The chocolate Easter bunnies are a fabulous standby of the spring season across the world and when those Easter Holiday’s start to roll around, expect your kids to be clamouring for them.
Bunnies are an ancient symbol of fertility in Christianity and chocolate versions have been trotted out for the spring holiday season since the 1800’s. Despite their symbolism, the chocolate bunny only became a commercial success during the 1940’s. This was because making hollow shells was an effective way of skimping on dwindling chocolate supplies during the tough economic times of World War II. The chocolate bunny still looked great and was a hit with kids, despite its clever cost-cutting methods.
Even making a small rabbit out of chocolate can be a steep task. Yugna Shah runs an event planning company that specialises in making custom made chocolates to order. She sat with Yummy to describe the incredible journey that the chocolate used to make the bunnies must go through before it reaches us here in Nairobi. “The best cocoa beans come from West Africa”, Shah says. “Cocoa beans come in really large pods and can grow to be the size of a football. Once picked, cocoa beans are roasted and then crushed down into pure liquid cocoa butter. The butter is then shipped overseas to chocolatiers in Europe who have a huge worldwide demand to fulfill.”
The liquid cocoa butter is then mixed with different ingredients to yield different chocolatey concoctions. This process is called tempering, and it can be quite a fickle process. “First, a good quality chocolate, white, milk or dark, should be tempered to the correct temperature for each type,” explains Shah. “If the chocolate is not tempered at the correct temperature, the likelihood of the complicated bunny shape cracking is high.” Chocolate bunnies tend to be made with incredibly thin shells which make handling and transporting them a delicate business.
In order to achieve the precise shape and width, the processed chocolate is poured into a half bunny mold where it waits to dry before being flipped out onto a conveyor belt. The bunnies are then pressed together with another half shell of chocolate and then wrapped in aluminium. If the process sounds delicate, it is. The hollow chocolate bunnies have to be sorted by hand in order to make sure there is no breakage.
Trucks filled with the freshly-made bunnies transport them to Southern European ports where they are loaded on to shipping containers headed for the Indian Ocean. When they arrive at the Port of Mombasa they must clear customs while sitting in the scorching heat and then wait to get loaded onto trucks that make their way to distribution centers in Nairobi. If any melt along the way the whole batch might get discarded. The bunnies then find their way onto grocery stores and chocolate shop shelves.
A chocolate bunny can make a great Easter treat and can be hidden around the house for young ones to discover during an Easter egg hunt.