In the double-storeyed 2,000 square feet space that is The Cacao Mill by Subko, the cacao pod is the undisputed champion—in philosophy, spirit and visuals. Apart from the name itself, right off the bat, you are greeted by the illustration of a pod emblazoned on the facade of the building inside which the chocolate factory sits. Upon entering, if you can manage to focus amidst the intoxicating smell wafting out from the chocolate crafting unit and the craft bakes section upstairs, you’ll notice that the cacao pod is a recurring motif in the design language of the mill, appearing as a plaque when you enter the factory, written in text in various languages on the wall opposite, displayed in a case to honour its geography, delineated on a board to expand on Subko’s pod-to-bar journey, reimagined as merchandise (bag pins!) by Aniruddh Mehta of Studio Big Fat, and featuring in the many portraits hung up on the wall.
When my olfactory urges get the better of me, I find a major gravitational pull from the direction of The Cellar, where the entire range of Subko’s craft chocolate experiments is on display. It feels like I’ve suddenly been transported to the Tundra (the area is temperature controlled in order to preserve the chocolates), but my insides turn warm and gooey when I remember that I have a tasting session ahead of me. Suffice it to say, this is a space that a modern-day, minimalist Willy Wonka could happily abide by. Chocolate slabs—both wrapped in bespoke packaging and unwrapped—are neatly displayed in rows, segregated as per the categories conceived by Reddy and Manali Khandelwal, director of chocolate at Subko (and a real-life Willy Wonka in my opinion). There’s Terroir, which translates to “soil” or “land” in French, named for the various South Indian regions (Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka) from which the cacao was sourced. Then there’s the Dark, Milk and White collection, meant to cater to those who value high-quality, but fuss-free flavours. Next, we have the Experimental collection, which sits diametrically opposite to the previous collection in philosophy: here, the bakehouse’s bestsellers like the Cold Brew Chocolate Hazelnut Tart and the Kashmiri Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookie alongside quintessentially Indian desserts like kulfi are reimagined and re-engineered as chocolate bars.