You’ll probably smell Atypic before you see it. The dark scent of homemade couverture wafts through the passages of South Melbourne Market. Approximate smell radius: 15 metres. You’ll find your nose twitching like a compass needle, swinging to point due chocolate.
Atypic is the newest South Melbourne resident, and it’s already rivalling Agathé Pâtisserie and that $3 borek place as the most exciting stall in the entire market. It’s the brainchild of French-trained pastry chef-turned-chocolatier Charles Lemai and his business partner, Chi. The specialty? A been to bar process, handcrafting single-origin, small batch chocolate.
The idea came from a visit to Vietnam. Charles met a chocolate maker there who taught him how to take raw cacao beans and transform them into silky, artisan chocolate (that’s the bean-to-bar philosophy).
“Chocolate takes centre stage in our stall and the design creates a deep sense of appreciation for the process of chocolate making. I want customers to feel my passion for chocolate and see the entire bean-to-bar process on a micro level”, Charles says.
The ‘seeing’ is important, which is why Atypic creates all its chocolate on-site. You can actually look through the windows, next to the retail chocolate space, and see the process happening. The 42sqm space is humidity controlled, set at a balmy 20 degrees. It’s here you can observe Atypic’s chocolatiers roasting the cacao nibs, dehusking (also known as winnowing), grinding them to a powder, refining the flavour and texture, and molding the gooey and glorious final product. You can imagine what all that does for the appetite...
The shop itself sells handmade chocolate bars, gift packs, single-origin choc tablets (in dark, milk or white) and choc-based pastries (the brownies and hazelnut merveilleux are intense). There’s also crisp meringue with organic praline, Euro-style hot chocolate, melted from house-made couverture, and choc-coated banana bread. Need a cherry on top? In summer they’re gonna artisan chocolate soft serve. ‘Nuff said.
Image credit: Bonnie Savage