Nitin Chordia was into retail management in the initial stages of his career; he traveled across the globe extensively and rubbed shoulders with some of the big heads in the retail industry. But in 2013, he gave in to the career of his dreams, Chocolate tasting.
Working in food retailing is what helped him discover his love for chocolates. Since then, you could even say he has traveled across the seven seas in pursuit of fine chocolates. He got certified in England and came back to India to explore and expand the market for hand-crafted fine Indian Chocolates. In conversation with Trijai Nerthi, he talks about falling for chocolate and his journey since then.
What does chocolate mean to you?
I was dating chocolate for the last couple of years but a year ago I got married to it. So as of today if you ask me what chocolate means to me, I would have to say it is a category I’m married to. There’s a long way to go and I’m excited about it.
Tell us about Cocoa-Trait.
Cocoa-trait is an initiative that was started with a single motive of bringing chocolate lovers and chocolatiers together. It was started two years ago and ever since we have been promoting fine chocolates made by chocolatiers who deserve recognition.
What is Cocoa-Trait up to now?
Recently, we hosted a chocolate brunch in Park Hyatt. We got chocolates from remote origins and asked the chef to infuse them in the entire brunch meal. People got to taste chocolates of various origins in meals they were already familiar with. We do these kinds of activities very regularly.
Could you take us through your tasting process?
First of all your palate needs to be clean. Secondly, you have to ensure that the chocolate you consume is in the room temperature. I usually hold the chocolate between two fingers because fine chocolate made with cocoa butter will start melting. Industrial chocolates don’t melt because they are made with vegetable fat, not cocoa butter. Then you have to put the piece in your mouth and ensure you don’t bite into it. This is very important because when you bite into it, you don’t give your palate a chance to experience the flavors and that leads to binging because you never get enough. After you do this, let the taste linger in your mouth. The after taste is very important and it lasts for about five to ten minutes. When you follow this process all you need is one piece of chocolate not a whole slab. Also, if you have to taste another chocolate immediately, drink a glass of water and have some bread.
Some chocolate tasters spit out the chocolates after tasting, do you practice this?
No! I think that’s just a waste of good chocolate because after you spit it out, it goes into the bin. So a smarter thing to do is clean up your palate well enough so that you don’t have to consume too much in the first place.
How can one become a chocolate taster?
If you want to become a certified chocolate taster you have to have an attitude of trying new things with an open mind. If you are one of those people who orders the same dish at restaurants you shouldn’t be looking at a career in this space. Secondly, it is of utmost importance to get a certification and there is only one course available from the institute in England.
How many chocolates do you taste in a day?
On a very stressful day I would be able to entertain two to three client requests. Tasting three different chocolates made by three different people with three different recipes can be very stressful. I taste the same chocolate at three different times in a day and in three different moods because this forms the essential part of the feedback I give to the chocolate maker. At the end of the day all they want is an unbiased opinion so through a lot of stress in that sense to ensure that you get the right feedback out.
What do you love about your profession? And what don’t you like about it?
My job calls for a lot of travelling and I don’t like that. What I love is that face that I can eat a very small piece of chocolate and still manage to stay healthy. Before I judge a competition I go through physical training to balance out the sugary phase I will be experiencing. In competitions we taste 80-200 chocolates, so that’s a lot of sugar in just three days.
What is your go-to chocolate?
I don’t have any go-to chocolates, to be very honest. Nobody likes repetition, especially when you have a choice, no? There are certain days when I would prefer chocolates with coconut sugar and there are certain days I would go for a 100% dark chocolates. I have been trying to slot chocolates for the different moods we are in but I think I haven’t been successful with that yet.
Is there any kind of chocolate you dislike?
I usually avoid milk chocolate because it masks a lot of flavours that a chocolate offers you. Cocoa beans from different origins have different flavours. For instance, cocoa beans from Madagascar have fruity notes. Similarly cocoa beans can have flowery notes, tobacco notes and earthy notes. When you add milk you are basically masking all these flavours so that’s why I avoid milk chocolates.
Do you often come across defective chocolates?
Tasting defective chocolates was a part of the course I did in England. We had to taste defective chocolates and understand what went wrong. That is why every chocolate taster must understand the chocolate making process clearly. But from a consumer point of view, one doesn’t get to taste many defective chocolates because all chocolatiers, big and small know what they are doing. But the consumer also has to be aware that he gets only what he pays for. You can’t pay five rupees for a chocolate and blame the chocolatier for the quality. Such unrealistic expectations are unfair.
Are Indian chocolates getting recognized in the global market?
We are getting there but it hasn’t happened yet. There is a lot happening around and I’m involved in many initiatives where fine chocolates are going to be introduced but it obviously takes its own time. Recently, we took up a stall in Amsterdam’s largest worldwide chocolate festival called Chocoa to show them what Indian chocolates are capable of. All the chocolates we displayed were handcrafted, fine chocolates. Believe it or not, we sold ever piece of chocolate we displayed. They realized that India has a lot to offer and our recognition in the overseas market grew almost dramatically.
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