Chocolate from India – an interview with the Soklet founder

Schokolade aus Indien – der Soklet-Gründer im Interview
Karthikeyan Palaisamy and Harish Manoj Kumar want to use Soklet to raise awareness of Indian chocolate: With their high-quality, delicious chocolates, they show the chocolate world what India has to offer. They grow the cocoa beans on their own plantation, ferment them themselves and also take care of the further processing. So bean to bar. In the Theyo interview, Soklet founder Karthikeyan Palaisamy explains which sweets are traditionally eaten in India and what the advantages are when chocolate is produced in the country of origin of the cocoa beans.

Where does the name Soklet come from?

Soklet is a modification of the Tamil word for chocolate. Tamil is the language in our region.

You are the first and only bean to bar chocolate makers in India. How did you get into making chocolate from your own beans?

This happened completely by accident! Harish, my brother-in-law and business partner, has had his own cocoa farm since 2005. At the time, however, he only sold his beans on the local raw materials market. Then in 2015 he looked for ways to increase his productivity and export the cocoa beans. We joked about making our own chocolate out of the beans. We then tried it out at home with a test batch. Our family and friends loved our chocolate! And then one thing led to another.

What makes your chocolate so special?

Our cacao trees are all grown from seedlings and are a mix of Amelanado, Trinitario and Criollo varieties. They grow between coconut, nutmeg, pepper and various fruit trees. This diversity enriches the unique flavor profile of the cocoa beans. Our plantation is also managed as sustainably as possible: with principles of permaculture and vermiculture and without pesticides and chemicals. We also ferment and process our beans ourselves. And with our own “recipe” for this process, we can enhance the flavors of our beans even further.

The Soklet team on their own farm in India ©By hand from the heart
The Soklet Schokoladen team on their own farm in India ©By hand from the heart

Chocolate made in the country of origin of the cocoa beans is still a rarity. Why do you think local manufacturing is important?

We think it is very important that more and more chocolate is produced in the country of origin. Because that means more added value in the local economy, higher prices for the cocoa farmers and better development of expertise in the country of origin. And on the other hand, it means better and more diverse chocolate for consumers!

How does India relate to chocolate?

India's relationship with chocolate began with Cadbury's, Mondelez and Co: cheap, mass-produced and overly sweet chocolate. Even today, imported chocolate is still considered better in India, even if it is of very poor quality and full of sugar. For many, “Belgian” and “Swiss” chocolate, for example from Lindt, automatically means high-quality chocolate. Educating consumers about really good chocolate is a long and difficult task.

Can you spot trends in India's chocolate scene?

In addition to the big brands that still dominate the market, there is a small but growing scene of chocolate makers and chocolatiers offering quality chocolates. However, this is usually limited to the large metropolises such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Another trend we are seeing is the dark chocolate trend. More and more consumers regard them as healthy food. And the market for chocolate as a gift is also growing.

Soklet Bean to Bar cocoa farm in India ©Soklet

City, Country, Pleasure.

We have slightly modified the famous game "City, Country, River" ...

City: If your chocolate was a city, which city would it be?

Ooty, a famous mountain town in Tamilnadu, India, about four hours drive from our location. The city is known for its rich British heritage, tea plantations, vegetable farms, orchards and bustling tourists. Ooty is a special place for Harish and I as we spent our childhoods at a boarding school in Ooty and we remember the taste, smell and color of the town very well. Ooty is also home to a slew of chocolatiers peddling 'homemade' chocolate that is actually not of good quality. But this is the chocolate we came into contact with as children. Our goal now is to show India and the world how good Indian cacao and Indian chocolate can be.

Country: Which country is your favorite growing area?

As we are cocoa farmers ourselves, we only want to work with our own cocoa. So of course the answer is India!

Enjoyment: What do you like to combine your 70% bar with?

With a nice glass of Japanese whisky: Yamazaki! The fruity and floral notes of our 70% bar pair well with the whiskey's smoothness and its notes of red berries and oak.

Which three chocolates would you take to a desert island?

Our Soklet 70%, the Chapon Venezuela Porcelana & Camino Verde by Dandelion .

Cocoa beans just before harvest Bean-to-Bar cocoa farm in India ©Soklet Cocoa beans just before harvest Soklet's bean-to-bar cocoa farm in India ©Soklet

Acquired a taste? Here you will find the special chocolates from India. By the way: there are more interviews and stories about the places of origin of the cocoa beans on our Theyo blog .

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