Indonesia is one of the world’s top cacao producers, after Ghana and the Ivory Coast, but up til recently, anybody would have been hard-pressed to find quality chocolate made in the archipelago. A number of entrepreneurs have decided to do something about this less than ideal situation by setting up boutique chocolate factories in close proximity to bean plantations, thus not only lowering their carbon footprint, but ensuring top quality produce and an absolutely delicious final product.
Most notably, the chocolate produced at the factories is not just satisfying for the tastebuds, but also good for Bali’s farmers. By basing themselves close to cacao producers, the chocolatiers have been able to support sustainable and organic agricultural systems, rewarding local farmers with top rupiah for their high-quality beans. Here are three Bali-based artisanal chocolate-makers currently killing the choco game.
Pod Chocolate Factory and Café
Having opened its doors in 2013, Pod specializes in two types of chocolate – most handmade from organic local produce. Pod Classic is crafted in the style of couverture chocolate that dates back to 1847, when J. S. Fry & Sons, a British chocolate company, crafted the first chocolate bar as we know it today. Made from pure cacao butter, Pod’s chocolate contains refined sugar (basic white sugar) but no preservatives, artificial ingredients or vegetable fats.
For the health conscious, Pod Healthy Delicious is made with organic lontar nectar, a nutritious, low GI, alternative to refined sugar. Pod’s indulgent chocolate ranges from white to milk to dark and extra dark, and comes in a variety of flavors including peppermint, orange, as well as ginger and lemongrass.
Located at the Bali Elephant Camp in the small village of Carangsari, approximately five kilometers from Ubud, Pod offers regular tours of its facilities, which take visitors through the magic of the chocolate-making process. Starting with a decadent chocolate shot, the tour takes visitors through a nearby cacao plantation and the small factory where the fermenting, drying, roasting, grounding and tempering take place
The experience ends with a tasting session of different chocolate and praline flavors, before each visitor gets a chance to bring home their own family of mini chocolate elephants. There is also an attached sales outlet for those wishing to stock up on chocolaty goodness, and a cafe that serves a range of desserts and unusual takes on old favorites including nasi goreng (fried rice) with roasted cacao nibs.
A testament to its success, Pod is about to open a new facility between Kuta and Nusa Dua.
Big Tree Farms Bamboo Chocolate Factory
Indonesia’s largest organic food enterprise, and the largest chocolate factory in Bali, Big Tree Farms started out in 2003 as a one-eighth-of-an-acre sustainable crop farm. The company gradually grew, and today works with over 14,000 Indonesian farmers – including 400 cacao producers – to create a huge variety of organic products, including mouth-watering chocolate.
Set in the world’s largest commercial bamboo structure, just over 10 kilometers from Ubud, in Sibang Kaja, Big Tree Farms does not come across as very industrial. The plant, which opened on 11-11-11, consists of three stories topped by a pitched roof made from alang-alang or reeds. Boasting a bamboo façade and walls woven from bamboo strips, as well as an open third floor atrium, the pod-to-bar factory turns local beans into gourmet treats. What makes Big Tree Farm chocolates unique, and healthy, is the addition of one of the company’s other products: organic coconut palm sugar as a substitute sweetener for refined sugar.
Big Tree Farms offers one-hour tours of a cacao plantation and its chocolate factory where the beans are transformed into edible works of art. The tour starts with a shot of coco mojo, and includes a closer inspection of the machinery used in the chocolate-making process, including vintage pieces that date back to the early 20th century.
Apart from scrumptious chocolate, Big Tree Farms also produces organic products such as Coco Hydro, dehydrated coconut water, cashew nuts, moringa powder, tulsi seeds, honey, as well as spices, pepper and sea salts.
Uforia (Sorga) Chocolate
Uforia claims that its chocolate gives people “a very distinct euphoric feeling.” This might not be as farfetched as it sounds. Chocolate contains anandamide, a molecule that plays a part in mood enhancement, as well as a variety of nutrients such as iron, magnesium and antioxidants. Significantly, after setting up shop in 2011, Uforia sought the services of a consultant with a background in molecular and cellular biology to come up with chocolate compositions on the more experimental side.
Sourcing beans from local farmers, and an organic farm cooperative, Uforia’s uplifting chocolates come to life at a series of peak-roofed huts in the quaint village of Jasri, around 10 kilometers from the coastal town of Candi Dasa. While Uforia has been around for a while, its younger sister Sorga, which only hit Bali’s shelves earlier this year, is an organic chocolate line that contains coconut sugar. Both Uforia and Sorga focus on making dark chocolate in a variety of flavors including sea salt, cashew, ginger, and kopi luwak.
Uforia runs tours of its facilities during the harvest season from June to August. The factory also offers one-and-a-half hour chocolate and truffle making classes on Saturday afternoons.