Charles Lemai, Atypic Chocolate’s founder and chocolatier, has been in the pastry business for more than two decades. He began his apprenticeship in France when he was just 14 years old, which paved the way for his specialty handmade chocolate.
“In France, when you’re doing your degree to be a pastry chef, chocolate is also part of your education,” Lemai says. “I’ve been working for the past 20 years as a pastry chef and chocolate has always been part of it.”
Behind a sheet of glass at his new store in South Melbourne Market, the entire “bean-to-bar” process is on display, with Lemai working in a room set at a chocolate-friendly 20 degrees Celsius.
“Our chocolate is made in front of [the customers] … They can see everything through a window, from the roasting to the winnowing to the conching,” he says. “Everything is made within the facility in the South Melbourne Market, so there is nothing that comes from anywhere else.”
Lemai and his partner Yu Chi import ethically grown cacao beans from the Solomon Islands, Haiti, Brazil and Madagascar, then blend them with organic milk, raw sugar and non-GMO sunflower lecithin to make single-origin bars in white, dark and milk-chocolate varieties.
As with wine, each region imparts its own distinct flavour. The Solomon Islands chocolate has a nuttier profile. The Brazilian is grape-y and vegetal. And the Madagascan beans have notes of acidic red fruits. But if you have to choose one, make it the 70 per cent cacao Haiti, which loses the fruitiness for an earthy, mineral character. Lemai doesn’t use refined sugar, instead sweetening his products with either raw or rapadura sugar, both organic.
Atypic also serves European-style single-origin hot chocolates, pastries and American-style brownies. In summer there will be house-made soft serve. Don’t leave without a merveilleux – the intensely rich, chocolate-shaving-dusted, whipped-cream sandwich with meringue “bread” that’s popular in Lemai’s hometown of Lille.
“I don’t want to do too many kinds of pastries, so I focus really on this one, the merveilleux,” Lemai says. “And the chocolate blocks.
“It’s all about the passion of the chocolate, I just want the customers to feel this passion.”
South Melbourne Market, 326/322 Coventry Street, South Melbourne
0481 229 961
Sat & Sun 8am–4pm