Far away from the mass-produced and overly sweet bars by iconic brands in India, a bunch of homegrown craft chocolate makers are carving out their identity with high-quality cacao, a wide palate of unique flavours, small batches and loads of passion. Focused on transparency and sustainability, bean-to-bar is a long, arduous process where these chocolate makers use locally-sourced raw cacao beans that are roasted, winnowed and ground, in a controlled environment to transform into a delectable chocolate bar. These chocolate bars are also infused with local, seasonal ingredients to create concoctions that speak for themselves. Dark chocolate with bhut jholokia chilli and Himalayan pink salt, a zero-sugar milk chocolate with glazed ginger and vegan dark chocolate with black sesame – you’ll be amazed how much they can do with regional and local ingredients.
The bean-to-bar movement in India goes back to 2014. It was kick-started by two brands, Naviluna (then Earth Loaf) in Mysore and Mason & Co. in Puducherry. In the new decade, we are at 15 (and counting) such chocolate makers who are dedicated to producing good-quality and preservative-free chocolate for all ages.
Here, we bring to you our pick of the best craft chocolate brands in the country.
India’s first USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) certified organic and fairtrade compliant chocolate maker, Pascati was founded by restaurant manager-turned-chocolatier and entrepreneur Devansh Asher. Asher’s tryst with chocolate began in early 2014 and curious to know more, he enrolled himself in a three-month online chocolate-making course. After a year of polishing his skills, experimenting with flavours and delving deeper into the Indian cacao, he launched Pascati in 2015. Social responsibility is at the core of everything Pascati does. The brand sources its beans from farmer’s collectives in Kerala’s Idukki and Malabar regions, which means livelihood for 2000+ farmers, and, over the last five years, has developed 14 different types of chocolate.
Must try: Saffron pistachio dark
Where to buy: www.pascati.com
2. Mason & Co.
Organic, vegan and raw, this single-origin chocolate brand was founded in Auroville, Puducherry by Jane Mason and Fabien Bontems, a lawyer and a sound engineer, respectively. It began in 2014, when Mason, a vegan, saw a dearth of good chocolate brands in the country. Mason and Bontems started by making small batches for themselves at home and assessing the flavour and quality of local cacao beans. Soon, their chocolate became popular among friends and family, which eventually motivated the duo to go from a home lab to an artisan factory and launch Mason & Co. They have an all-women team (except Bontems) who work with beans sourced from certified organic farms in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to make chocolate bars that are free of preservatives and emulsifiers. Mason & Co. products come wrapped in elegant cardboard boxes with a coloured band that denotes flavour. Espresso dark chocolate, natural coconut milk and dark chocolate with peanut butter are a few of the flavours on offer here.
Must try: Black Sesame and Raisin Dark Chocolate
Where to buy: www.masonchocolate.com
Formerly known as Earth Loaf, Naviluna is one of the pioneers of craft chocolate in India. It is helmed by British mixologists-turned-entrepreneurs David Belo and Angelika Anangnostou. The bean-to-bar chocolate brand was founded in 2012 and it focuses on keeping it as raw and simple as possible -- they neither roast their single-origin cacao beans nor add butter to their chocolate. The duo believes the lack of roasting preserves its natural benefits and adds a distinct flavour profile to the final product. Just like most bean-to-bar brands, Naviluna’s chocolates are small batch and features offbeat flavour combinations such as jackfruit and black pepper, red capsicum and chilli, and Blue Tokai coffee and pineapple.
Must try: Gondhoraj and Apricot Bar
Where to buy: naviluna.in
Soklet takes the bean-to-bar concept a notch higher by growing their own cacao beans. It is owned by brothers-in-law Karthikeyan Palanisamy and Harish Manoj Kumar and the entire process, from breeding cacao trees to chocolate making and packaging, takes place at their set-up located on the foothills of the Anamalai Hills in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu. Soklet's offerings, including dark and milk varieties paired with interesting ingredients such as hibiscus, desi rabdi and spice, come wrapped in an equally interesting packaging that is inspired by Kanjeevaram sari borders. The founding duo also sells cooking chocolate made from their plantation's beans under the brand name Regal Chocolate.
Must try: 70% dark chocolate with Bhot Jolokia chilli and Himalayan pink salt
Where to buy: soklet.in
In 2014, when L Nitin Chordia went on a study trip to Belgium, he realised the potential of Indian cacao beans. At the same time, he also got introduced to the concept of bean-to-bar chocolate. Once back, he spent approximately five years educating enthusiasts about the entire process of chocolate-making until he was ready to launch Kocoatrait. Started in October 2019, Kocoatrait is for people who want to binge on quality chocolate but also save the environment. The brand claims to be a zero-waste product, meaning its packaging is made using eco-friendly materials like cotton waste and cacao shells. Most of their products are vegan and are sweetened using khandsari sugar from Uttar Pradesh. Apart from chocolate bars, they also sell bon bons, cocoa powder and cocoa nibs. Apart from chocolate bars, they also sell bon bons, cocoa powder and cocoa nibs.
Must try: Coconut and Cinnamon Chocolate
Where to buy: cocoatrait.com