Getting to Know West Coast Cocoa

Karla Gichard is the strategic head, and one of the busy little team at West Coast Cocoa, getting outstanding hot chocolate into the hands of New Zealanders. West Coast Cocoa was founded with a clear and simple vision – to craft a delicious hot chocolate and chai range that these West Coasters would feel good about serving to their families and friends.

We'll be serving free tastings of West Coast Cocoa Mayan Chilli Hot Chocolate at both our cafes - Vic Books Pipitea at 1pm, Thurs 22 July and Vic Books Kelburn at 3pm, Mon 26 July. Come and enjoy the warm spicy chocolate goodness on us and sit back and find out more about Karla and her crew in this interview below. 


What is your day job?

It’s highly varied! I co-own West Coast Cocoa and Ozone Coffee Roasters, and chair the Ozone Coffee Roasters Iinternational Board, so have a highly strategic focus.  I balance this with running our family-owned Six Acres Farm, a local, organic market garden, citrus orchard and asparagus patch. Every day is varied – balancing Board meetings with WCC business planning and team management aspects, combined with harvesting, packing and delivering vegetables and citrus to local clients.  


What is your connection to Vic Books?

We connected with Vic Books mid-2019.  Our business is relationship focused and we knew Jess Godfrey, GM of Vic Books, well through the specialty coffee industry.  It was a great opportunity to work together and supply a carefully crafted hot chocolate and chai range to Vic Books café.  Books have always been a core part of my life, with a real passion for reading for pleasure and business, so what better place to serve our hot chocolate and chai!


West Coast Cocoa – what’s the story behind the name?

West Coast Cocoa was founded on the West Coast of the North Island, often the ‘forgotten’ West Coast of NZ, and there’s also a great synergy with the West Coast of Africa, a region renowned for producing great cocoa, and where we source our cocoa powder from.


There are a number of hot chocolate and chai options available, we blind tested a lot of them, and liked yours the most. What makes your hot chocolate and chai so good?

Our hot chocolate range has one of the highest cocoa percentages of hot chocolates in New Zealand.  We carefully selected premium quality West African dutched cocoa powder, and blended with sugar, vanilla and other ingredients to enhance the flavours in the range.  We spent a lot of time sipping and slurping our way to our final blend recipes to create the perfect balance of richness, sweetness and depth of flavour.  There’s no fillers, and the range is dairy free and gluten free.


I can see on your website that the cocoa you source is from West Africa and that it is “dutched” what does dutched mean and why do you source from West Africa?

West African is renowned for producing exceptional quality cocoa. The Dutch process is an alkalisation process that reduces the natural acidity of cocoa, resulting in a less bitter taste.  This helps create a beautiful smooth, balanced chocolate flavour in the cup.  You can see the rich darkness of the cocoa powder in contrast to other cocoas. 


The cocoa is Rainforest Alliance certified, what does that mean and why is it important to you?

Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit organisation that works to conserve biodiversity and promote the rights and well-being of workers, their families and communities.  This aligns with our overall purpose and values – transparency, betterment, authenticity, quality, leadership and hospitality.  Our vision is to lead enduring change in the way cocoa is valued, grown, produced and enjoyed sustainably for the future.  We are progressively sourcing all of our other ingredients sustainably to ensure all parts of our supply chain align with our vision and values.


Is there anything new on the horizon for West Coast Cocoa?

We are working on developing a range of seasonal and limited release flavours, some based on feedback from regular drinkers, some with strong flavour preferences, and also suggestions from people that visited our stand at the Wellington Food Show. Watch this space!


We’re going to be giving away 90ml hot chocolate chilli drinks to our customers, what do you think will stand out most to those tasting it for the first time?

The rich chocolate flavour hits the palate first, followed by the orange spice notes of the mayan chilli with orange spice notes.  Finally, a lingering heat from the chilli finishes the drink.


Some quick fire book recommendations please!

Let my people go surfing – Yvon Chouinard

The Abundant Garden - Pakaraka Permaculture (Niva & Yotam Kay)

The Kindness Revolution by Hugh Mackay


What are you reading at the moment?

Miraculous Abundance by Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer.


What do you like about it?

It embraces a truly sustainable approach to life, that individuals can make a difference with food systems that are crucial to sustainability.  There are so many parallels to our businesses and also for anyone that wants to establish a home vegetable garden.  Since Covid-19, there’s been a growing trend for people to really understand what’s in their food and question the artificial ingredients and chemicals used on so many commercial crops.  This book showcases the ability to make a difference and also address global food shortages.


Hardback or paperback?

Paperback – there’s something about the feel of a soft cover, more easily held for settling into a reading session.


Favourite coffee?

Long Black – roasted by Ozone Coffee Roasters of course!

Cacao growing and ripening before harvest in the West Coast of Africa