Slab Report: Indian Chocolate Brands All Things, La Folie, Mosaic
Our annual hunt for the country’s best chocolate makers has led us to three new independent Indian brands making first-rate bars and truffles.
ALL THINGS CHOCOLATE
All Things Chocolate is part art project, part culinary enterprise. The brand was launched in Delhi in November 2015 by freelance graphic designer Kuhu Kochar and her school friend, pastry chef Tejasvi Chandela. The duo, which moved to Jaipur from the capital this year, combined their professional skills to produce chocolate bars with innovative flavours packaged in striking boxes, many of which are pretty enough to be framed and mounted on walls.
Kochar refers to All Things Chocolate as a passion project, a distraction from the rigours of her day job. It started with the idea of ‘all things’, a phrase that she wanted to build upon as a packaged product. At the time Chandela had just begun experimenting with a line of chocolates at the second outpost of her patisserie Dzurt in Gurgaon (which she now runs in Jaipur). After Kochar tried them, she felt it made perfect sense to package the chocolates under the brand All Things.
Rather than developing their own bean-to-bar brand as local purveyors Mason & Co. and Earthloaf have, the pair has focused on design and flavour innovation. Chandela studied chocolate making in Belgium where the same craft chocolate manufacturer who tutored her roasts and processes the single origin cocoa that Kochar and she source from Ecuador, Ghana and Madagascar.
There’s an element of whimsy in their 100 gram bars that are inspired by everything from the seasons (All Things Summer) and elements (All Things Air, All Things Water) to the days of the week (All Things Monday), meal times (All Things Breakfast), occasions (All Things Birthday) and their travels. All Things Barcelona, for instance, is a sangria-spiked chocolate bar packaged in a box featuring a Gaudi-style tile pattern. All Things Jaipur is a whisky-laden dark chocolate bar with an illustration of the pink city on the box. Chandela employs Indian ingredients such as blueberries from Kashmir, Bhuira Jams from Himachal and mangoes from Ratnagiri across their bars.
We tried four of the 20 gift-worthy bars listed on their website. The limited edition All Things Single (Rs385), which they produced in collaboration with Delhi-based singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad, is our pick of the four. The first edition in the All Things Single series, which Kochar said is a way to “promote the music of indie artists they love”, gets you a download link for Kuhad’s single ‘Big Surprise’. Taking a cue from the song title the bar, made with milk and dark Belgian chocolate, conceals a surprise layer of Bhuira’s excellent apple jam. The back of the slab is speckled with biscuit crumble to complement the sticky, sweet jam centre.
The next best bar from our selection was All Things Air (Rs360), a slab of Belgian milk chocolate packaged in an elegant white marble wash box. It gets its crunch and airy texture from the honeycomb layered under the surface of the milk chocolate but is thankfully not as sweet as it sounds. Belgian dark chocolate and fleur de sel are the main ingredients of All Things Water (Rs340), which though pleasantly bitter was not quite as salty as we would have liked. All Things Childhood (Rs330), which aims to capture memories of childhood with a filling of banana and toffee, is reminiscent of Wrigley’s synthetic banana-flavoured Juicy Fruit chewing gum.
Collaborations are key to Kochar and Chandela’s business. In addition to the music-themed Single bar, they have launched special chocolates for fashion brand Pero and are currently retailing a limited edition range celebrating classic books published by Penguin India including Meghaduta by Kalidasa (Belgian milk chocolate with lemon zest and cream cheese), The Cat and Shakespeare by Raja Rao (Belgian milk chocolate with coconut crumble) and The Colours of My Heart by Faiz Ahmed Faiz (Belgian dark chocolate with Earl Grey-infused vodka). They only make about 1,000 bars per flavour, keeping it a boutique enterprise.
All Things Chocolate is available at Foodhall, Third Floor, Palladium, Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel. Tel: 022 3026 4581. Shop online here.
Sanjana Patel’s first memory of handmade chocolate dates to her years in boarding school in Ooty. Once a month, Patel would make a trip to Mohan’s, a shop in Ooty’s flower market that retailed nut-studded chocolate slabs that the shopkeeper broke using a hammer and packed into brown paper. The pastry chef and owner of the La Folie chain of patisseries has attempted to recreate that experience with its range of chocolate bars, which were launched in June.
Though the idea for the bars is rooted in nostalgia, the chocolates are avant garde in terms of flavour and design. Patel employed the services of Mumbai-based interior designer Shweta Kaushik to craft origami-inspired bars. The bottom layer of the bar is flat and the top is tessellated in such a way that it looks like a 3D surface. The bars are enclosed in paper printed with playful images that correspond to the chocolate within. For instance, a photo of women diving into a pool of chocolate and almonds features on the chunky almond butter and honey bar; and a collage of a formally dressed man perched on a ladder against a snowcapped mountain and staring at floating chocolate chunks and pink crystals is the cover of the smoked pink sea salt bar.
