Some Like it Hot

Photo by Danny Wootton

Photo by Danny Wootton

“Hot chocolate is like a hug from the inside”, reads a sign at Atelier Chocolat, at once summing up one of the joys of a Central Victorian winter (just add crackling fire, and maybe cake) as well as the attractions of chocolate in warm liquid form. 

And you rest assured that this is no ordinary hot chocolate. Laetitia Hoffmann, who opened her charmingly bijou Trentham handmade chocolate shop at the end of March, is a devotee of the bean-to-bar school, in which the cocoa beans can be traced back to an ethical source. 

The French native dedicated herself to learning the craft six years ago with various Melbourne luminaries such as Monsieur Truffe, Cioccolato Lombardo and Ratio Cocoa Roasters, from which she sources her organic Panamanian beans.

Photo by Danny Wootton

Photo by Danny Wootton

“The process of making chocolate is quite lengthy,” she explains. “I try to do it on weekends in the shop so people can see and smell it.”

This proudly Gallic outpost on Trentham’s Market Street serves two types of hot chocolate made from Ratio’s drinking chocolate – one served straight-up with dairy, soy or almond milk, another to which Hoffmann adds warming spices such as chilli, cayenne and cinnamon. There’s also a mocha, the chocolate/coffee hybrid which is made from her own shop-made chocolate and coffee beans from boutique local roastery Karon Farm Coffee. All go beautifully with a canelé, the small French pastries rich with rum and vanilla that are beautifully caramelised on the outside and custardy within. But be warned: “I try to get everyone hooked on them!” Hoffman says. 

Proving good things come in pairs, another newcomer to the neighbourhood is the Daylesford Hot Chocolate Company. Opened by Arkie Williams at the end of last year in a charming shop near the market she had coveted for years, it’s a single-minded operation dedicated to the quasi-religious observance of hot chocolate. 

Photo by Danny Wootton

Photo by Danny Wootton

“My shop is all about the beauty of hot chocolate. It’s so nurturing when it’s cold and it warms your hands as well as your insides,” she says. “It’s the best drink for Daylesford in the winter.”

Using Spencer Cocoa single-origin chocolate grown in Vanuatu, Williams serves dark and milk chocolate versions and house blends – cardamom and pink salt is popular, as is ginger and turmeric. But her “apothecary” goes one step further, conjuring different spice flavours for customers wanting a personalised drink.

“A girl I went to school with was Spanish and her mother used to make the darkest, sweetest hot chocolate with just a little bit of salt in it. Perhaps that’s where my love of hot chocolate came from, and my interest in playing with flavour. My own favourite is dark chocolate with half a teaspoon of crushed fennel. It’s just delicious.”

For people wanting to wander around the market with a hot chocolate in hand, Williams has “boomerang” cups for customers to borrow and return. “People have been great about our no single-use cups policy,” she says. “They always come back.”

Atelier Chocolat:
16 Market St, Trentham; 0424 132 929

Dayleford Hot Chocolate Company:
22 Raglan Street, Daylesford; 0490 880 598