Retired Naval officer, Commander C. T. Kuruvilla, makes couverture chocolates which are trans fat free

Sinful chocolates? Not always. Here are chocolates that are healthy and yummy, made by a citywala who had a long stint in the Indian Navy. And here’s how Cdr C.T. Kuruvilla moved on from the high seas to become a chocolatier with a difference.

There was a time in Kerala, in the mid 70s, when Cadbury,the famous chocolate company, encouraged planters to take to cocoa growing in the midst of an acute world cocoa shortage. They provided saplings and had a buy back arrangement. It all was a hunky dory plan with a promised chocolaty future. Planters, caught in the sweep of dreams, switched to cocoa. But down the road the dream crashed. Cocoa prices tanked and the deal turned sour. Growers were disappointed and the failed planting ventures became the talk of the times.

It is in this scenario that the seeds of chocolate making were sown in the naval officer’s mind. He began researching, reading up books and did serious work after leaving the Navy and using the fruits of the information revolution. In the last two years he has begun manufacturing couverture chocolates commercially and makes chocolate confectionery (Cocoacraft) using it.

What is unique about the chocolates that he manufactures is that they are trans fat free. This makes them healthy unlike compounds where most of the cocoa butter is replaced by hydrogenated fats, which are cheaper, to make but full of trans fats.

“Couvertures have a minimum of 32 per cent cocoa butter for the necessary workablity,” says Kuruvilla adding that compounds are usually used in confectionery, because it needs no tempering and therefore is easy to work with and a lot cheaper.

“The basic challenge in chocolate making is flavour development of cocoa. This is a closely guarded secret,” says Kuruvilla . The standard equipment for manufacturing chocolate is available but is of very large capacity and expensive. He has fabricated his own machinery, some of them based on different principles.

Kuruvilla has a unit in Kakkanad, which makes bamboo mats and blinds. Part of this factory is utilised for chocolate making. The confectionery is made at their home in Ernakulam.

There are two ways of making couverture chocolate- the Dutch process and natural process. In the Dutch process the chocolate is alkalised using sodium or potassium carbonate. It is a short cut, but kills flavonols the main health giver of cocoa, and destroys flavour. In the natural process, it takes ten to twelve times longer for flavour to develop. The former reduces time line substantially making it cost effective, while natural process takes time but is healthy and gives full flavour.

Kuruvilla sources fermented and dried beans from two growers in Kerala, one of whom has organic and fair trade certification. Fermentation of the bean is the most important aspect of chocolate making. ‘No fermentation no flavour’. “Most chocolatiers use compound. They don’t use couverture because of the problem of tempering, which is a simple but technical process”. (It gives chocolate gloss, pleasant colour and appearance, easy unmouldability and the snap. Untempered chocolate will be crumbly, ugly to look at and will refuse to unmould. Though it is the same chocolate, mouth feel will be poor.)

Kuruvilla took premature retirement from the Navy in 1993 to pursue a passion so varied from his obsession with the sea and the ship.

“He is the taster and the maker,” says Rose Mary, his wife, and recalls a day when she found that a bedroom in the house had been converted into a chocolate making room. “Sometimes his machines would leak gooey chocolate on the whole floor. Cocoa beans were being roasted while chocolate was being cooled in the same room. He had taken over the place.”

Their daughter, Sanjana, an MBA, is the managing partner of the firm, Kuruvilla and Sons.

Currently the company makes bulk couverture for industry, and has diversified into chocolate confectionary. They make enrobed chocolates with different fillings and the more common moulded chocolates. “We have chocolate with coconut centre, with nut caramel and with peanuts as well.” Chocolate syrup, cocoa powder and cocoa spread are the other consumer products. Though international prices of cocoa is lower than prices here, Kuruvilla sources his beans only from Kerala. They have distributors across the State.

The health factor

Rosemary narrates an instance of how about a case when they were contacted by a cancer patient who had controlled her disease by making life style changes and change in food habits. Reading about the healthy, trans fat free chocolates, she got in touch with Kuruvilla and placed orders with him. “That was really a proud moment,” said Rose Mary. Quite recently a patient of diabetes ordered for this healthy 85 per cent bitter form of dark chocolate. “Though it is a small order I do make customised chocolates for people with health issues,” says Kuruvilla, happy that his venture is helping people live a life of sweet fulfilment.