Anissa Talbi-Dobson spends hours crafting precious, jewel-like creations that melt in your mouth.

The French chocolatier's decadent indulgence has always been popular with the crowds at the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market and now they can be found in a little haven on Heretaunga St.

L'Atelier Chocolat opened in the Hastings central business district yesterday.

The new store has allowed Mrs Talbi-Dobson to experiment and extend from simply making chocolate bars to hand-made ptes de fruits and nuggets of nougat.


"I wanted to expand the range and try a few recipes I learnt in France."

Mrs Talbi-Dobson loves the versatility of chocolate.

"You can create so many different flavours and things. It's a fascinating matter."

She incorporates herbs and natural flavours, such as black pepper and lemon, fennel and sesame seeds, dark orange, bergamot and lavender, while honouring the traditional French chocolate treats, such as pralines, mendiants and other bonbons.

Mrs Talbi-Dobson uses organic, fair trade, single-origin chocolates only.

"I import the chocolate from France. I don't work directly with the growers but a company that works closely with the workers and ensures everything is beneficial to the community."

The industry, like with coffee, had struggled with child labour and land exploitation, she said.

"It's becoming increasingly important to consumers to know the products they buy haven't caused people pain."

There was no pride in making chocolate that had that sort of background, she said.

Mrs Talbi-Dobson, a former teacher, studied chocolate-making in France under an 80-year-old connoisseur.

His incredible passion for chocolate had now been instilled in her.

She has 60 retailers selling her 13 flavoured bars.

Working closely with chocolate has not affected her love for it.

"Even though I'm around it all day, I still love chocolate," she said.

Her hand-made chocolate will still be sold at the Hastings Farmers' Market on Sunday mornings.