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The Rise of Ethical Indulgence: How Indian Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers Are Redefining the Industry

Embark on a delicious journey exploring the rise of bean-to-bar chocolate in India, where ethical practices meet unique flavors and captivating experiences.

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14 Mar '24
8 min read


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Have you ever wondered where your chocolate bar comes from?  

The process begins with harvesting cacao beans from tropical Theobroma cacao trees, often native to Central and South America. After fermentation and drying, the beans are roasted, cracked open, and ground into cocoa nibs. These nibs are processed into cocoa liquor, separating cocoa solids and cocoa butter. 

Theobroma cacao

Cocoa solids become cocoa powder, while cocoa butter is used for chocolate. Conching refines the mixture, enhancing flavour and texture. Finally, the chocolate is tempered, moulded, and cooled bars and confections.

Sounds like a lengthy process. How does it work for mass-produced chocolate? 

Well, the chocolate over here is,

  • Affordable (think your Cadbury Dairy Milk)
  • Manufactured in large quantities 
  • Made with machines and automated technology
  • Has standardized characteristics and flavours
Source: DIY Chocolate Making

But what that has to do with bean-to-bar, the theme of this article, if you ask? 

Bean-to-bar chocolate is all about making chocolate from scratch. Instead of buying ready-made bars, the producer starts with raw cacao beans and crafts the chocolate themselves. This hands-on process gives them full control over every step, from roasting the beans to molding the final treats. The result? Chocolate that's bursting with flavour and crafted with care, reflecting the skills of the maker and the unique qualities of the cacao.

Source: Logistics Insider

This chocolate movement started in the 1990s and was spread throughout from 2000 onwards. Starting around 2005, artisanal chocolate makers entered the scene, focusing on small-batch production, with some creating only a few hundred bars per month.

We are happy to report that the Indian chocolate scene has caught on to this movement with around 33 chocolate brands (think Naviluna, Mason & Co, etc) exploding our senses with flavour and quality. 

Although India has never been recognised as a hub for fine cocoa, a label typically reserved for equatorial Africa and Latin America, a group of small-scale chocolate makers is collaborating with cacao farmers to elevate Indian cocoa and chocolate to prominence.

According to L Nitin Chordia, one of the earliest certified chocolate tasters in the country, the Indian bean-to-bar market recorded sales of ₹35 cr in FY23 and is expected to rise 30 percent each year for the next five years.

In this article, we explore some of our cherished homegrown chocolate bars, shedding light on their distinct approaches, ethical standards, and standout creations. As we delve further, we uncover a realm of new flavour, responsible sourcing, and a dedication to mindful living that is reshaping the Indian chocolate scene

Paul and Mike, Kerala

Nestled in Kochi, Kerala, Paul and Mike, named after two dedicated Latin American cocoa farmers, goes beyond just selling chocolate.  They actively manage the entire cocoa journey, collaborating directly with farmers in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh for wet cocoa bean procurement and post-harvest operations.  

In 2016, Vikas Temani, founder and business head of Paul and Mike, travelled thousands of kilometers from Kerala to South America due to a blossoming artisanal chocolate trend in India and a chance for expansion. There, he visited long-established cacao estates owned by farmers Paul and Mike to learn more about great chocolate as well as new and innovative cacao cultivation practices.

What he learned he applied back home, resulting in a cutting-edge factory and chocolate farm in Kerala. It also gave him the brand's name—"Paul and Mike: Farmers and Fermenters"—which is inscribed on every bar and chocolate wrapper. 

Their unwavering commitment extends beyond taste. They use unrefined Muscovado sugar, adding a deeper, richer flavour profile with a touch of natural sweetness compared to common white sugar.

This dedication led to new flavours followed by accolades. 

We are talking about their '64 Percent Dark Sichuan Pepper and Orange Peel Vegan Chocolate' that won a silver medal at the 2020–2021 International Chocolate Awards.

It exemplifies their ethos, with a strong combination of dark chocolate, the tingling warmth of Sichuan pepper, and the zesty embrace of orange peel. Grab it now. 

Soklet, Tamil Nadu

Soklet isn't your average chocolate bar.  This trailblazing brand holds the distinction of being India's first and only tree-to-bar chocolate maker. From meticulously overseeing the entire cocoa bean journey to crafting the final product, Soklet prioritises unwavering quality. 

Source: Soklet

Their belief? In the hands of a skilled chocolatier, a simple bar can transform into a symphony of flavours, rivaling the complexity of fine wine.

Nestled in the picturesque landscapes of Pollachi, Tamil Nadu the brand champions ethical and sustainable practices. Founded by the visionary Palanisamy twins, Soklet prioritises responsible sourcing and fosters a harmonious relationship with the environment.  

This dedication to quality translates into a commitment to authentic ingredients. Unlike many mass-produced chocolates, Soklet relies solely on cocoa beans and sugar. This focus on pure ingredients allows the natural essence of the cocoa to shine through, creating a richer and more complex taste profile.

