With the Morrison Government continuing to be chaotic and dysfunctional, many Australians are reining in their spending as they await the next impending disaster. You probably already know about campaigns like Buy Regional and Spend With Them designed to support rural and regional businesses in areas currently affected by drought and bushfire. Chocolate doesn’t always travel quite so well, so if you’re looking at purchasing some for your sweetie ahead of this Valentine’s Day, here are three small business options in Sydney that you could choose to support with your spend:
Jen Lo from Meltdown Artisan has a small store on Kings Lane in Darlinghurst. The big reason to buy from Meltdown is their ethos – they have switched to using French couverture chocolate, which is 100% traceable back to the source. “As well as being sustainably produced, we can be positive that the products that we use don't contribute in any way to deforestation or slave labour (including child labour) which are all growing problems in the cocoa industry,” Jen explained. Her Valentine’s Day range includes a palm sized and hand-painted Ooey Gooey Love Heart ($35/240grams) filled with oozing salted caramel made using Tasman sea salt, and smooth almond praline.
Jen is also making smaller versions called Sweet Hearts ($35/9 pieces) where French fruit purees in flavours like raspberry, yuzu and passionfruit, unite with South American tonka bean, under silky smooth chocolate of various persuasions.
Or, if you want do something more unique (get cracking, you need to give Jen three or four days) nothing says “I want you to eat me” quite like a box of Face BonBons ($35/9 pieces) where your beau gets to admire your smiling mug every time they pop a classic salted caramel-filled chocolate into their gob.
Customisation is also king at Chocolab in Willoughby. Veronique Eldridge-Smith uses premium Belgian couverture chocolate, adorns it with high quality toppers, and sends you your handcrafted bar by Express Post (you can order her Valentine collection up until Tuesday 11 February if you’re in Sydney).
While obviously you can customise your own treat, Veronique has created some ideas to get your Valentine’s Day off to the right start, whether you like it romantic or erotic. From I Love You Teddy Pops ($6/each) featuring both milk and white chocolate that’s smooth and enjoyable, all the way to more bizarre slogans, like Guess What Corgi Butt Pops ($6/each) this range suits all budgets.
Once again you can add your own face, or a smoochy photo with your bae as Chocolab bars have a bit more real estate to work with, and a personal message on a Valentine’s Day Photo Message Block ($32/110 grams). In Veronique’s more adult collection there are thick You’ll Get the V Later Hearts ($29/250 grams) where Belgian chocolate is adorned with Maltesers, Mini M&Ms, Red Heart Sprinkles and 100s & 1000s – it arrives packaged in a white gift box with a clear lid, so could be great for embarrassing workplace over-shares. If you do order this one, don’t put it in the fridge, the chocolate is so thick you’ll almost bust a knife breaking it.
While I cringed at Let Me Be Your Dumblewhore ($28.50/125 grams) - apparently it's got something to do with Harry Potter with a bit of sex worker stigma thrown in - Chocolab also have more direct items like Wanna Put Your Tackle In My Box? ($19.50/125 grams) blocks topped with milk chocolate hearts, milk choccy curls, and red and pink heart sprinkles. And if you can't find a pre-made slogan to suit your own style of lovin' you can always create your own block.
Last, but by no means least, Sweet Encore is a boutique small business who are currently delivering lovely little boxes of handcrafted Gourmet Chocolate Caramel Biscuit Bars ($20/6) in the Sydney CBD. For Claudia, making these well-packaged collections is a side hustle to her day job as a pastry chef, so she doesn't have a shop front. You can order by messaging Sweet Encore on Facebook or on Instagram.
Think of them as a gourmet Twix, where crisp and buttery shortbread is slathered with a not-too-sweet gooey caramel, and then enrobed in perfectly tempered Callebaut chocolate (milk, white and dark). The bars are flecked with high quality toppings like freeze-dried raspberry crumbs, and crisp sea salt flakes that enhance the flavour of the milk chocolate and caramel rather nicely.
The brilliant red bars topped with 24 karat edible gold leaf are made by colouring white chocolate with Australian-made Colour Mill oil-based food colourings (halal, kosher and vegan in most cases) that provide great streak-free intensity by using pigments rather than dyes. Sweet Encore’s products are just as yummy as they are pretty to look at. For Valentine's Day, Claudia is producing the same decorated and boxed chocolate caramel biscuits in a heart-shape for an extra five bucks - making her very under-priced for the usual V-Day premium on chocolate treats!