Swiss chocolatier Ines Hasler only intended to visit Waihī Beach to test the surf break.

Now, she lives five minutes’ walk from the sea and five minutes’ walk from the tiny artisan chocolate shop that she and her Swiss-born partner Adrien Willa have created in a village alleyway.

In some ways, Chez Moi is an ode to European tradition with its red painted flower boxes and Belgian-sourced chocolate, not to mention Ines’ professional Swiss training as a baker, pastry chef and chocolatier. However, there is no doubting the Kiwi influence as she fills her handcrafted chocolate truffles with locally-grown macadamia nuts, passionfruit, citrus, berries and mint plucked from her own garden. Her honey supplier keeps hives just up the road, towards Athenree.

The couple travelled to New Zealand on a six month learn-to-surf backpacking holiday when they discovered Waihī Beach and Ines received a job offer that utilised her professional chocolate and patisserie skills. Once the pair returned to the beach town with immigration paperwork in hand, a new opportunity arose in a narrow alleyway off the main street.

So the chocolatier and her handy roofer partner took a punt, signed a lease and set to work in their adopted home town on the other side of the world.

“We did everything,” Ines says. “We painted, put the ceiling up and made shelves and lights. It ended up exactly what we wanted.”

When Chez Moi opened in time for Christmas 2016, visitors were both taken aback and delighted.

“People were really surprised to find a chocolate shop in Waihī Beach. I think a lot of people think it is a secret shop down here, everyone feels kind of special when they come in and try to sniff the smell of the chocolate.”

Customers are also surprised to find themselves just across the counter from an open kitchen where Ines creates her Swiss fudge, praline, truffles, marshmallow and an ever-changing array of seasonal treats including edible chocolate cards.

“It’s pretty low tech. A lot of people expect big machines but I’m using a pretty basic pot full of water, a hot plate, a thermometer and a bowl. Tempering and everything is by hand. I don’t think it can be more handmade than what I’m doing.

“I’m really happy to be my own boss and I am definitely not getting sick of chocolate. It’s a really interesting medium, to work with a block of chocolate. I think there’s endless possibility. And I still love the taste.”