Hello, hello. Finally! I get to write about Molucca Chocolate! I found out about them pretty soon after I searched for Indonesian chocolate, and I’ve been talking to their one of their founders, Radinal Latuconsina, who answered all my questions patiently.
Due to an unexpected change in travel plan of my US-based chocolate mule, the Molucca Chocolate bars didn’t get to me until the beginning of March, so I couldn’t do the Molucca tasting together with the others. Which is just as well, it would’ve been a challenge to do tastings for all three with three bars each.
Onwards with the program!
Interview with Radinal Latuconsina, founder
So, how did you fall into the chocolate hole? In 2010, I was on holiday visiting my parents, who are from the Moluccas. One of the things I had in mind during that holiday was to look for a business opportunity that can help the local economy, specifically in the Moluccas and more general in Indonesia.
One day we were traveling across Seram Island, in central Moluccas, to the family resort, Ora Beach Resort, on the far end of the island. In the four-hour drive, at some point everyone in the car had fallen asleep, except for me and the driver. At that point we were passing by an area overrun with cacao trees. There I asked myself, could cacao and chocolate be the business opportunity I was looking for?
Afterward, back in California, I started a market research into the Indonesian and global chocolate industries. I came across so many interesting learnings, like:
- Although Indonesia is the third-largest producer of cacao in the world, good chocolate in Indonesia is rare, and good locally produced chocolate by Indonesians are even rarer.
- The decrease in welfare of cacao farmers and smallholders, since cacao trees are more high-effort to farm, yet returns low yield and financials. This causes cacao farmers to start farming other plants perceived to be more financially lucrative.
- Indonesian cacao is perceived globally as a low quality cacao.
- Not many “Made in Indonesia” chocolate can be classified as “good chocolate”.
Out of this grew a personal desire to change the current state of things.
After the research phase, you learned to make your own chocolate? I decided to make chocolate at home (my California home), with household appliances (hairdryer, pestle and mortar, etc) and a few small machines. The results were satisfactory for personal use but not good enough for commercial use. I then decided to take a formal course to become a chocolatier. After graduating, the idea of partnering came up in conversation with my close friends: Yohanes Makmur who lives nearby and Argha Fachsa in Bandung, Indonesia. Yohanes and I work as engineers in different companies in Fresno, and Argha still works at Astra in Bandung.
This is when the three of you founded Molucca? The three of us started our Molucca partnership in 2013, and it continues to this day. Yohanes and I started production and marketing in the U.S. and Argha looked after the cacao supply from Indonesia. For product development, we did it through lots of trial and error. Trying different roasting profiles and various recipes until we reached a point where we agreed on the desired flavour.
The process remains the same: we start with the finest cacao bean (fermented and flavourful) that we purchased with prices above the Fair Trade prices, then we process the cacao beans with the aim to showcase the unique taste of the cacao and preserving the health benefits of the beans. This is Molucca’s definition of good chocolate and a good chocolate maker is a company that meets the above criteria in a transparent environmentally-friendly way.
Until today, we’ve tried more than 25 cacao origins from 13 different countries, and we will always be open to find other cacao origins.
Would you consider becoming a tree-to-bar company in the future? Molucca is open to all possibilities in expanding to become a tree-to-bar company, which we view as a positive movement to ensure better quality products. In the meantime, we have a philosophy that we should create mutually beneficial relationship between all parties involved.
What is your best-selling product? Our current bestseller is 70% Buru, Indonesia, with 70% Tumbes, Peru as a close second.
Thank you Radinal!
I must first thank my good friend Dan Young, for being my chocolate mule, bringing the Molucca Chocolate bars from the U.S to Berlin. The “official” tasters were myself, Phil from FlavorPhil and Astrid from Twindly.
The bars at a glance
Molucca currently has three bars from Buru Island, at 70%, 85% and 100%. The 60g bars are wrapped in simple brown cardstock packaging that gives off a homemade vibe, with a front tribal-looking cacao-bean-shaped “crest” that bears, most strikingly, the bold red stripe of the upper half of Indonesia’s national flag.
I had also ordered their other bars and these had the Peruvian and Dominican Republic flags in colour, to distinguish the origin of the beans. Nice touch to differentiate the countries from which they source their beans with colour, and the brown paper and central “crest” to visually brand them as a family.
