In its simplest form, chocolate contains three ingredients: sugar, cocoa beans and cocoa butter. (And milk, in the case of milk chocolate.) Add cream and you get rich, supple ganache.
Nama chocolate, popularised in Japan by the brands Royce and Meiji, is a type of ganache. It’s sold in neat pre-cut blocks dusted with cocoa powder, and often flavoured with tea or a liqueur.
Making the stuff is a delicate process. Add too much chocolate, and you don’t get that silky mouthfeel. Not enough, and you end up with sad trays of split chocolate milk. It’s one of those things that sounds easy on paper but takes years of experience to execute consistently. You also need the right equipment to mix, solidify, roll, and cut the chocolate at the optimum temperature of four to seven degrees Celsius. Some people claim the mixture’s moisture level has to be maintained at 17 per cent throughout the entire process.
Nama choco (as it’s called in Japan) is the star product of Mamé Cocoa, an online-only business from Santiago Cuyugan, Savour’s 2017 Pâtissier of the Year and head chocolatier at Bibelot.
“When it first opened, my wife and I frequented 279 [a Japanese cafe in West Melbourne] so often that they invited me to host chocolate-tasting sessions,” Cuyugan says. “Some of the chocolates I offered were the nama chocos, which were more like conceptual prototypes.
“My wife Yukiyo became pregnant in early 2020. That’s when I decided to move my arse and be more proactive. During one of her ultrasound sessions, we thought the baby looked just like a cocoa bean, hence the Japanese name “mamé” [bean] to represent the start of our new lives and my new venture.”
To make his nama choco Cuyugan sources fine chocolate from France, Switzerland and Belgium, then pairs it with local cream and cultured butter. Sometimes it gets a Japanese twist with matcha (green tea) or yuzu (a citrus fruit native to east Asia).
Due to his existing job, Cuyugan delivers his goods just once a month. A mixed box of nama choco contains three varieties: matcha, 41 per cent milk chocolate and 70 per cent dark chocolate. There’s also a mixed cookie box containing four types: matcha shortbread; melting strawberry and white chocolate (“these cookies dissolve in your mouth leaving you wanting more”); white chocolate langue de chat; and the Oreo-riffing Yuzu-Oh, containing yuzu-infused chocolate sandwiched between two chocolate biscuits.