Thy Chocolates – Indulgence fit for the gods

Opulent Orange - a popular Thy chocolate

Artisanal chocolates for the conscious consumer from a Chennai business founded by an engineer Archana Vijayaraman, whose vision is to put Indian cacao on the world map

Some brand names just steal your heart and Thy Chocolates did just that for us. We wonder if the name’s derived from Theobroma, the cacao tree. Not so simple, it seems. When asked how they settled on such a unique name. Archana Vijayaraman, founder of the business explains “Any offering to God is always the best isn’t it? That’s what we are attempting through Thy Chocolates. Cacao is a super food and those consuming it are nothing less than gods / goddesses for us! It’s their chocolate and hence Thy. We never offer second best ingredients.” Intrigued by the passion in her voice, we settle down to explore her journey from graduating as an engineer to becoming an artisanal chocolatier.

Yet another Covid Creation

The Covid lockdown seems to have set the stage for a new idea to take root and bloom yet again. “I got married just before the pandemic struck and the lockdown affected both our families. We were homebound like everyone else and to keep occupied I munched on chocolates… the not so healthy commercial kind! That’s when my husband introduced me to dark chocolate and there was no looking back. I was hooked and loved it so much I studied how it was made and finally became a chocolatier myself,” she confesses. But it’s clear that the entrepreneurship streak was always in her. Having completed her graduation in Instrumentation Engineering she worked in an IT company only to resign and start her own website, graphic design and application development firm. 

The founder Archana with her team
The founder Archana with her team

Bean-to-Bar Indulgence

What’s special about Thy Chocolates? “For starters, they’re not sugar bombs like the commercial ones. Every bar of Thy Chocolate is a healthy, guilt-free indulgence for conscious consumers. Our chocolates are bean-to-bar,” says Archana. As we wondered what was special about bean-to-bar, it was becoming clear that there was more to chocolates than meets the casual eye. So, aren’t all chocolates bean-to-bar? “No,” says Archana. “To understand this we need to go back to the cocoa bean. Each bean is made of cocoa solid and cocoa butter. Commercial chocolate makers use them as two separate products, The cocoa solid is mixed with hydrogenated vegetable fat to make popular chocolates and the cocoa fat rich with goodness, is used in other industries such as cosmetics. But at Thy Chocolates we grind the whole bean, so you get the goodness of both parts and it’s a healthy, smooth indulgence!”

Opulent Orange - a popular Thy chocolate
Opulent Orange – a popular Thy chocolate

Bursting with character

Thy Chocolates have more positives that set them apart. They are made from single origin cacao from India. Now may be a good time to explain the difference between cacao and cocoa. Cacao are the beans that are harvested from the cacao tree. Cocoa is created after the beans are finely ground into a powder and roasted, and can be consumed as a drink or blended into chocolate.

Cacao, and hence cocoa, takes on the unique flavour of the place from where it’s grown. Archana elaborates, “For example, the flavour of cocoa from a particular farm in Kerala will differ from the cocoa produced from the very next farm. That’s because the plant is a sensitive one and takes on the properties of not only the soil on which it grows but also the crops around it. So when we procure cacao from the same farm the taste remains more or less the same, though perfect consistency is almost impossible. It varies from batch to batch. The roasting and processes used to produce the cocoa from cacao also determines the taste.” Who would have thought a simple chocolate could hold so many secrets!

A variety of dark chocolates
A variety of dark chocolates

Making it a smooth experience

For someone who has had no background in either agriculture or the chocolate industry, Archana sure has come a long way. Thy Chocolates was incorporated in November 2022 and since then its quality has earned it quite a reputation. “This would not have been possible without the support we’ve received from many quarters,” says Archana. “Our brand launch was facilitated by Startup TN and we have a supportive network in the start up community. But our initial thrust came from Organic Farmer’s Market (OFM) who trusted us with producing jaggery based chocolates. Sourcing was a challenge, but it was also a very rewarding one as we started working with farmers and getting the finest cacao from India into our unit. Given Chennai’s climate, it took us a while to get the output we desired as chocolate is sensitive to both heat and humidity. It can melt on human touch at 28 deg C ambient temperature too. But by experimenting and adding suitable controls we’ve been able to nail it. We had to work hard on the packaging too as it has to survive not only local weather but transportation too,” asserts Archana.

Brand launch by Startup TN in Feb '24. Seen here being felicitated by MSME Minister T.M.Anbarasan
Brand launch by Startup TN in Feb ’24. Seen here being felicitated by MSME Minister T.M.Anbarasan

Reaching the conscious consumer

Retailing in over 8 stores with orders from other southern states, the brand is set to go national with tie ups with Amazon and other portals. Thy offers 100% dark chocolates with no sweeteners, to bars with upto 50% dark chocolate containing locally sourced natural sweeteners. Their jaggery-based chocolates such as Joyful Jaggery and Mixed Nuts are most popular. Opulent Orange with brown sugar is also a favourite. For those who prefer a low glycemic index, coconut sugar based chocolates are an option. “To reach the conscious consumer we go through channels such as EcoLife and Viridian plate with ideological synergies,” adds Archana. As an artisanal brand, volumes are low and therefore pricing is on the higher side. “Compared to imported chocolates we are definitely priced reasonably and those who’ve experienced the indulgence would be able to appreciate what we offer. And it’s also about the experience of Indian cacao speaking to you when you indulge in it,” she says with pride.

Indian cacao on the world map

Thy Chocolates have been working with the local farming community quite intensely and their  collective vision is to improve the quality and yield of cacao in India. “Indian cacao may not be the best right now but there is definite scope to improve by putting the right practices in place. Working together across states and by applying the right technologies it can turn into a movement. We’ve had the opportunity to connect with many startups working on these technologies. So by collaborating with them we feel we can help them. The movement will not only help the farmers in getting a fair price but also businesses like us to get good quality produce, consistently. This way we can ensure prosperity for all!” concludes Archana. We certainly hope this dream comes alive and Indian chocolates find a place on premium shelves globally.

For more information visit prahana.in

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