Only a few minutes into a conversation with Chef Toshin Shetty, you’ll realize that pretty much all the chocolate you grew up on – no matter how good it tasted – is unhealthy (OK, we knew that) and that it isn’t even the real deal.
To be fair, Indians have warmed up to the idea of dark chocolate. We’re also willing to spend a little extra on it, largely thanks to all those ‘dark chocolate is good for your heart’ articles routinely flooding the Internet. But when Shetty explains why even some dark chocolate may not be the least bit healthy for you, you sit up and listen.
“It’s quite simple. Chocolate is either couverture or compound. Most packaged brands use compound chocolate, which is cheaper and hence cost-effective for largescale producers. But, it contains less cocoa butter, which is good for you, and more vegetable oil, which is saturated fat and stays in your body,” says Shetty. Coverture, on the other hand, is chocolate with only cocoa butter, and is far fitter for consumption. Like all things that are good for you, it also costs a whole lot more.
“The other reason you won’t see couverture chocolate in general stores is because it has a higher melting point, and in our weather, it would just spoil if left outside,” he adds. At his Mumbai patisserie — an extension of the Shetty family’s restaurant, Ivy, in the same building — the chef sells artisanal chocolate and delicately crafted pastries and cakes to a growing base of consumers, who are willing to pay the price to eat healthier — and from our experience, yummier.
Shetty — by way of interacting with customers, hosting regular workshops and giving media interviews — is on a mission to teach India about good chocolate. He imports chocolate from France and Belgium and even cocoa beans from the equatorial region, processing them himself to create the finest chocolate. Even butter, cream and fruits are specially flown in from Europe, while some ingredients like coconut and vanilla come from the family’s farm in Mangalore.
“We grow cocoa there too, but I’m yet to grasp the entire bean-to-bar concept. There’s a lot of fermenting, drying and roasting involved. That’s all done by farms the way you want it. Then you process it yourself. From the opening of the pod, the entire process takes up to 2-3 weeks. I buy cocoa beans the way you would buy coffee beans,” says Shetty.
What constitutes a good chocolate?
Indians have always preferred something sweet, but the less the cocoa content, the more unhealthy the chocolate is. For instance, if the bar says 70%, it stands for 70% cocoa butter and solids, while the remainder is made up of milk, sugar etc. Your best bets are over 65%, and couverture. Even a 40% couverture chocolate is better than a compound chocolate.
What is the difference between dark, milk and white chocolate?
Anything with over 50% cocoa is categorized as a dark chocolate. From 30- 47% is milk chocolate, and white chocolate has no cocoa solids — only cocoa butter. This is to say that if you eat white chocolate, you’re technically consuming just cream and sugar.
Describe the perfect bar of chocolate.
When you see a chocolate bar, it should have a nice shine, aroma and a nice snap when you break it. When you put it on your palate, it should melt slowly. It shouldn’t have a granular mouth feel, but a smooth one. If it’s cloudy, it’s not at the proper temperature, or hasn’t set properly.
Among the packaged chocolate brands, which ones are the best?
Considering the brands available in India, Lindt seems to be the best. Internationally, I would recommend Valrhona, Rococo, Sprüngli and Godiva for truffles and pralines.
What are the best regions in the world to source chocolate from?
Ecuador, Madagascar, Peru, Mexico and Brazil are the best. If you look within India, the south produces the best chocolate.
What chocolate flavours do Indians like best?
People here are developing a taste for good chocolate, which I would say is darker. Most of us, including me, have grown up on milk chocolate, and that was what would sell the most initially. Now, dark sells more, and flavours like pista, raspberry, coffee and orange are quite popular.
Are there any misconceptions and myths about chocolate?
The biggest one is that all Belgian chocolates are good. Taste-wise, they may be. But Belgium makes compound chocolate too, and that isn’t healthy at all. Also, if a brand’s packaging says Belgian, Swiss or French, that label is misleading too. Most of these companies have farms in the Ecuadorial belt, from where they import the beans to their respective countries and process them there.
What must one keep in mind when making chocolate at home?
- Couverture chocolate is quite difficult to temper, while compound chocolate doesn’t need any tempering. However, definitely pick couverture for the sake of your health.
- Chocolate tends to absorb all kinds of smells, so make sure you store it in an airtight box. Keep it away from moisture in a cool, dry place.
- Never heat the chocolate above 45 degrees celsius. It will split.
- Never set your chocolate in the fridge. It’s bound to catch moisture because of condensation. You won’t get the best appearance and look either. Set it below an air conditioner if possible.
What is the future of chocolate consumption in India?
People who come to the store always ask us about why we are priced higher than brands available in the market, and we explain to them the difference between compound and couverture chocolate. That education will take a little longer, but the eventuality is that demand for quality chocolate will grow. As a result, chefs who have trained abroad and are dealing with lower quality ingredients here will be able to import better ingredients in bulk to cater to the demand. At the moment, they are struggling because the market is small, and importing costs are quite high. I feel that the Indian consumer would not mind paying a premium for better, healthier chocolate.