The second day of the bloggers’ trip to Melbourne, made possible by Tourism Australia, Jetstar and omy.sg, looked to be an exciting one, even for the less adventurous ones who decided against going on a helicopter ride or hurtling down the snow lined slopes of Mount Buller. There was the promise of penguins of course – but what was to start a visit to Phillip Island, a two-hour drive south-east of Melbourne was a visit to a chocolate waterfall near Newhaven. At the start of the trip, the wet and wild morning that was very evident threatened to give us a real waterfall instead as heavy rain pelted on the windscreen of the rental that Tourism Victoria’s Media and Trade Relations Coordinator, Tony Poletto, drove us in. The grey skies accompanied us throughout the drive up to the point that we reached San Remo, from where a bridge connects the mainland to Phillip Island and what welcomed us to the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory were bulls and brilliant blue skies.
The brilliant blue skies that greeted our arrival at the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory.
The overhead lines of the trams seen against the backdrop of the grey skies through the rain pelted windscreen of the car as we started the journey.
The coastline close to San Remo on a wet and wild morning.
Stepping inside, we were greeted by Panny Letchumanan, whose brainchild the chocolate factory and Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate is. Panny who hails from – would you believe it – Klang in Malaysia, after a short introduction, led us through a corridor lined with mock chocolate into his Amazing World of Chocolate, but not before we were reminded not to lick the very real looking mock chocolate lining.
A reminder not to lick the walls.
Inside, we first came to an educational exhibit of the steps in the chocolate making process from the harvesting of cocoa to the finished products we see on the shelves, which anyone, chocolate lover or not, would find interesting. Further in, we were greeted by some amazing chocolate creations. These include an eye-catching 12,000 piece chocolate mosaic of Dame Edna Everage – a popular Australian TV character, a huge one tonne block of chocolate, and a miniature village crafted completely out of chocolate complete with working model trains. It is also in Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate, that we encounter Phillip Island’s chocolate waterfall. Some 400 kg of molten chocolate flows over what should really be called a chocolatefall once every three minutes – an amazing sight!
The 'chocolate waterfall' over which 400 kg of molten chocolate flows once every three minutes.
A wheel indicating when the chocolate would fall over.
A mock cocoa tree at the Educational Exhibition section.
A mosaic of Dame Edna created entirely out of chocolate.
A miniature chocolate village.
We were also able to try our hand at our own creations – which we could eat. Valyn, of the Best Fashion Blog fame tried her hand at something better – a weird combo of wasabi and cola flavoured chocolate made at the press of a few buttons and the pull of a lever at Panny’s Amazing Chocolate Machine. One bite of that was certainly enough to clear the sinuses! As we walk through there is also a section where we are able to see chocolate being moulded and it was at this juncture that the short but thoroughly enjoyable tour of Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate ended and it was time to say our goodbyes after a quick look around the retail shop and Pannys Chocolate Café.
Valyn making her cola-wasabi bar at Panny’s Amazing Chocolate Machine.
The Retail Shop.
Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
930 Phillip Island Rd
Newhaven VIC 3925
Tel: (03) 5956 6600
Fax: (03) 5956 6823
This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.
Brief history of Pannys and the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
A tin shed on a busy road may not the ideal spot for the next big thing on Phillip Island, but Panny Letchumanan has been able to turn an underperforming coffee shop into a stunning tourist attraction in just a few short years. The Phillip Island Chocolate Factory at Newhaven is home to Pannys, both the chocolate brand and the man himself, and has become a key destination for chocolate lovers.
Panny has led a fascinating life. Born in Malaysia of Indian heritage, he trained as a Mechanical Engineer and worked extensively in his chosen field throughout the coconut and cocoa plantations of Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. He moved to Australia in 2000 to join his family, who had relocated earlier, and purchased a chocolate manufacturing business in Queensland.
The brand Pannys was born. In November 2005 he relocated the business to the tin shed in Newhaven and commenced his relentless evolution of his business.
A true mechanical engineer just cannot leave something alone. Panny started to tinker with the chocolate making as soon as he bought his business, driven to perfect the process.
The secret behind the best chocolate is the blending of ingredients and the tempering process and Panny was keen to crack the formula. Tempering is where the fats naturally found in cocoa are crystallised through gentle heating. If the blend is right, and the tempering process achieves the right type of crystallisation, the chocolate becomes glossy, firm and snaps crisply. It also tastes superb.
Once Panny had perfected the art of chocolate tempering, the ideal fillings were the next challenge. His signature chocolate is a white truffle, a sample of which is given to each visitor as they enter the building. Its name is a bit of a misnomer, as it is neither white nor a fungus. It is a milk chocolate bud with a soft and gently sweet filling that cannot be described. It is only after tasting one can you learn how skilled Panny has become as a chocolatier.
Pannys offers a range from traditional bars through to chocolate truffles in a wide range of unique designs and flavours. There is a vast assortment of hand made delicacies, ranging from traditional creams through to the exotic. A favourite for those in the know is a chilli infused truffle that starts sweetly and finishes in a warm, spicy sensation.
Pannys daughter, Nithia, is the custodian of the chocolate truffles and spends many hours lovingly creating tray after tray. She also sculpts chocolate creations that are works of art in their own right. Currently there are six chocolate people on display, one of which is an accurate replication of Panny himself, a range of houses, and a collection of designers shoes that should get every fashionable girl in a bit of a tizz. Should they eat the shoes, or start collecting the full range?
The tinkering hasn’t ended with the chocolates. Panny’s passion is to develop an A to Z chocolate experience, the first stage of which open last December. Pannys Amazing World of Chocolate is a fascinating, interactive and educational celebration of all things chocolate. Visitors move through a series of display spaces, each dedicated to a facet of chocolate, where they are invited to get “hands on” in the process. Chocolate in history, chocolate in advertising, chocolate in art and chocolate in play are all explored in this unique and wondrous world. The chocolate factory can also be observed in action, with the entire production facility on full view with Pannys team creating chocolates non-stop.
The self guided tour concludes with the opportunity to make your mark in chocolate on the Swirl machine and design your own combination of flavours using Pannys Amazing Chocolate Machine. With flavour combinations of milk, white or dark chocolate coatings and fillings that can consist of any and all combination of strawberry, cola, vegemite and wasabi, there is the chance to see if you have the flair to create a signature chocolate.
Pannys team includes two other leaders of their industries. Geoff Moed from Amaze N Things and Keith Tucker from Megafun have partnered with Panny to develop the Amazing World of Chocolate. In a highly competitive market it is refreshing to see businesses working together, proof that a joint venture can provide a greater result than the sum of the individuals.
Pannys current focus is the re-engineering of his café and retail outlet. Pannys Chocolate Café has recently been extended and reopened with much acclaim. A new menu of chocolate desserts combined with ever popular favourites can now be enjoyed in a bright and airy café. The deck has been extended, providing the chance to enjoy the fine Phillip Island weather when enjoying a fine Pannys feast. And every coffee is served with Pannys white truffle, making it even more tempting to stay for a feed. The retail area is the next focus, and is about to be doubled in size.
Panny is not about to slow down. His vision for The Chocolate Factory has many more stages ahead of it, although for the next twelve months the focus is on building the skill of his team and delivering the ultimate chocolate experience to his customers.
Pannys is open 7 days a week from 9:00am and is located at 930 Phillip Island Rd Newhaven. Ph 03 5956 6600 or email info @ phillipislandchocolatefactory.com.au.