Artisan chocolates are the new rage in India as chocolates go all out to be organic, vegan all things exotic.
What do Black Sesame, Sea Salt Caramel, Himalayan Pink Salt, Rosemary, Crunchy Peanut Butter, Blueberries, Mango, Red Capsicum and Chilli have in common? Well that might sound like a googly considering the diverse nature of the ingredients but all of these are used as ingredients in chocolates made in India!
Simply speaking artisan means made with a skill developed and cultivated slowly over time. Single origin chocolates are those that from a single source – whether it is a county or a plantation. The focus is on the inherited flavours of the cacao that is influenced by the environment it is cultivated includes flavours of fruits, nuts, spices and caramels. “At Earth Loaf we use very rudimentary equipment that requires a lot of attention to detail from the chocolate maker to craft a gourmet product with layers of nuance. In contrast to industrial chocolate we always take the slow, and where possible, manual route. Our chocolate is conched slowly over granite rather than high speed stainless steel. Our chefs temper their chocolate by hand rather than relying on machines, a tough task in a tropical south Indian climate I might add. All our ingredients and inclusions are made from scratch in-house. Nothing we use is pre-made or packet bought, which is what allows our ingredients to by so unique whilst enabling us to maintain high standards of quality,” says David Belo, Managing Director & Executive Chef, Earth Loaf Artisan Chocolate, Mysore. There is an increasing trend towards quality over quantity in India and this is more to do with macro-economic factors and sustained economic growth stemming largely from well-heeled travelers who understand and demand more. Artisan Chocolates are more nuanced in flavour, made with real ingredients and are a delight to the palate. Most of them are made in small batches without any artificial preservatives or chemicals. Ashish Bawa, Business Head, Vivanda Gourmet adds, “we wanted Vivanda Gourmet to be a beautiful amalgamation of great design and delectable confectionary. We started this company with an intention of creating that perfect box of chocolates that you would be excited to gift someone or receive yourself. We wanted to make international favourites and also Indian inspired chocolate confections with the finest quality ingredients and pack them in stunning boxes with intricate designs. That is why we have a chocolate manufacturing set up and a packing team and manufacturing under one roof.”
Establishing a Trail
India has been christened “the international chocolate origin of the year” in 2018 for chocolate makers and connoisseurs alike, looking for new terroir induced flavours, which India has an abundance of with its myriad of micro-climates. Pondicherry based Mason & Co makes organic, dark chocolate from Indian origin cacao beans. The highly skilled workforce here is an all-female team of local village women who have been trained in the art of chocolate making. “Our products are free from chemical, preservatives and emulsifiers and they are also dairy and soy free. We make 12 flavours of chocolate, our favourites includes the 75% Bittersweet Dark Chocolate (our signature bar, it truly celebrates the flavours of Indian cacao beans) the 70% Black Sesame & Raisin Dark Chocolate (our version of a fruit & nut bar), the 70% Sea Salt Dark Chocolate (an all-time favourite),” says Mansi Reddy, Marketing & Partnerships at Mason & Co. At Mason & Co many chocolate making processes like sorting, winnowing, tempering and packaging mostly done by hand.
Artisan products tend to be less processed without chemicals and preservatives and are therefore healthier to consume. The Indian consumer is aware of this benefit and is now looking for healthier alternatives, even if they are indulgences like chocolate. Many chefs are now travelling the world to educate themselves and coming back with an intention to make the Indian market at par. Chocolate tasting and appreciation sessions are being well received too. Nivedita Prasad, Co-Founder, Chocolate Philosophy says, “we have 10 single origin bars are made from cocoa beans grown in a specific geographic are of the world. Ecological factors like soil, rainfall, heat, humidity and adjacent crops also create the unique aroma and flavour profiles. Also our sea salt caramel, Chilled dark fudge, and now we have a great demand for our Dark and Milk chocolate Slates with various nuts and grains which are cooled and set on stone. In India, several chocolatiers are starting to make their own tree to bar chocolates. “Growing or sourcing their beans from India and making chocolates from the scratch and adding Indian ingredients which are locally grown. We can see a lot more players in the market now, and most of these people are actually doing it because of the passion for chocolate,” adds Uma Raju, Co-Founder, Chocolate Philosophy.
The biggest challenge is the temperature as chocolate melts at 27 degrees and needs to reach the consumer in a good condition. Toshin Shetty, Patissier & Founder, Toshin Patisserie adds, “the prominent challenges I have faced include sourcing of beans and ingredients. Since all our chocolates are bespoke, each recipe requires a different kind of chocolate to be sourced from different regions of the world. Ensuring a constant sustainable supply of these chocolates, while keeping up with production demands is a continuous struggle. The most recent challenge has been that of creating healthy, sugar free chocolates for the health conscious customer base. So I am on the constant look out for sugar alternates for my recipes without compromising on the taste of the actual product.” As Charles M. Schulz famously said, “all you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” And when it is artisan chocolate it loves you right back.
This story first appeared in The Tribune Trends dated 17th Nov 2018 here: