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Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Hazel Mountain Chocolate Flourishes on a Bare Burren Hill
On a sparsely populated Burren hill overlooking Galway Bay, you’ll find a tropical fruit being turned into one of Europe’s finest chocolates. Here in John Connolly’s grandparents place, he and wife Kasha (a trained chocolate maker) produce the chocolate and run a café and are guiding their customers towards a cashless future.
But first to the chocolate. It is bean to bar, a rare operation in Ireland. I know of three others: Alison Roberts of Clonakilty, Shauna Wilkies of Midleton and Proper Chocolate in Dublin. Perhaps there are a few others?
The Connollys import their beans from Madagascar, Venezuela, Mexico and Costa Rica while the cacao for their milk chocolate comes from Cuba (single estate). Their milk (in powder form) is supplied by Dairygold in Mallow.
You can visit and do a tour here. But even the casual visitor can view most of the process via a large glass window. Just stroll around the shop and check the huge range. Dark chocolates, milk chocolates, cake mixes, chocolate spreads, Cacao powder, hot chocolate powder (single estate), a Burren truffle collection, seasonal collections, and so much more.
And you do get a few samples as you enter the shop. And then there’s the café. We called there, of course! And naturally, I ordered a mug of their Salted Honey Hot Chocolate(4.70). Absolutely gorgeous, nicely judged too, not too sweet, just perfect and a terrific match with my fruity tart of the day (5.90).
While paying for our purchases in the shop (lots of bars) and for our lunchtime snack, you hear about their drive towards cashless. And we were only too happy to go along with that, including the tip. Now if you have no card, then cash is acceptable and they do have a tip jar. You may well expect a cashless drive by a modern outlet in your local main street but hardly up a bare hill in the Burren. But the Connollys are creatives, leaders. We could do with many more of them around this country.
Oh, by the way, you could get locked in here (also in their shop in Galway). All voluntarily! And I'd say no shortage of volunteers either. They hold regular lock-in events (tours and sampling and a look behind the scenes) at Christmas and Easter.
at 9 Middle Street
You may also shop online
The factory is easily found: just follow the large chocolate coloured signs on the Kinvara to Ballyvaughan road (N67). Hazel Mountain is about halfway between the two.