Is chocolate really a fruit?

 Chocolate lovers rejoice – the love of your life is a fruit!

Well, that is according to Chris and Lynn Jahnke’s light-hearted theory.

“Chocolate is made from seeds of cocoa fruit, so in my mind that clearly makes chocolate a fruit,” joked Chris.

“And are we not encouraged to eat more fruit?” he asked of the 24 people visiting a Charley’s Chocolate Factory tour in April.   

They all nodded in agreement and chuckled as if hoping his theory were actually true.

What is true is that chocolate is produced from cocoa beans, which come from the husked and ground seeds of Theobroma cocoa fruit.

But it’s the high fat and sugar content of chocolate as we know it that lowers its reputation as a healthy food.

Obesity and high blood pressure are just two the medical issues associated with the high consumption of chocolate.

It’s not all bad news for lovers of the popular treat,” however.

According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, eating dark chocolate may lower bad cholesterol, prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems.

I learnt this and many other fascinating facts about chocolate on a ‘Cocoa Tree to Chocolate Bar’ tour at Charley’s Chocolate Factory last week.

Owners Chris and Lynn are “walking encyclopaedias” on the subject.

They’ve become deeply entrenched in the industry since moving from Melbourne to rural Queensland and buying their 400 acres at Mission Beach.

“We first came to Queensland in 1994 to escape the cold winters,” Chris said.

“We loved it and kept coming back year after year during winter and eventually came across this property at Mt Edna.

“It was a banana farm back then. We bought the place but didn’t want to grow bananas so we removed them and set up to run beef cattle but there wasn’t enough land for a full-time venture.

“After a few years commuting between Melbourne and North Queensland, we sold our inner-city apartment and business and moved here permanently.

“We looked at growing other fruit crops from macadamias and mangoes to lychees but most took too many years to bear fruit and I’m a bit impatient!

“Then I watch an ABC Landline show on cocoa. I knew chocolate was made from cocoa and chocolate is ‘moderately’ popular!  The rest, as they say, is history.”

Today Chris and Lynn successfully grow cocoa on Mt Edna and turn it into award-winning chocolate.

They also take guests on regular tours of their nursery, plantation and factory at 388 Cassowary Drive, Mission Beach, North Queensland.

For more information and booking details phone 4068 5011, email ask@charleys.com.au or visit www.charleys.com.au

 

Ancient people were chocolate lovers too

Traces of cocoa have been found in drinking vessels carbon dated to 3800 years ago, said Lynn Jahnke at Charley’s Chocolate Factory.

“The earliest civilisation associated with the drink is the Olmecs of southern Mexico.

“It’s thought the Olmecs watched animals crack open the cocoa pods but they spat out the part that’s now used to make chocolate.

“What they wanted was the sweet, sticky lining that protects the seeds.

“The Olmecs opened the pods, extracted the seeds and left them to ferment. They then let them dry in the sun, then lit fires and roasted the beans.

“They cracked the beans open and extracted the nibs, which they pound into a powder-like substance to make a beautiful and nutritious drink.

“How did they know to do that 3800 years ago? They didn’t have technology, food science, and chemistry as we do today. They just knew instinctively what to do.”

Lynn said that throughout most of its history, cocoa was a drink until English chocolate maker Joseph Frye made the first solid bar in 1847.

Today, 83 billion US dollars worth of chocolate are eaten worldwide every year and it takes five million tonnes of cocoa per year to make that much, said Chris Jahnke.

“Seventy per cent of that five million tonnes of cocoa is grown in West African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana.”

Statista figures show that in 2015 Switzerland had the highest per capita consumption of chocolate worldwide at 8.8 kilograms in that year. China ranked the lowest at only 200 grams per capita.

Chris said more recent studies ranked Australia at No. 7 in the world, just behind the United States at No. 6.

“Cocoa is a tropical tree that’s fussy about where it’s grown,” he said.

“It likes hot, humid conditions with lots of rain.

“Worldwide, cocoa grows most successfully within 15 degrees to the north and south of the Equator, provided the local conditions of high humidity and rainfall are also present.

“To grow cocoa in Australia, the best areas are in North Queensland near the coast between Tully and Mossman.”

Mission Beach is located between Tully and Mossman. At Charley’s Chocolate Factory, the plants are grown from seed and the chocolate is manufactured onsite.

Among their accolades, the Charley’s Chocolate Factory won the 2017 International Cocoa Award under the Cocoa of Excellence Program.

For more information visit www.charleys.com.au

chocolate

Meet camp oven cooking guru at Relish Festival

Camp oven cooking guru Ranger Nick will be one of the special guests at this year’s Relish Food and Wine Festival on June 2 in Queensland’s Heritage City of Maryborough.

Another fantastic addition to this year’s festival is a Gin Joint in the basement of the historic Bond Store where visitors will be able to taste various gin cocktails while watching a spicy burlesque performance.

