Ever since I watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I have always had the dearest ambition of meeting Willy Wonka. Cue my dream scenario in which he would give me a factory tour, let me taste some of his delicious bars of chocolate and of course we would sit sipping mugs of hot chocolate and talk about…well, chocolate!
Last week, it happened! And I got introduced to not one but TWO Willy Wonkas from our very own city of Cochin!
Ok, so they don’t wear fancy top hats or purple coats or make up songs with their faithful oompa loompas…but the chocolate they make is amazing as I could imagine coming out of the Wonka factory! Presenting, Chocolatiers, JACOB JOY, KISHORE GEORGE and their luxury chocolate brand “LISO”.
|Jacob (L) and Kishore with the object of their affection|
|Kishore:ah! that snap!|
Kishore, though a mechanical engineer by profession, happens to be dead serious about chocolate and followed his passion head on! In fact, he has spent the last three years travelling across the globe, trying to learn everything there is to know about the food of the Gods. He has undergone training with some of the best chocolatiers in Germany, Italy, Australia and Canada, specializing in artisan and industrial manufacturing of chocolates.
Equally passionate about chocolate is his partner, Jacob Joy who is a business man, social worker, entrepreneur…sometimes referred to as “Candy Man”! He is the director of JJ confectionaries Pvt (Ltd) engaged in the manufacturing of candies, toffees and éclairs. With a diploma in Chocolate and Confectionary Manufacturing from ZDS, Germany, he is also Managing Director of Jakes Snacks and Foods Pvtd Ltd, a company he formed with the purpose of introducing Luxury chocolates in India.
It was quite by chance that I came across LISO. Dashing to an interview at centre square when I screeched to a halt on the 1st floor right in front of this rather classy looking store done up in blacks, whites and golds (it could have also been the beautifully delicate looking truffles display that stopped me as well!) Pretty soon, Jacob, Royson, COO and I had a chat over a cup of green tea (when one samples chocolates, it’s best to cut down calories where ever possible!) about chocolate and their Kerala based brand LISO (Unfortunaltely, Kishore was on a chocolate escapade to Australia at the time).
Introducing Kochiites to the concept of luxury chocolates was a challenging task. Apart from the lack of knowledge about what makes a good chocolate, there was the prevalence of individual taste palettes.
Umpteen number of studies and analysis were conducted before the product could even be test run in the market. Jacob shared his insight into consumers in Cochin. “Everything you see about us is a conscious outcome of what we have chosen NOT to do. There is a slight barrier when it comes to the price factor. But we have seen customers try out the product and come back several times to purchase it. Our studies revealed that a lot of customers initially chose to purchase luxury chocolates at the duty free because of the unavailability in the mainstream market.”
“Liso in Spanish means smooth”says Jacob “we want people to not just scarf down chocolate but to have a complete feel of it as they eat it. We use the finest Belgian chocolate and the most advanced Italian machinery to manufacture our products. We are also extremely stringent about the conditions and environment in which the chocolates are made. For example, we do microbiological analysis to ensure that the chocolate used and produced is safe for consumption and maintains the set standard of quality.”
The main issue with consumers in general is their lack of knowledge about what a good chocolate is. Many are happy with a bar of chocolate from the super market but those are not pure forms of chocolate. These are compound chocolates. The purest form of chocolate is couverture. To put it in simple terms, take a regular Dairy Milk bar, even if you leave it at room temperature it wouldn’t melt; that’s because it’s a compound chocolate. Now if you were to a Godiva truffle in the palm of your hand, you are sure to be left with a goopy mess and you know something? That’s good! Because what you would be licking off your palm is a couverture chocolate! Why this happens all comes down to the usage of one very important ingredient. Cocoa butter!
Counter top bars of chocolate contain vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter and the process of tempering (which shall be explained soon) is not required. Due to ease of use and lower price ratio, hobbyists and mass producers of chocolate hang on to this type of chocolate. In many cases however, the quality and taste tends to take a huge hit and one does not get to enjoy the chocolate in all its flavour.
Enter couverture chocolate and the process of tempering. Now these chocolates have a high cocoa butter content and uses only premium cocoa beans. They melt easily, have a smooth, glossy finish and are perfect for speciality candy making and moulding. Now, cocoa butter is extracted from cocoa beans and along with being an expensive ingredients, has some unusual quirks.
To overcome these quirks, chocolatiers temper chocolate. This is a special melting process, during which the cocoa butter crystals are re-established thus giving the cooled and finished chocolate the proper sheen, snap and tastes. Another reason for tempering chocolate is to prevent bloom, which happens when cocoa butter separates from cocoa solids and comes to the surface to lend a whitish or greyish colour to the chocolate. This is a big reason why most couverture chocolates have a short shelf life and have to be consumed as soon as possible. In fact, customers who buy Truffles from Liso have it transported home safe and cool in a box complete with an ice pack!
