Origins of Charley's

Founders Chris & Lynn Jahnke

Our story is about taking some risks, doing things differently, having fun along the way and making a difference to regional Queensland and Australia where innovation, value adding, eco- tourism and our premium product offering can enchant our visitors.


We live and work in a World Heritage area. We cultivate cocoa and manufacture chocolate, all with a legacy of sustainability and conservation uppermost in our minds.

Pre-chocolate: The early years 2003-2012
view from Mt Edna to the Crocodile Range

Sunrise at the Mt Edna Plantation

 Our story starts in 2003 when Charley’s founders, Chris and Lynn Jahnke, moved from Melbourne to tropical North Queensland. They purchased a 400 acre (160HA) property at Mt Edna near Mission Beach in the World Heritage Wet Tropics region of Far North Queensland, Australia.  This is the Mt Edna property which Charley’s now calls home.


Mt Edna was a very run-down banana farm but with decent infrastructure, good soils, gorgeous views, abundant rain, amazing flora and fauna and a warm tropical climate.  Paradise indeed.  

Crocodile Range

View of the Crocodile Range from the Mt Edna plantation

In 2004 the Mt Edna property was starting to take shape, not as a rejuvenated banana farm but as a cattle property. Little did we anticipate what lay ahead.

In March 2006, Cyclone Larry crossed the coast just to the north of Mt Edna. Packing windspeeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour it caused widespread devastation. The cyclone was followed by 100 days of rain, completing the destruction and hampering reconstruction efforts. Repairs to buildings and infrastructure took 18 months.

The palm tree lined North Mission Beach

In February 2011 Cyclone Yasi brought a repeat performance, crossing Mission Beach as a category five cyclone, the largest storm in Queensland’s history. Again the region was devastated. Chris commented, “Wind at 340 km/hour is a powerful learning experience”.  It certainly shaped our thinking!

With the fresh lessons of cyclones Larry and Yasi we now embarked on a new challenge.  Due to its warm climate and abundant rain, Mt Edna Mission has ideal weather to grow tropical fruit.

Palm tree lined North Mission Beach

Mission Beach’s green reputation was an important consideration. The World Heritage Wet Tropics region of North Queensland is very green with lush lowland rainforest foliage high in the minds of locals, visitors and the public.  We wanted a wholly sustainable industry.  We weighed up different scenarios incorporating ideas such as ‘food miles’, climate change and fair trade.

After seeing a segment on ABC TV’s Landline program about growing cocoa in the Australian Tropics Chris and Lynn settled on cocoa growing.  This was a new industry to Australia. 

​Growing cocoa 2012-14
A ripe cocoa pod at our Mt Edna plantation

Cocoa pod almost ready to be picked at Mt Enda

Cocoa is the main ingredient in chocolate; the other is sugar. Both of these are grown locally – so we could create a high value product and do so on location!

Research followed. This confirmed that tree to bar chocolate manufacturing was possible. The research also hinted at the emerging global chocolate industry transformation being driven by chocolate consumers. This chocolate industry evolution is similar to the early stages of coffee and craft beer transformation over the last two decades.

With advice from the Queensland Department of Agriculture our first cocoa seeds were planted in late 2012 and Australian Chocolate Pty Ltd, the company behind Charley’s Chocolate, was launched.  


Our first chocolate bars and awards 2014 – 2016 

In 2014, the first harvest of 50 Mt Edna single origin, tree to bar, chocolate was produced. They were allocated to shareholders and our industry partners.  And then, in 2016 Charley’s received multiple awards from the Royal Melbourne Show.  See  awards section 


Commercial production facilities 2017 - 2019

In 2017 the first of two Modular Manufacturing Units (MMUs) was designed and installed.  In that year we won the first of our Cocoa of Excellence Awards at the Salon du Chocolat, Paris. The production facilities were completed in 2019 with the Charley’s Australian Chocolate Centre Retail facility opened in 2022 


Charley's new look packaging and Block 4 plantation 2021 - 2023

In 2021 Charley’s board commissioned local artist Kim Rayner to paint works that reflected our FNQ environment.  They were to be used as the ‘look’ for our new upmarket packaging, reflecting the luxury, up market look that the quality of our chocolate warrants. .


2023 saw the planting of Block 4 (up the hill from the original Mt Edna plantation) with cocoa varieties developed for flavour and yield by our long-time partner, Dr Yan Diczbalis, Principal Horticulturist at the  Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Centre for Wet Tropics Agriculture, South Johnstone


2024 and beyond

Charley's makes world class chocolate in a world class environment.  We are free from the issues facing the world’s major cocoa growing regions – subsistence farming, poor agricultural values, deforestation and child labor. 

Our values are being proudly Australian, excellence in our actions, respect for people and sustainability in all we do. 


Support the Australian Cocoa Industry