An exclusive interview with Zeba Kohli – Chocolate Sommelier Taster & Consultant
Pioneer in the chocolate industry, TV show host, author, and TEDx Speaker Zeba Kohli is one of India’s most renowned entrepreneurs and is well-known for her outstanding contributions to the chocolate and confectionery industry.
She has built a reputation as a leading figure in the field over the course of her career and has received various awards and recognition for her exceptional accomplishments.
Zeba’s journey in the chocolate industry began when she assumed leadership of her family’s esteemed chocolate business, also known as Fantasie Fine Chocolate. She infused her creative vision, innovation, and business acumen to take the company to new heights. She also took over the family hospitality business and carved a name for herself as a business leader.
Throughout her career, Zeba has received numerous prestigious awards and nominations, underscoring her remarkable accomplishments. In 1999, she was nominated by ELLE Magazine for the Outstanding Business Achievement Award, a testament to her unwavering dedication and entrepreneurial prowess.
In 2007, she was honoured with the title of Business Woman of the Year at the Zee Astitva Awards, recognizing her exceptional leadership and success in the industry.
In 2005, Zeba was honoured as the Platinum Woman of India by FEMINA, recognizing her remarkable achievements and significant contributions to the business world.
In 2017, the Indo-Belgium-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce and Industry earned her a prestigious award for her invaluable contributions to the Indo-Belgium trade in the Food and Beverage sector,
When she is not busy being an inspirational entrepreneur, Zeba likes to conduct chocolate-making workshops for children and adults, curating chocolate-themed events and consulting other players in the industry.
She will be launching her latest line up of chocolate tasting awareness workshops and entrepreneur workshops soon.
How did you discover your passion for chocolate and become a chocolate Sommelier Taster & Consultant?
Zeba Kohli: In 1946, my maternal grandfather founded our chocolate company with the goal of empowering women by giving them employment opportunities. Fantasie proudly continues his legacy today. My fate took me away from my early love of the sciences and into the world of running my grandfather’s businesses.
Nevertheless, even as I judged other food industry competitions, I continued to support and mentor prospective young companies. My background in science was put to use in the chocolate industry, where I used my knowledge to develop a smooth cool chain logistics system for deliveries and control humidity throughout production.
As I continued on my path, homemakers and chocolatiers started to turn to me for advice, and I turned into a committed chocolate consultant. I pursued courses and in-depth learning due to my insatiable drive for improvement, which finally led to my transition into a chocolate taster. I became a chocolate sommelier in the realm of confections, similar to a wine sommelier, with the rare capacity to recognize and value the complex nuances of chocolate flavors and textures.
Can you tell us about the process of becoming a certified Chocolate Sommelier and the training involved in refining your palate?
Zeba Kohli: A thorough education on the production of chocolate, flavor profiles, and the ability to appreciate the subtleties of this delightful treat are necessary to become a certified chocolate sommelier. My quest for excellence in my sector over the past three decades has taken me through many learning and honing stages.
I started with the scientific side, focusing on the complex interactions of dynamic forces like soil quality, component selection, and the effect of climate on flavor combinations and overall taste. This scientific background gave me a distinctive viewpoint on chocolate manufacture.
One normally goes through specialized training to become a Chocolate Sommelier, which includes lessons in cacao cultivation, chocolate production, and—most importantly—the art of tasting chocolate.
These classes provide information about the various types of chocolate, their history, and the painstaking process of making them. Through rigorous tastings and learning to distinguish between flavor notes, textures, and the quality of chocolate, training entails developing one’s palette.
I’ve become a Chocolate Sommelier because I’ve mastered both the science and the art of chocolate. This has allowed me to understand its complexity and help others on their chocolate journeys while promoting sustainability in the business. It’s a lifetime commitment to the world of chocolate, where art and science combine to provide a genuinely mouthwatering experience.
As a consultant, what kind of businesses or clients do you typically work with, and what challenges do you help them overcome?
Zeba Kohli: My primary area of interest as a consultant in the chocolate industry specialized business field is working with new businesses and aspiring chocolatiers. In order to help them navigate the complexity of the chocolate business, my in-depth, all-encompassing expertise of the industry is essential.
I offer companies constructive advice on starting a profitable chocolate business, from finding high-quality cacao beans and other components to creating wonderful chocolate goods.
I help them navigate the complexities of production by educating them on the important elements that affect quality and flavor. I also provide advice on distribution, marketing, and branding tactics to make sure their items are distributed to the appropriate customers.
My knowledge helps young chocolatiers improve their methods for creating chocolate and create distinctive flavor profiles that help them stand out in a crowded market. I also assist companies in addressing sustainability issues, which are becoming more significant in the context of today’s discerning consumer market.
I essentially act as a mentor and advisor for my customers, guiding them through obstacles, maximizing their investments, and finally assisting them in thriving in the specialized field of chocolate while keeping its rich legacy and creativity.
What are the key factors you consider when evaluating different types of chocolate, and how do you help others appreciate the nuances of fine chocolate?
Zeba Kohli: I focus on a few crucial elements while assessing various chocolate varieties. It’s crucial to use all of your senses, including sight, touch, smell, and taste. We look at the color, feel, and smell of the chocolate.
After that, I instruct participants to take a moment to let the chocolate melt on their tongues so they may really appreciate the flavors and complexity that emerge.
My strategy encourages people to enhance their sensory awareness and savor chocolate in their own unique ways. I encourage them to trust their own palates and tastes rather than chasing after fads or trends. I enable people to explore the distinctive joys offered by excellent chocolate by designing this personalized and immersive experience.
With so many varieties of chocolate available, how do you curate and select the best options for your clients or events?
