The Chennai-based entrepreneur prides himself as being someone who works across the value chain, when it comes to the chocolate business. He got into the niche micro-batch (bean to bar) segment of premium chocolate-making after realising that what was being sold in the name of chocolates in India was utter humbug.
Having kick-started his journey in 2006, as a retail business consultant to industrialist Adi Godrej, Chordia developed an expertise of sorts in understanding the needs of high-end customers, thanks to the Godrej’s foray into the gourmet, premium food retailing sector.
It was during the sourcing of products from different parts of the world that Chordia’s curiosity in chocolates was piqued, courtesy an Italian vendor, who sent him a chocolate that was replete with character – bitterness, acidity, astringency, fruitiness.
He tells us, “In 2013, I took a call on getting into the chocolate making business full time. A backpacking trip to Belgium to educate myself on the nuances of fine chocolate-making was all it took to begin this new entrepreneurial adventure. Soon, I began uploading chocolate-centric info and videos on my Facebook page, which started attracting as many as 4,000-5,000 unique visitors a week.”
He adds, “After completing the first level of my Chocolate Tasting Certification in the UK in 2014, I began disseminating my expertise and knowledge in chocolate tasting, at first during kitty party sessions and roundtable events, subsequently moving on to colleges. Post my level 2 certification, I began backward integrating my skills, learning the bean to bar chocolate making process.” In 2015, Chordia conducted pan-India tasting sessions across five different cities at Nature’s Basket outlets, which drew an encouraging response.
Globally, several small chocolatiers have sprung up, leading to a spurt in micro-batch chocolate making enterprises. In India, it’s a niche two-year-old market that’s worth about Rs 3 crore, with a handful of (4 to 5) enterprises leading the way. In the US, the evolution happened six or seven years ago and there are about 350 micro-batch chocolate makers while Europe has about 100 such enterprises. There are close to 50 confectioners of such chocolates in the rest of the world.
Chordia says, “Cocoatrait, a fine chocolate marketplace, formed in 2015 is about promoting premium chocolates – through tasting sessions, distribution and retail. Our institute Cocoashala, the first of its kind chocolate school in Asia invests in research, development and enhancement of fine chocolate making techniques, processes and recipes through courses. It also helps micro-batch chocolatiers come into the fold.”
He adds, “Through the portal, we sell about 50 subscription boxes, which contain premium chocolates curated by me for customers across India. Our chocolates are also retailed across 25 stores in Chennai such as the Old Madras Bakery, Gourmet Market and Tryst Café, to name a few.”
The cacao plant, i.e. the source of raw material for chocolates - cocoa, is suited for growth in tropical climate, has been growing in India for about 30 years now. Chordia sources his beans from various plantations across south India, inter-cropped with coconut trees in TN and Kerala, and coffee in Karnataka. His wife and partner in the business Poonam, is a chocolatier trained in chocolate making who recently introduced her line of fine chocolates.