In Melbourne, sometimes the specialty coffee industry can go to extremes: no milk, no sugar, no skinny, and frequently, no hot chocolate. This is all well and good—the cafe three doors down will surely be happy to fulfill all of those needs—but sometimes all you want is a warm, milky, sweet, chocolatey beverage done at a high level of quality. There is nothing wrong with that.
To fulfill this need, Kiril Shaginov and Josefin Zernell of Mörk Chocolate have opened up what is the opposite of the militant specialty coffee shop: a concept store that serves exclusively chocolate. Located on Errol Street in the inner city suburb of North Melbourne, Mörk's (Swedish for “dark”) brew house sits on an unassuming corner of a beautiful brick building, which was formerly a bakery warehouse.
While this is their first permanent retail venture, Mörk Chocolate have been a staple in the Melbourne cafe scene for the past three years, supplying their delicious dark 70% cacao blend of drinking chocolate to shops all around Melbourne, such as Lune Croissanterie, Brother Baba Budan, and Assembly.
The space itself, designed by Danielle Oerman, is striking upon entry, with a stunning marble brew bar punctuated by brass elements and walnut wood. As there’s no coffee, there are no espresso machines to be seen, only an elegant set of brass wands extending from the counter: one for steaming beverages, the other for hot water. Around the corner, you’ll find a set of taps, one dispensing soda water infused with vanilla pods and another pouring sparkling chocolate soda. The rest of the space houses their communal table (with custom stools by Tuckbox Design), a comprehensive retail section, and a beautiful array of greenery curated by Looseleaf, a Collingwood-based nursery.
In their new concept store, Mörk Chocolate have endeavored to create a total sensory experience, offering pure unsweetened chocolates alongside other fascinating creations. Zernell and Shaginov’s approach to crafting chocolate is incredibly thoughtful and respectful to the raw product; by way of example, their drinking chocolate is made using a blend of single-origin cacao liquor, with no refined sugar. One of the creations offered at Mörk is the “Campfire Hot Chocolate”, made with dark chocolate, beechwood smoke, smoked sea salt, and a flamed marshmallow—all of which you assemble yourself to suit your own tastes.
Chatting to Shaginov, he outlined their goals for the venue, which encompasses their chocolate brew house as well as a workshop out the back. “We get to take people through our brewing stages and methods, the pure ingredients we use, and to reset the preconceptions there are on dark chocolate,” he told me. “With the brew house, we wanted to make chocolate an everyday beverage and for people of any age, not just kids.”
In the workshop, all sorts of wonderful chocolate creations are made, and it’s also where they are roasting cacao beans using custom-built, small-batch equipment for their bean-to-cup chocolate crafting. An important objective for Zernell and Shaginov is to represent quality chocolate and its origins in an accurate way through Mörk; one product that was in the works pre-opening was a water-based ganache-filled chocolate that incorporated green banana, an acknowledgement of the cultural and historical flavor associations of the chocolate’s origins.
It's undeniable that Mörk have adapted some of the best parts about specialty coffee—reverence, respect, interior design elegance and delicious drinks—and applied them to a specialty chocolate cafe experience. In Shaginov & Zernell's capable hands, an engrossing and frankly delicious experience has been crafted, one that elevates chocolate while retaining a sense of playful whimsy. There must be thousands of cafes in Melbourne by now, but there is only one Mörk Chocolate.
Photos by Heather Lighton for Sprudge.com.