Bean therapy: Does your 9-year-old eat dark chocolate?
A nine-year-old approached me awhile ago for dark chocolate. But not just any kind — 100 per cent dark,” says L Nitin Chordia. Astonished, Nitin who is India’s first certified chocolate taster was in for a shocker when the kid added, “Don’t worry, it’s for my daily source of potassium!”
While chocolatiers and retailers admit that this is the exception to the rule, with the demand being more in tune with the 40 and up age bracket, what they have observed is a new trend on the rise. There’s an increasing number of people asking for dark chocolate, darker. For nearly a year now, there have been repeated requests for increased percentages of chocolate, ranging from 80 to a 100 per cent, elaborates Nitin. He points out that the specificity of the requests reflects a well-informed customer. This is rather surprising, given that the market for fine chocolate, more specifically dark is fairly nascent in India. By the way, if you want to know 100 per cent dark chocolate tastes like — count on all bitter, no sweet. So much so that Nitin assures us unabashedly, “You may be inclined to spit it out, if you aren’t prepared for what’s coming.”
Bitter, better, bolder
Whether recommended by a doctor post a diabetic scare or simply for a nuanced palate — brands like Earth Loaf, Bean Therapy and Mason and Co, which cater exclusively to dark chocolate enthusiasts have found a steady following. And not just in upmarket metros either. “One of our fastest growing customer hubs is actually in Rishikesh," says David Belo of Earth Loaf, which runs its operations out of Mysore. This is contrary to the notion that metros dominate a bulk of enthusiasts or connoisseur clientele. “Year on year, we grow our sales there by about 30 per cent thanks to the large crowds of foreign tourists who visit,” he explains. “One of our fastest growing customer hubs is actually in Rishikesh,” says David Belo of Earth Loaf, which runs its operations out of Mysore. This is contrary to the notion that metros dominate a bulk of enthusiasts or connoisseur clientele. “Year on year, we grow our sales there by about 30 per cent thanks to the large crowds of foreign tourists who visit,” he explains.
Capsicum and cocoa?
A steadily expanding market also means bigger, bolder flavours. Imagine natural infusions of spices that range from chilli to elaichi, fruity flavours like Gondhoraj limes or apricots from Bengal and combination options like Mango-Red Chilli-Capsicum. “You either love it or hate it,” admits Sanjoy Solomon, founder of Mumbai-based Bean Therapy. The brand which has built a reputation for itself with spice-infused creations like their popular Saffron Kahwa bar and sweet-heat inspired Black pepper and mango uses a graduation of cocoa percentages starting from 55 per cent, ascending to to 62 per cent and peaking at 70 per cent. While popular belief may have you assume that darker means healthier, there are other aspects to consider. Like the treatment of cacao (fruit from which chocolate is made). Earth Loaf known for their artisanal ‘raw chocolate’ ensures that their beans are cold-processed as opposed to roasted at high temperatures, “The process keeps living enzymes in the cocoa and thereby doesn’t lower its nutritional value,” David elaborates.
Sugar proportions aside, the source of the sweetening agent used can also make a significant difference. Natural sweeteners like coconut sugar (used by Earth Loaf) or dates up the nutritional value when compared to refined cane sugar that is the cost effective and commonly used option. Fabelle, the ITC group’s gourmet chocolate boutique decided to give sugar a miss altogether by launching a whole ‘No Added Sugar’ range of luxury chocolates a month ago. From handcrafted dark chocolate almond feuilletage with mascarpone and milk cocoa gelato to a Dark Ghana Hot Cocoa — dark chocolate just graduated from bar to resident five-star.