One of the reasons it took so long for us to open up was finding the perfect location.
It’s all glass, so there’s nowhere to hide. Everything’s on show, and this is very deliberate: we’re all about traceability and accountability.
We didn’t look at any other options as far as space and size goes. Roasting is a matter of time and love and it usually takes a whole three days to get the [roasted] product. The process is the process, and you can’t change it. It really does inspire you to be organised!
What goes into the making of your chocolate?
We market ourselves as being handmade in Melbourne. It’s exciting, because you can be sure our products have literally been made by hands! From when a bag of beans comes in to when a chocolate bar is completed, it’s a month-long process all up. Even wrapping the bars at the end of the process can be very time consuming. It’s all worth it though. I let the staff choose to work on whatever aspect of the process they enjoy the most.
While we’re uncovering some hidden industry truths, what can you tell us about sugar?
Many people don’t realise that sugar isn’t [always] vegan, let alone vegetarian. True vegans who know the deal and will question what sugar we have. We’ve just applied for our vegan certification so we can add the sticker to our bars.*
How do you develop your chocolate bars?
We mould the chocolate bar and add the ingredients on top. Nuts are super popular. For one of the bars, we chose to use macadamia because we really wanted to do two Australian natives together [the other was lemon myrtle]. We weren’t sure if it was going to work but it’s actually our most popular product!
The cinnamon apple bar was another gamble. You’ve got the sour apple sitting on top of the sweet chocolate and to be honest, many people weren’t too sure about that. Those who love it, love it, and that’s good enough for us! For winter, we’re getting a lot of requests for a chilli chocolate bar so we’ll definitely be doing that too. It feels good to respond so actively to customer interests.
When you design the thing, first you have to decide on the percentage of the chocolate, and then if it’s going to be milk or dark. We spend a lot of time in the taste profiling step of the process and we’re especially looking for consistency in the mouth. For the nut bars, we spent hours deliberating between 15 grams of nuts as opposed to something like 30 grams. We tried 3mm chunks against bigger pieces. The thought process aligned with designing the chocolate bar is exceptionally long, but incredibly satisfying to get right. It’s getting that balance right that’s the most important thing.
Tell us some more about the aesthetic qualities of Ratio HQ.
At its core, I feel that chocolate is a feminine product. I’m also a female business owner. I designed the building with these factors in mind. The colour scheme involves a lot of blue rather than black. It’s also full of curved edges, and and skylights over the communal areas encourage a flood of natural light into the space. The design was created by ST Style in Melbourne whose brief involved straight lines, transparency, and the facilitating of conversation.
What kind of conversations do you have with farmers?
We ensure full transparency when it comes to farming. We tell you where our beans are from as well as the origins of our ingredients. Most people don’t realise that there is no such thing as Belgian chocolate. The ‘Belgian’ bit simply means that this was where the ingredients were put together and the block of chocolate made. It doesn’t tell you that over 70% of the world’s cocoa supply is out of West Africa where child labour is rife. We are staunch advocates of traceability so we can say with pride that we know where the beans are coming from and that the farmers are using ethical practices.
Why is chocolate important to you?
I don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or even drink coffee. Chocolate has always been ‘my thing’ and my entire life. It’s my treat. My life philosophy is ‘keep the number of countries visited higher than your age’. I’ve been to 46 countries and the first thing I do when I arrive is source chocolate. I must have a chocolate supply!
Your only waste is the husks! How are you closing the loop?
The husk is an amazing part of the bean. It accounts for approximately 20–25% of its weight.