After you’ve spent all those weeks in the beautiful country, you’re naturally going to start to think about what to bring back home. I for one am not a fan of the kitschy souvenirs you find in every tourist shop because what friend or family really wants another t-shirt from a place they’ve never been, paper weight, or shot glass. Instead, what I like to do is find unique and tasty souvenirs to bring back where you can really bring back for them to try. It’s often much more thoughtful, delicious, and a closer “taste” of New Zealand.
Here are 5 simple gifts that you’ll want to make room in your suitcase for. I know some of you will say that not all of these originate exclusively from New Zealand but for a traveller like myself from Canada, I thought these were impressively unique enough to bring back.
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#1 Whittaker’s Chocolate
Oh man how do I even start. Whittaker’s Chocolate is the premiere chocolate brand that’s been around since 1896 in New Zealand. They’re a local favourite for good reason because of their emphasis on using high quality cocoa beans, highly controlled processes, and obsession in keeping the cocoa butter and mass together.
Besides there being an overwhelming number of types of flavours, combinations, and classes, they also have different packaging sizes so you’ll no doubt be scratching your head a bit when you first encounter Whittaker’s.
My recommendation? Eat lots of chocolate while travelling! Use your time in New Zealand to try all different kinds of bars that speak to you so you can narrow down your favourite. What can help is if you start with the Minimix bag.
To narrow down your choices, I’ve compiled my favourites.
This is basically crunchy chunks of sponge candy. If you’re not familiar with sponge candy, it’s the addictive stuff we found in Buffalo’s Watson’s, or they’re found in a Canadian/British bar called Crunchie.
Essentially you got these small chunks swirled into milk chocolate and it’s such a perfect combination of smooth decadence with spongy crunch delight.
Hokey Pokey itself is a Kiwi-specific term for sponge candy that you can find all over the place whether it’s in gelato, ice cream, or other desserts.
The packaging for this features small birds hatching out of their shells which doesn’t really tell you too much but essentially it’s creamy milk chocolate with popping candy inside. Remember Pop Rocks? Yep they’ve stirred in those right into the chocolate to bring back good memories of my childhood and a twist to eating chocolate.
Wow was this a mission to find. A good friend of mine from Noel Young Photography kept raving about Whittaker’s and their L&P chocolate. First of all, I had no clue what L&P was before going to New Zealand so that didn’t help but the first 2+ weeks in New Zealand, we went to every single possible convenient store and grocery store to look for the elusive L&P and nothing.
It wasn’t until we got to Taupo that we made a giant breakthrough and found a bag of these in the mini-slab format. I was skeptical whether this would be as incredible as she made it out to be.
Oh it was!
The crazy thing is that the product doesn’t even exist on the Whittaker’s product page because it was a special collaboration with the drink, L&P (more on that below) years ago but is secretly still in production if you know where to look.
This mash up is this wild mix of white chocolate with a lemon twist, topped with popping rocks to simulate the insane fizz you get from drinking L&P. It’s absolutely brilliant!
This is my pick for top souvenir to bring back home just because is so New Zealand and really something you can’t find sold anywhere else.
The right size to gift
We bought artisan blocks, regular blocks, slabs, chunks, and minislabs and ultimately I think minislabs are the way to go for gifting because it allows you to mix and match if you want to, they’re small and bite-sized, and you can pack it easily by opening the bag and stuffing them into whatever crevice of space is still available in your suitcase or backpack.
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If you’ve forgotten some or are just craving for more Whittaker’s, you can always cheat and grab them off of Amazon.
#2 Manuka Honey
Internationally, this is what New Zealand has really become known for. Manuka honey is a special type of honey that’s primarily found here that comes from bees pollinating a native bush called manuka.
So what’s so special about it?
The hype around manuka honey is in its natural antibacterial qualities. Without getting all science-ey here, there is a massively high concentration of the antibacterial component in the nectar of manuka flowers.
This is why manuka honey is much more expensive than regular honey.
What is Manuka said to treat?
