Pana Chocolate – Raw, Healthy, Handmade & Guilt-free!

panda 5 rating

Pana Chocolate was founded by Pana Barbounis – who is passionate about raw and slow-cooked food – and following on from the success of his 45 gram raw, vegan chocolate bars has opened his first standalone raw-dessert shop.

Pana Chocolate is a wonderful addition to the Church Street, Richmond area and serves up healthy handmade raw, delicious tasting and looking desserts, as well interestingly flavoured chocolate bars. Pana Chocolate uses natural, vegan and organic ingredients like cacao, nuts, coconut and 100% pure essential oils to create wonderful and unique flavour combinations – which include Fig + Wild Orange, Sour Cherry + Vanilla, Rose and Mint just to name a few.

Prepare to be overwhelmed with the number of selections here which leaves you wanting to try out one of each. As mentioned before no desserts are made or sweetened with sugar but are all natural and made from plant-based, organic ingredients sourced from all around the world. Cacao beans come from the Amazon, Coconut Oil has been cold pressed in the Philippines,  Dark Agave Nectar comes from Mexico, Cinnamon is organic and certified from Sri Lanka (where I am from!!), Cacao Butter is organic, cold pressed and fair trade from Peru and organic carob comes from Spain.

The space is simple and clean – with most of its offerings for takeaway patrons – however if you did want to eat in there is a row of seats available by the window looking out onto Church street. I love the décor of Pana Chocolate – there is an entire wall that is covered with clipboards that have cute, inspirational quotes and sayings on them. This adds color, brightness and wow factor in such an easy and simple manner. Such an awesome idea – Love it!

There are 10 different types of chocolate bars to choose from– Eighty (80 % Cacao), Raw Cacao, Orange, Coconut + Goji, Fig + Wild Orange, Rose, Sour Cherry +Vanilla, Cinnamon, Nuts and Mint. All chocolates are low in GI, have no dairy or soy, are Gluten Free and are handmade. In fact they are all handmade in a small scale kitchen located at the back of the shop. A major difference with these chocolates is that you can envision and see the love and care that has been placed into each bar of chocolate or dessert for that matter – down to the packaging and wrapping of each individual piece – it has been done by hand and provides a human connection.

I have tried the Sour Cherry + Vanilla, as well as the Fig + Wild Orange flavours. Between those two the Sour Cherry + Vanilla would have to be my favourite – the chocolate is smooth, silky and not overly rich and literally melts in your mouth – with the sour cherry adding a great tangy sensation that glides over your tastebuds. The Fig + Wild Orange was also great – the combination works brilliantly together and if you are into the citrus flavours this would be one for you to try.

The piece of resistance at Pana Chocolate is the cabinet of goodies. The first row is full of their raw cheesecake / desserts of the day which are in a slice format, that can range from Raspberry Ripe (their version of a Cherry Ripe), Chocolate Strawberry & Rose, Spiced Apple, Blueberry & Ganache, Banana & Chocolate – these range from $6.50 to $8.50.
Their second row has smaller bite sized treats such as Lamingtons, Lemon Slice (this is new!), Pana Pop (more on this later), Brownie, Vespa Wheel (their version of a Wagon Wheel – complete with a buckwheat wafer biscuit and a soft coconut marshmallow centre encased in a gooey raspberry chia jam and dipped in cacao) and Fudge just to name a few – these range from $3.50 to $5.50.
The third row is full of individual raw chocolates like hazelnut mousse, coconut barrels and truffles – in flavours such as Coconut & Mint Cream, Rose & Pistachio, Hazelnut Praline, Sneakers (yep spelt like this), Lavender & Macqui, Mango & Salted Caramel and Coconut Barrel – there are more flavours in store!
At the very bottom of the cabinet are their chocolate bars in all the 10 flavours mentioned above for sale ($6.50).
There are also other healthy goodies for sale – from coconut water, coconut + cacao balls to their very own hot chocolate sealed with the pana heart of approval.

After marvelling at the cabinet of goodies and spending a good 5 minutes oohing and aahing I decided to ask the friendly staff member of what she thought would be good try out and settled on the Pana Pop as well as the Fresh Mint & Raspberry slice.

The Pana Pop – was a white chocolate cheesecake with a berry centre coated in delicious cacao – represented a mini Magnum. From the very first bite you could tell this would be a memorable treat – the soft textured coating coupled with the creamy white chocolate cheesecake and zing from the berries worked perfectly together. You could almost eat the entire Pana Pop in one mouthful – but I would advise against this and instead treasure every mouthful; or you could just order another Pana Pop!

The Fresh Mint & Raspberry slice was another winner. There were three distinct layers – the bottom layer being a combination of cashew and brazil nuts, the centre layer being the mint and the top layer representing raspberry. The consistency of all layers was dense yet smooth – with the perfect level of sweetness across all three layers. I couldn’t really taste the mint flavour that strongly – although the strip of green at the very top held quite the minty flavour. I love the use of the fresh raspberries through the raspberry layer which not only added texture but extra flavour. The base was wholesome and added further texture and flavour bringing the whole slice together.

I enjoyed my time thoroughly at Pana Chocolate – I actually perched myself in a corner seat by the window and enjoyed these treats whilst working away on my laptop. On my way out I ordered a lamington to take away (as I had been told by a friend that these were simply superb!) which was packed away in a takeaway bag and sealed with a massive heart sticker – the Pana symbol – which I thought was really cute.

