21 July 2023

Sarah's sweet dream comes true as ethical chocolate melts hearts in Gerringong

| Katrina Condie
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Making chocolate

Sarah Cromwell making her chocolate creations at Tilda & Cacao in Gerringong. Photo: Phil Winterton.

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

These words by world-renowned conservationist and primatologist Dame Jane Goodall are an inspiration to chocolatier Sarah Cromwell, founder of Tilda & Cacao, an ethical and sustainable chocolate business nestled in the seaside village of Gerringong.

Sarah says Dame Goodall is an inspiration to so many, and the well-known quote is something she and her partner Erik Lau often think of in their everyday lives and when running their business.

“We believe that our daily choices and actions make a difference,” Sarah said.

“We strive to do the right thing, so we are part of the solution and not the problem.”

When she first started developing her chocolate during COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, Sarah said one of her first priorities included sourcing suppliers, growers and producers that would ensure sustainability across the entire chain, from bean to bar, without compromising on quality.

“Our vision is for Tilda & Cacao to reflect our passion and the way we live our everyday life,” she said.

“Our family believes in ethical living; we care about our environment and our community. We work with those who share our values, and they guide us on each step of our journey.”

After perfecting her first batch of flavours, including Tropical Oasis, Rainforest Rarity, Hand & Wild Harvest and Plain & Simple 80%, Sarah and Erik launched Tilda and Cacao in 2021, using cacao sourced from a UTZ-certified organic cooperative of farmers in Peru.

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Sarah handcrafts small batch stone-ground chocolate for the mindful eater using raw organic Criollo cacao blended with locally grown and native Australian ingredients.

“We make all our chocolate from nib to bar using unrefined organic coconut sugar to sweeten and then create our naturally delicious chocolate blends with a unique and distinct flavour,” she added.

A pastry chef and chocolatier for more than 14 years, Sarah enjoys sharing her passion and creativity for chocolate, and says she is thrilled to have been able to “create something special together as a family”.

“I feel incredibly lucky to be able to work with something I love to do with the people I love the most. Our daughter Rosie’s definitely a part of the team,” she said.

“Running our own business has taken us on an amazing journey and we’ve met so many wonderful and like-minded people along the way.

“It has been an exciting ride so far, and we are excited about what the future has in store for Tilda & Cacao.”

Erik is also passionate about creating positive change for the next generation, beginning with his daughter, and brings many years of data-driven marketing experience alongside his entrepreneurial drive and desire to educate Rosie on the importance of understanding how our decisions impact the world around us.

The family moved from Sydney’s Northern Beaches to Gerringong in early 2020 and started to plan their vision for the business and brand, Tilda & Cacao, named after their daughter and inspiration, Rosie Tilda.

“We moved to the Illawarra area because we love being closer to nature and the slower pace of life,” Sarah said.

“There’re so many beautiful places to explore. We’ve fallen even more in love with the area as we’ve gotten to know our community better and seen how the community looks after each other.”

Located in The Schoolhouse, they’re just one of a number of businesses in Gerringong’s Victoria Street precinct, with vintage treasures at Corner D’or, Jack’s Grill by Smith St. Foods across the street, at Cronin Hotel, the local coffee roaster The Daily Grind Coffee Company nearby, as well as one of Fern Street Gallery’s resident artists and local photographer Jon Harris Photography.

As well as making delightful, ethical chocolates, Tilda & Cacao open their little chocolate cafe most weekends, and occasionally host chocolate tastings through their stockists on the South Coast, and in the Southern Highlands and Canberra.

“It’s an opportunity to catch up with our stockists and get to know their communities,” Erik said.

“Plus, just like attending markets, it’s a great way to get in-person feedback from people and hear what they think about our chocolate.”

So, why do people love Tilda & Cocoa chocolate?

“It’s vegan-friendly, made with ethically sourced ingredients, caters for special dietary needs, is additive free, original blends using Australian native and/or Australian grown inclusions. It’s sustainable, has beautiful packaging and people love the story behind Tilda & Cacao,” Sarah said.

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Sarah says, for her and many consumers, it’s important to know where each and every ingredient comes from, right down to the tiniest grain of salt.

“We use salt from Pink Lake in Victoria, which is hand harvested annually and, wherever possible we source ingredients direct from the grower,” she said.

“Our macadamias are sourced directly from a biodynamic family farm in Northern NSW and our hazelnuts from Happy Wombat Hazelnuts at Batlow.

“Working with such passionate growers and producers that put so much care into their craft results in amazing tasting ingredients.”

After starting out with four flavours, she now makes 10 blends including two new blends, Botanic Bliss which blends fresh citrus notes of lemon myrtle with the sweet, buttery taste of macadamia, and Pecan Sunset which pairs maple coated pecans, grown on a small family farm in the picturesque NSW hinterland near Byron Bay, with 70 per cent dark chocolate – one of Sarah’s winter favourites.

She also makes a variety of limited-edition chocolates for special occasions such as Mother’s Day, Easter and Christmas.

Tilda & Cacao has stockists throughout the Illawarra and South Coast region, including the Kiama Visitor Information Centre and NPWS Minnamurra Rainforest Centre. They are located at 2 Victoria Street, Gerringong.

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