“At Liso, we believe in pure chocolate of the finest quality. We do not compromise on quality in any manner. Whether it is the ingredient quality or the intriguing technology behind the process, we love it pure and flawless. We stay clear of artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. The best thing about our collection is that it can be personalised to suit individual tastes” says Jacob. Good chocolate is a symphony of the senses. The snap you hear when you break a bar, the rich, earthy smell that wafts into your nose, the glossy sheen on the piece in your hand and finally, the silky feel as it melts in your mouth.
Their product range comprises: Neapolitans: which are compact rich pieces of pure chocolate in Dark, milk and white. They are bite sized, individually wrapped and perfect for sharing or gifting. “They are best enjoyed with a cup of coffee and need to be relished bite by bite”, Truffles: they have a chocolate shell in dark, milk or white with centre fillings in flavours like caramel, orange, hazelnut and others, confectionary: simply put, they are chocolate coated goodies! Dark, milk or white chocolate coats the outside of nuts, dried fruits and crispies, Hazelnut spread: is a smooth combination of the creamiest, nuttiest hazelnut and the finest quality milk chocolate (I tried this and boy! Rave session coming up soon!). Liso also does customization for various brands; adding a dash of flavour to the brand experience.
“What we want to do is to create a separate segment for LISO. We want to create a value perception for consumers. Price is definitely a determining factor but we want choices to be made based on the taste and quality of our product as well.” LISO is working on a provision for online purchase on their website. This facility is available for all their products save the delicate truffles.
Having travelled around the world and tasted a variety of chocolates, I asked Jacob what the weirdest flavour he’d ever tasted was “It was in Japan. Crickets covered in chocolate. And actually it was not as bad as it sounds!” he says with a big grin. He went to describe how they were planning to go Kerala centric as well with some of the products they make; by incorporating spices and nuts. Some of their best sellers include: Chocolate coated coffee beans and almonds, strawberries coated with white chocolate, truffle with hazelnut filling and their decadent hazelnut spread with cocoa. “The joy of working with chocolate, apart from sheer passion, is to see the appreciation on customer’s faces once they try our products and fulfilling customer satisfaction!”
I was first given a lavish curl of their signature Hazelnut spread. It was heaven on a spoon! The hazelnut played the handsome hero and the cocoa the faithful sidekick; creamy beyond belief and absolutely delicious, the spread literally melted in my mouth with none of that “stuck on the roof” feel. There was a happy lingering taste of hazelnut with an occasional burst of chocolate. The second product I tried was the Neapolitan milk chocolate square. It was without a doubt the smoothest chocolate I have had in a long time. Yes, it was a little too sweet for my taste (I’ve always had an inkling toward dark chocolate) but it will definitely bring tears of joy to those with a proper sweet tooth! Again, it melted away leaving me with a big goofy grin on my face. The final product I tried was the chocolate coated coffee bean. This was one of their best sellers. I was advised to pop the whole thing in my mouth and chew away. People! Chuck your morning cup of coffee and switch to these chewable dynamos of coffee!
Crunch down and you get a hit of pure, bitter coffee which then mellows down instantly to a café au lait ,whilst it combines oh so seamlessly with the thin coat of chocolate. Such bliss! And a definite must try for coffee lovers everywhere!
The best thing I liked about these products was that they didn’t leave that cloying, chalky, bitter after taste in my mouth. They did their job and melted away leaving smiles behind.
The future holds big plans in store for Liso, Jacob and Kishore. They plan to introduce a more artistic range with painted truffles and other designer variants. With constantly evolving tastes and techniques, working with chocolate requires continual learning. Kicking off the Eid season, they have introduced a range of delectable chocolate coated dates, almonds and raisins. “We want to bring out speciality ranges that cater to popular festivals” said Jacob divulging in some major plans for Onam (Which had me jumping for joy, but unfortunately cannot share right nowL). Apart from opening more of their designer chocolate boutiques, they also plan a presence in high end gourmet houses.
Oh if you looked at the pictures and went “how in the world are they so fit?” Well, both Kishore and Jacob are actively into fitness! Jacob is an avid cyclist and wants to cycle around the world one day. Kishore loves working out, swimming or playing a round of golf! My idea of a work out? Reading a book while stretching my arm to reach for yet another Liso signature truffle!
For a sinful experience, visit their store at Centre Square mall or shop online at www.liso.in