As a brave and bold Australian chocolate reviewer, the question I get asked most often is, “Why haven’t you written about Haigh’s chocolates yet?” My answer has always been, “Because they’re so good, so huge in the chocophile world that I just don’t know where to start.”
Well, it’s high time I talked about them seeing as my heart, taste buds, waistline and wallet have all been significantly influenced and changed by this particular institution. Haigh’s have been making the best chocolates in Australia (yes, you heard me) since 1915, in my own proud state of South Australia. Apart from being owned and run by fourth generation Haigh’s lads, they are only one of two chocolatiers in our big brown land (how appropriate) who make their chocolate direct from the raw cocoa bean.
They also offer brief tours of their Parkside factory and it was there, for the first time, I got to see and touch a cocoa pod (not unlike a wizened paw paw) and see the beans (similar to almonds in appearance). The guide, a friendly gal called Naomi – who proudly pointed out her mother on the factory floor getting stuck into making huge slabs of Rocky Road – explained that Haigh’s source their beans from Ghana, Ecuador and Papua New Guinea. We were told about the roasting, winnowing, grinding, pressing, three days worth of conching process, but were most definitely not allowed to see it (even some staff have only ever visited the bean-to-chocolate factory, located elsewhere once, or perhaps never). She also told us that Haigh’s had been contacted by cocoa bean growers in other countries but decided not to use them because the beans weren’t up to scratch. Perfectionists indeed.
We did see the part of the factory where they used the liquid chocolate to make the stuff we love. It was noisy and yet the scent of fresh, sweet, dark chocolate was truly intoxicating. The ‘panned’ fruits and nuts were being gently rolled around in enormous copper bowls, being lightly sprayed in chocolate and then gently coated in a thin layer of sugar to add the gloss. How I wish I could have clambered in and joined those lucky little nuggets! The staff looked genuinely involved in their work and seeing the soft centres being hand-filled and decorated on a conveyor belt and some champagne truffles being made by two very dexterous ladies holding an animated conversation was a delight.
Enough of all that adulation, you say. What about the chocolate? I’ll tell you next time…
(Picture from Haigh’s customer centre store, Parkside. We were expressly forbidden to take any photographs or videos of their factory.)