There are few things in this world that have the all-encompassing power of chocolate. Whether you want to celebrate, recover after a long hard day, mend a broken hearts or ward off Dementors - chocolate can do it all and is always there to lend a helping hand. Most of your grocery store brands re-melt blocks of chocolate to make their signature products, and while this is all well and good for your daily cocoa fix sometimes what you need is to indulge in the luxury of true chocolatey goodness. These 9 companies around India are attempting to do just that with their handcrafted bars made individually with the best natural ingredients and chocked full of the most exotic Indian spices and produce. Fair warning - once you get a taste of these artisanal wonders it is unlikely you will be impressed by mass-produced chocolate ever again.
“Most international countries look down on us as a milk chocolate eating nation. Recently, I represented India at Cocoa Revolution in Vietnam, and realised that the cocoa world does not look upon India as a cocoa nation at all. All they are happy about is that Indians consume chocolates and give them the bottom-line numbers.” - Varun Inamdar
Chocolatier Varun Inamdar has worked in numerous five star kitchens across Mumbai and his desserts have found fans in the likes of Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy and Vladimir Putin. So, when he has an idea to improve India’s chocolate habits, you just know it’s going to be a good one. When he learned that India wasn’t being taken seriously in International forums he decided to prove them wrong and create a series of creative products that highlighted the best of what India has to offer, and thus, Barcode was born. Volume 1 features Sikkim, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, and the later four volumes will cover the rest of the 29 Indian states. He steered away from typical ingredients while representing the various regions and instead used local favourites from each place; for example, the Sikkim bar contains black cardamom and Dalle chillies, and the Gujarat chocolate bar contains dehydrated Jonavalasa Sapotas along with fenugreek seeds. Each bar takes you on a journey through the state, and we can’t wait for Volume 2.
HG Recommends: Our favourite so far has to be the Jharkand bar with its strong notes of Amla, lemon, coriander salt, milk chocolate from Ghana and dark chocolate from Belgium.
Cost: It will cost you Rs 499 for Volume 1, containing six flavours from around India.
II. Bean Therapy
“I am passionate about sourcing only the very finest ingredients for my chocolate creations. I love finding new and interesting flavour combinations, inspiring myself from local Indian cuisine My aim is to make the finest luxury chocolates, using only the best ingredients.” - Sanjay Solomon
Bean Therapy is the creation of Sanjay Solomon, a chef and chocolatier based out of Mumbai whose aim is to create the most exotic combination of flavours using the finest dark Belgian Callebaut chocolate mixed with typical Indian ingredients. This mission has resulted in some wacky but divine creations, such as the black pepper and mango chocolate, chilli chocolate made with fiery Teja chillies from Guntur, the subtle flavours of Kashmiri Kahwa green tea chocolate or the eternal pairing of chocolate and sea salt in the Himalayan Pink salt bars. His sweet and savoury mixes come in whimsical paisley covered packaging which makes the whole experience one of joy and discovery.
HG Recommends: The textured Himalayan rock salt chocolate, containing the finest 70 per cent dark cocoa and a splash of salt is our absolute favourite. The salt compliments the sweetness of the chocolate perfectly and makes for an experience you won’t tire of anytime soon.
Cost: This fine chocolate experience comes in at Rs. 260 for 80 grams
III. Harsh Chocolates
This company, set up in 2001 by Anuja and Ankita Jain, specialises in making personalised handcrafted goodies. They decided to create products that were unique and delicious, and that’s exactly what they’ve become known for. Their hot chocolate sticks are big sellers, just stir into hot milk and enjoy. Another favourite is the white pot, an adorable white ramekin filled with creamy ganache and chocolate chips. They also serve biscuit chocolate, which are basically double-baked Marie biscuits dipped in indulgent dark chocolate -- simple yet brilliant.
HG Recommends: The stir-in chocolate sticks will revolutionise the way you drink hot chocolate. The come in three flavours -- dark, cinnamon and masala milk. But if it’s a straight up chocolate fix you’re looking for, go for the white pot and lose yourself in the fluffy dark mousse.
Cost: Life is like a box of chocolates and for Rs. 150 you can try them all.
