I missed it the first time I drove past. But anything to do with chocolate is worth pursuing, and I turned back. Nearing number 147, I spotted a small, box-like sign announcing The Seriously Good Chocolate Company. The top of a white wall had rich brown paint, looking like chocolate icing dripping down the sides of a cake. I’d missed the cafe/store because it was set back on Spey Street, with just a few empty tables and chairs outside.
Stepping inside, I didn’t know where to look first. If only it was later than 9am and I hadn’t just had breakfast. In the glass- fronted, fridge-sized cabinets there were chocolates galore, brownies, citrus, ginger, and lemon passion slices, perfect little round cheesecakes several inches high (just right for one), lamingtons oozing cream, voluptuous custard squares … oh, and some savoury stuff at the bottom – quiches, bacon and egg pie, creamy vegetable and chicken filo. Cellophane packets of chocolates filled baskets, shelves were packed with boxes of chocolates adorned with kiwiana images – buzzy-bees, kiwifruit, rugby balls, kiwi, Burt Munro. There were cakes of chocolate and bottles and jars of sauces, chutneys and honeys. Bags of pinot noir grapeskin powder sat alongside Central Otago pinot noir chocolate spread and chocolate coffee rub.
I met up with owner Jane Stanton, who told me how it all started. She had given homemade chocolates to her hairdresser, who handed them around to clients, and soon word got out as to how good they were. Jane began receiving requests for her chocolates, and The Seriously Good Chocolate Company began. From a church kitchen, the business progressed to a cafe and shop in Windsor, Invercargill, and then to the central city five years later. Jane’s grandfather would be proud to know his recipe, used for the chocolates he sold in his Hokitika bookshop, was the foundation for the world’s southernmost chocolate company.
A SOUTHERN SAMPLER
Jane’s aim is to promote Southland through chocolate, and she’s come up with all sorts of Southern flavours. Since day one, back in 2000, she has worked with Queenstown’s Gibbston Valley winery, infusing chocolates with their wine and grape skins. Today, she collaborates with about 30 New Zealand wineries.
I tried the Gibbston Valley selection. The Strawberry and Chardonnay white chocolate tastes of summer. The Pinot Noir contains tiny, crunchy pieces of grape skin, and tastes of berries. The Pinot Gris has a subtle white wine flavour. I don’t like wine, but those chocolates were divine.
So too were the treats in The Seriously Good Southland Chocolate Experience box. The flavours, Bluff Oyster and Southland Paua, aren’t what you associate with chocolate and I wondered if they did actually contain seafood … but of course they don’t! The Blue Oyster tastes of the flavours that might accompany an oyster – lemon, sauvignon blanc and cinnamon. My favourite was the Paua, Sambuca and Coconut Cream – green on the inside like pāua. Celebrating the salty sea of Foveaux Strait, the Salted Caramel chocolate was incredibly good too. The cafe/shop is a great place to pick up a ‘taste of Southland’ gift.
While you’re there, be sure to have a hot chocolate. Made with a ‘chocolate bomb’, an almost snooker-sized ball of chocolate in a glass of hot milk, it was the most luxuriously creamy, hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. You can also buy the bombs to enjoy at home. They come in a number of flavours: mint, beer, salted caramel, kahlua, Irish cream, marshmallow, ginger, and honey.
As well as partaking of these sweet and savoury delights, which change all the time, you can also tour the chocolate factory. It’s on the premises, and looks out into the cafe. It’s astonishing to discover that around 1000 boxes of chocolates a day are churned out in the tiny space. There’s little room between the stainless steel equipment – a panning machine to chocolate-coat products such as scorched almonds, peanuts, raisins, and freeze dried raspberries, racks and racks of just-made chocolates resting, moulding trays cooling, a machine that pours chocolate to fill the moulds… Packaging is also done on site in another small room behind. The tour takes about 30 minutes and involves a few tastings. Well worth it!
Classes are available, where you get to dream up your own fillings. They are around 2-2 1⁄2 hours long, which includes waiting time for the chocolates to set – a great opportunity to pop out to the café and sample a few other flavours, and try out that hot chocolate, or one of the freshly baked goodies!
Back in the cafe/shop after my tour, I discovered beer and gin-infused chocolates, chocolate spoons, chocolate spreads, quince paste, Central Otago apricot chutney, capsicum sauce… There seems to be no end to what Jane dreams up. She also collaborates with Southland companies such as honey producers Miele Apiaries, and Back Country Cuisine, and plans to produce bean-to-bar chocolate. Who knows what new products you’ll find when visiting.
For cafe hours, tours and a selection of products: seriouslygoodchocolate.com
If spending time in Invercargill, check out:
- Bill Richardson Transport World:
- Classic Motorcycle Mecca:
- Queens Park:
- E Hayes and Sons – this hardware store is home to Burt Munro’s ‘World’s Fastest Indian’ motorcycle and over 100 classic and vintage vehicles, engines and memorabilia. Free to view:
- Demolition World:
- Closest camping grounds: