Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Katelyn and the chocolate factory

DV Chocolate - nom nom nom!

I was like a kid on Christmas morning brimming with excitement and anticipation... after all it's not every day that a chocoholic is allowed to enter a real life chocolate factory! I hear you asking who was crazy enough to let the likes of me near their precious chocolate stock? Well, DV Artisan Chocolate, that's who! And what lovely people Cornel and Peter de Villiers are!

Cornel and Peter de Villiers

While setting up the shoot I was told that unfortunately we would be asked to wear hair nets due to safety regulations - clearly they didn't know who they were dealing with here - no ugly hair net would deter me from experiencing the incredible chocolate making process! My response? Don't worry, us Top Billing girls can rock a hair net! 

Photographer Angie and I working our hair nets!

The small chocolate factory is situated in the quaint town of Hermanus where the De Villiers family are the only 'Bean to Bar' chocolate makers in the country - and one of only a few in the world. With the latest trend of products being made using old-fashioned, back-to-basic techniques, DV Artisan chocolate is situated in a perfect niche market. Peter used to be a process engineer involved in building and automating machines to make products. He says he loved how at the end of the day, you push a button and you see your work and the machine running smoothly. But boredom struck and led Peter to research the basics of growing vegetables, wine and bread baking. He explains that the penny dropped when him and Cornel were sitting at a farmer's market when they noticed the only handmade product not available for sale was chocolate.

Cornel admits that Peter's first attempt at chocolate was difficult to swallow but eventually after testing and retesting, and playing around with aspects such as bean sourcing, roasting, grinding, conching and maturing they eventually developed the super smooth, flavour-rich chocolate they are moulding today. 


Peter discovered at an early stage that every batch of cacao beans had an incredibly diverse range of flavours. The public are not actually aware of this since most of the commercial chocolates are blended to maintain a level of consistency. They wanted to keep these original flavours which are influenced by conditions such as weather, seasons, altitude and harvest time. This is one aspect which makes DV Artisan chocolate so unique - each batch is different.

Peter's chocolate factory is a sight to behold! Situated in the garage at their Hermanus home, the aroma of thick melted chocolate hangs in the air constantly and Cornel admits that they've grown used to this - I swoon at the mere thought of being cocooned 24/7 by chocolate aromas! Each machine in the factory has been designed and handmade by Peter himself - the roaster, to the grinder, concher and tempering machine are all electronically automated. When we enter, three conchers are at various stages of grinding the chocolate and it amazes me at the difference in aromas and textures that each stage shows. After tempering, the chocolate gets poured into the custom DV moulds before they are matured and packaged. Yes I said matured - not many people know that chocolate needs to be aged to develop the flavours. Each batch of beans has their own optimum maturation time so the process requires careful planning when it comes to managing the supply of the bars.

When quizzed on what his favourite flavour was, like a proud father Peter diplomatically answers, 'Whatever flavour I'm working with that week.' To come up with the range, the family sat down with all the flavours and decided on their top 5. What's next for DV Artisan Chocolates? Peter is working on developing a proper cocoa powder and cocoa butter (which isn't yet readily available in the country) and Cornel, who is a qualified chocolatier, is looking at bringing out a range of DV pralines. The De Villiers' are intent that their chocolate will only be available at small boutiques, delis and wine estates as they feel their Artisan Chocolate should stay just that, produced on a small scale with each delicious bar getting the same attention, love and care.

Visit www.dvchocolate.com for details.