“Deep and powerful, with delightful hints of plum, dried cherry and sun-dried muscatels. It finishes off with an amazing textural resonance on the tongue and in the mouth that echoes delightfully for an age.”
These are the words of Craig McKenzie, describing his drinking cocoa.
Coming from a coffee background, Craig co-wrote a book about making the best espresso. He also introduced master classes for tastings, trained baristas, wrote reviews and even consulted on the art of coffee roasting. But here in Ballarat, Craig is an acclaimed flavour alchemist, known far and wide for redefining the cup of hot chocolate.
As Craig put it: “I want to open your mind to what’s out there in the cocoa world.” So Craig and his wife Sophie have travelled the globe to source the very best cocoa beans and ingredients for their business Grounded Pleasures.
Their cocoa is sourced from Ghana, an African Red. Or as Craig described, “A cocoa of great complexity that has a fruity after taste to it”. But just as much care and thought has also been given to the additional flavours he adds to his cocoa to make a range for every taste.
“Deep and powerful, with delightful hints of plum, dried cherry and sun-dried muscatels. It finishes off with an amazing textural resonance on the tongue and in the mouth that echoes delightfully for an age” – Craig McKenzie, Grounded Pleasures
To sate wife Sophie’s love of choc mint, Craig uses freshly extracted peppermint oil from France. He also produces a drinking chocolate infused with vanilla adding two plump, moist beans, imported from Papua New Guinea, to each and every pack. Another variety boasts cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cardamom in the Northern European style. Orange oil is sourced from Sicily. Chilli is added in true Mexican tradition.
As for Chai, the ingredients come all the way from one of the world’s finest spice farms. “It’s as close as possible to what a chai street wallah would serve in India or Sri Lanka,” Craig elaborated. Even the sweetener they produce is 100 per cent organic Panela sugar cane juice with robust flavours including molasses, along with beneficial minerals and nutrients. It can be spooned into your drinking chocolate and also used for baking or cooking.
Of course Craig’s cocoa is fairly traded. But it’s also minimally processed. “That means very high levels of flavonoids and antioxidants. These are the great health giving properties of fine chocolate,” Craig explained. So rather than guilty pleasures, these ones are actually good for you.
As this family owned and run fine food producer expands into more markets, it still proudly calls Ballarat home. And what a breathtaking home it is. The Grounded Pleasures premises are not your average stock holding space. Newly renovated by Craig and his wife Sophie, this beautifully light filled warehouse, with the perfect balance of authenticity and refinement, will be an ideal home for cocoa workshops and weddings alike.
With a following of restaurants and baristas, you can now sample this treat yourself at many of Ballarat best cafes, including Fika, Eclectic Tastes and Webster’s Café and Market. You can also purchase the range online.