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Convincing, Chocolate, Cheese, Connoisseurs

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article image Robyn Haworth

The December meeting of Australian Institute of Packaging [AIP] in Victoria has traditionally been a festive event where partners who sacrifice quality family time during the year when the packaging person attends technical meetings are invited to come along and enjoy a presentation not totally related to packaging.

So it was that a select group came along and were entertained by two aficionados of their chosen careers. Actually the presenters each gave a lesson of how to deliver information, enthral the audience and impart total enthusiasm. If Ted Bullpit [TB] had been in the audience he would have said “leave your money and cheese in the fridge but not your chocolate”.

Robyn Haworth a chocolatier trading as Robyn Haworth Chocolates, serving a discerning clientele trained in food preparation but selected chocolate as her career. As she said “I rarely meet a person who says I do not like chocolate” but then explained that in Europe chocolate is a way of life but in Australia it is an indulgence.

The astute TB would have picked up on the advice that chocolate does not like moisture or humidity and is as delicate as it is in complexity. Robyn explained that it is hard to break into chocolate manufacture as the raw materials are carefully controlled by agents and building up knowledge of what to order and where to go is a long process. After that the confectioner’s skills are paramount.

Cocoa is the main ingredient, and there are around thirty varieties growing across the equator in all continents. Each subgenus varies and behaves differently making the chocolatier’s task even more exacting. Then cultural differences come into account, for instance the Australian pallet is inclined to Swiss produced chocolate while European countries rarely detract from the home-grown blend.

Robyn produces 2kg a day and makes her own decisions on flavour and shape and is targeting the boardrooms of the “top end of town” with much success; so much so that the demand for hand made select chocolates is a growth industry.

She related difficulties as a small producer to get suitable packaging for a delicate product that needs visual impact before the consumer enjoys the flavour and after taste. It would seem that a niche market is available for packaging technologists who have a culture of best product and customer satisfaction.

Dark chocolate will keep for 18 months while milk varieties have a shorter life cycle but ambient storage conditions like a wine cellar is needed. Never in a refrigerator! A mouth warmed with hot coffee is the ideal temperature to impart the subtleties of chocolate.

Those who tasted Robyn’s samples would probably not have the willpower to consider length of storage. One statement “will keep but not last” is a truism. Nor would they dispute the judges of the Royal Agriculture Society who awarded her’s the Champion chocolate in 2007.

Carole Willman of CheeseLinks took over and held the audience spellbound as she explained the function of CheeseLinks in training “regular Joes” [and Josephines] how to make cheese at home. Carole was trained in butter technology and her husband was an adviser to the dairy industry in cheese production.

Believing that the genes of an ancestor transported to Van Diemen’s Land for stealing a cheese was latent Carole decided to start using excess milk from the house cow to make cheese.

A few years later they started CheeseLinks and the business has grown like the mould that is part of cheese manufacture. Commencing as a material source for home cheese makers they graduated to supply and then training and now have a global reach with annual fromage tours into France.

Home cheese-makers are a happy lot as depicted by Carole’s PowerPoint presentation and some have gone onto become commercial manufacturers. This presentation also explained the process from theory to plate or even the refrigerator as unlike chocolate cheese needed humidity and can be kept in refrigeration.

AIP does not encourage presenters to sell their product but the demand from the gathering was such that a special training session may be arranged during the normal closed period of CheeseLinks.

The chocolates and cheese supplied by Robyn and Carole was devoured by the guests even after a sumptuous three course meal. The evening ended with Llewellyn Stephens the National President gifting the ladies and wishing them and all assembled compliments of the season.

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