Food

A workshop by Arun Viswanathan introduces bean-to-bar chocolates

Do you know your chocolates?

Do you know your chocolates?   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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The workshop was a revelation. Arun Viswanathan of Chitra’m Chocolates and Café Infusions, in tandem with Coimbatore Vizha, organised a three-hour session, to introduce bean-to-bar chocolates. Saying that this is one way of “celebrating cacao farmers and the hand-crafted chocolate makers,” he used the event to showcase hand-picked chocolates from round the world.

Arun Viswanathan

Arun Viswanathan   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Arun’s awards
  • 2019 the Moringa Lemon White Chocolate won the Bronze in Asia Pacific Region for white chocolate with infusions category
  • 2018 the Mango Lassi Milk Chocolate won the Bronze in Asia Pacific region in Milk Chocolate with Infusions Category and the Bronze in the World Finals for Milk Chocolate with Infusions Category
  • 2018 The 70% Dark Chocolate with Palm Sugar won Bronze in Asia Pacific Region in Dark Chocolate in Alternative Sugar category

The workshop was held on three days. “On the first day, just two people had signed up, the second saw more than 20 and the final day had seven.” The day began with history on the Mayan and Aztec civilisations, known to have been some of the earliest cacao cultivators. “They considered it as food of the gods, and used it to barter,” says Arun pointing to an entire wall in his café. Mayari from Mexico’s Kakaw Chocolates, who conducted a workshop at his café, painted information about chocolate. One learns that for 10 cacao beans one could get a rabbit; a single tomato could be had for a single bean and, a slave cost 100 beans!

The suspense built up as Meenakshi, a chocolatier at Infusions Cafe, places glasses of water and a saucer with a big biscuit. “Make sure you drink plenty of water, as chocolate dehydrates. The biscuit is a palate cleanser between each tasting,” she explains. We taste each chocolate and write down what it reminds us of: taste and flavour.

The bean-to-bar journey
  • Bean-to-bar chocolates are a healthier alternative to mass-produced ones. They tend to have fewer ingredients and less sugar. They are also more supportive off cacao farmers. These hand-crafted chocolates allow for more creativity and experimentation. When the cacao beans are sourced locally or closer home, then it also makes a strong statement about sustainability.

“Take a single bite, allow the piece of chocolate to sit on your tongue, shut your eyes and ears to the world outside and experience it. Then write down what you taste on the form in front of you” instructs Arun. There is some trepidation. I have never allowed chocolate to sit in my mouth! But Arun is reassuring, “Tasting isn’t a easy job. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop our taste buds to be able to enjoy chocolates and its nuances attached.”

We detect mere suggestions of flavours. In order to help us, Arun hints, they could be spicy, earthy, fruity, mollasses-y or simply chocolaty. Or possibly a combination of two or three of the above. He also asks us to observe the appearance, the crisp snap as we break it, the smell, the melt and the after-taste.

“During my time in Belgium, I noticed a lot of tasting sessions happening and I never understood the purpose. What can be so different about tasting a chocolate except for the flavours infused? But all this changed when, while conducting a bean-to-bar chocolate-making workshop in Coimbatore, we had a short tasting and aroma analysis by Mayari.”

Each individual has a different response to chocolates; each one’s palate receives it differently. For example the Indian palate usually demands stronger, bolder infusions while, in the West, everything is toned down.

After the tasting, we discuss the flavours each one noted. We agree on some and disagree on others. Since we are doing it over chocolates, it is all very civilised.

We are given another piece of each of our favourites. Mine has a smoky, earthy flavour. What are Arun’s favourite and the most bizarre he has tasted? “I can’t have enough of truffles made with loads of butter in them and dark chocolate. The most outrageous flavour I tasted was fried onions in chocolate. I had them both in Belgium.”

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 7:09:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/a-workshop-by-arun-viswanathan-of-chitram-chocolates-to-introduce-bean-to-bar-chocolates/article30523404.ece

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