When it comes to food, our city has always been famous for Masala dosa and the ever popular Mysore Pak. Now an expat in city is making Mysuru famous for its chocolates! David Bello, who makes artisan chocolates from his unit in Mysuru, is now gaining international repute.
Intrigued, I found his company ‘Earth Loaf Chocolates’ and called him up. He promptly invited me to his factory at Hebbal Industrial area. The factory is a small unit with two big rooms — one has a few grinders and another where the chocolate is tempered. The first thing I noticed was that there was a photograph of a young Mahatma Gandhi on the wall! I asked David, why? He said he was born in South Africa where Gandhiji had found his calling and he felt the Mahatma is as much a South African as Indian and that he idolises Gandhiji and all that he stood for.
Speaking of chocolates, David says there is a new kind of chocolate market that is emerging called ‘adult chocolates.’ These are chocolates that are made to tickle the taste buds of adults and not meant to impress children. In this category there is another specialty called ‘artisan chocolates’ — these are chocolates made with a sense of adventure and artisanship. And David Bello considers himself an artist and is adventurous with his chocolate creations.
I tasted a few and it is like a discovery. I tasted chocolate with a blend of coffee and pineapple, chocolate with mango and chillies, chocolate with jackfruit chunks etc., but the chocolate percentage is always 72% and pure. Now, while some are delicious, others are definitely an acquired taste.
David was a mixologist in UK helping restaurants set up their cocktail menu. He then launched a bakery called Earth Loaf where he also made chocolate. In 2012, his girlfriend wanted to move to Mysuru and practice Ashtanga Yoga with the famed Yoga Teacher Sharath Jois and David moved to Mysuru with her. While here he wanted to do something with chocolates and when he was trying to source cocoa from Indonesia he learnt that Karnataka produces good cocoa!
Soon he tied up with farmers in Dakshina Kannada, changed his visa to a business visa, raised 3,000 pounds from Kickstarter website and was ready to make artistic, pure Indian chocolate. But what happened next is a long wait.
David says he loves India, but adds, “Setting up a business is not something I recommend.” When asked why, he says “In UK, it took me one hour to get permission to set up my bakery business but in India it took me two-and-a-half-years!” He proudly adds “But I am a tenacious guy, I loved the fact that good cocoa was available here, and India is an emerging market for “fine” chocolate. And I must also thank Mahesh Kumar of Premier Polymers who helped me.”
He says there are many expats in Mysuru who have amazing skills and knowledge wanting to start businesses here and settle down but the permission process is discouraging. He then adds emphatically, “I am of Portuguese origin, my forefathers may have looted India, not me. I want to be here, I like India, I want to give back, I want to create jobs and pay my taxes.” I asked if it has been a huge change in lifestyle for him to move from London to Mysuru, to which he says, “Lifestyle is not a priority, life is about passion. And for me, chocolate-making is my passion.”
I noticed most of the staff in the factory did not speak English so I asked David how he had managed to train his rural staff to which he replied, “Nange solpa kannada baruthe.” It seems, in order to educate and train his staff and negotiate with cocoa farmers, David over the past 3 years has learnt “functional” Kannada. Not just that, he has also learnt to be ingenious like Indians. David points to a machine that separates cocoa beans from its shell and says, “I did some desi style juggad and built this machine myself. The original one from the US was costing 35,000 dollars, I built this for just Rs.28,000.”
Everything about David’s chocolates is artistic. There is attention to detail, from sourcing cocoa to the final wrapper. The chocolates are sealed in foil and wrapped in silk-screen printed hand-made paper and he says he gets it printed in Mysuru. He says he gets it hand-printed in Agrahar and requested I don’t mention the printer as it’s his secret. His paper also is unique as they are hand-made and he has even created paper using the left-over shell of the cocoa beans! For this he worked with a paper-maker in Gujarat.
Apart from chocolates, Earth Loaf also sells raw cocoa beans, chocolate powder and Bon-Bons — small spherical chocolate shell with filling inside. For 2018 Dasara, David is already planning a ‘Mysore Pak Bon-Bon’ — chocolate on the outside and when you bite into it, you get Mysore Pak. In the meantime, he is also planning to open an ‘Earth Loaf Café’ in city and hopes to showcase his baking skills.
It is because of this passion and attention to detail that Earth Loaf Chocolates won the Best Taste Award, instituted by the Guild of Fine Food, UK. A first for Indian chocolate.
David says like how ‘South Indian’ coffee is famous across the world, he hopes to make ‘South Indian Chocolates’ world famous. Guess, sometimes it takes an outsider to show us our nation’s hidden treasures. In case of David, it’s delicious chocolate treasures.
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