Chocolate is one of life’s guilty pleasures, so when two blokes who shared an obsession for all things sweet built a chocolate factory in Margaret River, it truly was a match made in heaven.
The tantalising aroma of freshly made chocolate wafts towards me as I enter the Margaret River Chocolate Company. I am literally surrounded by row upon row of glorious chocolate and in the corner of the factory, I glimpse some chocolaterie mastery at work. I move in that direction, but am distracted by three large bowls of chocolate heaven waiting to be devoured.
It is the toughest of choices – milk, white or dark chocolate. Feeling a trifle indulgent, I decide to try all three. It is in the name of research, after all.
This fascination with the bewitchingly tempting chocolate brought Martin and Patrick together nearly twenty years ago when they decided to start a ‘small’ chocolate enterprise in Margaret River.
They thought it would create a good sideline business, providing a part-time lifestyle in Perth and Margaret River.
It all began in a small shed on a property in Metricup with a handful of staff and rookie owners who knew nothing about making chocolate. But I am told they had many years’ experience as enthusiastic ‘taste testers’.
“There weren’t any other chocolateries in the region at that time. Our plan was to work casually in the business, master the art of chocolate-making and take the odd trip to Margaret River to oversee production,” Martin says.
“We hired a chocolatier and learnt everything about the industry from the ground up. Now we train all our chocolatiers, many of whom join us with chef backgrounds.”
But the lads weren’t prepared for the factory’s sudden popularity. They had to adapt quickly to meet public demand and ramped up production from small-batch to large-scale production in a short period of time. To say it was overwhelming was an understatement.
“The new equipment we purchased to meet our growing production regime became our second factory in Perth. We also expanded our Margaret River facility so we could produce more chocolate as well,” Martin explains.
Since those early days, the Margaret River Chocolate Company has trebled in size to include a café, a winery, a food business and an organic garden. It is spread across three locations in Perth, the Swan Valley and in Margaret River, with more than 100 staff on-hand to help satisfy the growing demand for all things sweet.
Food and Wine
It was a natural progression for the chocolaterie to expand into the food realm with the opening of Providore – a gourmet produce, cellar door and organic garden on the adjoining property on Tom Cullity Drive, Metricup. As I wander through the vegetable garden, I spy eggplant, tomatoes, strawberries, zucchinis and citrus trees, to name a few.
“As our chocolatiers came from chef backgrounds they began making sauces and jams to build business and gather momentum over the quieter summer months. At the same time, we’d been building our own olive oil and wine brands so we combined the wine, olives and non-chocolate based items to create Providore,” Martin reveals.
There are a thousand Tuscan olive trees planted on this magnificent property, with their liquid gold oil being blended into cold pressed extra virgin oil under the Mount of Olives Brand.
The surrounding vineyards are used for the creation of wines produced under the Coward & Black label.
And if the gentlemen don’t already have enough on their plates, they have recently embarked on another venture that combines their passion for chocolate and wine. This dark and seductive love affair has been bottled in a range of Sambarino chocolate liqueurs. There’s a Classic Chocolate, Hazelnut Mousse, Macchiato and After Dinner Mint in the range, which is made from a combination of grape spirit and cocoa product. I decide to pour some over a bowl of ice cream. A tad indulgent, I know. Seriously good, though.
I’m not sure whether it’s the endorphins from the chocolate kicking in, or that I’m immersed in such a beautiful patch of earth in the south west, but visiting here has left me with a happily contented sugar buzz.
I may have thrown my diet out the window, but as I drive away with a bag full of treasures beside me, it was worth every single bite.
The Margaret River Chocolate Company and Providore are located at 415 Harman’s Mill Rd, Metricup (Cnr Harman’s Mill Road and Tom Cullity Dr)
Both are open 7 days a week, from 9am – 5pm.More info