A plethora of trends have been emerging over a period of time both in the culinary and beverage sectors that have changed our ways of consumption. While one hand saw microgreens, veganism, and consumption of healthier alternatives to everyday eating on the rise; nitro coffee, non -alcoholic beer, and wines in cans too made a show-stopping appearance. The new kid on the block to this ongoing change has been the rise of Bean to Bar Chocolates or Craft Chocolates.
For chocolate noobs like me, I went and did a bit of reading, and here’s what I found out. During the 20th century, significant brands like Hershey, Mars, and Nestlé dominated the chocolate market. Come 1997, and changes were being witnessed in the industry. Two men – chocolatier Robert Steinberg and winemaker John Scharffenberger – became the pioneers of Scharffen Berger which opened its doors in Berkeley, California, and became the first bean-to-bar chocolate makers in the world.
According to their website: “Steinberg was a family doctor diagnosed with lymphoma in 1989. It proved to be a life-changing experience, and he decided to dedicate himself to his passion for fine food, settling on chocolate making in 1994. His ultimate goal was to deliver the very best chocolate from the finest beans nature had to offer, which he did until his passing in 2008. John Scharffenberger’s entrepreneurial spirit, successful business background, and astute palate complemented Steinberg’s skills. The pair tested multiple combinations before perfecting a unique blend that highlighted the true flavor of cacao instead of masking it with sugar and other flavors. The result is an array of truly distinctive chocolates with balance and complexity—not unlike those found in exceptional wines.”
The rise of craft chocolate has become a true renaissance, and I can say that because chocolate makers are taking an artisanal approach, getting to know their materials well – in this case, cocoa and sugar – and shaping them carefully from bean to finished product. The results are lovingly crafted bars, many of them single-origin that showcase cocoa’s natural flavor range and not the masked flavors.
About Bean To Bar Chocolates: India’s Artisinal Chocolate Movement
Defining that perfect bar of chocolate is as good as finding that perfect brand of wine or sipping on that exceptionally good whiskey. In India however, the commercial brands have already captured mass attention, making our notions about chocolate unidimensional and rather defined. Thus in such cases, standing out with something new and retain customer satisfaction becomes a herculean task.
Again, being the chocolate noob that I was, always wondered why was there a sudden influx of Indian artisanal chocolates sitting on shelves of Foodhall or Natures Basket being exuberantly priced like a Lindt or any other international commercial chocolate brand, and then I opened my doors to imbibe a new kind of learning which was further enhanced on my Info-Stories series on my Instagram page last month.
- Cocoa beans are mostly sourced from Ivory Coast and Ghana in West Africa, where there are rampant child trafficking cases and slavery on cocoa farms.
- Premium chocolates have additives that mask the flavor and in turn, hide imperfections and unpleasant flavor notes of the cocoa beans. So you’ll never get the true taste of cocoa beans in the first place.
- The beans are put through machine processing which tends to take away the natural flavors of cacao that are derived from the soil, climate, and surroundings.
- Commercial chocolates, even dark chocolates are very high on sugar and cocoa isn’t even the major ingredient, but you’re bound to find cocoa solids mentioned which is not the actual bean.
Some of the noted Indian Bean to Bar Chocolate names include Paul & Mike, Chitra’m, Naviluna, Mason & Co, Soklet, and Pascati that has not only captured the market by storm but have also made the nation proud by winning many awards on an international platform.
RUSHK: Bengal’s First Bean To Bar Chocolate Brand
While the world was reeling in the chaos of the global pandemic, Bengal woke up to a sweet surprise on December 28, 2020, with the launch of its very own stone-ground, bean to bar chocolate brand: RUSHK. The brand is the brainchild of Rushdah Humaira, a professional chef who is now Kolkata’s first woman and a pioneer bean to bar chocolate maker in West Bengal. I managed to catch up with Bengal’s Willy Wonka for a tête-à-tête and here’s how our conversation panned out:
1) What made you come up with a Bean to Bar brand for Bengal? Take us through this journey.
Bengal is a melting pot of culture, food, and a whole lot more. While we symbolize our state with the legends of famous personalities like Rabindranath Tagore, Subhash Chandra Bose; monuments like the Howrah Bridge, Victoria Memorial, or even sweets like the Rosogolla, why not chocolate? And not just any chocolate, our state’s first Bean To Bar Chocolate.
We are oversaturated with commercial brands and as a chocolate activist, I not only wanted my consumers to experience the taste of authentic chocolates but also pave way for them to understand the real chocolate-making experience. That’s how RUSHK was conceptualized.
