It’s true that each major Australian city has a few things it’s well-known for. Think about Adelaide, for example, and churches will spring to mind. Sydney has the Opera House and Harbour Bridge to set it apart, likewise Parliament House, roundabouts and an obscenely-shaped owl statue make Canberra, Canberra.
A long brown river snakes only through Brisbane, Perth has Kings Park and quokkas, and the odd combo of crocodiles, water parks and World War II history could only exist in Darwin. And let’s not forget our southernmost city slickers in Hobart, who gaze up the snow-capped peaks of Mt Wellington, shop at the Salamanca Market and critique art at MONA.
Perhaps the quirkiest city in Oz, however, is back over on the mainland. Full of hip laneways, each like a graffitied world of its own; the ding-ding of trams; Flinders Street Station; crazy-good coffee everywhere; people wearing black; horse-drawn carriages; and a swimming pool named after our suspected-drowned former Prime Minister Harold Holt, Melbourne stands apart from the rest of Australia in so many ways.
But nothing is more quintessentially Melbourne than the practice of turning old, discarded and disused items into other things. Remember milk crates repurposed into (uncomfortable) café furniture? Melbourne. A tram becomes a restaurant? So very Melbourne.
So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that a tiny square of real estate in the form of an old lift shaft (in a laneway, no less!) now houses an artisan chocolatier in a display of Melbournian reduce, reuse and recycle.
Enter Mörk Chocolate from stage-left, like Dame Nellie Melba taking to the theatre.
Making its entire range of specialty drinking chocolate available in the heart of the city, Mörk opened its doors—or window—at 20 Equitable Place with a soft opening on September 7 and a bigger celebration to follow post-pandemic.
Housed in an old lift shaft in one of the city’s most bustling laneways, known for its specialty coffee shops and restaurants, owners Kiril Shaginov and Josefin Zernell have spent the better part of the past year transforming this tiny space to be fit for purpose: providing the city with exceptional hot chocolate and famous cinnamon buns from sister company, Söt by Mörk, along with a wide range of other handmade products.
While this unique store is new, the Mörk story stretches back almost a decade, with the company pushing the boundaries of drinking chocolate since its inception in 2012. Hot chocolate is often treated like a children’s drink, but Mörk’s flagship brew house in North Melbourne aimed to return the comforting drink to the place it used to hold in cultures before the Europeans hijacked it.
Inspired by Melbourne’s famous coffee culture, Kiril and his partner, Josefin, created their very first hot chocolate blend using the same approach taken by specialty coffee-makers: respect for the traceability, quality and unique origin of ingredients all the way from bean to cup.
“At Mörk, we focus on the traceability of everything we make,” they say.
“Traceability means knowing—at every step of production—what happens to the ingredients we use and the people and practises involved along the way.”
Kiril and Josefin take their commitment to making a truly ethical product seriously. In fact, despite some of their chocolate products being Organic and Fair Trade Certified, they choose not to highlight this on their packaging, saying: “While we believe the concept behind Fair Trade is important, it’s not quite enough to ensure that a product has been ethically produced or prepared, or that its quality is guaranteed.
“One reason for this is a lack of universal regulation over the use of the label, which can make things confusing for consumers who wish to make informed choices. Another reason is that, in the industry of high-quality, aromatic cacao and chocolate, many farmers cannot afford a Fair Trade certification, unlike bigger businesses and cooperatives.
“We think that a commitment to the traceability of ingredients is a better way forward. For us, that means personally sourcing each ingredient used to make Mörk chocolate, and working directly with independent businesses from all over the world in a way that supports ethical and sustainable trade practices. That way, we can be sure the small producers we buy from are able to compete on the market and receive fair prices for their ingredients.”
This commitment also means customers get to enjoy a truly specialty chocolate, unlike anything they’re likely to have tried before.
Their secret ingredient? It’s actually not a secret at all. All-natural Peruvian, single-origin cacao powder for mouthfeel, body, balance and a rich, deep, well-rounded flavour; organic, unrefined coconut blossom sugar and cacao liquor sourced from Sur del Lago in South-Western Venezuela—one of the oldest cacao growing regions in the world.
Spanning approximately 5000 ha of land, it demonstrates exceptional growing conditions for the more delicate varieties of cacao, such as the rare and aromatic Trinitario variety used in Mörk’s blends.
The Sur del Lago cacao liquor is characterised by richly distinct notes of ripe red berries, sweet almonds and stone fruit.
If this all sounds a bit beyond what you understand about chocolate, Kiril and Josefin clarify, explaining, “it sounds exotic, but cacao liquor is simply honest, unsweetened dark chocolate.”
Their most celebrated menu item, Campfire Hot Chocolate, is blended to play on the nostalgia of childhood days in wintery cold Scandinavia—a combination of Mörk chocolate with maple wood smoke, charcoal salt, and a toasted handmade marshmallow.
Since creating that first blend, Mörk Chocolate has gone on to launch internationally, with their quality blends now served in the best cafes and restaurants in the UK, Europe, USA and Japan.
And just to take things to the next level, they opened the wholesale cake arm of the venture, Söt by Mörk, opened in 2018.
Fittingly, ‘Söt’ is Swedish for ‘sweet’, and the range of distinctly-Scandi cakes, pastries, biscuits, brownies and buns are made to go hand-in-hand with their drinking chocolate or a coffee.
Upon opening Mörk City, they said: “We are humbled to have a standing within Melbourne as the city’s favourite drinking chocolate and as we lead up to Mörk’s 10-year anniversary, the opening of a second location for the brand is a celebration of resilience in a changing world and a dedication to honour the city we love for all it has to offer.”
If you’re wondering what a purveyor of hot chocolate has to offer as we hurtle into a typically-blazing Australian summer, wonder no more: like the Campfire Hot Chocolate, the Frozen Campfire ‘Mörkshake’ is made with dark chocolate, toasted marshmallow and gently infused with maple wood smoke—plus house made ice cream and topped with chocolate biscuit ‘coals’.