If Pipiltin’s packaging is on the contemporary end of the spectrum, and Kakoa’s on the ethnic end, I’d say Molucca’s packaging is balanced in their ethnic elements, branding and information design that communicates artisanal and sustainable. Like Kakoa, Molucca uses cardstock, which adds to the “luxury” or gift feeling. As reference, others whose packaging I like are Dick Taylor, Pump Street Bakery and Chocolarder.
Ingredient list is short: cocoa (cacao nibs and cocoa butter) and cane sugar. Sounds like they’re staying true to the natural flavours of the beans, and confident in their craft. Let’s get started on this!
70% Buru dark chocolate bar
Big love! Good melt and smooth texture. Sweetness all the way through, from start to finish.
The tasting notes stated “nutty, earthy, floral”, but none of us tasted the floral notes. It was more fruity with no acidity, lots of cherry notes for me (not tart, just sweet) and sweet fruits for Astrid and nutty cashews, and hints of tobacco/smoke for Astrid and me as well.
For the three of us, this bar is easy to love! Astrid said she could eat this one in one sitting (so I immediately hid the rest of the stash, hehe). Love it!
85% Buru dark chocolate bar
This was intense chocolatey flavour from start to finish, with a hint of sweetness in the middle and a dry end. This bar reminded me of Akesson’s 75% Bali Trinitario bar that we tried at a previous tasting, but less astringent and creamier.
Like its little brother’s tasting notes, the 85% Buru is also in the earthy, nutty and floral corner. Nutty and earthy definitely, a good mix of intense coffee flavour and walnuts, with the subtle sweetness of dried cherries and other indeterminable “stone fruits” (not apricots). But the floral none of us caught.
Generally the 85% Buru is a nice bar that we all liked.
100% Buru dark chocolate bar
OK, 100% bars are extreme. Yep, I was reminded again why I’m a little scared of them. Intense and astringent all the way through, with a very chocolatey-back-of-the-throat aftertaste, this is not a bar for the faint-hearted.
It was a slower melt than the others but it was smooth. To me, the chocolatey flavour of this bar was reminiscent of the Original Beans Papua Kerafat bar (sans the pear/fruity tones). The overall flavour was in the Earthy corner, aftertaste was slightly smoky and woody.
It was not bitter to me, but the pure cocoa was just so astringent that I wished for some sugar to soften the edges. The non-bitterness was a nice surprise, I don’t know, I think I was expecting bitterness for some odd reason and it wasn’t there, so phew!
Next time, we will eat the chocolate backwards, from 100% to 85% to 70% : )
After the Pipiltin Cocoa disappointment, my faith in Indonesian cacao beans has been restored. I really like Molucca Chocolate bars!
Consistently crisp snap, good melt and smooth texture all indicate skilled chocolate-making. There was little difference in colour between all three bars, which I wondered about. The lighting in the 100% Buru picture above is off, by the way, in real-life the 100% Buru colour is closer to its brothers.
By tasting different bars from the same single-origin cacao source, we could really see how the percentages and bar recipes impact the final flavour of the bar. I liked that they were in the same flavour corners, but having variations in the intensity and flavour with each one, e.g cashews in the 70% vs walnuts in the 85%.
Yay hooray for Molucca! Looking forward to trying their Dominican Republic and Peru bars!
A short edit, from Yohanes Makmur of Molucca Chocolate: “One thing I would like to mention about the floral note that we listed for cacao beans from Buru is that we have had 2 shipments from the same farmer in Buru. The first shipment’s beans had good jasmine aroma that was not prominent in the 2nd shipment. We suspected that the volume of the shipment requested had an impact on the final result, as the farmer had to reach out to other farmers to buy the beans and fermented them in his facility. Terroir might play a major role.”
More on Molucca
- Their website is at www.moluccachocolate.com, where you can find their story, products and contact details.
- They have an online shop powered by Square (so unfortunately doesn’t work with non-US credit cards for now) with very fast shipping in the continental U.S. Contact them for shipping outside the U.S.
- If you’re in the California/Bay-area, the Molucca Chocolate guys (and girls!) can often be found in artisanal, craft food markets so keep an eye out.
- If you’re a chocolate shop owner/manager and interested in their chocolate, get in touch with them on how to get their chocolate wholesale.
See you in the next episode of the Indonesian Chocolate Series!