From visible chocolate roasters to brews, Colocal aims at giving the whole chocolate experience to Indians
By: Suman Tarafdar
Posted on: February 1, 2021
Admit it – for many of us, especially in our preteens (and sometimes later), the dream of being in a chocolate or candy factory was right up there, perhaps along with driving a tractor or going to the moon. Of course, for generations of kids who were young and dreamt after Roald Dahl’s incomparable Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the dream took a definite shape.
Well, unfortunately for most Indians, those chocolate factories were far away, in places such as Bruges or Cologne or Hershey. The situation has been rectified to a degree with the opening of COLOCAL, which offers, along with casual café dining, an actual chocolate factory on its oh-so-pretty premises in one of Delhi’s newly trendy addresses – Dhan Mill in Chhattarpur.
Spread over two levels, Colocal looks the perfect setting for anyone looking for a good time over hot chocolate. Or even coffee. The spacious interiors are designed to be a momentary escape to faraway Goa or Pondicherry. The gleaming white interiors are dotted with ‘period’ furniture and settings. Besides the tables and chairs with beautiful block print upholstery, there are pillars, huge planters that ensure a feeling of being in a living green space, lovely old windows – freshly painted with ochre borders. At the entrance, a huge earthen urn is filled to almost its brim, with yellow, orange and red gerberas making for a perfect ‘Insta’ moment. A huge skylight lets in the elements – at the moment adding a lovely sunny azure to the mix.
The upper level is dedicated to the factory. For anyone wishing to learn about the process of how chocolate is made from cocoa bean, this section is a must visit.
The Chocolate Journey
Sheetal Saxena, the co-founder of Colocal, says the idea came to her as she and her husband Nishant, who owns the Roastery Coffee House India with outlets in Hyderabad and Kolkata, saw a video of cocoa (or cacao) getting roasted in Vietnam. “We got really excited and inquisitive about it,” she says. “We headed to Vietnam, realised that was how cocoa gets roasted and that’s how you make chocolate. We understood the whole process of bean-to-bar and the world of craft chocolate. We also surveyed the Indian industry. There are at least 12 chocolate makers that I am aware of. We realised that if handled properly, cocoa behaves very much like coffee, so you can taste the notes in it and enhance the notes by fermentation and roasting.”
Roasting was a challenge. “Nobody roasts their cocoa in India,” says Ms. Saxena. “Probably because it’s expensive and there is an educational gap, which we too were not aware of.”
The duo ordered a Giesen roaster – customised for cocoa. “The temperature for coffee and cocoa is very different. If you roast in the same roaster, it will not give you a good profile. We want people to taste the notes which are beneath the chocolate.” Ms. Saxena says they ensure the vinegar and bitterness of the raw product is removed before roasting the beans.
“What people eat is not chocolate but milk and sugar. We want to redefine this industry and tell people this is how chocolate is made, what real chocolate is. Which led to the idea of the factory.
Another unique step that Colocal is doing is conching – a process which uses a surface scraping mixer and agitator, known as a conche, to evenly distribute cocoa butter within chocolate, evaporating the acid, thus giving a smoother, palatable chocolate with an after bitter taste. “As the acidity is removed, it mixes well with other ingredients. Baking chocolate needs to be without acidity. We want the macron size between 15-25 – more than that means it is too grainy for our level. We have a device to monitor this, ensuring our chocolate falls in the desired macron size, and we can mould it anytime,” explains Ms. Saxena.
“What People Eat Are Not Chocolate”
Ms. Saxena estimates the chocolate market in India currently is where coffee was about a decade ago. “The specialty coffee scene in India at the time was very, very small. But now, as people understand specialty coffee, the pie is getting larger. Citing the example of Blue Tokai, she says just as the brand introduced Indians to finer aspects of coffee, Colocal wants to do for chocolate. “We may have just a handful of people who do understand chocolate, but the idea of having the bean-to-bar process is to educate people on it, so that they understand what real chocolate is. And then we expand the market.”
Ms. Saxena points out that most mass chocolate has just about four per cent cocoa mass. “What people eat is not chocolate but milk and sugar. We want to redefine this industry and tell people this is how chocolate is made, what real chocolate is. Which led to the idea of the factory. We are making 1,500 kgs of chocolate per month, and plan to raise it to 3,000 kgs.”
The focus for Ms. Saxena is to be in the B2B market – becoming a supplier of choice for baking chocolate, the aim being to make the finest Indian baking chocolate from Indian origin cocoa. She sees great potential in this space. “We are aiming at the couverture segment (which contains 32–39 per cent of cocoa butter, which is higher than baking or eating chocolate) of course, because couverture is what we do. We want to be the Callebaut of India. Right now, for couverture, they are buying Callebaut or Valrhona, but there is no Indian chocolate maker in the B2B segment offering good and consistent chocolates.” She aims at not making any chocolate with less than 50 per cent cocoa.
Ms. Sheetal Saxena, Colocal's co-founder & a chocolate enthusiast
Ms. Saxena admits it’s going to be a slow start. “We are open to criticism, to understanding the market. However, we know our beans and our chocolate and we know we will get there.” An advantage she expects over competition in this segment is the price level, which would be much lower than important brands. We are one of a kind. Nobody is giving the experience we are giving. We are ready to give ourselves the time to be accepted in the market. We are not just a café. We are not just a company. We are artisans, that is why we are here. We are not looking for quick returns. This is our passion.”
Colocal also stresses on Indian cocoa beans. We source high quality cacao beans from our partner estates, says Ms. Saxena. “We grow wonderful cocoa in India, especially in Andhra Pradesh, yet our cocoa is not on the world map. Our cocoa is as good as any cocoa in the world. We need the right knowledge of fermentation and roasting.”
As for the café, Ms. Saxena starting working on this project in July 2019, found the property in February 2020 and started work in March. COVID delayed the opening from August 2020 to November. Colocal is for anyone who loves chocolate, is open to new tastes and flavours, and wants to understand how the craft chocolate world works.
The menu is fairly extensive, with chocolate dishes occupying a pride of place. The menu opens with hot and cold chocolate brews, though there is coffee as well, including Chocolate Blend Cold Coffee options. The hot chocolate brews come at 55, 62 and 74 per cent dark chocolate milk variants, and come highly recommended. These also give an indication of what Ms. Saxena wants people to savour. Cold brew flavours include sea salt, mint, raspberry and chilly (sic), or the Cacao Cold Brew and Spiced Cacao Cold Brew.
“We grow wonderful cocoa in India, especially in Andhra Pradesh, yet our cocoa is not on the world map. Our cocoa is as good as any cocoa in the world. We need the right knowledge of fermentation and roasting.”
The café offers a wide selection of burgers, pizzas, pastas, salads, sandwiches and a host of mains. Nachos and tacos come interspersed with Khichadi Arancini or Mutton Bolognese Bao, Tofu steak with peppercorn sauce and salad, and much more. Dessert includes a chocolate mousse platter.
Colocal's newest menu item is the Cocoa Sangria
The name Colocal is an amalgam of cocoa and local. There are three variants of chocolate bars on sale at the cafe, as well as chocolate for baking. Get set for your Willy Wonka dreams to play out!
Coordinates: COLOCAL, Dhan Mill, 100 Feet Road, Chhattarpur, New Delhi