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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Cacao Haru: Chocolate Lovers Unite!

There are four basic food groups-milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate truffles.

So said someone who possibly wanted to avoid future legal fallout by remaining anonymous. As a self-confessed chocoholic, my plan when visiting any new country basically involves seeing the sights, meeting the locals and eating chocolate I’ve never heard of before. I’ve found Korea to be a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to the latter, with offerings ranging from pretty expensive imported chocolate through a local range that is decent, to what I consider to be on the lower rung when it comes to cacao-filled treats – those little barrels filled with hard cubes that seem to be a cross between chocolate and chewing gum, sporting a reference to something that is supposed to be ‘Dream Cacao’.

Personally,  any time I’ve dreamed of cacao it has usually involved a barrel of high-quality melted chocolate and some wrestling – something that is generally frowned upon amongst the very conservative chocolate aisles of stores like Homeplus and Lottemart. Fortunately though there are options around Ulsan for the hard-core chocaholics amongst us.

Cacao Haru (opening hours: 11am – 12am) has two chocolate cafes in Ulsan that deal exclusively to the needs of the chocolate connoisseur – there’s the one I stumbled across whilst walking around Samsan-dong and the other is located in Mugeo-dong, tucked away in the shopping area opposite Ulsan university. Although they specialize in hand-made chocolate, cakes and chocolate beverages, Cacao Haru also offers a much needed caffeine hit for coffee lovers and freshly squeezed juices for misguided health nuts.

The cafe in Samsan-dong is a rather cute-looking place tucked away in the lane behind KFC (opposite Hyundai Department Store).  The interior isn’t overly large but it reminded me a bit of a cool little European cafe. The manager is a photographer and one can see examples of his work in postcard-form displayed around the room.  Upon entering you can choose to take up a seat at the rather long central table or snuggle away in the booth with some friends. There’s also a loft area where you and your friends can sit Korean-style around a low table, surveying the lesser mortals strewn across the room below you.  This is a prime spot if you can’t decide what you want to have, allowing you to check out the options for a while before deciding, “I’ll have one of those”.

Take your rightful position in the loft as 'The King/Queen of Chocolate'

A glass cabinet at the front counter provides you with a variety of options when it comes to getting your chocolate hit. All of the chocolates are made on site and include fruit-filled, truffles, nut-filled and regular chocolate varieties. Prices range from around 1000 won to 1500 won a piece. When it comes to choosing chocolate drinks, you can choose from 52%, 64% or 74%. If that’s not a big enough selection dilemma, you then have to choose hot or iced. To compliment the range of chocolate beverages, Cacao Haru also offers chocolate muffins, hot chocolate puddings and chocolate chip biscuits.

Covering the four basic food groups

I chose the 74% hot chocolate, a small selection of chocolates and one of the hot puddings on my last visit, all were outstanding.  The hot chocolate was creamy and basically tasted like melted chocolate mixed with milk.  I tried a couple of truffles (milk and dark varieties) and, my personal favorite, the macadamia nut chocolate. It features a whole Australian  nut on top, meaning I can take some joy from the fact I’m eating a fellow country-thing. The chocolate pudding has a creamy chocolate centre and, after having a couple of chocolates, had me teetering on the brink of a chocolate overdose.

How Addictions Start: That's an Australian nut my friends!

Unfortunately I’m unable to comment on the coffee provided at Cacao Haru as I have yet to talk them into making me a mocha – disappointing as I know it would be fantastic given the quality of the hot chocolate. As a newcomer to the joys of caffeine I haven’t graduated onto the hard stuff yet and still need that hint of chocolate to get me through a cup. If you do prefer a coffee over a hot chocolate though there are options for you on the menu. And don’t let the rack of coffee capsules near the front counter scare you, they’re simply there to buy for use at home, the coffee made on site is done so using the traditional methods with a real coffee-making machine.

The Challenge - to try to resist eating one of these

So if you’ve been recently lamenting the lack of real chocolate options in Ulsan then find your way to Cacao Haru in either Samsan-dong or Mugeodong (maps included at the end of this review) and try something off their menu. They offer a 30% discount if you are getting a take-away drink and there’s also a free chocolate with any coffee purchase. There are also coffee and cake combination sets that are good value. If you like any of the photos displayed in the cafe and want an original souvenir postcard to send home or keep you can pick copies up at the front counter. And if you don’t want to make the walk to Cacao Haru to get your chocolate hit on a regular basis, you can make a selection from the front counter and take them home in a box.

How can you resist their cute little faces? Go on, take them home!

Finally, if you’d like to take the laptop along, there’s free wireless internet available so you can while away the hours in a very pleasant environment. The only downside I could think of after visiting Cacao Haru was the lack of wrestling and the fact that my repeated attempts to persuade them to make a mocha had failed. To remedy this I’d like each of you to ask for a mocha each time you visit Cacao Haru and together we might create an illusion of demand. Please do so even if you don’t like mochas, your needs are catered for already – don’t be selfish! I don’t know what we can do about the wrestling though…

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