Choc of the new

Bibelot's chocolate exotic bird's nest

Bibelot's chocolate exotic bird's nest

Cadbury has yet to deliver on its threat to include kale in its sweets, but there's still plenty of innovation in the chocolate world. Lee Tran Lam discovers the trends coming to a gift box near you.

Capers are the new salt
Fleur de sel in chocolate? That's old hat. Rebel chocolatier Jacques Genin uses capers instead of salt in his Paris chocolate salons - and not just any kind. They're grown by Italian winemaker Gabrio Bini on the Sicilian island of Pantelleria. The buds are finely chopped and distributed through easy-todemolish chocolate bars.

Booze brings people together
Acting locally inspires exciting collaborations between chocolate artisans and booze-makers. Adelaide's Just Bliss Chocolates has created a gin and tonic bonbon with its favourite gin from McLaren Vale's Settlers distillery, while Tasmania's Seven Sheds Brewery uses a rare Peruvian cocoa from nearby chocolatier House of Anvers to create a perfectly unsweet Black Inca dark ale.

Matching matcha
Pana Chocolate has teamed up with Mayde Tea for a cacao-cinnamon spice tea and Melbourne's Bibelot has peach-scented oolong bonbons, but Japanese brands Sils Maria and Tsujirihei Honten take chocolate-tea collaborations to the next level. The chocolate in their Tea Connection: Fresh Chocolates from Three Uji Teas limited-edition set is infused with roasted gyokuro stem, matcha and sencha teas, with booster shots of whisky, Champagne and sake. Loose-leaf tea is included for brewing and pairing with the sweets, and the set retails for more than $1,000.

Seven Sheds and House of Anvers' Black Inca beer.

Cold comfort
Move over, hot chocolate: award-winning chocolatier Tad Lombardo sells chilled cacao at his Cioccolato Lombardo store at Melbourne's Prahran Market. Crushed cacao nibs are steeped in cold water for at least a day, filtered, then served with ice or milk. Is this the new cold brew?

Back from the brink
Cacao Hunters lives up to its name: the Melbourne company works with Colombian farmers to highlight rare, old and once-lost varieties of cacao, making them sustainable again. Its Boyaco chocolate is from a cacao variety that was thought to be extinct, while the Arhuacos block comes from a variety that has been used by people in the area for more than 500 years.

White is the new black
No, really. Caramelised white chocolate has made cameos at fine-dining establishments (served with Madeira-soaked prunes at Sydney's Quay, or in brik pastry cylinders with strawberry sorbet at Canberra's Temporada), but now it's hitting the street. The signature shake at Sydney's Burger Head includes white chocolate three ways: salted, caramelised and roasted.

 Just Bliss Chocolate's abstract chocolate spoons.

Sour notes
Chocolate and orange is a classic, no-brainer combination, but other citrus pairings may yet challenge its reign. Parisian chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin offers "Grapefruitines" (grapefruit slices dipped in chocolate), Perth's Nakamura Chocolates sells finger lime and coconut pralines, while Melbourne's Monsieur Truffe and Tokyo's Uguisu have created a yuzu spritz chocolate bar.

Hold the sugar, add the mushrooms
American firm MycoTechnology wants to replace 70 per cent of the sugar in chocolate with mushrooms. In its labs, raw chocolate is inoculated with fungus, which is then fermented and dried. The mushroom insulates tastebuds against chocolate's bitterness, reducing the need for added sugar. MycoTechnology's collaboration with Amano Artisan Chocolate produced an 85 per cent cacao chocolate sweet enough to go undercover as a 60 per cent block.

Anything goes
Nothing's off-limits for Detroit's Bon Bon Bon. Its boutiques have served fried green tomato and Caprese flavours, and its current line-up includes curry-toasted coconut ganache with honey-roasted peanut butter, and a dark chocolate shell with algae ganache, oyster sea salt caramel and edible pearls.

Bibelot's white chocolate ancient relic.

When they go low, we go high-concept
Chocolate gets an art-class remix with Bibelot's Easter egg alternative - a range inspired by ancient European relics - and edible spoons from Just Bliss that recall Pollock paintings. Meanwhile, Tad Lombardo has created high-concept chocolate for events. At Ben Shewry's Helping Hoops charity night, he produced "Field of Activity" choc hemispheres. "I wanted my petits-fours to reflect diversity," he says. "The different layers - marshmallow, salted caramel and aerated chocolate - represent the characteristics within all of us that make us unique." It's now a bestseller at his store.

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