Chocolates produced by small chocolate makers are termed Artisanal chocolates. This concept is relatively new to India and for that reason, I am of the opinion that the market is worth exploring. There are very few who are producing them authentically, and Naviluna is one such brand. These artisanal chocolates are those which are made by hand, in a very unique manner and this brand uses cacao beans from Karnataka.
All You Need To Know About Naviluna Artisanal Chocolates
Naviluna started making artisanal chocolates in 2012, in Mysore. The owner of the brand, David Belo started his chocolate-making journey when a friend of his from Gokarna, a region in North Karnataka brought him some cocoa beans. David, having a background in Pastry and Baking from London wanted to get back to something food-related, and he came across these cocoa beans at the same time which led him to the beginning of a journey that has lasted him almost 9 years.
Naviluna operates from a heritage building in Mysuru. This building is 120-year-old and the chocolatier has restored the building to its original glory. David, whose grandfather was into construction in Mozambique, maybe one of the reasons for him to look at restoring this. To David operating from this building adds to the charm of making chocolates.
The philosophy at Naviluna is that where machines are needed, they are used. Wherever possible, a manual process can be done. They would rather have simple machines along with sophisticated, talented people than having sophisticated machines and talented people.
Due to this, they do not receive a uniform batch each time, like those you get at factories. Having people make each product by hand is what makes them unique, and is also a reason why they are called Artisanal products or Handcrafted chocolates.
Process & Differentiators For making Naviluna Artisan Chocolate
The process of converting beans to bar and then to artisanal chocolate starts with cacao beans, grown in Puttur, Karnataka. The cacao beans are organically certified and are grown in a highly biodiverse environment where they also grow jackfruit, cashew nut, areca nut, mace, nutmeg. So, the character of all these plants goes into the terroir and then comes back into the cacao bean. They use cacao beans from a Cocoa Orchard from the Varanashi Farms in Puttur.
These beans are plucked from the tree and then go through dehydration, fermentation and drying. Fermentation is a very important process, as this is what brings out all the complex flavours and notes in the chocolate and proper fermentation of the beans is key to obtaining a good end product. Once the nibs are fermented, they are then crushed, to remove the husk and to break the bean into smaller pieces, known as ‘cocoa nibs’. Cocoa nibs comprise 45-55% of oils and fats which we all know as cocoa butter. These are all the natural oils of cocoa beans. They convert these cocoa nibs into chocolate by grinding them. They use traditional stone grinders, which we see being used as idli/dosa batter grinders as well. 72% of the cocoa nibs along with 28% of raw coconut sugar is ground together for about 12 hours to make a smooth looking chocolate-like liquid. It is then solidified into a mass for further
Indian origin chocolate tends to be a little more tart, fruity and slightly less nutty than African or South American counterparts
The mass of chocolate in the form of a block consists of six different types of crystals that form in the cocoa butter, but there is just one type of crystal called the “Beta-5 crystal” that contributes to the shine, consistent colour and gives a good snap to the chocolate. To keep just this one particular crystal suspended in the chocolate, you need to break apart all the crystals suspended in the mass and bring it to a temperature wherein only the beta-5 crystal can form. This process in chocolate making terms is called ‘tempering’. Chocolate is first heated to 110 degrees Fahrenheit where all the crystals break down and then cool to 90 degrees F where the beat crystal comes together. Tempering is all about three facets: TTM which is time, temperature and movement. Once the chocolate has been tempered, it is poured into moulds to set. Naviluna uses custom chocolate moulds which have impressions of Chittara art, which is folkstyle of Malnad, from where the chocolate beans come from, again tying in the farmer to the consumer using culture and art.
What Is To Offer
The flavours of chocolates on the menu at Naviluna are seasonal. This is because many of the flavour combinations that they have for their chocolates use ingredients that are seasonal. But, they also do have some staple single origins. They also have limited edition single origins, this is when they discover an interesting cocoa farmer from a different region. Some of their interesting flavour combinations that are a must-try include:
- Juniper and Chamomile: This bar, along with Juniper berries and chamomile has an inclusion of fig and rose petals, to round out and help bind the flavours. The bar as a whole has a very bold flavour and is led by the juniper berries because that is the most assertive flavour that you find in this chocolate bar. This chocolate is also specifically designed to be paired with gin and tonic. The idea behind these chocolates is that there is a pocket left open for the pairing to fill, and in this case it is gin and tonic.
- American barrel aged: This chocolate has a long and warm finish, a character that comes owing to the fermentation of the cocoa in a whiskey barrel
- Candied Gondhoraj Bar: inspired by the Gondhoraj lime, which translated to ‘king of fragrance’ in Bengali, this chocolate bar has bits of candied gondhoraj fruit, along with the dehydrated rind
The dehydrated flecks of the gondola rind emit a fragrant tartness. Refreshing citrus that you cannot smell off the chocolate bar, but something that you can taste.
- Jamun and Rosemary: this is another seasonal chocolate bar, available only in the monsoon season. The bar is studded with jamun and a sprig of rosemary. The jamun feels jammy on the palate, and balances out against the dominant flavour of the rosemary
These are the kind of chocolates that cannot just be eaten up, they need to be savoured bite by bite. These are chocolates that require time and patience as you enjoy them, this is when tasting artisan chocolates becomes truly rewarding.
Worth a try
A two-page article will not do justice to David and his craft and I encourage one and all to try the chocolate when you get the opportunity.