We talk to specialty hot chocolatiers Mörk Chocolate about their recent launch into the United Kingdom and future plans to move into the U.S.A.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Kiril Shaginov
Melbourne, Australia-based specialty hot chocolate purveyor Mörk hails from a specialty-coffee background. With a similar approach to careful sourcing and traceability (they call it the “cacao-bean-to-cup experience”), owners Kiril Shaginov and Josefin Zernell started the company eight years ago, launching the Mörk Chocolate Brew House three years into the business; its on-site Campfire Hot Chocolate has attracted Australian foodies by the masses. Mörk is only climbing from here; with a recent launch into the United Kingdom, the husband-and-wife team plan to make their way over to the United States soon thanks to the demand from the area. We spoke to Kiril about Mörk’s specialty approach and how they plan on carrying the brand beyond Melbourne.
Katrina Yentch: You have a specialty-coffee background. What made you switch over to chocolate, and why did you decide to keep a specialty-coffee model with Mörk?
Kiril Shaginov: Josefin is a chocolatier, so when the opportunity came up to combine our skill sets in both specialty coffee and chocolate, we jumped on it. We saw a strong alignment with the specialty-coffee industry, with the same values, need for traceability, and quality approach: no compromises. We saw a chance to grow our own and the café consumer’s knowledge about cacao through making the connections to coffee culture and putting emphasis on the many steps that go into making truly good chocolate.
What are some highlights of Mörk chocolate that you can’t find with any other chocolate company?
We started Mörk because we wanted to create a product that could live up to our own high expectations, and so took no short cuts in doing so. That passion has been the driving force for us, using the highest-quality cacao, with focus on traceability and placing as much emphasis on brewing it correctly as any coffee roaster would for their beans.
While hot chocolate most often is treated like a kids’ drink, we wanted to take it to a level where it belongs, in fact return it to a place that it used to hold in cultures before the Europeans got their hands on it. We worked to achieve that in our brew house in North Melbourne, playing with the idea of creating an experience of it and introducing all the senses to the table. Campfire Hot Chocolate has been our most celebrated menu item, combining our chocolate with maple wood smoke, charcoal salt, and a toasted handmade marshmallow, an experience that plays on the nostalgia of childhood days in wintery cold Scandinavia.
What kinds of markets do you mainly wholesale for right now (grocery, cafés, etc)? Do you have a particular focus?
We have had our strongest focus on cafés. We feel that is where our chocolate speaks for itself, through great baristas and staff that proudly serve it. And it gives us the opportunity to work with the teams on nailing the brew method for Mörk, sometimes even customising the serving of it to their menu, or how they communicate it to their guests.
What made you decide to launch into the U.K.? Are you going to be doing anything differently in this market from the Australian market?
We launched in the U.K. because of the number of requests we had from there, and it made a lot of sense to us to step into a market closer to our (Josefin’s) home base. Also with the winters being longer, there is a keen desire for hot chocolate! We quickly found that there was an interest for Mörk across the niche specialty-coffee scene in Europe, everywhere from Portugal to Hungary. It’s an amazing feeling knowing our chocolate has made it so far!
Our next venture, opening Mörk in U.S.A. this year, was also due to eager enquiries that were coming from there, and we were excited about taking our chocolate where such an incredible third-wave chocolate culture thrives. Some of the best chocolate makers in the world are based in the U.S.A.
We made the decision early on to produce in each country we supply, and now have production in both the U.K. and U.S.A. It makes so much more sense on an environmental level, as well as for keeping our chocolate as fresh as possible.
Every market in different parts of the world will be slightly different, and especially the Australian market with our extreme weather conditions. So we approach each market a little different, while always working closely with baristas and café operators to introduce the chocolate in places where there already is a strong focus on specialty beverages and food.