Whether you are into healthy eating, have certain dietary requirements or not – Pana Chocolate is definitely a place to check out. It produces great tasting chocolate that have been lovingly prepared using quality ingredients for anyone and everyone to enjoy.

Rating : 5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – The dessert menu changes daily but no doubt whatever dessert treat you get it will be delicious!
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Simple, Cosy and Enticing
Standout Dish: Pana Pop
Service: Very very friendly and helpful (especially when you are overwhelmed with choice and don’t know what you want)
Restaurant Details and Location:
panachocolate.com
491 Church St, Richmond

Opening Hours:
Monday to Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday: 10:00am – 4:00pm

Pana Chocolate on Urbanspoon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/panachocolate
Twitter: @pana_chocolate
Instgram:pana_chocolate

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Theic Tea Bar – Welcome to the World of Tea

Menu:
Theic Tea Bar Menu  Theic Tea Bar Teas 1  Theic Tea Bar Teas 2Theic Tea Bar Teas 3  Theic Tea Bar Teas 4

I love tea as much as people love coffee, but it has been a more recent love – I would say in the last 4-5 years. Theic Tea Bar is a pop up store which is located inside the INSITU Furniture Gallery in Collingwood and serves a variety – 24 in fact – of specialty teas and is owned and run by Nathan Wakeford (Somage Fine Foods) from their Chamellia range.

You can literally spend hours if not the whole day here at this pop-up sipping on different cups of tea, trying out the colourful and intriguing furniture that is around and eating the delicious delicacies in the form of sweets. There is a small range of vegan and mostly raw bites, as well as some pieces being gluten free  – which range from small treats to medium eats – and from reading the descriptions they all sound delicious and serve as a the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. There are sweets such as Pana Chocolate Raw Passionfruit Cheesecake to the Raw Chocolate Donut and Snickers Ball. These are created thanks to the working combination of Chinta Desserts, Loafer Bakery and Botanical Cuisine. If you wanted “A little bit more” – there is a selection of a Raw Vegan Salad and a Theic Tasting Plate which consists of raw linseed crackers, dried fruits nuts and 2 dips of your choice from the 4 on offer all for $10. Dips include Carrot & Fennel Pate, Victorian Olive Pate, Lemon & Dill “Cheese” and Mushroom &Truffle Pate.

The name itself means is quite interesting and means ‘‘a tea drunkard, one prone to the immoderate consumption of tea’ – and it really does represent what Nathan is about. He is all about the tea and brewing it with love using the utmost care and perfect temperature. If that is not enough he drives almost two hours up Mount Donna Buang to collect fresh spring water and fills massive jugs to bring them back to Melbourne. This is the ensure Theic Tea Bar is brewing their Chamellia tea with the best of waters to further enhance the tea flavour.

Now to the teas – there are pages and pages to choose from and the specialty brews come from Korea, Sri Lanka, Nepal and China and include white teas, green teas, blooming teas, oolongs, black teas, tisane, puerhs, herbals, iced teas, a rooibos from South Africa and tea lattes. The Benifuuki Green Tea Latte sounded simply magnificient but after my third cup of tea (and unfortunately I couldn’t stay for much longer at the Tea Bar) – I was too full to try it out. This green tea comes with raw panella sugar and served with either soy or rice milk.

The tea is brewed using the spring water from Mount Donna Buang in boilers which are adjusted to the specific temperature that is required of each tea. The tea leaves are then placed in handmade teapots and pre-rinsed and served. The serving presentation is fantastic – there is a wooden tray as a base together with the teapot which was used to brew the tea, another vessel where the tea has been poured out into, as well as a cup which you use to drink the splendid tea and sometimes a square dish which shows you the brewed leaves. It really is a cute and great style.

Each tea that is served to you comes with an information card – which is another great little idea – and provides you with a background and description of the tea on one side, and facts such as water temperature, amount of tea to use, number of infusions and the grading on the other side.

The first tea that I tried was he Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea. This tea had a great floral aroma and had a great sweet taste to it. This tea is from Taiwan in the Miaoli Country region and had two infusions. The second infusion was just as nice as the first infusion – it enhanced the floral and sweet flavours of the tea. To go with tea I ordered the Pana Chocolate Raw Passionfruit Cheesecake – which was a bite sized piece of deliciousness. The passionfruit cheesecake was a great flavour combination – sour and sweet perfection with the chocolate base and topped with coconut.

I was tossing up between getting another tea and getting the Benifuuki Green Tea Latte. I settled for the Himalayan Spring White Tea which comes from Nepal in the Maipokhari, Ilam region. This tea was more crisp and flowery at the same time. I did enjoy this second tea a fraction more than the first one – but having said that both of the teas were fantastic.

Theic Tea Bar is such a fantastic concept and the staff really do have a passion and love for tea and are super friendly. There was another staff member who was infusing her first teas and I got to watch as Nathan taught her how to perfect the process. It is such a great place to come on the weekend to sit back, relax, unwind and drink some really delicious teas and eat some great tasting sweets.

Theic Tea Bar
https://www.facebook.com/theicspecialtyteabar

Tel No: 0438 770 087

Theic Tea Bar on Urbanspoon

NOTE: They were located at 77 Cromwell St, Collingwood – however are no longer there. Please visit their Facebook page to see where they will “pop-up” next.