The complexities of Peruvian cacao absorb young chocolatier Johnty Tatham.
An innovative new chocolate maker has recently emerged in New Zealand’s flourishing craft chocolate industry. Lucid Chocolatier is created by Johnty Tatham in rural Wairarapa, using some of the finest and rarest cacao beans from Peru. At 23 years old, Tatham is the youngest bean-to-bar chocolate maker in New Zealand by a good ten years, yet he displays the skill, quality and vision of a seasoned professional.
Coming from a background of art and design, Tatham views chocolate as the current interpretation of his lifelong journey of creativity and passion. In his late teens he developed a desire to become a fine-dining pastry chef, but while studying at WelTec polytechnic and working at local restaurant Bellamys, Tatham felt his passion for chocolate deepening.
“After entering an open chocolate petit-four competition and learning to properly temper chocolate I was hooked. The calibre of creativity that extended from this one product was astounding.”
This honing and deep-dive exploration is a core characteristic of Tatham’s personality and creative process. After working for Honest Chocolat in Matakana and developing his skills as a chocolatier, he moved back to his family farm so that he could explore the complex process of making chocolate from scratch, that is from the bean. After analysing and testing almost 30 different origins of cacao, he decided to focus exclusively on Peruvian cacao, where most of his favourite beans were from.
“I am not someone who likes to have their fingers in many different pies. In fact, I would say I prefer to have a whole hand in a single pie,” he says.
Lucid Chocolatier officially launched in December 2020 with a collection of six different bars, all presented in slick, minimalist packaging that instantly lets you know this is a long way from the cheap block of confectionery you can find at the supermarket.
The Purist Collection features three single-origin bars that highlight the unique flavour notes of the cacao, and the Inquisitive Collection features three bars with added flavours, including the crowd favourite Caramel and Tonka Bean Milk Chocolate. There are plans in place for future releases that will change seasonally, in the same way that a chef would change a menu, in tune with local produce.
Tatham’s rural upbringing and tranquil lifestyle have influenced his approach to chocolate making. There is a slowness, a calmness and a meticulousness to his craft, which is evident from the moment you see the packaging to the moment you taste the delicate and nuanced flavours in his chocolate. It’s exciting to see such talent, creativity and drive from a young New Zealand producer and we look forward to seeing how this promising career develops. lucidchocolatier.nz / Luke Owen Smith (thechocolatebar.nz)