They come in exotic flavours like chocolate with Guntur chilly or pineapple and vanilla, are dark with varying degrees of sugar-cacao ratios, attempt to be as organic and local as possible, and involve smart packaging that wouldn’t seem out of place on a wine bottle. These are offerings from a new wave of artisan chocolatiers in the country who celebrate the bean-to-bar concept. Of these, two names appear frequently on the lists of cocoa purists: Mason & Co in Auroville, Puducherry, and Earth Loaf in Mysore. Both are run by expat husband-wife teams who came to the country a few years ago, pursuing an interest in both the raw food culture and yoga. They source the beans from small organic farmers in the south and get by with a workforce of three to five people.
Australian lawyer-turned-chocolatier Jane, 35, and her husband Fabien Mason, 30, moved to India four years ago. They make eight kinds of chocolate bars, from coconut milk dark chocolate (55 per cent) to zesty orange dark chocolate (75 per cent) with a team of five people. A Limited Edition series sees rare beans from Peru (sourced from a tree that was left untouched for over 100 years, it resulted in 50 bars that flew off the shelves).
The duo is currently working on exclusive flavours like coffee from Venezuela and vanilla and rose, with the latter sourced from the Himalayas. Their newest Limited Edition bar, a ginger chocolate made from biodynamic cacao beans, is a huge success, says Jane. Together with her husband—“who handles the technical side of the business”—she interacts with farmers “to increase flavour and build structure”.
The process that begins with the bean involves winnowing, grinding, stabilising, moulding and packing, all while ensuring that the chocolate is not exposed to temperatures higher than 48-50 degrees Celsius. The vegan bars have been created minus emulsifiers and preservatives. With about 1,000 bars per week available at about 30 retailers—including online food destination, Place of Origin—Mason & Co plans to expand and is looking for investment.
There is also a store in Auroville on the cards. Jane, who used to be a raw food chéf in Bali before her stint in India, says meeting people at the Auroville factory (by appointment) and going bean-tasting around the world gives her much satisfaction. “My former boss used to tell me I had the itchiest feet. I knew I was destined for a different path,” says the part-time surfer, who also organises chocolate tastings with tea, coffee, wine and whisky across the country. The chocolates are prices at `245 onward.
“There are more flavour notes in chocolate than in red wine, and it is interesting to discover them with like-minded people,” she says, hoping to organise a tasting in Bengaluru and Auroville next month.