The smell of chocolate was wafting through the streets of Buġibba on Thursday, as an artisanal chocolate factory launched a new line of chocolate bars featuring iconic scenery from Malta.
Stacked to the brim with delectable truffles of every shape, size and flavour imaginable, the Malta Chocolate Factory is an olfactory delight. With a chocolate fountain bubbling generously in the centre display, the rows upon rows of products sit neatly, ready to be sampled. The sheer variety with which chocolate is prepared and presented tickles the imagination.
Coming to Malta from Australia around four years ago, proprietor Neil Hitchcock originally emigrated with the intention of retiring to an island in the sun. Deciding he was perhaps too young to retire only a few months in, Mr Hitchcock searched for a venture that would keep him occupied.
“Despite the heat, I thought chocolate would do just fine,” Mr Hitchcock said.
Having worked in the education industry for over 20 years, he felt that sharing knowledge should play an important aspect going forward, and so the concept for the Malta Chocolate Factory was born.
Besides crafting bespoke products under the tutelage of chocolatier David Pulis, the factory also incorporates an education centre where children and adults alike have had the opportunity to learn about as well as craft their own chocolate.
“We’ve had 3,000 students and 1,000 adults who have come through our chocolate making courses,” Mr Hitchcock says.
“We use it as educational tool to talk about how chocolate is made, talk about environmental issues and how climate change is impacting the world and impacting our consumption of chocolate.”
While importing their raw chocolate from Belgium, the team tries to source local products and incorporate indigenous flavours into their chocolate pairing sessions.
“We use as many Maltese ingredients as is possible,” Mr Hitchcock says.
“We certainly use Maltese chocolatiers to make products that people love.”
The factory’s newest venture, a product line called Images of Malta, was born out of ideas of where their bespoke treats could go next. With chocolates that feature the Maltese cross and the eye of Osiris already among their offerings, showcasing Malta seemed like a good direction to move forward with.
“We’ve always been struck at how much beauty there is here, so the Images of Malta seemed like a natural extension to where we needed to go,” Mr Hitchcock says.
From over 500 entries Mr Hitchcock and his Oompa Loompas narrowed it down to just eight, which were selected to be used as covers of chocolate block sets.
The images feature iconic scenery such as traditional balconies, salt pans, the luzzu and the Żabbar parish church decked out for the village feast. The set also features some detailed information about what each image is depicting.
The set will also serve as a source of recurring income for the competition winners as the Malta Chocolate Factory will continue to pay them a royalty for every chocolate bar sold for as long as the product remains in circulation.
“What we’ve created is not only a product that we’re proud of but one that also one that continues to reward creative people for their work,” Mr Hitchcock says.