“The city has mostly Oriental restaurants, which have limited desserts. Indian restaurants serve Indian desserts, which are heavy just like the meal. And, there are very few Continental restaurants. So people prefer dessert stores, fancy ice-cream parlours. People want fancier, newer desserts that they’ll get only at dessert bars” - Toshin Shetty
Chocolate master Toshin Shetty returned from his stint at Le Cordon Bleu in London with a passion to bring elite desserts to the Mumbai market. His artisanal chocolates, cakes and ice creams utilise the freshest and most varied ingredients he can get his hands on. Mixing slightly bitter coverture chocolate with fruit, nuts, praline and many other unique flavours, he creates a truly divine treat for the refined palate’s.
Protip: To get an idea of the magic that goes into these desserts, visit the store’s website and watch the video, although be warned that it will trigger a desperate need for chocolate. *heavy breathing*
HG Recommends: To enjoy the full range of Toshin’s creations get yourself the elegant box of assorted flavours and dive in. Our favourite so far is the one with the coffee centre.
Cost: Shell out Rs. 600 for a box of nine or splurge at Rs. 1000 for a box of sixteen.
These artisanal genii specialise in creating the perfect chocolatey gifts for every occasion. Their elegant designs and wrapping adds the extra touch to their already flawless product. From simple bars of chocolate to pralines and dark ganache cakes, Vivanda has it all, and to make sure you get the most out of the experience they have a guide about how to go about it -- they ask you to savour the moment, sniff the intoxicating scent, get a feel of the bar by holding a square between your fingers, and finally, leave a piece to melt on the tongue and enjoy the lingering taste of their dreamy chocolate.
HG Recommends: For all the dark chocolate addicts they have a smoky 80 per cent single origin bar that will blow your mind. The box reads “bitter is better” and they could not be more right. For the sweeter tooth, the sea salt bar will fulfil all your desires.
Cost: Whether it’s a gift or a weekend treat, these are worth it at Rs. 160 for 40 grams
VI. All Things
“Inspiration comes from everyday life—from making interesting connections and showing things we’ve all seen before in a fresh or unusual way.”
Duo Kuhu Kochar and Tejasvi Chandela have been friends since their school days and today are putting their talents into a unique brand of artisanal chocolate. Tejasvi specialises in creating original recipes and Kuhu’s design skills ensure that they go out looking fabulous. Each bar comes with an individual theme, ranging from cities (Barcelona) to life phases (childhood) to whimsical themes (Monday Blues), and each one flavoured accordingly. The Monday Bar, for instance, is an indulgent number with dark chocolate granola and features a cover with a handy to-do list making your Monday a bit more manageable, and the Jaipur bar comes with a guide to the Pink City. Their chocolate is outstanding but what really sets this company apart is their attention to detail in their packaging.
HG Recommends: The All Things Summer bar which combines Belgian White Chocolate with the Indian favourite Alphonso mangoes is a combination that will have you feeling summery in seconds.
Cost: These ingenious creations will put a smile on your face for Rs. 330 onwards.
“We used to dream of artisan food that was healthy, and healthy food that had finesse. We knew it was possible and we began with our answer to the problem in 2010 making traditional sourdough artisan bread and healthy raw confectionery in London. We often felt, however that there was too great a distance between producer and farmer and longed to learn the stories of the people who had reared our ingredients.”
This gourmet chocolaterie is on a mission to create India’s most elite product, a chocolate for a sophisticated palate that demonstrates the versatility of Indian produce. They have dedicated themselves to making chocolate that reflects the cycles of nature and unifying the ancient and modern world. They specialise in raw chocolate that highlights its rugged beauty that is rarely seen amidst the sweeteners and artificial flavourings of supermarket brands. Their 72 per cent dark chocolate is sourced from Karnataka and Kerala, and feature additions like organic almonds, sea salt smoked over cacao bean husks, and palm sugar. They aim to be organic and ethical in all their endeavours and combined with the healthy natural nature of raw chocolate means that a bar from Earth Loaf is really a guilt-free experience.
