John Cowpland / Stuff
Turkish winemaker Asli Gider has found a new place to express her artistry and curiosity, La Petite Chocolate, the Hastings artisan chocolate factory she owns with her husband Sel.
The bell above the door rings as you enter La Petite Chocolate, the rich smell of chocolate greets you with the sweet sounds of French music.
It’s as if you’ve been transported to France rather than the main street of Hastings at Turkish couple Sel and Asli Gider’s artisanal chocolate factory.
Over 16 different types of chocolate are on offer, each featuring a unique pairing that speaks to the couple’s origins and background in food production and winemaking.
“The most important thing for us is taste,” Asli said.
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Both were raised in different parts of Turkey, a country with a “very diverse and rich culture”, Asli said.
“Our cuisine is heavily influenced by the Mediterranean, but you can find everything. The food is very colorful and has many different influences and tastes.
The couple both studied food process production engineering, but wanting to do something “artistic”, Asli turned to winemaking, studying in Bordeaux, France.
In 2011, they decided to move for their family, traveling through the wine regions of Australia and New Zealand in a caravan before settling in Hawke’s Bay. “It was a big change, but it felt more like home.”
While Sel found work in the region’s apple industry and Asli in viticulture, both eventually wanted to open their own artisanal food businesses.
They explored bread and cheese making before seeing Hastings Chocolate Factory was for sale in 2020.
Sweet tooth Asli admits they knew nothing about chocolate making until they took over the business after the first lockdown, with the calm weather helping them find their footing.
One of the most important things they had learned was the inequality that plagues part of the cocoa production sector.
As such, it was important for them to work with a supplier they trusted, another family business, in addition to being Fair Trade, Organic and Fair Trade accredited. Their cocoa is single-origin, sourced from the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and São Tomé.
The pair also prioritized working with quality producers across New Zealand to source ingredients while playing with different flavors and pairings.
“In New Zealand, we are lucky to have passionate producers,” Asli said. “I like to create things with them.”
They stock about 16 different flavors of chocolate at a time, though that changes regularly, including seasonal favorites like gingerbread and hot roll-inspired bars.
They also specialize in sweets, small bites that “can be very potent”.
Some of their most unique pairings include lemon and salt, ginger and tangerine, orange and sesame, smoked chili and lime, coconut and raspberry, feijoa and white chocolate with passion fruit, and fennel and bergamot (admittedly not one of their biggest sellers).
Each type of chocolate involves a slightly different production process that is handled by their on-site chocolatier.
Asli is currently working on a chocolate gin in partnership with a Martinborough-based distiller to help raise funds for Forest and Bird. Home compostable labels on each bar feature designs by a Hawke’s Bay-based artist.
While Sel is more involved, Asli sees her role as a “storyteller”, adding that makes them the perfect pair.
She said they were both “very curious people” and that being a small company allowed them to experiment more. Asli wouldn’t claim a favorite but admitted she’s particularly fond of the nutty.
With Easter their busiest time of the year, the shelves are currently displaying chocolate chooks and a colorful range of eggs and bunny-shaped candies.
“I like the fun part. Our job makes people happy.”