The sweet aroma of chocolate fills the Mendonza home in Bhilai. Off to one side of the kitchen, Anishaa Mendonza is working non-stop, giving the finishing touches to her chocolate collection. Her fingers functioning like paintbrushes, she dabs a bit of edible glitter on the “Happy Diwali” embossed on her handmade chocolate bar. She is moving fast – with Diwali around the corner, there’s no time to waste.
Meanwhile, in Ghaziabad, Kritika Chhabra deftly encapsulates premium liquors inside carefully prepared hollow chocolate shells. She has one eye on the digital temperature monitor of the melter, making sure her chocolate reaches the right tempering consistency, while she mentally keeps track of the time left for her last batch to come out of the refrigerator. Finished gift boxes, ready to be delivered, lie on the dining table and the chairs; more on the living room sofas and on the centre table in between. There’s only one stool left without boxes in the entire room, that too for her! With a corporate order of eight hundred boxes, Kritika is literally short-changed for space.
In another part of the country, that is Mumbai, Paayel Agarwaal is preparing a range of confections – from smooth ganaches, to luxurious French-style truffles, delicious giandujas, and textured “rocky road” bars with wheat biscuits and eggless marshmallows – to name just a few. She rolls each dark chocolate truffle by hand, then enrobes it in milk chocolate, finally sprinkling caramel sugar and sea salt on top. This is one of the eleven different varieties that Paayel is putting in each Diwali chocolate hamper, that is, apart from her signature vegan caramel sauce in a jar. Good heavens! Her customers are going to be spoiled for choice.
If you are, or closely know, a chocolatier, these scenes are probably all too familiar for you. Diwali marks the culmination of months of rigorous planning and preparation by chocolatiers throughout India. Every season, they start by researching the latest confectionary trends, then forage the markets for new ideas, ingredients and supplies. Next begins the process of preparing samples, meeting clients, understanding their gifting requirements, making the necessary customisations, negotiating prices, and finally bagging the order. All a bit daunting, if you’re new, but that’s the fun of the chocolate business. You get to meet interesting people and be creative all the time. Of course, if you’re good, it saves a lot of legwork, as old customers always come back for more.
But what special thing are customers looking for in their Diwali chocolates? “Well, taste is always paramount but attractive, communicative packaging goes a long way,” says Bhavya Nakra, owner of the chocolate label Tishya (auspicious in Hindi) that specializes in chocolate gifts for special occasions. When designing a chocolate hamper, Bhavya draws inspiration from the event’s theme so that the final product is not only beautiful but also speaks something about the occasion. Sometimes that inspiration comes in the form of a phrase that she tries to capture through her chocolate work. “It’s not literal,” she explains. “It’s just an impetus to help me draw my creative energies.” Sweetness over darkness is her gifting theme this Diwali.
Life is all about timing, and the best time to visit a chocolatier is right before Diwali. That’s when they’re making those fresh batches of chocolates aplenty; and so much so, that if you popped one here, snuck one there, they wouldn’t even notice! So, if you’re not going to be a chocolatier, at least make friends with one. You’ll be sweetly rewarded.
Have a wonderful Diwali!