Latrobe will be alive on Sunday with the sights, smells and tastes of chocolate.
As the annual Chocolate Winterfest arrives in the North-West town for another year, the Sunday Examiner had a taste of what chocolate making involves.
“You could compare chocolate with wine,” House of Anvers founder Igor Van Gerwen said.
“Every variety of grape grown in different regions, different climates, all give different outcomes in wine, and chocolate is pretty much the same.”
Originally from Belgium, Mr Van Gerwen arrived in Tasmania at the age of 20.
He had trained for six years as a patisserie chef in his home country, where he took a keen interest in chocolate.
“In Tasmania, while I was working at a bakehouse, I started making chocolates and the business has grown from there,” he said.
Anvers began as a cottage industry in 1989 at Mr Van Gerwen’s home, and grew for many years. It moved into the current House of Anvers location on the Bass Highway at Latrobe in 2002.
“Originally, I just worked with what I was used to - the Belgian couverture chocolate, and I found one that really worked well. It was a good all-rounder.
“But the Tasmanian dairy products are really rich in flavour and I struggled to find [a chocolate] that was strong enough. So I got a chocolate made to suit Tasmanian dairy products with a cocoa from Ghana and that’s still our main chocolate now.”
Anvers confectioners use lots of Ashgrove cream and milk in their products.
“We try to use as much as possible natural ingredients,” Mr Van Gerwen said.
“We’re very traditional in our flavour profiles and that seems to work very well for us.”
During the past few years, Anvers has also moved into single origin chocolate.
Mr Van Gerwen sources those slower-growing varieties of cocoa from South America and Western Africa.
“Your normal chocolate bars are normally made from a hybrid cocoa but we source heirloom varieties of cocoa.”
Anvers now sells Fortunato No 4 - the rarest cocoa in the world, and the oldest in existence.
“When you think how cocoa would have grown naturally in the Amazon forest, this is still grown the same, and it’s the same variety.
“There’s no cross pollination with hybrids.
“Only 300 farmers grow this variety of cocoa in the world, and they only have three or four acres each.
“There are 36 chocolatiers in the US and Europe that have it and I’m the only one in the Southern Hemisphere.”
Mr Van Gerwen is leading a chocolate appreciation masterclass at Anvers during Chocolate Winterfest on Sunday.
“It’s a fun way to educate people about chocolate and how to work with it,” Mr Van Gerwen said.
“The main thing will be tempering chocolate. When you work with a quality chocolate, high cocoa butter content chocolate, you need to work out exact temperatures.”
Masterclass participants will create little chocolate sculptures on Sunday with chocolates inside.
Mr Van Gerwen said he always looked for strong flavours when trying cocoa.
“There’s a lot of chocolate out there that taste the same, and the reason is hybrids of cocoa are grown.
“I look for a lot more. I’m always looking for different types of cocoa that will give a different end result.”
He said there was a science behind chocolate making, but, more than that, it was “chefing”.
“Experience and experimenting makes good chocolate,” he said.
“We train our chocolatiers for three years and then they start to experiment with different flavours as well.”
Chocolate Winterfest has been running for 14 years. This year includes 37 activities or events across Latrobe.
“Some are firmly entrenched in the festival’s history, but we also have 12 new events this Sunday as well,” festival coordinator Michelle Dutton said.
“We like to keep it fresh.”
One of the new events is ‘Favourites from the Chocolate Box’, which includes chocolate recipes, quilting demonstrations, textile delectables and a chocolate-inspired quilt exhibition.
The ‘Chocolate Chilli Sundae Competition’ is the spiciest new event on the menu. The quickest to consume the sweet and spicy treat wins $200.
And perhaps the most decadent addition this year is ‘Brunch O’Choc’. TasTAFE’s chefs of the future will be treated guests to a multi-course chocolate-inspired experience.
Ms Dutton said the festival was all about experimenting with chocolate “in a variety of forms”.
“You can see it, smell it, play with it. And it’s about getting out on these cooler days with the family and having fun.
“Chocolate Winterfest covers all demographics – everyone loves chocolate.”
Ms Dutton recommended people choose five or six events or activities they want to attend, rather than trying to get to all of them.
“You won’t get around them all. It’s best to plan ahead so that you don’t miss out on the ones you really want to get to.”
- Chocolate Winterfest is on Sunday, August 13, from 10.30am to 3.30pm.