It is said nine out of 10 people admit their love for chocolate and the last one, who doesn't, is lying. That is probably the reason why chocolates are a safe bet when it comes to gifting something to a loved one.
Earlier, most people had to depend on giving greeting cards along with chocolates to get the message across to the recipient. However, now, the dark, sweet substance is changing into the messenger itself.
A two-day exhibition organized by two NGOs - Joy de Vivre and Purnam - to provide aid to Nirdosh Schools for Mentally Challenged and Akshay Pratishthan started on Saturday. It featured a stall providing photo transfer facility for chocolates. That means the confection can now have greetings, scenery, messages and other pictures on it.
Sofia Raj from Delhi, who is the manufacturer and entrepreneur, said that this was a new concept, as till recently, photo transfers were only available on cakes. She said, "The pictures are transferred on cocoa butter sheets that have powdered food colouring on them. The chocolate is wrapped in those sheets and the image is printed on it," she explained.
Eervina, who works with Sofia, said chocolates did not offer much variation earlier. She stated, "The only things that changed were brands, prices and quantity. Now, you can get chocolates in different designs, depending on your preferences and budget." She said the carvings on the chocolates were eggless and the price varied according to quantity with one bar costing Rs 300.
City resident Ena said, "Chocolates are the best gift whether it is Diwali or Valentine's Day." She added that carvings on the chocolates had attracted her and she was planning to gift the confection to her acquaintances this Diwali.
Sofia RAJ ROYALE CHOCOLATIER, NEW DELHI "My forte is the bar," says Sofia Raj. "You can have it in any flavour, look or feel." The bars come in dark, milk and white varieties, and the chocolate base she uses is Belgian. Besides bars, of course, are the regular moulded assortments-chocolates with a variety of fillings such as orange, mango or hazel, honey and caramel. "The berry fillings-blueberry, cranberry and strawberry-are quite popular," she says. Raj also does what she calls strawberry chocolate, which she is careful to point out is not the same as strawberry-flavoured chocolate. For Diwali there is the fruit and nut special on offer-almond, raisins, cashews, pistachios and other nuts topped up on a bar or filled inside one, depending on how you want it. The other novel offering is a whole fresh fruit, say an apple, wrapped and coated with nuts or chocolate flakes.
The good stuff We ordered an assortment of moulded chocolates, and everything we sampled came up tops. The milk chocolate with orange filling, the white with blueberry and the dark with coffee-the taste and consistency were right and the combinations worked. Raj makes it a point to use food grade packaging which, she says, is essential to maintain the flavour and taste of her products.
The not-so-good A flat price of Rs1,800 per kg, which goes up to Rs 6,000 per kg for organic, vegan, diabetic and carob (a chocolate substitute), would ensure that this treat remains an occasional indulgence in most cases.
She says she was honeymooning, but from the sound of it, romance was not the only thing on Sofia Raj's mind. "Everywhere we went, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, we looked out for the chocolates." First impression: That's business? Next she starts talking 'compounds' and 'covertures', the high art, low art of the chocolate world. Second impression: sweet philosophy! But when she mentions the 200 kgs of chocolates she 'did' for her wedding you listen up.
Months after the honeymoon and the chocolate research, this erstwhile banker was ready with Sofia Raj Royale Chocolatiers. Sofia's chocolates are from Belgium, the flavours from the US, there is chocolate for the diabetics (from Trinidad), Ayurvedic chocolates and even 'accessorised' coloured chocolates.
Says Sofia, "Most of our orders happen online (her husband Nitin designed the website). We cater to baby showers, corporate welcomes..."
Even the packaging is special. Sofia mentions how the PVC sheets are sent to Bombay for toxin-removal. "Unlike your usual mithai ka dabba, our chocolate box does not start smelling after three weeks."
And just in case you were planning to go chocolate shopping in the cruel April-heat she also gives you an insulated 'cool' bag which keeps the chocolate from melting for six hours.
My best bud, out shopping in Select Citywalk in Saket, called. And took a whole two minutes to spill the (cocoa-flavoured) beans. Because she'd stuffed her mouth full of these magical chocolates. A la Chocolat.
What got my friend so gone? Moulded truffles and pralines - four layers deep. Gooey blueberry centre; sitting on white; robed in dark; dipped in milk. Encasing lemon, coffee, strawberry, pistachios. Milky Way bars aglitter with nuts. Caramel and gianduja bars, supporting chocolate flakes.
So we get to thinking, let's camp out overnight by the counter. To be in time for St Valentine's haul. Because the lady running the stall sure gets swamped.
As a child, Sofia Raj bartered all her pocket money for chocolate - just like you did. Unlike you, as a grown up, she continued investing half her banker's salary in chocs. At 17, she'd taken a 'chocolate-making' course in hometown Amritsar, while the rest of us offered acid-pink sugar pills to our Valentines. And when she got married, she gave away 700 boxes - homemade, handwrapped.
Her candy-coated gifties sure sweetened friendships. Pals in investment even offered to fund her if she went pro. So she did. And spent 2 months in Europe, following new trends and techniques in cocoa comestibles. Now she's blown back into town, opened shop on the web, intent upon converting us to real Belgian.
Fantasies chill on the sidelines, to launch soon. Ayurvedic! Vegan! Certified diabetic-friendly! Even chocolate-free (carob)!
Get down to the mall to grab yourself the last box of berry-flavoured bonbons.
Just in time for V-Day.