Late last year Bellingen couple Maggie and Ming started making chocolate in their spare room. FOCUS visited their “chocolate factory”, to see how it’s done and find out if guilt free chocolate really exists.
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
Ming spent much of his childhood here, attending school in Bellingen and growing up on a property at Raleigh. I moved here eight years ago and started an arts and culture publication for Bellingen while working in the local cafés, which is where I met Ming. We are now married with two boys and a raw chocolate business. We love it here and are very grateful that this is where our kids get to grow up.
How and when did you start making chocolate?
We’ve been experimenting with raw chocolaty treats for years, and our family is full of devout chocoholics! Deva is a formalisation of this passion, but is a relatively new venture for us; we’ve been involved with the business since late last year.
Does the whole family get involved?
Oh yes. The boys love breaking in to the “chocolate factory” and scratching little drips of chocolate off the benches – naughty! We mainly use the kids for taste testing for now but in time, when it’s practical, we’d love to have them more involved if they’re interested (and something tells me they will be interested) … Ming does the majority of the actual chocolate making, and I focus on design and marketing. There are things Ming and I do together which are really nice, like sitting down at night with a glass of wine and hand wrapping a batch of chocolate – there are worse ways to spend your evenings!
What do you love about it?
Almost everything. We love getting to sample chocolate every day; brainstorming and experimenting with new flavours; and talking to people about chocolate all the time – it’s a fantastic topic of conversation. I am getting a kick out of putting my design skills to use again after having time off with the kids – we’ve just redone the website and designed the new packaging for our exciting new flavour. Ming loves spending hours meditating over melting chocolate while listening to podcasts. It’s the perfect scenario for us.
Have there been any challenges so far?
Absolutely! We’ve had to take a crash course in how to “temper” chocolate, which is a process where the temperatures are very precisely manipulated in order to create a shiny, snap-able, “set” bar of chocolate, all the while keeping it a raw product. The heat wave early this year presented a challenge as well, but we’re all decked out with a new air-conditioning unit now, so we’re able to keep the temperature low and nice and even.
What is raw chocolate?
Raw chocolate is chocolate that is never heated above 45 degrees (less in our case). Some other “cooked” chocolates are heated up to 130 degrees, which damages or eradicates the natural living enzymes, antioxidants and healthy minerals (like iron and magnesium) that are present in raw, cold pressed cacao. Cacao is an amazing health food, and we pair it with Australian raw honey and other organic, natural ingredients, so there’s no refined sugar present either.
What else is special about your chocolate; can it really be guilt free?
Of course! Our recipes are dairy free, gluten free and all organic. It’s also the very first tempered raw chocolate in Australia, and we only know of one other company using honey to sweeten their chocolate, so these are our points of difference. Look, obviously cacao butter comes with calories, but nowhere near the calories you’d find in a milk chocolate bar – and you’re getting the additional health benefits that come with raw cacao and medicinal honey. We all need a bit of chocolate, so why not enjoy a raw, guilt free version?
What makes your chocolate ethical?
We source ingredients locally wherever possible and the things we can’t get locally, we buy as close to the source as we can. We only deal with companies who do business ethically and farmers who farm organically, and everyone is fairly paid in the process. This is a big deal for us – ethical business is the way of the future.
You recently launched a new flavour; can you tell us about it?
Oh, we’ve been so excited about this! It’s called Mint w Nibs. It’s a smooth dark cacao balanced with refreshing peppermint oil and a crunch of raw cacao nibs. So far the reception had been very positive. Dark mint chocolate lovers will love it.
What is your favourite flavour and why?
We’re right into the new mint flavour at the moment, but coming into winter the Chilli & Spices is going down really well too. Ooh, but then there’s the Wattleseed & Honey … OK, we can’t decide.
What are your chocolate plans for the future?
We’d love to see Deva Cacao in all states and maybe even overseas (we think New Zealand might be a good place to start). We’re passionate about sharing our love of quality raw chocolate; it’s something we really believe in. We have young children, so we think if we can make small steps toward the bigger picture, when the time is right we can grow some more and in the meantime, enjoy the ride.
Where can we get our hands on some Deva Raw Chocolate?
Oh my gosh, we thought you’d never ask! Coffs Harbour folk can find it in The Happy Frog, Mother Natures, Go Vita in Park Beach Plaza and Go Vita in Coffs Central.
Bellingen people can find it in Kombu Wholefoods, The Bellingen Greengrocers and IGA. You can also find it at our online shop at devacacao.com.au where we’ll also be selling special Mother’s Day gift packs.