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MILLENIALS IN CHOCOLATE AROUND ASIA

· Our Journey

With so many stories out there of chocolate makers switching careers, who started out their careers in chocolate?

This project of mixed quotes and narrative is based from the chocolate aficionado herself Max Gandy of Dame Cacao showcasing the faces and personalities who make up the youth of craft chocolate.

Taking a snippet of her project, we focus on the 6 people in Asia who found inspiration in our own ways and through our own perspectives, some from people, others from concepts, and a few from places.

Hanbin “Emily” Paek, 1985

Founder of Public Chocolatory /// Chuncheon, South Korea

Emily is part of the first wave of craft chocolate in Korea, a movement which started in earnest around 2013. Having been inspired by the stories of small-batch chocolate makers around the world, Emily moved herself to Wellington, New Zealand in 2014, where she worked with Wellington Chocolate Factory for about two years. Once her training was complete, she left a piece of her heart in New Zealand and returned to Korea to open her own chocolate factory. In late 2016, Public Chocolatory was finally open to the Korean public, and yet another country began its chocolate education. These days Emily is working on expanding her knowledge of cacao production, experimenting with new origins, and looking into building direct trade relationships with the farmers whose cacao she depends upon.

Linh Đào, 1993

Chocolate & Cacao Exporter /// Hanoi, Vietnam

Ever since she was young, Linh has loved chocolate of all kinds. But it wasn’t until she met Azzan (the company she now works for) that her chocolate journey began. Azzan had started making chocolate just a year before, building off of the team’s experience in the coffee industry, and Linh greeted the invitation to join their team as an opportunity to share Vietnamese cacao with the world. She quickly found that “the farmers didn’t know how to use the cacao, so they just sold the raw beans.” Changing this became her main goal. At the moment, Azzan is working exclusively with Dak Lak cacao from the region around their farm, all grown by people from one of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities. The company is making their own machinery, teaching farmers about fermentation, and crafting tree to bar chocolate that would make a young Linh beam with pride.

Jay Chua, 1988

Founder of Fossa Chocolate /// Singapore

​"I got interested in chocolate after visiting a cocoa plantation and learning that cacao is fermented. I’m always intrigued by fermentation, how different flavours can develop by just tweaking certain variables during fermentation. I love that chocolate is ​such ​a great medium to carry forth different flavours​,​ both in single origin dark chocolates and as in inclusions/ blends. Currently at Fossa we’re working on a series of tea chocolate that will challenge the way people conventionally approach tea chocolates.​ We’re seeking out more varied cacao with interesting flavours, and definitely more Asian beans which we’re geographically closer to.​ There wasn’t any market for craft chocolate in Singapore when we started, but we had fun creating flavours and working with beans we like. I guess when people see us having fun, they naturally want to taste the stuff we make.​”​

 Yurim Go, 1987

Co-founder of CACAODADA /// Seoul, South Korea

Yurim started working with chocolate back in 2010, while working part time at a chocolaterie near her university. Less than a year later, she met her now-husband & business partner, Hyungwon Yoon. The couple started making & selling bean to bar chocolate shortly thereafter, in 2012, and by the time they opened their shop in 2016 they were exclusively using their own craft chocolate. “Right now we’re working on a new origin, but we’re still in the testing phase. ​Our goal is to make chocolate more accessible to Koreans, by offering it in a variety of different sizes and forms. Korea’s current chocolate market is dominated by the monotonous taste of supermarket chocolates and celebratory bonbons. So CACAODADA is working to showcase various flavor profiles of chocolate, and teach people where chocolate comes from. People here know the taste of chocolate, but they still don’t know the taste of cacao.” (Translated from Korean.)

Sheila Reyes-Lao, 1985

Co-founder of Cacao Culture Philippines /// Davao City, Philippines

“We grew up drinking Tablea Hot Chocolate but I was never exposed to the agricultural side of chocolate since we grew up in the city. When my husband and I moved to Davao City, the Cacao capital of the Philippines, we fell in love with the agricultural side of cacao and decided to dive into it. We want Cacao Culture Farms to become the source of high quality cacao based products. By setting this lofty goal, we hope to provide more employment and uplift the lives of the people in our community. We are currently developing chocolates for the growing vegan market in the Philippines and also developing cacao based cosmetics."

Katie Chan, 1984

Founder of The Chocolate Club Hong Kong /// Hong Kong

“My relationship with chocolate started when I was working as a Product Developer for a commercial chocolate brand called ‘Awfully Chocolate’. During my research, I came across a TV show about the founder of Willie’s Cacao, explaining how chocolate is made from tree to bar. This story and his passion fascinated me. To explore the fine chocolate world further, I flew to London to attend the IICCT course for chocolate appreciation. Just a short while later, in 2013, I founded The Chocolate Club HK. Our vision is to teach chocolate appreciation to the masses and to import a carefully curated selection of artisanal chocolate brands, because I believe chocolate is a medium for both connecting people & sharing happiness. We hope to share our knowledge and passion about chocolate to the chocolate lovers in Asia.”

In the recent years, the Cacao Industry has been gaining recognition in the domestic and export markets as the supply and demand gap of cocoa beans is increasing. According to Bureau of Plant Industry, the world demand for cacao has nearly tripled since 1970 growing at an annual rate of 3% with China and India growing at 7.9%. In the same way that cacao chocolates consumption increases as the Asian market is growing very fast as people are very fond of chocolates.

But we are also curious about what some Asian consumers really prefer in chocolates? It really is a no-brainer that taste pop in mind. But what else is there consider?

Here are some countries:

Thailand – Taste is all that matters. They savour taste more than anything else.

Taiwan – prefers crunchy, nutty texture

China – seeks energy boost coming from chocolates, they paid closer attention to quality, a feel good factor from a chocolate bar

Japan – deeply concerned with health when it comes to chocolate, like its calorie content

Now that we understand more on what consumers from various countries want, local brands and chocolate makers are there to satisfy their sweet tooth in their particular palate. And of course with that, an aspect that these chocolatiers have in common is a sense of nostalgia and familiarity that can never be neglected.

Based from what everyone had shared about each other’s experiences and journey with chocolates, it clearly all started with appreciation for cacao, its processes from a bean grown out of a tree to becoming a chocolate. From there, passion and persistence led us to where we are now.

Like what Max hoped, our stories can help shape our own places in the industry. As it continues to grow and the next generation of chocolate people comes of age.

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