CHENNAI: Some people travel to sightsee. L Nitin Chordia set out on a backpacking trip last year to do one thing — eat chocolate. The 36-year-old from Chennai recalls, “I went to where I thought was the Mecca of chocolate at the time, Belgium. And I ate about 4 kg of chocolate in 20 days!” Along the way, he happened to meet Martin Christy, a connoisseur of fine chocolate who invited him to sign up for a brand new course at his Institute of Chocolate Tasting in the UK. You don’t have to guess what Nitin’s answer was...
Two years later, after spending `2.5 lakh and and having done 200 tastings, Nitin is not only India’s first certified chocolate taster, but one of three in all of Asia. And while his wife and friends are still grappling with the reality of his unconventional new career, this former retail business consultant gives us some insight by taking us back to where it all started. Rewind to 2005. Nitin was helping the owners of Godrej Nature’s Basket, a premium food store to set up shop. “My responsibility was to find the best food products to import, and in the process I found myself spending a lot of extra time on chocolate,” he remembers. Conversing with close to 80 manufacturers of fine chocolate across Belgium, France and Italy — little did Nitin realise it at the time, but he was acquiring a taste for chocolate conversation.
By the way, he mentions in passing, “Did you know that chocolate or rather the fruit from which it is made, cacao, actually has more flavour notes than wine?” And this is not counting add-ons like roasted hazelnut, berries or even Guntur chilli, that he gives us samplings of as we chat. It turns out that apart from setting up tasting sessions via his ‘Chocolate tasting Club’ Cocoatrait (also the name of his original brand of chocolate), Nitin also has also taken a bite of the distribution market.
Although ‘bite’ is one word he’s completely against when savouring a square of chocolate. “There’s natural cocoa butter in there, just let it melt on your tongue. That’s how you’re going to fully experience all that flavour,” he advises.
Working with independent chocolatiers from Puducherry, Mysore, Daman and Mumbai, Nitin shows us brands like Earth Loaf and Bean Therapy that have never seen the shelf of a commercial supermarket. Instead of glossy wrappers, these slabs boast kolam and peacock motifs on their packaging, showcasing a local aesthetic. “What I do is find quality chocolate and help it reach consumers all over the world. Like recently a small chocolate maker from Mysore found import interest with a vendor in Amsterdam,” he explains.
If you want to learn to make your own chocolate or become a taster yourself, Nitin tells us that his chocolate school Cocoa Shala will be open in three months.
(A chocolate tasting session is priced at `1,000. Call 9600064846)