Mt Franklin VIC 3461
(03) 5476 4208
My Rating: 13.5/20
Service: 1/5 (n/a)
Ambiance: 3.5/5
Quality: 5/5
Value For Money: 4/5
Comment: Best chocolate I have ever had

Twitter: @epicurean3006
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com

As of this writing only 77% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like this place. I am not sure why the figure is so low.

Chocolate Mill on Urbanspoon