Words like ‘single origin,’ ‘handcrafted,’ ‘small-batch roasting’ and ‘sustainably sourced’ have been commonly linked to coffee, but things are shifting – cacao is now the cool bean in town.
Leading the pack in this new world of bean-to-bar chocolates is homegrown brand Fossa Chocolate. Unlike mass-market chocolatiers, who use cocoa mass derived from commodity-grade beans, Fossa’s founders – Jay Chua, Charis Chia and Yilina Leong – pride themselves on producing single-origin chocolate. And what exactly is single-origin chocolate, you ask? Good question, as there is no standard definition for ‘single origin.’ Chocolate maker Jay explains that at Fossa, they use ‘single origin’ to describe bars that use cacao beans from one estate.
“We want people to taste what one particular estate’s cacao tastes like,” he says. “Two separate estates’ cacao, despite being from the same country, will taste vastly different due to the varietal of cacao trees they grow, the soil conditions, and how the cocoa farmers process the beans.”
No additives or emulsifiers go into Fossa’s handcrafted bars. And with only two ingredients – cacao beans and cane sugar – there is just no room for a bad-tasting bean to sneak in. The Fossa team makes sure of that by hand-sorting raw cacao beans before roasting them to develop flavour. Roasted beans are then dehusked and broken down into cacao nibs, which go into a mélangeur (chocolate-grinding machine) for four to seven days until it transforms into a silky liquid gold. The liquid chocolate is sent for tempering – a process of cooling to approximately 32̊C, the ideal temperature for forming cocoa butter crystals – so as to give the chocolate a nice sheen, a lovely snap when broken into, and a smooth mouthfeel. Finally, the tempered chocolate is poured into moulds and solidified in a chiller before being wrapped in Fossa’s in-house designed, PapyPress bespoke printed boxes.
The chocolate-making process may sound laborious, but it’s nothing compared to what the team went through when they first started in 2017, in a co-shared factory at Tuas. “There were about five other companies sharing the space, so we had to stagger timings and could not run our machines full time. During that period, all of us were still working full-time jobs, so we could only go to the factory for R&D and make small batches of chocolate late at night after work.”
Today, Fossa owns a factory space at Mandai, which produces over 800 chocolate bars a day. They procure their cacao beans directly from farmers – even buying the entirety of an Indonesian cocoa farmer’s crops – instead of getting small batches through traders who act as middlemen. The brand also exports internationally to the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Maldives and more. While their product range remains at two – single-origin chocolate bars and flavoured bars – they have expanded on the cacao selection, as well as collaborations with other artisans.
Costa Esmeraldas is one of their latest products, made from cacao proudly acquired from Ecuador. “It’s the poster boy of fine cacao. It’s one of those cacao beans chocolate makers dream of having,” Jay explains, adding that the high percentage of cacao in the bar (80%) really allows the flavours of the beans to shine through. Another exciting project is their recent collaboration with cocktail bar Jigger & Pony: cocktails featuring various stages of chocolate making. Interestingly, the collaboration came about when the Jigger & Pony bartenders started attending Fossa’s monthly tasting clubs, where they all “geeked out over chocolates,” snickers Jay.
Fossa Chocolate is available on their online store and at selected stockists and cafes.