- Improve oral health
- Sooth sore throat
- Prevent gastric ulcers
- Promote aid healing
- Treat acne
- Treat symptoms of cystic fibrosis
- Improve digestive symptoms like IBS
Now it gets science-ey
Now not all manuka honey is equal because of the concentration of that antibacterial compound. That’s why there are rating systems such as UMF (Unique Manuka Factor). To be considered potent enough to be therapeutic, manuka honey needs to be a minimum of UMF 10. The number goes higher and higher and that just means more of that active ingredient.
This gets a bit more complicated when there are competing grading systems. MGO is another and stands for the active incredient that I’ve been speaking of (methylglyoxal). 10UMF is equivalent to 263 MGO. In manuka that uses MGO, you’re usually looking for around 300 MGO.
So what should I get?
This is probably what you care about. The truth is that unless you’re looking to treat something serious and you’re truly using it for medicinal purposes, all you need is UMF 10+ because most likely you’re going to be stirring it into hot water or with tea since you’ll still be using regular honey back at home for regular honey things.
Small bottles make great gifts and no need to go overboard with high UMF/MGO unless you’re buying it for someone that really knows about manuka.
#3 Special Edition Tim Tams
I know, Tim Tams are Australian but if you’re going to be in this part of the world, I say take advantage!
These days, you can find Tim Tams in your local grocery store because Arnott’s has started to really push them out and the demand for them is there because they really are addictive.
Instead of the regular flavours out there (original, dark chocolate, chewy caramel), look out for the special ones that never make it out of the Asia Pacific region.
This year, we discovered the latest collaboration between Tim Tams and a gelato shop called Gelato Messina which we went to in our 2 days in Sydney.
The two that we really loved were the Honey Comb (Hokey Pokey!) and Iced Coffee flavours. There’s also a Turkish Delight version that we didn’t try.
What is unique about these Tim Tams are that they’re meant to be chilled in the fridge. The “Chill Me!” part of the packaging actually changes colour when cold. Now do you have to have these chilled? Probably not as I feel like it’s a bit of a gimmick but it does get you wondering what Tim Tams are like when cold and I have to say they have a nice extra crunch to them.
L&P stands for Lemon & Paeroa and speaks to the history of how it was invented. Created in 1097, lemon juice was combined with carbonated mineral water from the town of Paeroa, and voila, L&P was born.
I’d say as a drink, this is very much a like-it-or-hate-it kind of thing. I liken it to Sprite or 7-Up except with what feels like double the amount of carbonation.
While we were in New Zealand, it was super refreshing to have especially after a hot day out at Cathedral Cove but personally I found it too bubbly.
Also, if you plan on bringing a few of these home, I would avoid packing these in your suitcase in case they leak/blow up. Pack them with you on your carry on where the cabin is pressurized and you should be ok although put it in a bag in case.
#5 Creamed Manuka
Okay maybe I’m just totally late to the creamed honey game but this was a new discovery from our trip to New Zealand after Jean from Traveling Honeybird mentioned it.
We finally got around to picking up one for our Flying Kiwi group and it’s been a revelation! Creamed honey is basically a process to control crystallization of raw honey and results in a smooth spreadable consistency.
Take this and introduce it to honey that has manuka in it and you get a very unique flavour profile that you won’t find in honey you can find back home.
The best part about these is that they’re not expensive to buy compared to full manuka honey and is actually a useful gift for anyone that likes spreads on toast.
Where should I buy all of this stuff?
Your first instinct might be the duty free but that would be the wrong answer.
The answer came to us when we finally located the elusive L&P Whittaker’s Chocolate. From then on, we realized that the best prices for food goods in New Zealand is in a warehouse-style grocery store called Pak’n’Save.
It’s wholly Kiwi owned and operated and hard to miss with their giant yellow warehouses in most major cities. In a lot of ways it reminded us of Costco except it’s not membership based and not necessarily bulk packaging.
Why shop at Pak’N’Save?
- Only store that carries L&P Whittaker’s Chocolate
- Significantly lower prices on all goods whether fresh food or packaged goods
- Like most grocery stores, they carry manuka honey and when compared to duty free prices, they were also much cheaper (you can’t beat NZ$13.99 for 250g)
So that’s it for this top 5 list. If you’ve been to New Zealand, what are your favourite foods that make good souvenirs? For me, ginger beer didn’t quite make the cut to the list but was another thing that I was fascinated with. Drop a comment below!