Chandan and the chocolate factory

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Chandan and the chocolate factory

Friday, 30 April 2021 | Ayandrali Dutta

Chandan and the chocolate factory

Ayandrali Dutta finds that artisanal home grown brands are as good as the foreign ones

A generic chocolate bar has upgraded itself to become an artisanal home-grown brand which could be classified under one or all of the following — organic, vegan, single-origin, infused with bhoot jolokia chilli or other unique flavours that are particular to the country. Let’s take a big bite into the domestic artisanal chocolate industry.

Chocolate is that happiness which you can eat. It offers comfort without words. And the Indian market is seeing a visible change when we talk about homegrown artisanal chocolate. These small batch chocolates are at par, in quality and flavour, with your favourite Belgian bar. While brands like Soklet, Mason & Co., Barcode, Pascati and more have marked their presence in the market, there’s another one that has been quietly making waves. Rushk is the brainchild of Rushdah Humaira, a professional chef, who calls herself a chocolate activist and also Kolkata’s first woman to pioneer as the ‘bean to bar’ chocolate maker. She says, “Everyone knows chocolate but only a few understand it. I have always wanted to educate people on how to eat and find the right kind of chocolates. With cocoa directly sourced from South

India, our chocolates have no artificial flavour or preservatives. Each ingredient is specified and we believe in keeping the list as small as possible.”

Sneak peek into Indian cacao

Most times cocoa and cacao have been used interchangeably but it is the tree which bears the fruit with beans that is called Theobroma Cacao. The raw version of beans is referred to as cacao while the processed form is called cocoa. Not many know that the plant has three varieties — Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario — out of which Criollo, the most premium, is native to the America. In India, we tend to get a mix of Forastero and Trinitario. But one shouldn’t forget that the quality of chocolate depends on the method of preparation as well. An artisanal bean to bar can make the taste buds drool.

The Artisanal Movement

It won’t be wrong to say that our notions about chocolate are still somewhat nascent and it’s great to see how Indian bean-to-bar makers are challenging this by giving the market some of the best products. Sheetal Saxena and Nishant Kumar Sinha, who launched their artisanal chocolate brand and café, Colocal, in the capital, firmly believe that there’s a difference in making chocolate from cacao vis-a-vis creating the bars from cocoa powder. The duo wants to redefine the entire chocolate indulgence experience. “We researched a lot and even reached out to various roasters to understand the nuances of the product. I even made sure to experience all the finer details by staying with the locals in Kerala. I saw the entire process of making chocolate — how it’s grown, sourced and processed — from a scratch. I travelled to Milan, to learn chocolate-making techniques, which proved to be an eye opener,” adds Sheetal, who personally supervises the operations to ensure that each bean is roasted to perfection.

Taste of local

Most of these handcrafted bars are fun and bold at the same time. These perfectly blend the sweetness of jaggery and the spiciness of ginger, pepper or even infusions of black cardamom and Dalle chillies. Anuttama and Barcode are two such brands which have represented India, in a chocolate, with a twist. Swathi Kallegundi of Anuttama, who grew up in an agricultural family, says, “The cocoa that we use in making farm to bar chocolates are our own produce or from neighbouring farms in Puttur, Dakshina Kannada in the state of Karnataka. This allows us to keep the quality of beans and flavour notes in check. Offering quality and healthy chocolates is our aim. Therefore, we look for graded and good quality cocoa that is grown chemical-free and is as much organic as possible. Touching the new age taste buds we also infused some local flavours to lift the whole experience. Our Spicy Tang-62% Dark or the Cranberry Dark are an all-time hit.” The brand also uses organic jaggery, which lends a unique flavour to the chocolate bar.

The new age brands are not just crafting artisanal but also making sure that they go zero waste by keeping plastics at bay. Brands like Rushk wrap their chocolates in plastic-free virgin foils and the box is made using paper-free hemp sheets.

Cacao is much complex than what we think. So when you dig into one this Valentine’s Day, just concentrate as you feel it melt as, “Anything is good if it’s made of chocolate.”

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