Nestled in the rejuvenated Auckland suburb of Morningside you’ll find an exciting new venture by Miann that is not only pushing the boundaries of New Zealand’s chocolate culture, but demonstrating the absolute cutting edge of what is happening internationally in the chocolate industry.

Created by husband and wife team Brian and Roselle Campbell, local favourite Miann (pronounced me-ann) has developed a huge following over the past 3½ years with their exceptional dessert restaurants on Auckland’s Fort Street and Takutai Square. Anybody who has experienced their level of quality, artistry and deliciousness will doubtless have left mesmerised, content in the awareness that Miann’s sweet treats are as good as it gets.

However, not satisfied with reaching this patisserie pinnacle, owner and head chef Brian decided to embark on the daunting task of creating chocolate from scratch, that is from the bean, rather than using pre-made European couverture. Cue Miann Morningside, a two-part chocolate extravaganza featuring a dessert restaurant on one side of the venue and a bean-to-bar chocolate factory on the other. You can smell the freshly roasted cacao beans from halfway down the street, with the intensity increasing as you approach the leafy suburban courtyard. As you open the factory doors you’re hit with the full force: multiple melangeurs mechanically grind cacao nibs into chocolate, there are sacks of cacao from all corners of the globe, freshly tempered bars glisten on the work surface. There’s an undeniable buzz in the room – the hum of creativity.

Next door you’ll find that fresh chocolate being transformed into treats of all shapes and sizes. From the extensive range in the patisserie cabinet to the collection of bonbons and macarons, from gelato and sorbet to the list of single-origin hot chocolate options, everything is made from chocolate produced in house. At any one time you can find over 20 exclusive origins of cacao in use, with each type of bean turned into assorted shades of milk and dark chocolate, offering a depth and variety of flavours that you will struggle to find anywhere else in the world.

Making chocolate from the bean in small batches is a relatively new concept that is commonly referred to as ‘craft chocolate’. Much like craft beer or specialty coffee, the craft chocolate movement aims to reconnect consumers with high-quality raw ingredients, skilled artisan producers and a non-industrialised process. For many years there has been a disconnect between the brown confectionery on the store shelf and the brightly coloured tropical fruit that provides its main ingredient, but craft chocolate makers aim to bridge this gap by reinstating cacao as the star of the chocolate show. Through using a diverse variety of rare and specialist cacao origins, along with minimal processing and added ingredients, these new-wave chocolate makers are introducing consumers to an unfamiliar world of flavours and terroir, with even more complexity on offer than that of wine or coffee.

While there are increasing numbers of craft-chocolate makers (currently around 10 in New Zealand and well over 200 in the USA), it’s extremely rare to find producers using their chocolate in as many innovative ways as Miann. Most chocolate companies either buy cacao and turn it into chocolate or buy chocolate and turn it into bonbons, truffles, pastries etc. It’s unusual to find one producer taking on both sides of the operation, but by taking control of the whole process from start to finish, Brian’s team of chefs are able to create groundbreaking desserts that will open your eyes to the unbridled potential of chocolate. One small spoonful of their Peruvian 60% bean-to-sorbet will help you understand the significance of this.

What’s more, by buying cacao beans directly from growers or ethical distributors, Miann is able to ensure a more respectful and sustainable chocolate chain with improved livelihood for the farmers. The majority of their beans are currently sourced via boutique distribution companies such as Uncommon Cacao and Meridian Cacao, both of which offer complete transparency of trade and provide highly detailed information on their websites, including exactly how much the farmer is paid at the gate (usually at least two or three times the current Fair Trade price).

Having already reached a point of producing around eight tonnes of chocolate a year, Miann is now looking to supply some of New Zealand’s top restaurants, which should be enough to send any chocolate lover into a dizzying state of expectation. Imagine what the country’s top chefs might achieve with chocolate of this calibre, and the potential scrumptiousness that awaits future generations of conscious chocoholics.

In the meantime, be sure to take a trip to Miann Morningside and prepare yourself for a dessert epiphany. / Luke Owen Smith (