HG Recommends: The crunchy and delicious cacoa nib and palm sugar bar. It’s full of Himalayan fruit and nuts like gondhoraj and apricot. The raw grainy texture will give you a once in a lifetime experience.
Cost: The earthy goodness of this raw chocolate will cost you Rs. 270 for a 72 gram bar.
VIII. Mason & Co
“We make the best artisan & gourmet chocolate available in India. It is made with organic cacao beans grown by Indian farmers, it’s vegan and it’s superior quality. We take great pride in producing a conscious product that makes people happy”
French couple Fabien and Jane Mason moved to the southern haven of Auroville, Pondicherry, and set up their remarkable venture in the world of chocolate. Jane, a raw food chef and vegan, was disappointed by the lack of options she had to choose from and decided to make her own with imported raw cocoa powder and cocoa butter. As it grew in popularity she began to explore options for sourcing raw materials closer to home and discovered the treasure trove of Indian cocoa beans that weren’t being given their chance to shine. According to the Mason’s, the Indian crop has more acidic and fruity notes that they try to highlight in their product. They also want to give back to the community and are working with the cocoa farmers to adapt the growing conditions and taste of the bean so they can set up a cooperative in the future. Their fair trade, ethical business model is bringing the best of Indian chocolate to the forefront of the market.
HG Recommends: The Peppermint and Sweet Nibs bar is by far a favourite. Textured and flavourful, the tastes complement each other perfectly.
Price: This all-natural, all-delicious experience will cost you Rs. 295 for a 70 gram bar.
While Delhi is hardly at a loss for confectioners, Mandakini Gupta is one that is quickly becoming chocolate sensation. Working from a tiny kitchen with minimal equipment, she creates tiny bars hand-studded with everything from fruit and nut to candied chilli. There is no retail outlet and each of her products is made to order. The luxurious 65 per cent dark cocoa she uses is hand tempered, a daunting process but one that gives the chocolate an unbeatable shine and snap. She makes about 50 bars a week which she then wraps by hand in one of the 12 colourful prints she chose for her company. These labours of love have a personal touch rarely seen in any commercial product and are well worth sampling.
HG Recommends: The Artisanal Belgian chocolate bars and Red rice crackle are two favourites which really display the love and skill Mandakini puts into her work.
Cost: This handmade treasure will cost you Rs. 150 for a small bar and Rs. 230 for a large one.
Founded by Pragati Sawhney in 2011, Chockriti’s name comes from an amalgamation of the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘kriti’, the sanskrit word for creation. Sawhney, a dentist with a Masters in Public Health, started the company after learning that a majority of ‘homemade chocolate’ in India was made of artificial flavourings and vegetable oil instead of cocoa. The company focuses on making gourmet craft chocolates using fine chocolate and real cocoa in order to “Save Good People from Bad Chocolate!” You can sample from their wide variety of unique products such as the Paan Banaras Bar or African Roobios Tea Bar, or customise your order at their website.
HG Recommends: The Basil Orange Pepper Bar is one of the company’s most popular and eclectic items.
Cost: This delectable 50g bar costs Rs. 270
XI. Hill Wild
Hill Wild, the brainchild of Leiyolan Vashum and Zeinorin Stephen living in the Ukhrul district of Manipur, is an artisanal chocolate brand from the Northeast that works with the region’s local communities providing them with employment opportunities and promoting local produce. From pumpkin seeds to plum wine, they infuse authentic northeastern ingredients with cocoa sourced directly from Pune. However, their idea of using ghost chilli as one of the ingredients is by far their most interesting one. “The unique selling point of our chocolates is that we are using our locally-grown products like ghost chilli, making it more palatable. We want our products to have the feel of unexplored Northeast so that people outside can taste the uniqueness of our region”, said Zeinorin Stephen in a report by The Telegraph.
HG recommends: A bar of their famous King Chilli chocolate.
Cost: This unusually flavoured bar costs INR 160.
If in Pondicherry, be sure to drop by Bread & Chocolate located in Auroville. This bakery cum cafe uses artisanal chocolate in their dessert preparation, which is probably the reason behind them being so decadent and delicious.