There are chocolate lovers, chocolate appreciators and then there are chocolate tasters. L Nitin Chordia is all three, but most importantly, he’s the only official Chocolate Taster on this side of the planet and the founder and owner of Cocoatrait. Not only is he a chocolate taster, but Nitin is also in the process of setting up Cocoashala a school where people can learn the process of chocolate making, understand chocolates better and more importantly, become a chocolate taster as well. The school won’t be ready till January 2017, but Nitin and his wife, Poonam, are working out of the space to continue to produce chocolates, work on subscription boxes and get everything ready for a smooth and painless 2017 launch.
We visited the ‘work-in-progress’ school and got to speak with Nitin and Poonam as well as get a glimpse into the beautifully designed and hand-picked subscription boxes as well as try some of the locally produced chocolates that Poonam works hard on.
When asked what it takes to be a Chocolate Taster, Nitin compared it to being a Wine Sommelier. It’s about understanding every step in the processing of chocolate from the cacao plant to the final consumption. “In India when you say chocolates, we associate it subconsciously with sweets. Growing up, to me a chocolate was a Cadbury bar or better yet, a bar of Campco white chocolate. With those kinds of chocolates that are sugar filled and have so much milk in it, there’s nothing really you need to taste or figure out.” We understand that while sugar is important, it’s not meant to be filled with sugar or saturated in milk. And as Nitin said, “Sugar is an essential element in chocolate, but not to bring out the sweetness in it, but mainly to enhance the flavours. Now if you’re an expert and you’ve trained in the art of chocolate tasting, even the sugar doesn’t matter.”
For those that don’t know, chocolate is made with cacao beans which is a plant that grows fruit which is then harvested and the beans are used to produce chocolate. “You’ll be amazed because there are chocolates that have just cacao and sugar and you can taste fruits. The reason obviously is that it uses good genetic variety of cacao, which is minimally processed. If you over-process it the flavours will vanish, the quality will vanish because it is very delicate. Minimally processing it allows the consumer to taste berries, tobacco, citrus fruits.”
Nitin went on a backpacking trip to Belgium, for chocolate obviously. “I chose Belgium because the common man would think that Belgium is the Mecca of chocolate,” he told us, and added, “I went during summer, so what I got was sugar-filled chocolate. When tourists go to Belgium in the summer, you will taste a specific kind of chocolate. But if you go during the winter, the range of chocolate is entirely different.” He visited the Museum of Cacao and Chocolate in Brussels as part of his trip and got to meet Martin Christy, a connoisseur of fine chocolate who runs the Institute of Chocolate Tasting in England. After the conversation and when Nitin returned to India, he did his research and signed up for the three-level course with Christy and travelled to England to study everything he could about chocolates.
One of the interesting things that Nitin told us during the conversation was that we’ve all been eating chocolate wrong. To get the best flavours from the chocolate, the trick is to enjoy it properly. Usually, when we eat our chocolates, you bite into the bar and chomp away till you are completely done with it. The trick to controling over-eating is to take a bite from the bar or break off a piece and put it on your tongue and let it melt gradually. Your palate will experience every single taste and flavour that is present in the chocolate this way. When you bite into the chocolate, you are missing out on everything else, including the strong flavours.
But one of the most exciting things about Cocoatrait is the subscription box they have that anyone in the country can order. They have two kinds of boxes – the regular monthly subscription or the luxury monthly subscription. These boxes are priced at Rs.999 (for the regular box) and Rs.1,999 (for the luxury box) and you can either order them month-to-month or sign up for the 3 month or 6 month subscription options. In a regular box, subscribers will receive three bars of Indian artisanal chocolates that are hand-picked by Nitin himself, along with a personalised note that tells the subscriber everything they need to know about the chocolates that they have received. The luxury box will have 3-4 bars of chocolate including a bar of imported chocolate as well a bar of Enchante, which is their very own chocolate that is made by Nitin’s wife, Poonam. Enchante, which is their very own chocolate that is made by Nitin’s wife, Poonam.
Cocoatrait has a special offer running for HungryForever readers. Visit the website and order yourself the 1 month subscription of the regular box and use the code COCOHUNGRY and you’ll get a 20% discount on the box. It’s a one of a kind experience that you should not miss!
Stay tuned for part two of our conversation with Nitin, as we talk about Cocoashala, his experience at the Institute of Chocolate Tasting and so much more.