In just a few years Pana Chocolate founder Pana Barbounis has unwittingly formed a cacao cult. Acceding to demand for his signature 45-gram bars of raw, vegan chocolate, the chocolatier has opened his first raw-dessert shop in Richmond.
On Church Street’s busy business strip, Pana is a sanctuary for the sweet toothed. There are no sugar-loaded ‘chocolate’ treats here. All you’ll find to indulge in are natural desserts made only from plant-based, organic ingredients. Cacao beans from the Amazon, coconut oil cold pressed in the Philippines and dark agave nectar from Mexico form full-flavoured treats.
Barbounis has come up with the Vespa Wheel (distant cousin to the Wagon), a buckwheat wafer biscuit with a soft coconut marshmallow centre encased in a gooey raspberry chia jam and dipped in cacao. More familiar items include a near-endless selection of truffles, ganache, fudge, cookies, lamingtons, cream-pops and brownies.
To Barbounis it’s all about introducing people to alternatives to processed food. “I don’t want anybody to have a block of sugar, I care about people being able to access organic, raw, healthy chocolate,” he explains. “I feel raw dessert making taps into a traditional element of handmade crafting.”
Production of the 10 types of bar – including the dense and richly textured fig with wild orange, sour cherry with vanilla and mint – happens by hand in a small-scale kitchen behind the shop. Barbounis believes that what remains at the core of Pana is its handcrafted quality: “When you open up the packaging, you can tell that a human has made and wrapped the chocolate, and there is an instant connection.”
491 Church Street, Richmond
Mon to Fri 10am–5pm