It took me two days to open the chocolate box, it was that beautiful.
I brought it home with me. I put it on my bedside table. I photographed it from all angles. I stroked the golden ties and admired the chrysanthemum designs on the cover.
When I was ready, I eased open the seal and unboxed the treasure within – slowly.Then I saw the chocolates.
It took me three days to eat the chocolates.
When quality food products and gorgeous design meet, the result is a feast for the mouth and the eyes. Such is the experience with Nakamura chocolates. I was recently lucky enough to be given a box of the Nakamura Dark Selection by my friend, Marlon. It is his wife, Yuki Nakamura, who is the artisan behind Nakamura Chocolates.
From her kitchen in Coolbellup, Western Australia, Yuki produces the most amazing handcrafted chocolates. In this little box of art there are flowers and spheres, flecks of gold, chequers of magenta, strata of aqua and viridian, glossy marbling in lilac and ruby. I promise you, you will stop and look. These are not just chocolates you scoff. You marvel at them, then you make your selection and you consider.
I wanted to give each chocolate its due attention and make tasting notes which is why there was a three day duration between starting and finishing them. Normally, I am not so hesitant when it comes to sweet things. I also wanted a chance to try each chocolate (not easy when my children wanted their fair share of the goodies) so there was the process of dividing each one up into three or four pieces so we could all try some.
So here, in the order that they present in the box, are the chocolates of the Nakamura Dark Selection.
Coffee is high on my list of favourite flavours. As a kid, whenever we had a box of chocolates in the house, I would watch wistfully as my father took the one and only coffee cream (it was high on his list of favourite flavours too). Now I am the grown-up and I get the only and only coffee cream while my son looks on with longing in his eyes. The triple espresso is a moment for the coffee lover. You will love the melting coffee fondant layers inside and you will not want to give this to anyone else.
A dark, truffley ganache is concealed below the delightful chequerboard – the citrus notes are strong, the cardamom is a more subtle spicy touch – subtle be damned, I want more cardamom! I’d also love to see how this worked with a really creamy milk chocolate as opposed to the dark. This is a winter chocolate, a hot posset of a chocolate.
As I cut into the chocolate, the scent of mint filled the air. It was a very, very intense peppermint flavour. The lemon lasts a moment, the mint lasts and lasts. My palate was well and truly cleansed. This is the ultimate after-dinner mint. It was a little too much for me on its own. I would recommend having it with a strong cup of black coffee late at night.
The least controversial combination, but a happy mouthful nonetheless. The honey is there to add scent, not just sweetness. A whole hazelnut hides in the centre. My camera doesn't do justice to the glossy surfaces or the gold-speckled coating.
I have watched the growth of the salted caramel trend with interest. Most of the time, my complaint is that there is never quite enough salt – I didn’t experience this with the chocolate. The salt was definitely perceptible and added to the silky smooth texture of the caramel.
I don’t mind coconut but I don’t usually seek it out either. I did enjoy this chocolate – the coconut presence was strong and the texture was interesting. The coconut pieces were gritty, almost like traditional coconut rough, but the chocolate was so smooth and creamy. I think using dark chocolate works particularly well here.
Cherry blossom and milk
I liked this one very much indeed. I am finding these days cherry doesn’t feature as a flavour in chocolate as much as I’d like (Cherry Ripe bars don’t count). What we have here is a lovely, creamy super-sweet cherry filling contrasted with the dark chocolate shell.
Pistachio and marzipan
Ohh, marzipan! You either love it or you hate it. I love it. I could eat it by the block. When I was a kiddie, my mother would take the marzipan, wrap it in cling-wrap and put it in the fridge so that I would think it was cheddar cheese (which I don’t like) and not eat the whole slab before she got it onto the Christmas cake. The marzipan in this chocolate is more your home-made marchpane than your shop-produced almond paste. Coupled with pistachio, the flavour of which is quite subtle by comparison, it’s another ‘trad’ choc that you could happily serve up to guests.
Of all the chocolates, this was the prettiest to look at. A wee flower, rainbow sparkles and a golden centre. Be still, my inner princess! It’s tangy, it’s fruity, raspberry essence dominates. I can imagine a whole box of these as a Mother's Day gift.
Jasmine and Orange Blossom
Wonderful florals here – there’s a sense of tea, then one of orchards in bloom, so much so that I recalled a time when I was driving through the orange orchards in Gingin. Of all the chocolates in the box this was the most intriguing, the most different. The colour is dark, dark maroon but I haven't caught it in the picture.
Now, I said earlier that when quality food products and gorgeous design meet, it was a feast for the mouth and the eyes. All credit for the design around Nakamura Chocolates goes to Marlon. The chrysanthemum print, reminiscent of William Morris florals, is his own design. He came up with the overall look of the box with its effortlessly sliding sections, its colour scheme, the golden ties (the string, I was told, comes from Paris) and the seal which shows the Nakamura family crest.
This is a very happy partnership on all fronts. Between them, Yuki and Marlon have created a little box of joy to keep artists and the foodies very content indeed.
I personally can't wait to try the rest of the range. The dark selection was fantastic, the milk is, I predict, in my not-too distant future, I am sure. I am also very keen to organise one of the chocolate tastings that Nakamura will host if you contact them. These chocolates are far too intriguing, are too exsquisite, not to share with the wider world.