Sweet Destination

Good Organic Gardening|July - August 2020

Sweet Destination
Sustainably sourced chocolate and organic gardens and orchards make this surf coast business green as well as brown
Jana Holmer

Every year, many thousands of tourists drive under the wooden archway at the eastern end of the 243km Great Ocean Road at Torquay in Victoria. Should any of them have a sweet tooth, they may not get further than six kays down the road, which is where they’ll happen upon the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery (GORCI).

Set on 15 landscaped acres, this chocoholics’ Disneyland is the brainchild of Ian and Leanne Neeland, building on the success of their first chocolaterie in Yarra Glen, which opened in 2012.

They’ve since opened yet another, a smaller “petite chocolaterie”, in the seaside village of Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula, putting them well on the way to establishing an empire to rival Willy Wonka’s.

Instead of Oompa Loopas, however, there are gardeners working to maintain the orchard and kitchen plots that supply fresh ingredients to the in-house European chocolatiers as well as to the chefs in the 300-seat cafe built to resemble a cocoa pod.

GORCI’s position at the start of the iconic coastal highway puts it smack on the tourist map with around half a million visitors a year. Who wouldn’t be up for a road trip to feast on rocky road — not to mention truffles, tarts, pastries and other decadent desserts?

THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

The Bellbrae property hardly looked promising when the couple bought it in 2015, however. “There were only two horses living on it with no structures and very poor pastures, mostly weeds,” recalls Ian.

As it turned out, they chose the wettest winter in 100 years to construct a 3000m2 building, driveways and a 250-space carpark, he adds, “so the earth was damaged by vehicle movements and thus required draining and mulching prior to gardens being established”.

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July - August 2020