Johnson, a cacao farmer from Papua New Guinea, was in Chennai last week to attend a three-day intense training program in Cocoashala to become a chocolate entrepreneur.

Helping him to achieve his dream are the ‘chocolate’ couple L Nitin Chordia and Poonam Chordia—India’s first certified cacao and chocolate taster, and the country’s first certified woman chocolate taster, respectively.

At a small apartment in Chennai, Johnson and three others—an NRI couple based in Goa and another from Mumbai—were busy for three days right from learning about the history of chocolates, making, tasting, hand crafting and economics of running a small business.

“For many years, I have been searching for the right institute to learn the art of making my own chocolate. After a long search on the Web, I found Cocoashala,” said Johnson, who will soon have his own brand.

The institute is not just an academy but also an incubation centre providing training from cocoa bean to chocolate bar. It also helps farmers to improve the quality of cocoa beans, said Nitin Chordia.

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After the training that costs ₹80,000, the incubation centre helps the students turn entrepreneurs by providing them with details on the financials and also small ‘customised’ grinders so that they can start immediately.

“We have a tasting-based approach by focussing on the flavour and taste of the chocolate and then we go backwards keeping the end goal in mind. When they become entrepreneurs, this approach helps them,” he said.

Started in 2016, Cocoashala has produced so far produced 118 chocolatiers globally with 24 of them having their own brands.

Some of the prominent bean-to-bar brands include Mishti in New Jersey, the US, owned by an NRI and Paul & Mike, one of the largest bean-to-bar makers in India, he said.

“Training and consultation from Nitin at Cocoashala was instrumental in kickstarting Paul And Mike in quick time. In addition to chocolate making, his insights about the Indian consumer were critical to create the right product portfolio,” said Vikas Temani—Business Head, Paul & Mike Craft Chocolates.