Before I walked into Fitzroy’s Chocolateria San Churro I had already prepared myself for disappointment, but to my astonishment I left anticipating a proper visit to the Churro. I was told that their ‘couverture’ milk, dark and white hot chocolates are gluten free, as well as their wide range of chocolate truffles. I enquired this after dinner so I was much too full to try their treats then, but was delighted to enjoy a milk hot chocolate and ‘Pachamama – milk chocolate truffle with a peanut butter filling’ in their Chapel Street chocolateria a week later. I visited with a friend at around 12pm and we were the only diners, which was okay with us as we had first pick of seating and were able to choose to veg out in the cosy corner seats. All San Churro chocolateria’s are decked out in warm brown colours and harbour a homely feel. All that’s missing is a television displaying your favourite comfort film, a warm blanket and a fluffy cat on your lap. The hot chocolate was an absolute dream – tasting just like liquid chocolate. The truffle however, was quite ordinary, with only a hint of peanut flavour and the rock salt sprinkled on top made it a little too salty for my liking; it was definitely not worth the $1.95. I’ve yet to try any of the other truffles, but I have been eyeing the hazelnut ‘Que Rico’. At $6 for a regular mug of couverture milk hot chocolate with soy milk, this liquid gold will set you back, but it is entirely worth it. That is until, I discovered they are not entirely gluten free.
I visited the QV Centre San Churro three times before realising I’d been damaging my sensitive Coeliac stomach, and I’m still beating myself up over not confronting the staff more forceful than I did(n’t). On the second day I decided to double check by asking if the soy milk was wheat free, to which the waiter quickly informed me that it was. On the third day it finally hit me, my mind had cast back to the day I’d stood in the long-life milk aisle of the supermarket reading every ingredient of every soy milk available, and remembered seeing that barley and malt can often make an appearance in the milk. I promptly asked to read the ingredients of the soy milk used at SC and was absolutely mortified to discover the soy milk (Bonsoy) that had been used in four mugs of the hot chocolate I had already drank over the week contains barley and malt. The reason of my nausea and headaches over the previous days had suddenly been accounted for. Wound up and exceedingly disappointed, I stormed out of the store after catching my breath.
“Only couverture chocolate can be called REAL chocolate. What distinguishes REAL couverture chocolate from the inferior imitation confectionary variety is that it is high in cocoa solids and rich in cocoa butter, using only 100% REAL cocoa butter (no vegetable oil or other inferior substitutes). Only REAL chocolate gives you that extraordinary rich, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth flavour, because that comes from the cocoa solids and cocoa butter in the chocolate, which are both extracted from the crushed cocoa bean.”
For those of you who don’t know about coeliac disease, it is not actually a ‘disease’ – it isn’t contagious and it isn’t similar to a zombie virus (what a shame!). Coeliac is quite a rare autoimmune disorder affecting only 1 in 100 (Australians) in which one cannot tolerate food or drink containing gluten – found in wheat, barley, rye, oats, and malt. It is much different from an allergy, as one with the disease may not have an outbreak of a rash, or vomit, or feel any different at all, because it’s what’s happening on the inside that matters. Coeliac sufferers have to be extremely careful and cautious, as the lining of the small intestine slowly deteriorates and cannot absorb nutrients or vitamins from food (or supplements) when damaged. As a result of damage to the stomach, the immune system can be lowered and the individual is easily exposed to sickness and can find themselves suffering anemia along with other deficiencies. I’m currently battling a sore throat and other flu like symptoms as a result. Over a long period of time eating gluten-containing foods, one can even contract bowel cancer in some cases.
I was especially fed up with my bout of ‘food poisoning’ because I am booked to have a few procedures at the hospital so that my professor can inspect on whether my stomach has recovered. I’m guessing that it’s right back to where it started now. I’m also debating on whether I should (or can) sue San Churro… haha, just kidding…
I later returned with my own soy milk I’d bought at the store down the road (Vitasoy) and the chocolatier was happy to make a hot chocolate using the gluten free milk. The waiter who had served me previous days asked if it was nice with a reconciling look (I ordered a white hot chocolate that time, and yes, it was very nice). So just a word of advice kiddies, if you’re strictly gluten free – please inspect or avoid San Churro’s soy milk.
*Starbucks often use that same milk too.
5/1/2012 I’d like to add a note after receiving a particularly rude comment: It is San Churro’s responsibility to notify their patrons of gluten containing food and drink when they already offer gluten free beverages and chocolates. If I am to especially ask for a ‘gluten free couverture hot chocolate with soy milk’, would it not be obvious that I am asking for my entire beverage to be gluten free? Had the staff been properly informed, they would have notified me of the gluten containing milk. I unwillingly and unknowingly ingested malt and barley. I cannot imagine how many gluten free or Coeliac sufferers have ordered a gluten free hot chocolate with the unsuitable soy milk.
UPDATE JULY 2012: I visited San Churro in Fitzroy and was informed that they no longer have a gluten free/allergy list to refer to. Staff were unable to supply the ingredient list of their chocolate used in their hot chocolates, nor could they prove that their desserts (cake, macarons, truffles) were definitely gluten free. A shame, really!