Magazine

Cheaper than therapy

Here’s good news for Indians and their well-known penchant for all things sweet. Over the years, we have seen the sweetmeat market expanding, with everything from bespoke cupcake bakeries to gourmet patisseries to delivery apps catering to fine desserts alone.

Now, even though chocolate is not among our traditional skills, a few niche producers are trying their hand at some gourmet stuff right here at home.

Using organically grown cacao beans, as many local ingredients as possible for flavouring, keeping them free of preservatives and emulsifiers, and packing the chocolates with the flavour of the core ingredient, the cocoa itself, this band of enthusiasts is passionate about its work.

At Mason & Co., founders Jane and Fabien live and breathe the art of making fine chocolate. What started as a way to produce small amounts of good chocolate for Jane’s vegan diet has today turned into a full-fledged hand-crafted chocolate label.

Based in Auroville, Mason & Co produces a fine range of organic, vegan, sugar-free chocolates with a strong commitment to keeping the cacao untouched, unrefined, and with as many health benefits intact as possible. The chocolate is dark, and when sweetness is required, organic cane sugar is used. With no added chemicals, preservatives or emulsifiers, what you taste is the warm, unencumbered woody flavour of cacao beans, with a hint of elements like chilli, sea salt, coconut milk or coffee — some of the best chocolates in their line.

The unfortunate truth about most commercially sold chocolate is that it is stripped of the very essence of chocolate, the cocoa, and is instead high on sugar, preservatives and emulsifiers. In the absence of naturally occurring cacao butter, vegetable fats are added to give it that trademark melt-in-the-mouth creamy consistency. This makes the chocolate affordable and accessible but it is also a huge compromise on taste, quality and health. That’s why chocolate snobs are likely to turn up their nose and talk of the dark chocolate percentage or rave about single-origin chocolates.

Meanwhile, in Mysuru, Earth Loaf Artisan & Raw Chocolates has David Belo and Angelika Anangnostou teaming up to combine the best of pleasure and health, by mixing old-world craft with new-found nutritional wisdom.

They operate on the bean-to-bar philosophy, which requires that chocolatiers have greater awareness about the origin and impact of the beans and the process of making the chocolate long before it reaches consumers. Their chocolates are produced in small batches, from cacao that is sustainably produced in small farms in South India. Their range consists of bars, bonbons, cacao tea infusions, raw chocolate bars, and cacao nibs. Their chocolate bars come in wonderfully exotic expressions of ginger, coconut, Gondhoraj, palmyra sugar and sea salt.

Delhi-based brand All Things produces a delightfully colourful selection of premium chocolates that reflects a range of hand-picked ingredients from around the world.

Stories in Chocolate, the brand’s tag line, suggests that every bar is inspired by an instance of travel, a specific memory, a colour, a shape or a song — with names like All Things Breakfast, All Things Barcelona, All Things Water, All Things Childhood — and comes packaged in lively, colourful wrappers that make you want to reach out for another bar even as you slide the first one into your shopping bag.

For these nouvelle vague chocolatiers, fine chocolate is a terrific coming together of nature, science and flavours. All they do is add an element of luxury and a touch of romance to make a single square of fine dark chocolate a welcome indulgence. For chocolate lovers, things are about to get very yummy.

Revati Upadhya, based in Goa, writes on food, travel, culture and lifestyle.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2020 9:07:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/Cheaper-than-therapy/article14504731.ece

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