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Bittersweet treats: An expert guide to chocolate consumption
Bean-to-bar, ethically-sourced or homemade, what makes a good chocolate? On this World Chocolate Day, take these chocolate makers’ tips to decode these tasty bars and tap their benefits, including better health.
Since the first-ever chocolate bar was made in early 1847, cocoa beans have come a long way. Dating back to 450 BC when cacao-based fermented beverages wereconsumed as an aphrodisiac, the chocolate odyssey began with the rulers and over the years rose to its popularity as one of the most loved foods by all. After its humble early beginnings as a sweet treat with a mixture of cocoa powder, sugar and fats into a paste that was moulded into a bar, chocolate now assumes unimaginable flavours — chilli, filter coffee, moringa and even lassi.
Over time, chocolate makers have been placing their emphasis on sourcing high quality cocoa and found substitutes for vegetable oils and sugars — in an attempt to extract the best out of the beans. Our state has also seen a rise of several chocolate makers, who have been placing Tamil Nadu on the global map with their cocoa innovations. Converts among chocoholics aren’t uncommon in the current day, with many learning to appreciate dark chocolate. If you’re out shopping for chocolate, you’re sure to be surrounded by a lot of jargon — bean-to-bar, tree-to-bar, artisanal, hand-made, ethically-sourced and many more such terms. This World Chocolate Day, take these expert tips to decode what makes a good chocolate and tap all the benefits of its consumption, including better health.
As the country’s first certified chocolate taster, L Nitin Chordia has been working not only to produce fine chocolates, but also to educate people on appreciating chocolate in all its bitterness. “People often have a wrong perception that chocolate is a source of sugar, which is usually not the case when it comes to good quality product. One should pay attention to the ingredients mentioned on the packaging, and remember that less is more. A long list of ingredients should be looked at with suspicion, as it could include artificial flavours. Those containing hydrogenated vegetable oils should be avoided. It is heartening to see people shifting towards darker chocolate, with higher percentage of cocoa,” Nitin asserts. Through his Kocoatrait chocolate range with flavours like masala chai and sukku coffee, the chocolate maker is also creating some of the most sustainable bars — eliminating plastic and paper packaging by using reclaimed cotton for wrapped.
Coimbatore-based Arun Viswanathan, who founded Chitra’m Craft Chocolates a year ago, has been creating chocolate in flavours like mango lassi milk chocolate, moringa, turmeric and black pepper, raw mango and green chilli, receiving international accolades. “India is receiving attention from around the world for the chocolates we are creating. Involving our cocoa farmers in the process of chocolate making goes a long way in improving the quality. Consuming 30 gm of dark chocolate every day is considered good for one’s health. Chocolate can also work as ananti-depressant and mood enhancer. Cultivating the habit of consuming dark chocolate among kids can be helpful in reducing their sugar intake,” says Arun.
In an attempt to make use of the cocoa beans grown at their family home in Pollachi, Karthikeyan Palaniswamy and his brother-in-law Harish Manoj startedSoklet, the country’s first tree-to-bar chocolate. “Tree-to-bar means that we grow the cocoa ourselves and control the process right from the tree. Introducing dark chocolates to Indians has definitely been challenging, as many don’t seem to enjoy the bitterness. The key to enjoying dark chocolate is to consume it in moderation, working one’s way up from lesser percentage of cocoa to higher,” says Karthikeyan. His chocolates, which use packaging with designs inspired from Kancheepuram sarees, and in flavours like candied ginger, bhut jolokia chilli and pinkHimalayan salt, some of which have also won global awards.
- Bean-to-bar chocolate: Refers to chocolate made from pure cocoa beans, instead of cocoa powder.
- Ethically-sourced chocolate: Since there is no way of verifying the origin of cocoa beans in our country, the term could be used to mislead.
- Homemade chocolate: A term used for the variants available in Kodaikanal, which often contain high sugar content and hydrogenated oils.
- Read the label: Look for chocolates with fewer ingredients, avoid the ones with palm oil or hydrogenated oils.
- Look for alternative sugars: Prefer coconut, palm sugar over cane sugar.
- Start with less percentage of cocoa and work your way up. After a meal is a good time to consume chocolate.
- About 30 gm of chocolate is good for every day intake. It can be a mood enhancer, anti-depressant.
- Accustom kids to dark chocolate to reduce their sugar intake.