We can think of chocolate in many ways. We can think of it as a sweet reward, or a nice gift. It can be an exciting ingredient or an end product mastered to perfection, it can be temptation, or – like in the case of the founders of ZAX chocolate manufactory – a passion fulfilled.
Written by: Bianka Geiger
A mouthful of bonbon is a complex composition. First, one sees the selection and then chooses from the cavalcade of colors and textures. Touching is the second experience, and then the notes of its aroma arrive to the nose – and we have known since Heston Blumenthal that they form an integral part of our sense of taste. Taking a bite of the chocolate, the thin shell pops, then we feel the pure, never intrusive aroma of the filling, working like perfumes do: the different characters evolve one after another.
Zax’s story is a good example for illustrating how captivating all this can be: the story started 9 or 10 years ago, with a creative workshop with chocolate in its focus, which was a gift to Zsuzsa Varga from her family. At the end of the day, she not only left with a few nice bonbons and a lovely experience, but with the feeling of finding something she had been looking for for a long time. This was followed by other courses and countless experiments at home, until several thousands of bonbons made as gifts and a lot of positive feedback later, Zsuzsa, her husband, Ferenc, and rest of their family decided that they needed to end their previous architect careers – and that it was time for ZAX to be born.
Their main profile is the palette of flavored bonbons, enriched with cappuccino, pomegranate or Sicilian pistachio filling amongst many others, but they also offer various coated dragées and spreads. Including Zsutella, which is 70% hazelnut from Piedmont, with some organic cocoa powder and sugar, made without any additives. What all ZAX products share is the use of premium ingredients – instead of Belgian, they use Italian and French products –, the fact that they are all hand-made with the utmost care, and the continuous perfection of details. Chocolate in its best possible form, without becoming alienating – the creators show their bohemian side with the chocolate bars, sold under the name ZAX CHOCOLOR 3D. Also captivating from the point of touching, these pieces invite tasters to play a game where they’ll need every sense for interpretation.
The brand is quite young: the fist store opened in October 2019 in Komárno, Slovakia. Its launch was followed by a loud success and increasing attention in a short time, from Hungary, too. Shortly they were also acknowledged by the profession: at first try, they won a silver medal at the 2020 Academy of Chocolate Awards with their passion fruit praline, and earnt two bronze medals at the International Chocolate Awards global competition with their raspberry and salty caramel bonbons. The store in Sas utca, Budapest is the second shop of the brand, which is a dream come true for the founders, as this way the chocolates could leave the workshop and receive an illustrious showroom matching their quality in a monument building in District V. Taittinger’s champagne palette forms an integral part of the store’s selection, as the champagnes do not simply make the festive moments more special, but also inspire chocolates.
Although it may seem otherwise, ZAX operates as a small family business to this day, following the principle of “less is more” – also in terms of headcount, as each and every praline is the fruit of two days of work of four experts. They use little ingredients, but of very high quality, and they opt for a pure taste, in premium category. It’s exciting to see how the architect and interior designer attitude manifests in their attraction to geometrical forms. Playing with colors is another deliberate move: in the case of the pralines, for example, they use codes as a subtle reference – for instance, the yellow dots indicate hazelnut. They use clean, white boxes, so that nothing takes the attention away from the products.
They see their workshop as a painting studio, a space for free creation. The parallel with the world of art can also be observed in their choice of placing a glass installation made by glass artist Luca Kohut-Görömbei in the Budapest store: the glass forms evoke the shape of pralines with delicate softness, while allowing the light to pass through them, and thus displaying a colorful shadow play on the walls depending on lighting.
In only a few months, ZAX became a dominant member of Hungarian chocolate manufactories, and also stands out amongst them. You can order their products via the online store, or can visit their store in Sas utca in person. They are also available for custom orders: in this case, the team designs the flavor and color harmonies tailored to the client’s needs, tuned to chocolate. If you’d like to get some for Christmas, hurry!