The Chocolate Laboratory

One of the most exciting places at Westking is the brand new chocolate laboratory and its industrial sized chocolate tempering machines and cupboards filled with all sorts of moulds and chocolate making accessories.

We had a few new pieces of vocabulary to learn: 

  • couverture: high quality chocolate used for tempering and moulding
  • cacao: the “proper” term for cocoa :p
  • cacao nibs: what’s left of the cocoa bean once the shells have been removed


We began our classes in the chocolate lab with the basics; how to temper chocolate without using the machines.

Why temper chocolate?

If you heat and cool chocolate at random temperatures the cocoa butter will crystallise into crystals of varying sizes and the chocolate will bloom once set (there will be white cloudy patches all over it), and it will not have that sought after shine or “snap”. Tempering, a process of controlling the temperature of the chocolate, means that only one type of small crystal (known as the “V” crystal) is formed, resulting in a glossy finish and a smooth melt-in-the-mouth texture.

How to temper chocolate?

There are two methods of tempering, one is by seeding (melting the chocolate then adding (seeding) more chocolate to bring the temperature down). 

And then there’s table top tempering, infinitely more fun, messy and impressive (if you can actually do it!). It involved pouring the melted chocolate onto the table top and swilling (for want of a better word) it around with a palette knife to cool it down before somehow scooping it back into the bowl ready for use. When we attempted this there were copious amounts of chocolate dripping onto the floor…. whoops!


Chef Whitson about to demo table top tempering


 Once the chocolate is correctly tempered it can be used in so many different ways. We made chocolate bars, bunny lollipops and chocolate curls using transfers to “jazz” it up a bit and over the next few weeks we will begin to design and make chocolate centrepieces for display in our diploma assessment at the end of the course. 





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