Sarah Douglas searches out Bali’s best quality chocolate producers.
Indonesia is the planet’s third largest producer of cocoa beans and yet only recently did artisan makers begin producing quality chocolate here. Stylish, deeply delicious and true to its origins, making chocolate is not only a business, it is a labour of love and we, the consumers, are the winners, with an increasing number of unique local labels. Here are six of our favourites.
It began as a question. Why did Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest producers of cacao, not produce any quality chocolate? Australian Toby Garritt turned his considerable experience in the restaurant business into a full-blown quest to find out if it could be done. It may have started as a curiosity but the results can now be seen on shelves throughout Bali and if Toby has his way, soon the world. It took three years to turn this backyard experiment into a full-blown chocolate company but it is without doubt one of Bali’s most stylish brands. Richard Millar, during his time as chef at Bali’s W Resort, threw his full support behind Pod and it turned the company around. Today they produce tons of plain and flavoured couverture chocolate with machinery to rival the Swiss and the Italians. The nectar range includes selections like the best selling sea salt and cacao nibs, coconut, mint and fruit and nut varieties. Supporting local communities, using pure lontar nectar to sweeten his dark varieties, Pod is beautifully packaged, smooth, delicious and absolutely world class. A stop at their chocolate factory is a delicious break on the journey into the hills of Bedugul.
Another brand built from the farm up that continues to support local farmers is Krakakoa. Founded in Sumatra by Sabrina Mustopo and Simon Wright, a South African, they work with local farmers to lift the process from quality to control pests – which, not surprisingly, love the cocoa beans as much as humans do. Krakakao pulled off a major coup when they won a total of six medals at the 2017 Academy of Chocolate awards in London, pitted against some of the top chocolate makers in the world. Founded in 2013, the company rebranded in 2016 and now has a beautiful shop on Seminyak’s main road. The chocolate ranges from a 100% dark chocolate to bars flavoured with sea salt and pepper, creamy coffee and other delicious varieties including an inspired classic range.
One of the best things about chocolate, apart from its mood-elevating deliciousness, is that it is also considered a superfood. Elevated Cacao is created by a couple of friends from Melbourne who gave up their careers to move to Bali and start making ‘super’ chocolate. The stylish little bars they create are raw, vegan and laced with superfoods and it’s hard to choose one over the others as an absolute favourite. They might be good for you but that’s almost beside the point. This is artisan chocolate at its finest. Amanda and Paul met in Bali on a yoga retreat. Paul was an experienced raw chocolatier and he convinced Amanda to throw her lot in with him and Elevated Cacao was born. While it isn’t possible to create a purely raw chocolate, as the cacao butter is extracted using heat and the coconut sugar must be boiled for days to produce a solid, their beans are fermented only, not roasted, and this is where the purity of flavour comes from. Add in seven varieties of superfoods from goji berries to acai berries, lucuma, sea salt and more, and a true passion for the farmers they work with, this is pure pleasure. And best of all you can share it with your vegan friends.
The Mason family has played an integral role in Bali tourism – as the founders of Bali Adventure Tours, now Mason Adventures, they have hosted millions of people over the decades since they set up business. Their latest venture includes a chocolatier, housed in a beautiful bamboo structure in a stunning location in Taro near Ubud. There are endless adventures to be had here, with one of the island’s safest fleets of Jungle Buggies, ATVs that follow a track through the jungle, the Koko Bamboo poolside restaurant and their gourmet chocolate factory on site. The Masons travelled to Italy to watch the masters at work and purchased high-end equipment to create their filled chocolates. The smooth chocolates are packed with delicious flavours; fruity, spicy or exotic, they add another dimension to the adventures found in the hills and jungles in this unspoiled pocket of Bali.
What began as a small family-run crop farm has become one of Indonesia’s largest organic food enterprises working with over 14,000 farmers to create their range of organic products, including chocolate. The three-tiered bamboo structure, located close to the Green School and mirroring its architecture, houses the Big Tree chocolate factory. The educational, and delicious, tour takes you through the process from bean to bar. Chefs often call on Big Tree for the chocolate mass, the paste produced after the beans have been fermented and ground. For master bakers like Will Goldfarb from Room4Dessert, the paste gives them the flexibility to add their own flavours and control the sweetness. Big Tree is one of the forerunners in the organic coconut sugar production, so naturally their products are sweetened with it. Local chocolate producers often use the rich, caramel-like coconut sugar to give their products a unique taste. Big Tree produces a wide range based on the cocoa beans, from raw beans to roasted beans, nibs, drinking chocolate and plain and flavoured bars.
Uforia and Sorga
The labels on Uforia Chocolate defy the seriousness of this Balinese-owned brand of chocolate. Made Rutana and Wayan Suwita are as home grown as it comes but that didn’t stop them drawing on international experts when they decided to create their own chocolate company. Made Rutana’s family owned cacao farms in Karangasem although it was not a path he planned to follow. Until he met Wayan who had travelled and tasted some of the world’s best chocolates and fell in love with the idea of starting a business on home soil. Wayan set up the factory in 2011 and started producing Uforia and Sorga under PT Bali Chocolate. Made answered a vacancy advertisement and the two have gone from strength to strength. By reducing the mixing time for their chocolate, they claim their range retains more of its natural properties and tastes more alive. The factory in the east Bali village of Jasri is worth a stop.