Meet Chaitanya Muppala’s CEO of India’s first craft chocolate brand ‘Manam’- The New Indian Express

Meet Chaitanya Muppala’s CEO of India’s first craft chocolate brand ‘Manam’- The New Indian Express

  05 Jan 2024

Express News Service

“Thank you for not wearing perfume today. The cologne interferes with the activity we will be doing now,” says Chaitanya Muppala, as he puts forward a tray with cacao (beans from which chocolate is made) nibs. “These are nature’s chocolate chips, crushed pieces of cacao bean that have gone through the fermenting, drying and roasting process,” explains the 32-year-old Muppala, a second-generation entrepreneur and the CEO of Manam, India’s first craft chocolate brand, based in Hyderabad. Manam means ‘us’ or ‘we’ in Telugu. 

He is addressing a motley group of eight ‘students’ in what he calls the “classroom” where one gets to understand the journey of craft chocolate. It is part of the immersive experience called Manam Kharkhana, a craft chocolate workshop, lab and retail space in Banjara Hills. Muppala is India’s first and only Level 3 Certified Chocolate Taster from the International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting, US. His passion for the bean made him come up with his own brand for which he started work in 2018. Craft chocolate, he explains, is one that’s produced on a small-scale, made with whole beans from scratch by one company, pod to bar, where the quality and sustainability of the cacao beans are prioritised. This is in contrast to industrial chocolate, which is made in bulk. 

“Close your eyes and feel it on the tongue. What do the aroma, texture and taste remind you of,” he prods, as the group members taste the single-origin West Godavari cacao, grown in Tadikalapudi farms in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, 350 km from Hyderabad, the largest cacao growing region in India. One of the participants exclaims, “It reminds me of my summer holidays in my granny’s house.” While another is reminded of the treat his mother would give him whenever he sulked as a child. Bowls of polenta are served as palette cleansers as the participants also get to taste single-origin Dominican Republic Beans.

chocolatiers at the experiential centre

The tasting session is just one of the many features of Manam Kharkhana, an experiential centre that opened to the public and for retail sales on August 15. The classroom will host workshops designed to educate various customer groups about the world of specialty chocolate. “Discover, explore, and interact with cacao and chocolate in all its interpretations and forms,” says the entrepreneur. The next step is to make your own chocolate tablet in the Chocolate Lab right next to the classroom. This is homework everyone loves. One can pick from the milk and dark chocolate variants (different percentages), fruits, fillings and nuts. 

It takes the in-house chocolatiers an hour to merge it all together to create the flavour and christen it after you. Meanwhile, for enthusiasts, a tour of the factory awaits, where Muppala briefs the group about roasting, crushing, melting, blending, and ultimate flavour enhancement. The 30-minute tour is a sensory voyage where one can inhale the aroma of roasted beans and witness its transformation into velvety milkiness, culminating in a splendid piece of edible artwork.

From signature tablets (bars), bonbons (with fillings), truffles (with seasonal fruit) to rochers (with a hazelnut core), there is a vast gamut to pick from in the 10,100-sqft of space done up in white and chocolate brown. In less than three minutes of entering the experiential centre, one is bound to go into a ‘clickathon’, trying to capture the Insta-worthy wall chocolate fountain, or the chocolate being roasted in the machine.

“Indian cacao is quite versatile and can be crafted into single-farm series, single-origin series, creative fermentation series, signature blends, and our exciting range of infusions and inclusions,” adds Muppala. The experiential is experimental too. For example, there is the coconut and curry leaf bonbon, a single-origin West Godavari piece, made of crispy toasted coconut in a curry-leaf infused white chocolate ganache concealed in a matcha-infused creamy white chocolate shell. Their entire range is available to customers pan-India through their e-commerce platform by the same name.

The tour ends with the chocolate lab assistant handing over your customised crafted chocolate tablet. The boxes of these treats in your hands and chocolatey memories in your phone bring to a close the adventures in chocolate land. Visitors need to check the brand’s website or social media page to book experiential sessions.

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