Yasmin Brisbane is not your average central Queensland farmer. Nor is she an average chocolatier. She spends her days among camels, and, along with her family, has well and truly found her niche: making camel-milk chocolates.
“Believe it or not, we had absolutely no dairy experience when we began QCamel [the Brisbane family’s camel milk company] in 2014,” she tells SBS. “But when we began researching the health benefits of camel milk, we knew we found our calling. Camels are not only drought tolerant but they don’t cause land erosion..."
Australia’s relationship with camels dates back to the 1840s, when thousands were imported from Arabia, India and Afghanistan to assist with work in the outback. Now, an increased demand for camel milk across the globe is coinciding with Australian farmers looking for inexpensive ways to diversify from dairy farming – the answer, it seems, might just lie in the camel’s hump.
Brisbane and her family have been working with camels for well over a decade but actually turning camel milk into a marketable product has been a recent development. “As it happens, I actually use camel milk every day for managing my own gut issues – another reason we ‘got into’ camel milk,” she explains. “There’s a wealth of research on the health benefits of camel milk: it’s the closest milk to breast milk, it’s easily digestible and soothing on the tummy, suitable for lactose-intolerant people, low in fat and cholesterol but high in iron, vitamin C, calcium, and [a protein called] lactoferrin.”
All those benefits aside, who would’ve thought camel milk is a suitable ingredient for chocolate? After seeing success in the camel-milk market, QCamel is taking things a step further – into the realm of confectionery.
“Our Camel Milk Chocolates are the result of a three-way collaboration among QCamel, Freeze Dry Industries and Kokopod Chocolates,” Brisbane explains. “Chocolates were always something we wanted to do (we are massive chocoholics!) and we’re lucky that we have two other master innovators on the [Sunshine] Coast who could help make that dream a reality!”
After milking the camels (“camels are very emotional and intelligent creatures, they will only work with you if they trust you and feel safe”), the milk is gently pasteurised and sent to Freeze Dry Industries. The milk is powdered before being sent to Kokopod Chocolate in Buderim, where it’s turned into a praline and coated with a dairy-free outer shell.
QCamel chocolates will be released later this year, both in Australia and in markets where Australian products are in high demand, like the Middle East, Hong Kong and China. The chocolates will come in three varieties (praline, lemon myrtle and macadamia), each designed to be a “little taste of Australia”.
“We will only be the second camel-milk company to produce camel-milk chocolates,” Brisbane says. “This coupled with being an Australian product has generated a lot of national and international interest in them. We’ve specifically designed the chocolate flavours with this in mind. Once released, we’re expecting them to be stocked in international airports across the world. Our ultimate aim is to have them in Harrods!”
According to Brisbane, camel milk is close to cow’s milk in flavour, with salty-sweet notes. “[It's] a perfect balance between a skim milk and a full cream milk,” Brisbane says. “One of the biggest hurdles with camel milk is getting over the mental ‘hump’ [we see what you did there] of it coming from an animal other than a cow.”
Intrigued? We certainly are. Check out the range of camel-milk products on the QCamel website, they are releasing the chocolates in mid March. Just in time for Easter! Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for more updates.