Like A Kid In A Candy Store
Chef Sanjana Patel’s newest offering, the La Folie Chocolate Factory Café, shouldn’t be a check off your to-do list. Instead, tucked away in a leafy by-lane of Shakti Mills, everything about the space invites you to discover it slowly. It’s almost a reflection of the long, drawn-out process of chocolate-making itself. To Sanjana, this is her meditation. After the success of the La Folie boutique in Kala Ghoda and Bandra’s La Folie Lab, her latest undertaking in Mahalaxmi is a classroom, chocolate factory, and café all rolled into one.
Along with husband Parthesh, the duo has worked hard to get the bean-to-bar chocolate factory up and running. Both maintain it’s still a work in progress. There’s no blueprint for a café of its kind in the country, and the two are accustomed to a lot of trial and error. Luckily for them, even the errors involve chocolate.
The walk up to the first-floor café is quiet, and the cafe’s pastel interiors maintain the soothing ambience. The walls are artfully decorated with photos of Sanjana’s sourcing trips around the world, reminders of the café’s fair-trade policy, and cocoa pod motifs. Their chocolates use beans sourced from farmer cooperatives across the cocoa-growing belt – there’s one from the Dominican Republic, two from Guatemala, one from Tanzania, and two from India.
Today, they are roasting cocoa beans sourced from Idukki, Kerala. Since no Indian manufacturer made the required equipment for a chocolate factory, they bought a coffee roaster, to which Parthesh, a mechanical engineer by profession, designed the required modifications. Sanjana takes out a few beans to give me a taste as they’re being roasted.
The beans are cooled, separated from the husk, and finally poured into a machine that will the grind them for 48 hours. Other ingredients such as cocoa butter and sugar are also added over time. These machines were modified from dosa-batter grinders.
After being allowed to rest for a week, the ground chocolate is now ready for table-tempering. At the moment, Sanjana’s assistant is in the process of tempering chocolate made from cocoa beans of the Dominican Republic.
The tempered chocolate is then carefully poured into the moulds, 50 grams at a time. For this particular chocolate, called The Berry Good Chocolate, we’re adding freeze-dried raspberries and strawberries. After about half an hour in their moisture-proof refrigerators, the chocolates will be ready for their in-house packaging machines.
As I prepare to leave, a customer has just wandered in. “I was in the area for work when I saw the La Folie signboard,” she says. The couple is visibly pleased. Sanjana hands me a chocolate for the road, with stern instructions: “Take your time to savour it”.