For most people, cracking into a piece of chocolate and tasting its sweet flavour is the best way to enjoy the crowd-pleasing confectionery.
But not so for Kaipara chocolatier Tatiana White, who hand paints and makes delicious award-winning chocolates for Dekadenz.
“Funnily enough, I’m a savoury person,” she says with a laugh, in her thick Russia accent.
“For me, it’s more enjoyable to see how people enjoy eating the chocolates and their surprise with the flavours … It’s a totally different experience of eating chocolate.
“After they eat one they want it more and more.”
Chocolate-making combines White’s decades of experience as a chef with her artistic abilities –demonstrated in painting, sculptures and creative cakes when she has time.
Creating new flavours and colour combinations is a key part of her job, leading to unique flavours like chilli and mint and a tangy pineapple salsa.
Hand making the chocolates is White’s dream job, made possible with investment from her friends, couple Paul Jeffries and Andrea Prachal.
But it has been a long journey since White first arrived in New Zealand 20 years ago, then known as Tatiana Byvaltseva.
With her daughter in tow, the solo mother had just $200, scarcely any English and a hope she could earn some money as a chef.
“I met a man from New Zealand online,” White explains.
“[I came] because of my daughter – I thought we’d find a better life for her and maybe a good father. Eventually we did, but it took some time.”
Moving from the Russian city of Izhevsk, White said no one in her family across Russia and Ukraine knew about New Zealand, with the only information available in a library.
It took three days to travel here and, when she arrived, White realised her few classes of English lessons were of very little help.
“It was like I’d never heard the language – it was such a shock.”
Unfortunately, the relationship with the Kiwi man did not work out and White found herself staring down the barrel of deportation.
But she got to work as both a cleaner and a chef, and credits the many helpful people in New Zealand who ensured she could stay, including immigration advisor Rob White.
Romance later bloomed and the two were together for 13 years, moving to the tiny seaside community of Pahi on the Kaipara Harbour.
It was there White became friends with Jeffries and Prachal, and she demonstrated her talents by making them chocolates and cakes as gifts.
After seeing his friend running around cleaning and cooking to make ends meet, Jeffries asked her what she really wanted to do with her life.
Tatiana White and Paul Jeffries met in the seaside village of Pahi and decided the Kaipara location was as good as any to start a decadent handmade chocolate business.
The photograph shows Tatiana White and Paul Jeffries
Denise Piper (reprinted from Staff.co.nz, Link at the beginning of article)