Nitin Chordia is India's 1st Certified Chocolate Taster, Cacao Post Harvest Professional, and founder of Zero Waste, Planet Friendly, Plant Based, Sustainable Chocolates – Kocoatrait.
Ayuve caught up with Nitin on his trip to a Cacao farm in Andhra Pradesh. He was offering his consultation for a Cacao producer from the Godavari belt; third such project he is handling in the region. “I feel like I have a past-life connection with the region. Godavari delta is especially good for Cacao growing. The rich fertile soil is the highlight; and as far as Cacao is concerned the easily available ground water is the advantage here. This is like the Punjab of South where the farmers are every enterprising, hardworking, sincere, and believe that the soil is their mother. They take good care of their soil. The acreage is quite good here and the scope for expansion is good as well,” Nitin explains the increasing trend of growing Cacao in the coastal Andhra Pradesh.
His role begins when the fruits are ready to be picked. He helps them pick the right fruit and ensure the fermentation takes place right.
“We have come a long way as far as cacao fermentation is concerned. It is similar to wine, but when we are trying to achieve separate flavours, a bit of science is involved at the farm level. The farmer is interested in getting good price for his crop. We take care of the technical aspects,” he elaborates, “There are four to five factors that influence the flavours -
- Varietal: For examples mangoes like Alphonso and Imampasand – wherever they grow, their flavour is determined by their variety – just like Cacao.
- The Way We Ferment – Cacao is fermented differently for different outcomes.
- Drying: If you don’t dry cacao well, the flavours will get affected. Just drying well will bring in flavour.
- Roasting is Critical: However, roasting happens off the farm.
As a brand, Kocoatrait is committed to Planet Earth. Nitin explains how he and his wife Poonam ensured they built a sustainable Bean to Bar product.
We are a brand committed to Planet Earth, and this draws a lot of boundaries around us. We do not use any flavour oils in our chocolates. For instance, we have a Masala Chai Chocolate – we have the actual cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and ginger- ground along with cacao to make the chocolate. Flavours come during the chocolate making processing and real natural flavouring is preferred.
For one of our most popular flavour, Espresso Coffee Chocolate – we roast the actual coffee beans along with Cacao.
While this does add cost to the product; it does give the option as the only completely sustainable product in the chocolate segment.
“We are a very transparent company. We give cost breakup of every single product including raw material and electricity and labour - it is all there to see on Kocoatrait website. My customers understand that if I am reducing cost, my profitability will reduce, in which case, I cannot continue to do sustainable products. My customer has to be someone, who cares about the planet and if he cares about the planet, he has no option but to buy my product.”
Nitin is originally a commerce graduate who went on to do his Master’s in Business Management from the US. “IT was the turning point in my life when I began to understand the importance and need for research in a scientific manner. He came back to India, worked with Godrej’s Nature Basket- set up their systems. “This was also the time I tasted some of the best chocolates from across the world. Then I went to the US, worked for a few groceries retail brands. I also did my Chocolate Taster Certification. My wife is also a certified chocolatier. Back in India I worked as a consultant. I also worked with Paul & Mike. I set up the plant and business. I helped with setting up the machinery and I've set up all the initial recipes as well.”
Together Nitin and Poonam started Kocoashala – International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting - that takes pride of having trained most of the chocolate making professionals from around 17 existing chocolate making companies in India. “We employ scientific techniques from cacao processing to chocolate making. Most of our consulting is from our Cocoashala. We have been taking part in the annual exhibition at Amsterdam from 2015 onwards. Until 2017, we mostly had international students at our institute, which we started in Gopalapuram, Chennai. From 2017 onwards we began to get people from India wanting to be trained in chocolate tasting and making. If it was not for us, people getting into this business in India would have had tough time. In 2018, when we were at Amsterdam everyone started asking us to teach how to make sustainable chocolates. We saw a wonderful opportunity that can cater to any audience worldwide. We set for ourselves a goal that we will launch sustainable chocolates in 12 months.”
The couple did go back with 12 different types of sustainable chocolates, which continue to be on the menu till date including varieties like Chukku Coffee Chocolate, Red Rose, Salt, Cinnamon…
Kocoatrait is a completely sustainable brand contributing to circular economy. “Our business doesn’t cut a single tree. We have developed a proprietary packaging process using boxes made using cotton waste and Cacao husk. The resource is slightly scientific and a product of pointed research that helped us achieve a lot. We get it made for us, but control most of the process. We do screen printing on our chocolate wrapper using water-based ink instead of plastic done by differently abled people going by our inclusivity policy. For our e-commerce, we have introduced boxes that can be reused as five utility things – a tablet holder, mobile phone stand and desk organizer, a gift box or a bird house, a plastic bag dispenser… Our goal is to find ways of becoming even more sustainable,” shares Nitin.
Going forward on the sustainable path, Kocoatrait was first made available on the street it’s made, followed by Chennai city, followed by the various cities in India. It is yet to be supplied to stores in Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Innovation continues like the plum cake chocolate for Christmas that became so popular that it continues to be available for the rest of the year.