Going beyond milk chocolates: India get its own chocolate codes

Go beyond milk chocolates and get your choco-fix from new artisanal varieties infusing Sikkim’s Dalle chillies and Kolkata’s Gondhoraj Limes

“Most international countries look down on us as a milk chocolate eating nation,” rues chocolatier Varun Inamdar, an alumnus of Oberoi Centre of Learning And Development, who has worked in the kitchens of hospitality chains like Trident and Hilton for over a decade, besides presenting his creations to the likes of Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy and Vladimir Putin. When we probe further, the 31-year-old Mumbai chef cites an instance, “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.”

The chocolate bars from six Indian states which are part of Volume 1 of Barcode. Pic/Shadab Khan
The chocolate bars from six Indian states which are part of Volume 1 of Barcode. Pic/Shadab Khan

This realisation, in fact, led to the birth of Barcode, an artisanal chocolate brand that Inamdar launched last month. Infusing indigenous ingredients, the brand features chocolates from different Indian states. While Volume 1 features six states — Sikkim, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Punjab and Tamil Nadu — the later four volumes, to be launched over a year, will cover the rest of the 29 Indian states. “I have tried to include East-West-North-South and Central India in each volume. Many friends wondered why Maharashtra wasn’t in the first volume but that would have been a clichéd inclusion,” smiles Inamdar.

Varun Inamdar plans to add starfruit in the Maharashtra chocolate bar
Varun Inamdar plans to add starfruit in the Maharashtra chocolate bar

What’s the flavour?
Veering away from typical ingredients like Mahabaleshwar’s strawberries or Assam’s Bhut Jholokia chillies, Inamdar has packed the bars with a unique combination of flavours. While the earthy black cardamom and fiery Dalle chillies are infused into the Sikkim bar, dehydrated Jonavalasa Sapotas along with fenugreek seeds, mixed with 54 per cent Java milk chocolate, represent the culinary rich Gujarat. “India has over a thousand varieties of mangoes but we are not aware of more than 10. In the Andhra Pradesh variety, I’ve added Banganapalli mangoes with Teja chillies from Guntur,” informs Inamdar. Meanwhile, the Punjab version features dehydrated Kinnow (citrus) with ajwain seeds, the Jharkhand variety includes Kanchan amlas along with lemons and coriander, popularly found in the state. “I have paired the Indian ingredients with international couvertures like Ecuador, Sao Tome, Java, Ghana and Belgium chocolate. I bought the Indian ingredients from farms, local spice merchants, regional dehydrator plants, etc. While most ingredients are easily available, some have to be sourced from villages. We are trying our best to have other volumes in conjunction with local artisans,” he adds.

What’s next?
Currently, the bars are being sold as an assorted variety. However, Inamdar hopes to create personalised flavour profiles for each state too. “If the concept interests a state tourism board, then we could look at that. For instance, Maharashtra has six administrative divisions, further divided into 357 talukas. We can have 357 flavours only from Maharashtra. Imagine international tourists returning with these hampers as a souvenir from our country. Wouldn’t it be a matter of pride for our nation to be represented this way?”

Cost: '499 per volume
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What’s in barcode’s Volume 1
>> Sikkim Black cardamomwith Dalle chillies
>> Gujarat Dehydrated Jonavalasa Sapotas with fenugreek seeds
>> Punjab Dehydrated Kinnow (citrus), ajwain seeds
>> Jharkhand Kanchan Amlas, lemons and coriander
>> Andhra Pradesh Banganapalli mangoes, Teja chillies from Guntur
>> Tamil Nadu Figs from Coimbatore paired with cloves

For your artisanal chocolate fix

Gondhoraj in my chocolate
Karnataka-based Earth Loaf, launched nationally by David Belo and Angelika Anagostou in 2014, offers chocolate bars infused with Gondhoraj limes from Kolkata, Ladakhi apricots, almonds from Himachal Pradesh and mango ginger from the Andaman. “The chocolate is made with 72 per cent organic single estate Karnataka cacao and sweetened with organic South Indian Palmyra sugar. We add our own salt, smoked over cacao husks and coconut charcoal,” shares Belo. The brand also offers tea infusions and chocolate ladoos. 
Cost: `270
Available at: Green Sattva, Miru Organics (Andheri) 
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For Zereshk berry chocolate
Founded by 28-year-old chocolatier Sanjoy Solomon, Bean Therapy, a city-based artisanal chocolate brand, uses locally sourced ingredients for its handmade bars blending in high quality European chocolate. The current flavour combinations include Zereshk Berry, Tutti Frutti and Himalayan Rock Salt. “The inspiration for the zereshk berry chocolate bar came from Britannia Café’s Berry Pulao. The Tutti Frutti Bar contains candied lemon and orange peels. We also use medium roast coffee beans from Karnataka, dried ginger and charoli in our chocolate bars,” informs Solomon.
Cost: `260
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Try a vegan choc-block
Launched by French husband-wife duo Fabien and Jane Mason, Tamil Nadu-based Mason & Co offers vegan and organic artisanal chocolate varieties. While the beans are sourced from a family-run farm in Tamil Nadu, the bean-to-bar process takes place in the brand’s Auroville factory set-up. Handcrafted in small batches, the varieties include Peppermint & Sweet Nib, Peanut Butter, Roasted Sesame, Espresso Dark Chocolate and Chilli And Cinnamon. The brand also offers tea infusions.
Cost: 295 onwards 
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Available at: The Hyatt Regency, Green Sattva, Nature’s Basket stores

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