I wanted RUSHK to be not just a brand but a name that defines authentic, good quality chocolate the world over. Doing this was not easy, but I am grateful for the solicited support of my husband Khurshid, who believed in me and my work, and the rest they say is history.
Nothing compares to the taste of real chocolate and we intend to bring that for you, in its purest form. While keeping the taste of chocolates intact, we also want to create an industry that involves skilled artisans and increases employability.
2) What is a Bean to Bar Chocolate and how different is it from the regular chocolates we are consuming?
Bean to bar chocolate is when the entire process of making chocolate, right from the bean, is carried out by a bean to bar chocolate maker.
We follow a step by step process of selecting the beans, roasting these beans. Next, it is winnowed, ground to a liquor. We then temper the chocolate, add the inclusions, and finally mold the finished product to make a bar.
There is no use of chemical additives, emulsifiers, artificial flavors, or preservatives. This keeps the chocolate raw and lets the cacao express its unique natural characteristics and flavor, much like a good wine.
The chocolate is almost entirely handcrafted and made in small batches to ensure control, quality, and flavor. These factors distinguish it from the chocolate we are used to and also make it more expensive.
Absolutely NOT. The Cacao percentage is only used as a deterrent for the amount of sugar present in the chocolate bar. The right chocolate must not have any extra ingredient over Cacao nibs, cacao butter & sugar. As for Milk chocolate, only Milk powder goes in as an extra ingredient apart from flavor inclusions. The percentage of the cocoa as mentioned has nothing to do with the taste of the chocolate
4) Where do you source your Cacao beans from?
Our Cacao beans are directly sourced from Kerala, India.
5) How can one tell the difference between chocolates made from Cacao beans vis a vis chocolate bar from cocoa powder or chocolate compound?
Firstly, the word “chocolate” should not be added when we are talking about the compound. Bean-to-bar chocolates are made of cocoa mass and cocoa butter primarily.
What makes cocoa butter unique is that it melts at a body temperature. Thus the proverbial “melts in your mouth, not in your hands”.
All chocolates have cocoa beans as a primary ingredient but while choosing the right chocolate, you must always check the ingredients list.
The specific and less the ingredients, the better the chocolate.
6) So, is a chocolatier and a chocolate maker two different titles?
Yes. One of the most common misconceptions about the chocolate industry is that chocolatiers make their own chocolate from cocoa beans. They don’t. Chocolatiers leave the buying of cocoa beans, roasting them, and grinding them into chocolate to ‘chocolate makers’.
The chocolatiers merely buy this chocolate (or couverture as it’s known in the industry) to use in their creations. Because like chefs, good chocolatiers take their ingredients – of which chocolate is only one – and aim to create something truly wonderful.
7) Tell us about what a consumer reaching out to RUSHK Chocolates will experience and the pocket pinch?
You have tasted chocolates and must be wondering what is so different about RUSHK? What does it offer that other brands have not offered before? The chocolates that you taste every day are less chocolate and more of other products while ours is nothing but pure chocolate.
The chocolates that we bring to the market are made with the sole mission of infusing a sense of good and authentic chocolate amongst patrons.
All you need to do is log on to our website: www. rushkchocolates.com and start your chocolate journey with us. We have 8 very exciting flavors for you to savor, each priced at a nominal INR 200 plus shipping charges for a 40-gram bar.
Our chocolates are wrapped in zero-waste no plastic virgin foils packed in hemp paper-free boxes. Each chocolate box is screen printed, promoting employment at various levels.
The aim is to create an inclusive industry that works for hand in hand with indigenous chocolate flavors that set the standard for distinct taste in the chocolate industry.
We guarantee that if you try them once, you will come back for more.
8) What’s next then?
Well, I really want to make Bengal more chocolate literate and hopefully one day I would want to take them on a bean to bar chocolate making tour, conduct chocolate pairing workshops, in short, there is so much in the pipeline and I’m dealing with it one day at a time!
Ultimately, choosing to eat a bean to bar chocolate is better because it is good for your health – natural ingredients, less sugar, and less processed cocoa, which retains more of its inherent benefits. Bean to bar chocolate is better to taste because it emphasizes on the chocolate making craft and lets the cacao do the talking. And finally, your trust with the brand is at an all-time high because you know where the beans are sourced and the process of how your favorite chocolate bar is made. Now how is that for a chocolate connection?
Would personally like to thank Rushda for her time to make this interview happen. The mind-blowing pictures have been taken from the amazing Pikturenama Studios. Do check them out and reach out to them for professional photography services.
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