The Schnitzel Parlour in Fredericton will be making a much smaller batch of its famous holiday truffles this year because of a shortage of the Belgian chocolate it's been using for the past 22 years.
Uwe Kuester, the owner and operator of the Schnitzel Parlour, had already planned to make fewer of his trademark treats because of health issues holding him back. But when he got a message from his supplier this week, things got worse.
Callebaut Belgian chocolate, which Kuester has used for his truffles ever since he arrived in Canada, is not available.
"This was quite a slap in the face," he said.
Kuester says he was planning to make 1,500 to 2,000 truffles for the season. But now that's dropped to about 600 and those will be made from a reserve of chocolate Kuester has put aside.
Fit for a king-in-waiting
These truffles aren't just loved by New Brunswickers who look forward to them every Christmas, they've also received an informal royal seal of approval.
While visiting New Brunswick in 2012, King Charles, who was then Prince of Wales, tasted a truffle off a tray held by Beate Kuester, Uwe's wife. A box of truffles was also sent to the royal couple's hotel room. Kuester said the now-Queen Consort Camilla told him she'd "polished off" the entire box.
According to the company website, Callebaut chocolate is in short supply because one of its plants was shut down over the summer after bacteria was detected in a binder used to make chocolate that was provided to Callebaut by another supplier. No contaminated chocolate made it to the market, according to the website.
A lifelong love of chocolate
For Kuester, the chocolate he uses is of personal importance.
As a schoolboy in the town of Frankenberg, Germany, Kuester would spend his holidays working at a pastry shop and chocolatier, where his lifelong infatuation with the ingredient began.
"It's the love of my life, the chocolate, besides my wife," he said.
When he moved to Canada in 2000 and wanted to get into the chocolate business, the North American version of the treat didn't meet his satisfaction.
"I'm a big fan of Belgian or Swiss or German chocolate. Because the way the chocolate is produced is a whole different story," he said.
He was happy to find a Maritime supplier of Callebaut Belgian chocolate and has stuck with it since.
The supplier has offered a replacement chocolate, but with a little over a month until Christmas, Kuester doesn't have time to make sure it's up to his standards.
"I don't even know this company, I have never tried the chocolate from them. My recipes are all all my own creation," he said.
He's ordered some samples, but will need more time to ensure a new brand will work with the rest of his ingredients.
Because he be hand-making fewer truffles this season, he won't be taking orders ahead of time. Instead, a post will be made on the Schnitzel Parlour's Facebook page when the treats are available.
"I will sell what I can, and if customers are interested, they can come and purchase them."