L Nitin Chordia, Founder, Cocoashala

L Nitin Chordia is India’s 1st Certified Chocolate Taster and Cocoa Post Harvest Professional. Currently based in Chennai, Nitin has tasted 2800+ different chocolates in his 6-year career. Nitin operates Kocoatrait, an initiative to promote knowledge, production, and consumption of fine chocolates in India. He is a Judge at the International Chocolate Awards in London. Nitin hosts the chocolate taster certifications in India in collaboration with IICCT, UK and delivers Level 1 modules for IICCT, in London and Chennai. Along with his wife Poonam, (a trained chocolatier and a Level 2 certified chocolate taster) he operates Cocoashala, a chocolate school that delivers the basic & advanced levels of Bean to Bar chocolate making training and beyond. Nitin has incubated 2 of India’s most innovative and largest bean to bar chocolate brands at his research & incubation center in Chennai, India, including Kocoatrait, the world’s most sustainable chocolate.

A chocolate lover can go on and on about chocolate, be it its history, different assortments of cacao, how they are originated, various ways of tasting chocolate and the exact process of how chocolates are made. But imagine if you could take all of this up a notch and become a certified chocolate taster?

In conversation with L Nitin Chordia, Founder of Cocoashala, an institution that offers certification courses making chocolates and tasting, we get to know more about the institutions and the unique courses they are offering to the public.

What is Cocoashala?

Cocoashala is a Chennai, India based institute and the only institute in the world offering specialized end to end International certification courses/programs in Bean to Bar chocolate making and Fine chocolate tasting/appreciation. The specific aim to offer these courses all under one umbrella is to foster and expedite the growth of bean to bar chocolate industry in India, with hands-on and holistic learning-based philosophy and approach. These courses are being offered for the last four years.

What courses are you offering at Cocoashala?

Chocolate tasting and bean to bar chocolate making are two different career paths that will need specific expertise and skillset going forward. Cocoashala offers the chocolate testing certification, in collaboration with the International Institute of Fine Chocolate and Cacao Tasting (IICCT), UK, exclusively for India. We host students from across the world in Chennai on an annual basis for the Level 1,2, &3 courses. Another course we offer is the Bean to Bar Chocolate Making Certification Course that is conceived by us, with over 6 years of experience in this domain.

Can you tell us more about the Chocolate Tasting Course?

The Level 1 & 2 of the Chocolate Tasting Certification Course are entirely classroom-based. We understand the art of fine Chocolate Tasting, Depreciation, and of course, test multiple good and defective chocolates. The learning is via testing. The participants are made to understand various flavors that they never thought existed in chocolate and analyze what goes into to making the chocolate so that defects can be pointed out.

Level One is a 1 Day Program, the Level 2 is a 3-Day Program and Level 3 is a 5 Day Program. Level 3 of this program will be offered for the first time in India this year and tales visiting coca farms and understanding the farming aspects and the impact of that on the flavor profile of the chocolate will also be discussed.

What can a participant expect from the Bean to Bar Chocolate Making Program?

The 4-day Bean to Bar Certification Program, which has been conceived in Cocoashala, is specifically useful for an entrepreneur who wishes to start their own Bean to Bar Chocolate business. During these 4 days, each participant is taken through the entire process of how cocoa beans are grown, fermented, dried, and then roasted to unlock the flavors before they refine or grind the chocolate. The participants understand each piece of equipment in detail and get familiar with them. The participants understand the various aspects of the raw material and recipe formation that are possible with bean to bar chocolate. At the end of the four days, participants would have completed making three batches of chocolate and they take them back along with them for reference. We do a round of tasting chocolates as well. Further, the profit and loss and financials for 3 different capacities of production are discussed and the return on investment is calculated. We can host a maximum of 5 people in this program since it is hands-on.

What are the conditions for the participants to join these courses?

For both the certification programs, the age restriction would be around 18 years and there are no prerequisites to join the Level 1 chocolate taster’s certification course. Anyone with some interest in chocolates is welcome to join. However, to progress to Level 2 & 3, the student must have passed the exams of the previous level. For the Bean to Bar chocolate making certification, there are no real entry criteria either because we see professionals from various industries with no background about food entering the course and successfully executing their plans.

How does this certificate make its participants stand out in the Industry?

Both courses are tuned towards the current & future opportunities that exist in the Bean to Bar chocolate and cocoa industry. As the cocoa and chocolate industry progress in India, there will be a need to understand that raw material and final chocolate better. After doing a Bean to bar chocolate making course one can immediately turn an entrepreneur and start his own Bean to bar chocolate brand.

The chocolate tasting certification course is particularly very useful as an added qualification for both a bean to bar chocolate maker as well as a professional who wants to contribute to the quality assurance or product development departments of a chocolate company. As we say, “When you have grapes in hand, you can decide to make grape juice with it or a fine wine!”

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