Ranger Nick, whose appearance has been sponsored by Hervey Bay RV lifestyle community Latitude 25, will show visitors how to cook an amazing tasty meal using a camp oven and a small fire pit.

Relish organiser Robyn Peach, of Fraser Coast Tourism and Events, said Ranger Nick would join leading local chefs, including 2013 My Kitchen Rules winners Dan and Steph Mulheron, in showcasing the Fraser Coast region’s finest local produce.

She said festival goers would be able to dig into mouth-watering locally caught seafood, homegrown macadamia nuts and gourmet cheeses matched with awarding-winning wines and some of the finest craft beers from across south-east Queensland.

“Meet our local growers and makers, who love to share the fruits of their work, and our talented chefs who are passionate about providing the unmistakable stamp of our region in every dish,” Mrs Peach said.

“The immensely popular Relish Long Lunch is back again this year along with the Bubbles on the Boat cruises on the tranquil Mary River.”

She said the day of indulgence was set against the backdrop of the beautiful Portside Precinct among heritage streetscapes, Mary River parklands and the Mary River.

The jam-packed program includes a workshop at Gatakers Artspace to reveal the secrets of making sheets of botanical paper derived from common garden plants such as ginger, onion skins and turmeric.

And Kenilworth Dairies is promising some udderly delicious and nutritious tastings and hands-on masterclass workshops including one on how to make delicious dips using yoghurt.

“Livening up the atmosphere further will be rhythm and blues soul artist Doug Williams – a contestant on The Voice in 2014,” Mrs Peach said.

“Local favourite, the nine-piece band Soul City will also be performing throughout the day.”

The annual event began in 2012 and continues to promote and celebrate the Fraser Coast’s regional produce and food industry while allowing locals the chance to experience the breadth of local culinary offerings and giving people outside of the region a tasty excuse to visit.

General entry is $10 for those who buy tickets online or at the Visitor Information Centres in Hervey Bay and Maryborough ahead of the event or $15 at the gate, while the prices for the long lunch, cruise, cooking classes and gin joint can be found at relishfrasercoast.com.au.

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Stopover in Western Australia

 

Qantas is now flying daily direct on the Perth – London route and people are making the most of the new service to take some time out and explore Western Australia.

For Australian passengers travelling to or from other parts of the country on the direct route, Qantas is offering a Perth stopover with no additional stopover fee, depending on fare type.

This is a fantastic way to break up the journey and see more than just Perth.

Only an hour south of the capital by train or car, Mandurah and the Peel Region showcases the best of everything that WA is renowned for including stunning beaches and waterways, unrivalled seafood, world-recognised golf courses, spectacular views, history and culture, wineries, breweries, shopping and adventure.

Mandurah is Western Australia’s largest and fastest growing regional city and is set against a backdrop of magnificent beaches and an estuary twice the size of Sydney Harbour.

It has recently been named Western Australia’s Top Tourism Town and is the perfect base to take day trips to explore the wider Peel Region. In an easy half hour drive you’ll find beautiful wineries, breweries, winding waterways, rolling green hills and tiny timber towns nestled in the forest.

Mandurah and the Peel Region is home to one of Australia’s healthiest dolphin populations which you spot on a dolphin cruise or while dining in one of the many waterfront restaurants.

Seafood lovers will rejoice in the number of dining options available from the great Mandurah tradition of a picnic fish and chips on the newly refurbished foreshore to ‘catch and cook’ cruises featuring blue manna crabs, native to Mandurah waters, and rock lobster.

If you enjoy a spot of fishing, you’re sure to land a catch in the Peel Region.

Mandurah boasts Western Australia’s own modern Venice, with a network of canals featuring luxury homes. You can hire a boat and cruise them yourself or join an organised tour.

If it’s a holiday with a difference you’re after, Mandurah is the only place near Perth you can hire a houseboat. Completely unwind and take in the views while slowly meandering down the Murray River or Peel-Harvey-Estuary for days at a time.

Travel Facts

Getting there

Mandurah is less than an hour south of Perth. When driving, travel the Kwinana freeway south, easily accessible from many points in Perth, and exit at Mandjoogoordap Drive. Trains and buses operate between the two cities and depart from the Perth city centre. www.transperth.wa.gov.au

Staying there

Mandurah and the Peel Region has a range of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. There is a choice of resort hotels, caravan and camping facilities, charming bed and breakfast accommodation, self-contained apartments, forest cabins and even houseboats for hire.

Getting around

Buses operate around Mandurah, but if you want to explore the Peel Region extensively you can hire a car or join a tour. Taxis and Uber drivers are also available in Mandurah.

When to go

The Peel Region can be visited any time of the year. Being on the coast, it’s spectacular in spring and in summer. But during winter, the scenery is amazing. You can find something to do all year around.

Further Information on Mandurah and the Peel Region visit www.visitpeel.com.au