By Meghana Majumdar | DECEMBER 12, 2019 15:09 IST
Chock-a-block with choices: From modifying an idli grinder to creating upcycled cotton waste wrappers, this was an inventive decade for artisan chocolatiers
“We are not just in the business of making machines, but of creating chocpreneurs,” says Andal Balu over a phone call from Riyadh. She and her husband, Balu M Balasubramanian, are in Riyadh, for an event in their official capacity as small-scale chocolate-making equipment innovators and co-founders of CocoaTown.
CocoaTown was officially started in 2008, having created waves among the chocolate-making community in the US when they made modifications to an idli grinder, to create a machine that could grind cocoa beans in small, frequent batches instead of huge, industrial quantities. That was just an early modification; their designs are constantly changing, the product often getting upgraded.
Says Andal, “We had to modify it a lot, the grinder was just a base. The machines ground rice flour for 20 to 30 minutes twice a week. For cocoa, a grinder will have to run for two or three days continuously.” This meant looking into concerns about overheating, safety, variations in electricity supply, and of course, affordability. Updated variants of those grinders are exported to chocolatiers in 50 countries today.
CocoaTown has, since then, also developed other devices like cacao bean crackers, winnowers, and roasters that are both affordable and have the ability to control temperature as per the chocolate maker’s wish. The idea being that pre-decided results be achieved consistently.
“The changes we made to the grinder were a small contribution. Our main contribution is that we were the first ones to think it is possible to work on small batches of chocolate,” says Balu.