Zeba Kohli: I take a holistic approach when curating and choosing the best chocolate solutions for clients or events. First, I carefully consider the event’s concept, purpose, and objectives, making sure that the chocolate options fit with these elements. It is easier to select chocolates that go well with the event’s theme and overall ambiance when you are aware of its purpose.
Second, I consider the audience or invitees, taking into account the variety of likes and preferences they may have. It is possible to create a unique and pleasurable experience by tailoring the chocolate offers to the individual tastes of the guests.
Additionally, the location and time of day are quite important. Whether it’s a daytime gala or an evening garden party, the location, the time of day, and the refreshments and food being served all affect the choice of chocolate. By combining chocolates with complementing goods, you can create harmonious and mouth watering combinations that improve your whole sensory experience.
I construct a chocolate selection that not only meets but also surpasses the expectations of clients and improves the character of their events by carefully taking into account these criteria.
How do you stay updated with the latest trends and innovations in the chocolate industry, and how does this knowledge influence your consulting work?
Zeba Kohli: I am steadfastly committed to following the newest developments and trends in the chocolate business. My strategy is based on extensive research and learning. I’m a research whiz who is constantly looking for the latest innovations, cutting-edge methods, and changing customer tastes.
By taking a proactive approach, I am able to stay abreast of developments in the chocolate industry, giving me the information and perspective I need to advise my clients with authority. It enables me to foresee market changes, spot possibilities, and suggest creative strategies in line with current market trends.
In the end, my commitment to knowledge maintenance not only keeps me alert and involved but also equips me to provide pertinent and forward-thinking consulting services, assisting my customers in effectively navigating the shifting environment of the chocolate business.
Chocolate pairings with other foods and beverages have gained popularity. Could you tell us about some of your favorite and most surprising chocolate pairings?
Zeba Kohli: I’ve always been passionate about combining chocolate with unusual ideas like moods, astrological signs, and regional herbs and spices. Making great experiences that connect with people more deeply is the goal.
I have dabbled in creative endeavors, such as creating a chocolate short film that encourages non-violence, designing chocolate fashion jewelry, and organizing a chocolate fashion show. I enjoy being surprised, both by myself and by my audience.
In the world of chocolate, every moment is an adventure in taste and imagination thanks to this creative spirit and the excitement of discovering unexpected delights.
What advice would you give to aspiring chocolate connoisseurs who are interested in pursuing a career as a Chocolate Sommelier or entering the chocolate industry?
Zeba Kohli: My advice to all aspiring chocolatiers is to pursue your passion and build out a unique niche for yourself in the business. The most important thing is to develop a solid foundation in chocolate production.
To learn the many techniques, flavor nuances, and textural possibilities that chocolate offers, enroll in professional chocolatier courses or look for an apprenticeship with an experienced chocolatier.
Second, encourage a culture of invention and experimentation. To differentiate yourself from your competitors, embrace unusual thinking to develop inventive flavor combinations. To ensure that your dishes stand out and create a lasting impact on clients, place a high priority on quality by acquiring the best ingredients and using top-notch procedures.
By creating a unique brand that reflects your own vision and values as a chocolatier, you can give your chocolates, packaging, and overall consumer experience a distinctive look.
Set specific objectives for your path, imagining where you will be in a year, five years, and ten years. Work diligently to achieve your goals, gaining new skills and adapting as you go. Just keep in mind that it’s entirely okay to reevaluate your objectives as you progress in this wonderful and dynamic sector.
What challenges do you see in the chocolate industry today, and how do you envision it evolving in the future?
Zeba Kohli: Sustainability and ethical sourcing are major concerns in the chocolate industry today. Consumers now demand ethically sourced and environmentally friendly goods due to rising knowledge of environmental and social issues. Furthermore, there are major difficulties due to shifting cocoa prices, climate change, and supply chain interruptions.
I envision the chocolate business heading toward greater openness and traceability in the future. It will be crucial to adopt cutting-edge, sustainable farming techniques and ethical sourcing. The business will also be shaped by the emergence of artisanal and personalized chocolates, which are distinguished by their distinctive flavor combinations and inventive packaging.
Alternative components like plant-based chocolates and health-conscious choices will also become more popular. In the end, innovation, adaptability, and sustainability will be the main forces shaping the changing chocolate environment.
What are your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs?
Zeba Kohli: My advice to aspiring chocolatiers is to fully pursue their passion and establish a distinctive presence in the field. First, build a solid foundation in chocolate workmanship by enrolling in professional chocolatier courses or taking on-the-job training from seasoned professionals. Explore the many methods, tastes, and textures that chocolate has to offer.
Second, accept innovation and exploration wholeheartedly. Dare to create unique flavor combinations that set your creations apart by venturing into undiscovered flavor regions.
Third, put uncompromising quality first by using top-notch methods and premium ingredients to make sure your product is an example of excellence that leaves a lasting impression on your clients.
Fourth, Create a unique brand for your chocolates, packaging, and entire consumer experience that reflects your own goals and principles as a chocolatier.
Last but not least, keep going strong and be sure to have specific goals for your trip at the one, five, and ten year points. Be committed, keep learning, and adjust as your path takes you. Always keep in mind that it’s totally normal to change your objectives as you work for your chocolate aspirations.
Zeba Kohli’s expertise as a Chocolate Sommelier, Taster, and Consultant is a testament to the boundless possibilities of culinary artistry and the enduring allure of chocolate.
Through her incredible journey and passion for this beloved treat, she has not only delighted the palates of countless individuals but has also inspired a new generation of chocolatiers and enthusiasts.
Zeba Kohli’s story is a reminder that true excellence in any field is achieved through dedication, love, and an unrelenting pursuit of perfection. As she continues to share her knowledge and passion, the world of chocolate is in for a sweet and exciting journey ahead.
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