Explore the world of Bali’s own chocolate with Pod Bali Choklat, from the flower to the bar, with tasting included.
Toby Garritt, Founder and CEO of Pod Bali Choklat, is a man of action. Finding cacao plantations in Indonesia, he wondered why the farmers weren’t rich when chocolate is in such high demand around the world and questioned why cacao beans don’t even smell like chocolate bars.
His journey to understand, his education in food and beverage and his experience in sustainable forestry initiatives have resulted in a business that ticks numerous sustainability and ethical business criteria, while creating delectable high-quality chocolate.
Since its formation, demand for Pod’s pralines, chocolate bars and special orders has grown rapidly resulting in the business outgrowing its first base in a small thatched hut in Bali Elephant Camp in Carangsari, near Ubud, that was replaced by a custom-built boutique factory, Pod Origin, at the same location. Now, at an additional site in Mengwi on the main Denpasar-Singaraja road, the Pod team creates world-class chocolate with a mixture of state-of-the-art European machinery and artisanal skill.
E: Your involvement in chocolate making is pretty much end-to-end, working with the cacao farmers all the way through to developing packaging for the retail bars and educational information around the two production sites. Would you tell us something about it all?
Toby: When I first started this journey, the famers here were producing low-quality cacao beans because there was no demand for higher quality and they also didn’t have the know-how. I’d previously worked on environmental forestry projects and was able to help them improve their methods, teaching them about composting and using beneficial bacteria to control pests so they could grow consistently better cacao organically. I also showed them how to ferment the beans properly, so they had higher quality product to sell.
At the same time, I was developing production facilities near the farms so that I could buy these beans and create chocolate. From the beginning, Pod has employed people living locally to work in production regardless of educational background, so long as they are willing to work hard and learn. It has been really satisfying seeing our employees grow in confidence as they develop skills and raise their families’ standard of living. We’re also expanding our work with farmers and cooperatives in west Bali who are keen to improve their methods and crops, so it’s been very successful.
E: You welcome visitors to both Pod Origin and Pod Factory; why is that?
T: I think making chocolate is fascinating, so I wanted to provide an opportunity for people to share this. At Pod Origin we have the Chocolate Tour, where we show people the cacao tree, the flower, the pod, the fruit, how it’s fermented and then roasted, which is when it starts resembling chocolate that we know. Guests can also see the beans being roasted and the whole process, all the way through to liquid chocolate being turned into bars. There is also the chance to make your own little elephant-shaped chocolates on site.
At Pod Factory, guests are welcome to walk around the site, watching the chocolate-making process and can make their own chocolate bar, packaging it in a special gift box as a nice memento. These hands-on experiences help create good memories of Bali and better understanding of where food generally comes from.
E: Pod sells over 20 different chocolate bars now, can you tell us something about them?
T: The first collection was classic European-style couverture white, milk and dark chocolates. Then we started working with communities in Muntigunung in north-east Bali to supply us with organic lontar flower nectar to use in dark chocolate, creating a healthy, low GI chocolate that we combine with high quality, fresh, local superfoods like cacoa nibs and cinnamon.
The newest collection was requested by my children and is milk chocolate flavoured with things like honeycomb, salted peanuts and cranberry. We’ve also developed a signature collection that uses the very best of the cacao beans and is roasted in small batches under my supervision to create very exclusive dark chocolate. In addition, we also still work with high-end hotels and restaurants creating custom chocolates for them, collaborating with their chefs, who create special desserts with our chocolates.
We are really blessed here to work in such an incredible environment with direct access to excellent produce and with communities who have taken so well to creating world-class chocolate. There is always something more to develop, more to work on and more to create, but I am proud of what we have achieved since we started back in 2010.