Just north of Auckland lies an unassuming little chocolate shop, handcrafting chocolates that are beautifully simplistic and charmingly indulgent at the same time. Founders of Honest Chocolat, Emily and Nico Bonnaud, have a truly honest way; from the ethical sources of their cacao to their elegant packaging and refined recipes; filled with only the most essential ingredients.
This humble approach has resulted in Honest Chocolat producing some of the country’s best chocolate -quite literally. The Salted Caramel and Buckwheat Milk Chocolate Tablet took out the Supreme Award at the NZ Chocolate Awards in 2017, and Emily and Nico haven’t looked back since.
At the time, the duo were making chocolate from a commercial kitchen in their Snells Beach garage to sell at local markets, while Nico worked full time as a pastry chef and Emily as an interior designer.
Their evolution to business owners and chocolate aficionados was not unexpected. With 18 years of experience as a pastry chef under his belt, including as Head Pastry Chef at Michelin Starred restaurant Sketch in London, French-born Nico was originally drawn to New Zealand by a love of rugby. He found himself working at Kauri Cliffs in Northland, and it was here that he met UK-born Emily, who was on a backpacking OE. The two embarked on their travels together, working in London and France, before returning to Aotearoa to pursue their business dream.
Fast forward to 2019 and they’ve been based in picturesque, artisan-rich Matakana for almost two years, with another shop set to open in Commercial Bay in the heart of Auckland city in 2020. For Nico - whose fondest memories are of visiting local chocolateries in France with his grandmother as a young boy - it’s honestly a dream come true.
Since Emily and I met, it’s been our vision to combine our individual talents to bring to life something that we both love, and that other people would love too. Chocolate was the perfect option – it’s pretty hard not to love!
Despite its modest size, you’d be forgiven for spending hours inside Emily and Nico’s Matakana store. Or, simply watching from the outside - the shop windows offer an intimate view directly into the chocolate kitchen, where passers-by can watch Nico craft his artisan magic and admire the beautifully packaged chocolates - all, of course, brought to life by designer Emily. And with a chocolate list that would win over even the most staunch of savoury-over-sweet individuals - including decadent bonbons in flavours like Espresso Martini, Gin and Tonic, Toasted Fennel Seed, and Kaffir Lime and Coconut; Hazelnut Gianduja Filled Tablet; dairy free caramels made with coconut cream; and chocolate dipped organic ginger - picking just one treat to sample would be near impossible.
Nico and Emily source their ingredients locally wherever they can; the honey comes from Warkworth Honey Centre, and the macadamias from a farm near Waipu. Highlighting local flavours is also a focus - a Limited Edition 72% kawakawa chocolate bar is currently on the menu, along with a 72% cacao Manuka Honey filled tablet.
They use cacao that is organic, single origin and ethically sourced. Grown in Ecuador, Madagascar and Venezuela, the farmers are paid better than fair trade rate, something non-negotiable for Emily and Nico, along with knowing exactly where their ingredients were grown.
Knowing where our ingredients come from, and knowing the people who farm them are treated fairly, was the most important thing for us. These people are the most important part of our business – they are Honest Chocolat too.
No artificial flavours, preservatives or palm oil are used in their chocolates, and those with allergies, rejoice; everything produced in the Honest Chocolat kitchen - and it is all produced on site - is entirely gluten and soy free, and the use of cream and butter is a rarity, making a large portion of Honest Chocolat’s range accidentally vegan.
Instead, Nico uses a rare water ganache in his bonbons, to ensure the flavours of the chocolate shine through. The chocolatier believes that the less ingredients used, the more the lovely notes and flavours of the chocolate sing. And with his pastry credentials, we’re inclined to believe him.
You don’t need thousands of fancy ingredients when it comes to making beautiful chocolate. Simplicity is underrated, and brings the beautiful flavours to life
Luckily for us, New Zealand was the place that felt most like home for Emily and Nico, and therefore the only place their exquisite chocolates are available. At this stage, they only ship to Australia for overseas orders but have been known to make exceptions for loyal fans based in Singapore, the UK and beyond.
Planning a trip to Matakana to try some of the best chocolates in the country - if not the world? It’s a yes from us.