While it’s hard to distinguish chocolate brands from each other, true chocolate lovers know the difference between fine and regular chocolate.
Craft chocolate, also known as the bean-to-bar concept is not new around the world. However, it has only recently begun blooming in India, with restaurants and brands catering to very uniquely developed flavours and aromas that are created right from scratch.
In an attempt to know more about the bean-to-bar concept, LuxeBook spoke to Chef Sanjana Patel, Co-founder of La Folie, Nitin Chordia, Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder of Kocoatrait, Rahul Bajaj of The Blue Gourmet and Vimal Sharma, Director & CEO of Smoor.
Bean to bar
Simply put, the bean to bar concept is when the entire process of chocolate making is carried out by the same chocolatier, right from sourcing the beans to blending the ingredients. The process, although tedious, is a great way for chocolate makers to be able control the entire process of preparation as well as the result of their creations.
Craft chocolate makers often compare the process to making wine with a purity of ingredients. “The entire process begins from the bean. Its like making wine,” says chef Sanjana. “There is a lot of purity in terms of ingredients.”
And that is what sets the difference between bean to bar and industrial chocolate. Because even though industrial chocolate is sort of a bean to bar concept, they are full of preservatives and artificial flavours. Craft chocolate on the other hand focuses on more intrinsic flavours that are all naturally derived.
The first and most important step in making your own chocolate is the bean process. And this is by far the trickiest stage in chocolate making. Cocoa is an agricultural product and the beans have the ability to change their flavour based on factors like soil, climate, terroir etc. Aside from these, not ageing the beans for enough time can also affect the flavour.
Most bean-to-bar companies turn to Karnataka in India for local beans, while others work with international farmers as well.
“La Folie collaborates with farmers across the world to source its beans, from region like Peru and Ecuador. However, we have become more hyperlocal and are sourcing beans from regions in Karnataka,” says Chef Sanjana.
While every chocolatier has their own unique method, the overall process of making chocolate from scratch involves roasting, winnowing, refining, conching and tempering.
An important step which is often overlooked is ageing the beans. According to Rahul Bajaj, “Ageing the beans is like ageing wine. With time, the flavour is enhanced and will only become better.”
These enhanced flavours are further improved after being roasted, another step which can affect the overall flavour of the chocolate. “Not roasting the beans properly can ruin the flavour completely. Some brands get the beans roasted from the farmers, who don’t have enough knowledge about it, so they might either burn it or under-roast it, either way the bean is ruined,” adds Bajaj.
After conching, the beans are de-shelled, ground and mixed with other ingredients. “We then use stone grinders to refine the cocoa beans along with sugar and other ingredients to reduce the particle size, and create a batch of chocolate ready to be conched using the same stone grinder,” says Nitin Chordia.
And finally comes the tempering process, where the chocolate is tempered and moulded into various shapes and packaged.
Each brand has its own unique set of flavours, that aren’t restricted to the mediocre sweet flavours, from floral and fruity to spicy and bitter. Each flavour is created by using all natural methods. One of the other things that define craft chocolate is their ability to play with flavours, right from spicy aromas, to salted notes, and even floral, fruity and nutty flavours. However, each brand has their own USP for selecting its flavours.
La Folie’s Chef Sanjana claims to blend cocoa beans from specific regions to create varied flavours, like a combination of African and Indian beans which combine nutty caramel flavours.
Kocoatrait works with the inherent flavour of the cacao bean to do a match based on flavour science to decide the ingredients that should complement the chocolate, including herbs, spices and unique flowers.
Experimentation is at the heart of Smoor’s creations, combining both Indian and international flavours to appease its audiences. These include additions like star anise, blueberries chilli and even pecan nuts.
While liquor chocolates aren’t a new thing, crafted liquor bonbons are a unique find, especially in India. The Blue Gourmet is one such place. The restaurant creates “liquor-filled” bonbons with abundant variety, like Baileys and Old Monk.
Bean to bar in India
Chef Sanjana believes that it all boils down to the consumer and their preferences. She believes that educating the ocnumsers about craft chocolate are what will help promote bean to bar in Inida. “Consumers need to be educated about craft chocolate.They need to be able to grow into it. For someone who’s only eaten milk chocolate all their life, switching to dark chocolate might seem like a jump,” she adds.
But with the growth of the bean to bar industry, consumers are able to grow and explore the craft. According to Vimal Sharma, the concept of bean to bar is slowly appealing to both manufacturers and customers. “Customers understand bean-to-bar and single origin as chocolate concepts and see merit in giving a premium for both.”
And finally, it is the growth of bean-to-bar brands that has played an important role in promoting the craft in India. “The growth rate of bean-to-bar chocolate makers in India is testimony to the popularity of bean to bar chocolate in India,” says Chordia. “I think it is quite safe to say that we have only just got started and just like speciality tea or coffee we have a long and comforting path ahead.”