Indonesian chocolate producers are few and far between. Quite an irony since Indonesia is the third largest producer of cacao. Bali based Pod supports local farmers to grow organic cocoa beans to produce a selection of high quality single origin chocolates.
Meet Toby Garritt, owner and main man behind Pod, he has a wide eyed charm when he was introduced to us. He showed us his products and we were immediately impressed. Only then did we realize that we had already been enjoying the chocolates Pod was producing at some of Bali’s hotels. Then the idea of visiting his factry came about, Toby gladly invited us over.
As we approached the Pod factory and café, we realize that organizing such an endeavor is no small feat. We asked Toby how he got into the chocolate business.
“I were driving along and we saw some cocoa trees. I’d never tasted cocoa before and never even knew what a cocoa tree looked like. A friend cut a cocoa pod off the tree, cut it open and then said for us to try some. We were amazed by the flavor, we were never expecting anything to taste like that, part mangosteen, part soursop.”
But the next thing that popped into their heads was, how does one make chocolate from this. Toby later discovered that there is no place really to go to learn how to make chocolate. You had to discover it yourself. So he spent a good part of 2010 and 2011 experimenting with cacao beans and trying to make chocolate. It was clear from very early on that the process at the farm level was critical to make consistent and high quality chocolate. After a huge numbers of test on roasting times and recipes, finally Toby thought that he had it. But when they repeated the process, the outcome would be totally different. The reason for this was that farmers they were getting the beans from, were doing different things to the beans. After the farmers have harvested the cocoa pods from the trees, the beans must be carefully fermented to bring out the very best flavors. Most farmers in Bali don’t ferment their beans, there is no tradition of fermenting in Indonesia, plus it was additional work for them. Countries that have big production capacity need to use fermented beans. To the artisanal chocolatier, proper cocoa fermentation is critically important. Chocolate made from unfermented cocoa beans does not have the body and richness as chocolate made from fermented cocoa beans. Thus finding fermented beans Bali was not easy.
Toby had to help the 200 or so farmers they work with understand the value of fermentation. He says that there is a delicate balance working with farmers. If they worked with too many farmers, more than their capacity to produce chocolate, as in any supply chain, some farmers will not be able to sell their beans. “I wanted to be cautious. Farmers often hear a lot of empty promises. It was important for us to say as what we do, that is how we gained the trust of the farmers. It is really important for us.”
Another area Pod works with the farmer is in pest control. Across Indonesia, the biggest pest to the cacao pods is the pod boarer. It is a mosquito like insect that drills a hole into the cocoa pod and lays thousands of eggs. These hatch inside the pod and destroy it from inside out. Toby tells us that they work with a young agronomist, and she came up with the idea of using pheromones of the female pod boarer to attract the male pod boarer. Essentially, they try to kill the male pod boarers so that they cannot breed. This is a method of pest control called improved pest management, which doesn’t focus on just killing insects but focuses on the breeding cycle of the insects. This connection with the land and respect and support for its farmers that forms the heart of Pod’s chocolate making philosophy.
Toby tells us that in selling and marketing Pod, they have two main areas in which they work. One is to provide chocolate and chocolate products to hotels and restaurants, for pastry use, desserts, cooking and amenity products, such as in room gifts. The other is their retail concept, which is now in the works. “We don’t want to put the brand in supermarkets or boutiques. So we decided to build our own chocolate lounge concept. Wherein the focus is around the chocolate. It will be a showcase for our products, a showcase of how chocolate can be used in our cakes pastries and desserts. It is an edgy, sexy and comfortable place to relax and enjoy chocolate.”
As Toby speaks, his passion for the business, their partners and the chocolate is palpable. If you are in Bali, be conscious of the chocolate desserts you consume, we am quite sure, they may be made from Pod chocolates. Who knows soon, Pod may reach Jakarta and other cities in Indonesia or abroad. Passion drives success, and that is what we wish for Pod.