The most virtuous of the lot of nine bars is the gluten-free and vegan chunky almond butter and honey (Rs350). Roasted almonds are lodged into the base layer of the judiciously sweetened chocolate blended with almond butter. The maple granola (Rs350), a textured sugar-free treat stippled with maple-tossed granola and mixed seeds, also belongs to this category of relatively guilt-free indulgences. Unlike these, the seasonal caramel fudge with pretzels (Rs350) is a cheat day treat. The blond bar gets its colour from two-hour caramelised white chocolate under which is a layer of rich dulce de leche caramel fudge. Mini salted pretzels and shards of sea salt are glued to the bottom layer adding a second savoury kick to the heavy duty bar.
We’re hooked to the smoked pink sea salt (Rs350), a slim savoury bar composed of 70 per cent Ecuador single origin chocolate dusted with pink Himalayan sea salt smoked with apple wood. The smoked flavour was too delicate to be detected but among the plethora of salted chocolate bars available in the market, this one stands out on account of intensity. A seasonal flavour, the strawberry cheesecake (Rs350) is a forgettable blend of Belgian white chocolate, freeze-dried berries, shortbread and yoghurt powder. The pink and white Shibori-patterned chocolate reminded us of peda.
La Folie chocolate bars are available at La Folie Lab, Libra Tower, Hill Road, opposite St. Peter’s Church, Bandra (West). Tel: 91679 37019. Also at Unit No.10, Trade World B, Kamala Mills, next to ICICI Bank, Lower Parel. Tel: 96999 93350. And at La Folie Patisserie, No.16, Commerce House, opposite Kala Ghoda Cafe, Kala Ghoda, Fort. Tel: 022 3383 6044.
In April, Bandra resident Dipa Patel started retailing homemade chocolates under the brand Mosaic. Since then, she has launched three collections of assorted truffles and earlier this month unveiled her first batch of organic bean-to-bar chocolate bars on Instagram. Mosaic is the result of an “informal chocolate class” Patel took with well-known British chocolatier Paul A. Young, before she left London, her city of birth, to settle in Mumbai two years ago. A practising optometrist in London, she found in Mumbai time to practice her tempering skills. Patel uses chocolate by two local suppliers, who source cocoa beans from Kerala and Tamil Nadu respectively. Her flavoured truffles such as Mexican guajillo chili; Naga chilli; masala chai; and sichuan pepper are inspired by her frequent travels.
Of Mosaic’s three truffle collections, we sampled the Signature box (Rs850) made up of eight flavours crafted with white, dark and milk chocolate and spiked and perfumed with herbs and spices. Folks with a sense of adventure will appreciate the savoury balls such as the fennel and sea salt, hand-rolled in dark chocolate and dipped in cocoa and fennel seed powder. The truffle is aromatic, verging on bitter, and decidedly grown-up and delicious. Enriched with nutty homemade tahini, the milk chocolate-based sesame truffle is studded with black and white sesame seeds so that it looks like a til laddoo. It’s among our favourites as is Bhani’s masala chai, a milk chocolate water ganache blended with Assam tea and chai masala, the recipe of which Patel got from her grandmother. The velvety truffle is like a potent shot of chai.
You can taste the lemon zest and peppery notes of thyme in the first-rate dark chocolate thyme and lemon truffle that is enjoyably bitter. The salted coconut caramel, which oozes luscious caramel flavoured with what tastes like coconut oil, is an adult version of Bounty, made with dark chocolate and far less sugary. Sticky in texture, the white chocolate Sichuan pepper ganache is more fragrant than it is pungent and the sweetest among our top picks.
Not all Mosaic truffles are made equal. The 150-minute blond, a caramelised white chocolate truffle sprinkled with sea salt, is as the leaflet describes it “unashamedly sweet”. It’s the colour and flavour of peda and one of two that we couldn’t finish. Skip the olive oil and sea salt blended with dark chocolate. The silken texture is flawless but the Spanish extra virgin olive oil overwhelms the flavour of the ganache.
The pricey and dainty truffles have a short shelf life, which is proof of their freshness. The bite-sized ganaches are packed into a minimally-designed brown box that belies the experimental treats enclosed within. Every four weeks, Patel changes two out of the eight flavours, introducing new variants that boast unusual ingredients she gathers on her trips. Her vegan and sea salt truffle boxes (each priced at Rs850 for a box of eight) have two truffles each of the four permanent varieties in the signature collection such as the fennel and sea salt, salted coconut caramel, 150-minute blond and olive oil and sea salt.