Nitin Chordia is taking his craft, what he sees is an art form, across the country.
In 2015, Nitin Chordia, who started his career as a retail consultant, became the first certified chocolate sommelier in the country.
Chordia vividly remembers the first time he chanced upon chocolate tasting. "I didn't realise that there's chocolate on my palate and I let it melt. That's all I did," he said.
This is when he realised that he could taste several ingredients in the chocolate, which hinted at berries, pineapples, and several fruity flavours. That was his Eureka moment.
Chordia runs Kocoatrait and Cocoatrait, two brands that are focussed on studying and producing fine chocolate for Indian customers. He is taking his craft, what he sees is an art form, across the country. Moneycontrol sat down with Chordia to understand what chocolate tasting is, how you can get into it, and the vast universe of fine chocolate.
What are some of the qualities you look for when you are tasting fine chocolate?
The level of acidity is very important. It's important to note that having a lot of acidity is not always bad in chocolate. The next of course is tanins. Unlike wine, good chocolate should have fewer tanins. This is because at the end of the day, chocolate is a sweet product and is in a different category. Other than that, the things that we look at, would be the flavour note that comes as soon as you start the chocolate experience tasting experience. Then there is a mid note and then there is an end note, and then there would be an aftertaste. So an aftertaste to a great extent talks a lot about the quality of the product and the chocolate maker also. You know how well he has made the chocolate. So if it's a longish note, which means that they have done their job right to ensure that the note is present.
What the difference between fine chocolate and regular chocolate?
In chocolate making, the ingredients play a big role. Obviously large multinational mass-market brands tend to add quite a lot in order to make it cheaper with a higher shelf life, they will do so a lot with ingredients. But with fine chocolate, that kind of story is very limited. You make the beans and produce the chocolate from pure cacao beans. For the most part, with fine chocolate making, you try to preserve the aroma and flavour to a large extent leading to a very pure chocolate experience.
Can you invest in fine chocolate as is popularly done in the case of fine wine?
So unlike wine, in the case of chocolates, the futures or the investments can happen more easily in the cocoa side of things rather than the final product side of things. In cocoa, you would typically invest in your base raw material, which is cacao. However, this has not gotten quite as popular yet.
While wine you can store with the right temperature and sustain if for years, if you buy a very expensive bar can you keep it for just as long?
I have a wine chiller in my office and there's no wine in the chiller. It's only chocolate. This is because chocolate ages very well. In fact, you require the same level of sophistication in terms of temperature and humidity for the storage of these chocolates. We even have chocolates that are even eight years old, nine years old. However, this really depends on the ingredients used in the chocolate. When it comes to fine chocolates, you don't have all the crap that the mass-market chocolate makers put in. Fine chocolate, usually it's vegan, so there is no milk in it. If there is no milk in pure chocolate it can last even up to a hundred years provided there it is stored under the right temperature.
How do you become a certified chocolate sommelier?
The certification process is modelled around wine certification. So the base is quite similar. You have level one which is really for everyone. So you don't have to necessarily even have entered your kitchen for instance, if you have to be a level one.Level one is really a prep stage for Level 2. This involves an exam which is actually difficult to pass. Finally, you have level 3, which is a week's course that takes place on a cocoa farm. At the end of level three, the assumption is that you have kind of mastered several things after which you receive several opportunities.