Soklet's bars are adorned with elegant designs inspired by the heirloom woven fabrics of Tamil Nadu, making each bar a visual and culinary treat.

We like their signature 70% Dark Chocolate which strikes the perfect balance of sweetness, bringing the rich cacao flavor to life. 

Mason and Co, Tamil Nadu

Mason & Co., located in the artistic enclave of Auroville, Tamil Nadu, has emerged as a symbol of artisanal quality in the chocolate industry. Jane Mason founded this bean-to-bar chocolate firm, which has received accolades for its devotion to organic and fair trade standards, combining traditional craftsmanship with a modern concept of sustainability.

Source: Mason and Co.

Mason & Co. champions a sustainable bean-to-bar chocolate journey, fostering enduring partnerships with stakeholders like Go Ground Cocoa to empower smallholder farmers in the forests of Kerala. Their commitment to ethical and traceable practices extends from cacao bean sourcing to intricate packaging design which is screen-printed to keep this skill alive. 

Moreover, they uphold eco-conscious initiatives, such as repurposing water discharge for agricultural reuse and employing natural surface cleaners in their production facilities.

The brand proudly boasts non-mechanized chocolate making. This artisanal approach allows for precise control over every stage of production, from roasting the beans to conching (refining).

Their highly skilled workforce comprises an all-female team from surrounding villages who are are trained in chocolate making, preserving the craft while contributing to the local community. 

Our pick is their ‘Black Sesame and Raisin’ Dark Chocolate, where tart raisins sprinkled on smooth dark chocolate fused with nutty black sesame create a texture-rich bar. 

Pascati, Maharashtra

Founded with passion and purpose, this brand today prides itself as the country’s first USDA Organic and Fairtrade-compliant chocolate brand.

Founder Devansh Ashar's vision was to create chocolates that not only celebrate the rich cocoa heritage of India but also adhere to the principles of sustainability. The brand's commitment to traditional craftsmanship meets a contemporary dedication to ethical sourcing and environmental responsibility.

Source: Pascati

The brand takes pride in partnering with farmers who adhere to environmentally responsible practices. The farmers are trained to develop fermentation protocols that affect the flavour profile of the cacao and ultimately the tasting notes of the final product - chocolate.

Furthermore, the brand ensures that every stage of chocolate production contributes to the well-being of farmers and local communities.

Our favourite creation is Pascati's Orange Cinnamon and Hazelnut Chocolate, which masterfully blends the warmth of cinnamon and hazlenut with the sour notes of orange.

Kocoatrait, Tamil Nadu

Kocoatrait claims to be the world's and India's first sustainable luxury chocolate with zero waste. Made with Single OriginOrganic ingredients, this Plastic Positive chocolate champions eco-consciousness from bean to bar, promoting a healthy planet and a thriving circular economy.

Source: Cocoatrait

The story behind this brand is woven with the passion of its founders, L Nitin Chordia and Poonam Chordia. Holding the distinction of being India's first certified chocolate taster and first certified female chocolate taster, respectively, their journey began with a deep appreciation for the bean and a vision to elevate the Indian chocolate experience.

Like Mason & Co, the brand focuses on sustainability throughout the process. Kocoatrait uses eco-friendly packaging, reducing its environmental impact. Recycled and recyclable materials are emphasised, demonstrating a strong commitment to responsible manufacturing.

We prefer Kocoatrait's 64 percent Sukku Malli Kaapi dark chocolate, which uses organic Indian cocoa beans, unrefined cane sugar, and real herbs & spices for a pure bean-to-bar experience.

 

Manam, Telangana

Manam is India’s first craft chocolate brand and stands out in the Indian chocolate landscape by focusing on ethical sourcing, and a distinct flavor character. It was founded by 32-year-old Chaitanya Muppala, who is a second-generation entrepreneur.

Source: Manam Chocolate

Manam’s philosophy is upon the painstaking "bean-to-bar" method, They give special focus to the fermentation process which is the most important and yet most ignored procedure in unlocking the cacao bean's secret world of distinct flavors. 

The brand collaborates closely with its 100-plus farmer community and sister company, Distinct Origins Cacao Fermentery in West Godavari, Andhra Pradesh. Together, they uncover the undiscovered flavors of Indian cacao through modern farm methods and sophisticated fermentation and drying procedures, elevating it to its proper place on the global stage.

‘The Indian-origin tablet No.5’ will be our pick from their vast inventory of craft chocolates.

The exploration of these six leading bean-to-bar brands in India merely scratches the surface of this exciting movement. Each brand, with its unique story, dedication to quality, and innovative spirit, contributes to a vibrant and evolving chocolate landscape in the country.

So, the next time you reach for a chocolate bar, consider exploring the world of bean-to-bar. You might discover a new favourite and go to chocolate variant, while supporting responsible practices and contributing to a more sustainable future for chocolate.

Category : Food and Cooking


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Written by Deepali Singh