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 or visit


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


Savour top food on railway journey

Pumpkin and Spinach Filo served with seasonal salad and Balsamic Dressing along with Caramel Mousse for dessert – I’ve never tasted railway food this good!

I’d boarded the Spirit of Queensland at Maryborough West the evening before bound for North Queensland and barely had time to settle when staff delivered Beef Medallion with roasted potato and veggies for dinner, directly to my seat.  

On picking up the cutlery, I was transported back more than 40 years to when I used a small pocket knife to cut a fruit cake to share with my travelling friend Rose.

Rose and I were the only passengers on the old wooden freight train running between Barcaldine and Rockhampton in Central Queensland.

Both daughters of railway workers, we were looking for adventure and chose the familiar transport. The fruit cake we brought with us was our only food.

Since then I’ve enjoyed many rail journeys, among them on Queensland’s Tilt Train, Spirit of the Outback, and Tasmania’s West Coast Wilderness Railway between Queenstown and Strahan.

However, before this month’s 17-hour trip from Maryborough to Tully, I’d never experienced long distance rail travel in Business Class. I’ve always taken Economy seats or, on overnight journeys, bunked in Sleeper Cabins.

This time I was keen to try one of the new RailBeds I’d seen on Queensland Rail’s website. Basically, a RailBed is a large set by day that converts to a flat bed by night.

They’re placed three abreast, two on one side of the aisle and one on the other. 

The RailBed Car had an airline feel to it with a trolley service for meals and complimentary drink upon arrival. A Club Car was nearby to purchase other drinks and snacks.  

I could watch movies on an individual screen and there was even a 24-Volt Power Point on my chair armrests to recharge my mobile phone.

Pressing an orange button above my seat alerted staff that I was ready for bed. They flipped the seat to convert it to a mattress and even made my bed.

A shower pack and towel was provided if I wanted to freshen up before turning in for the night. As with airlines, the Car’s lights were dimmed and curtains closed.

In the morning, I only had to press the orange button again and staff converted my bed back to a seat.

While the seat was quite firm and the footrest too far away for my short legs to reach, overall my first RailBed experience was comfortable, the service was awesome and the food absolutely terrific. All meals were included in the package price. 

For anyone travelling from Brisbane to Cairns and/or return, if you can spare a day to sit back and relax, choosing a Spirit of Queensland RailBed is an excellent alternative to an air flight.


Muddy Waters keeps on rollin’

The wheels of change keep on turning for Muddy Waters Cafe

FIVE Spice Chilli Salt Squid with Green Papaya Salad and Tamarind and Palm Sugar Dressing is a far cry from the traditional stews served 150 years ago when sly grog running was rife and opium was a legal import at Queensland’s Port of Maryborough.

Where merchants once paid taxes, food-savy tourists now eagerly part with dollars to dine at Muddy Waters Cafe, close to where Mary Poppins and masses of other costumed characters flock during festival times.

Muddy Waters Cafe is found in the rear section of the historic Maryborough Customs House that overlooks the Mary River, home to the Queensland Lungfish and endangered Mary River Turtle.

Muddy Waters Cafe owners Michael and Mia Cox no longer worry about floods.

Muddy Waters Cafe owners Michael and Mia Cox no longer worry about floods.

More than 150 years ago, the river brought prosperity to the region but it also wreaked havoc when in 1893 it reached the record level of 22.20 metres and destroyed everything in its path.

A lot of water has passed under the Lamington and Granville bridges since then.

Muddy Waters Cafe owner and head chef Michael Cox and his wife Mia recently celebrated their first anniversary in the historic building, high above their old site.

To the east, the cafe’s name can still be seen painted on the wall of a near-abandoned marina where the low-lying riverside location caused them some hassles over the years.

“I worked there with the previous owner and saw a minor flood where they had to chock things up on bricks,” Michael says.

“A proposed dam in the Mary River Valley was set to solve the major floods so we thought any future floods shouldn’t be too bad. But after the dam failed to be built, our café went under water five times in three years.

“In our three years down there we couldn’t trade for a total of eight months and that hurt. If we didn’t have family helping us out, we wouldn’t be here. That’s what Maryborough’s all about – families.”

Although festivals such as the annual Relish Food and Wine Festival, World’s Greatest Pub Fest and Mary Poppins Festival bring the community out in force, this family-oriented city is not just popular with locals.

“Tourists love the river and the parks are fantastic,” he says.

“Wharf Street has the finest 1870s architecture that survives within Queensland today. Gataker’s Artspace is doing fantastic things and the Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum is regarded as one of the best community museums in Australia with over 3000 items of memorabilia.

“A few years ago Wharf Street was voted as being among the Top 10 tourist destinations in Queensland to see.

“Maryborough suits us just fine. We don’t like big cities but we like big city food.”

Five Spice Chilli Salt Squid with Green Papaya Salad and Tamarind and Palm Sugar Dressing is just one of the exceptional meals Michael, Mia and their team serve at Muddy Waters Cafe.

“It’s nice and fresh, made with five spices and chilli, so you get the five senses that appeal to Asian customers at the moment,” Michael says.

“We use mainly local produce and have a passion to provide healthy alternatives. Instead of simply having Salt and Pepper Squid that’s deep fried, our version is much healthier and very popular.”

Muddy Waters Cafe overlooks the Mary River.

Muddy Waters Cafe overlooks the Mary River in Maryborough, Qld.

With more than 30 years experience behind them, the Muddy Waters team serves a wide variety of delicious cuisine from Buttermilk Pancakes for breakfast to Citrus Cured Salmon with Zucchini and Corn Fritters, Avocado and Crème fraîche for lunch, and Braised Pork Belly with Ruby Grapefruit Salad, Black Pepper Caramel and Five Spice Crackling for dinner.

Muddy Waters Cafe is located at the rear of Maryborough Customs House, 133 Wharf Street, Maryborough, Queensland, and opens from Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm. For bookings or information, phone (07) 4121 5011.

For a guide to Maryborough’s historic port district known as Portside and the wider city visit the Customs House Interpretive Centre, next to Muddy Waters Cafe or visit