Chaterine Yap visited Cambodia as a tourist in July and, as a chocolate lover, she said she enjoyed chocolate from local chocolate factory Wat Chocolate, which processes and makes chocolate from the beans. to the bars.
“The French owner of Wat Chocolate creates a range of chocolates with unique flavors using Mondulkiri cocoa beans. I would love to visit their chocolate shop and outlet in Siem Reap,” Yap wrote on his Facebook page, adding that “my favorite is the powerful chocolate brownie that melts in your mouth with every bite.”
Wat Chocolate Phnom Penh sells a variety of chocolate products at its Temple Cocoa of Cambodia cafe, located in Boeng Keng Kang I of the capital’s Boeng Keng Kang district.
“We are trying to export our chocolate and at the moment we are working to export our products to Singapore and Thailand in Asia, and maybe after that to Europe,” said Gaetan Brosseau, the founder of Wat Chocolate Phnom Penh. .
The chocolate shop has small tables set up outside the shop which are shaded by trees and umbrellas, while inside the shop there is a long sofa with tables and a display of chocolate bars sitting under the glass of the mirrored counter.
Behind the counter and placed prominently is the logo of Wat Chocolate and Temple Cocoa of Cambodia, as well as a chocolate cabinet and a round counter displaying packets of chocolates.
Twenty-one different types of chocolate are produced at Wat Chocolate’s first-ever factory in Siem Reap, under French ownership and management.
Brosseau and his wife first visited Cambodia in 2018 and learned that there was no chocolate factory in the Kingdom, despite the fact that cocoa beans were grown in Mondulkiri.
As a chocolate producer with five years of experience who first learned the trade in India, Brosseau started working with Mondulkiri cocoa and says he found it to be one of the best he had. have ever seen.
“This cocoa is grown by Cambodian farmers in Mondulkiri province and there are now over a hundred farms,” Brosseau told the Post.
It’s a new agricultural area that’s growing every year, so the farmers set up a cooperative so that they do all the fermentation and drying of the cocoa in one central location, according to Brosseau.
Apart from the small amount of cocoa that the Frenchman, whose business opened in 2019, buys from farmers, their harvests are mainly exported to Japan and Malaysia.
“This package says 95% on the package, which means I add 5% sugar, while this one says 90%, which means I added 10% sugar,” he says. showcasing the varieties of chocolate on display in his café.
Among these different percentages of chocolate mixed with sugar, there is also pure chocolate available for those who like a very strong chocolate flavor that is more bitter than sweet.
There are 21 types of chocolate Brosseau has produced to date and he makes chocolate at varying levels of sweetness at every five percentage points for added sugar from 65 (35% sugar) all the way up to 100 (without sugar), while adding flavorings such as chillies, pepper, coffee, cinnamon, ginger and galangal, and all the ingredients he uses in the chocolate come from Cambodia.
To sweeten the chocolate, he uses palm sugar from Ratanakkiri province. Flavors like coffee come from Mondulkiri, while chilli, pepper, cinnamon, ginger and galangal come from Kampot. Cashew nuts come from Preah Vihear and peanuts come from Kampong Cham. All grain-to-bar processed products are sourced locally.
“Cocoa beans contain about 50% fat called cocoa butter, 5% water, 7% starch, 4% cellulose, 2% theobromine, 20% other proteins and 6% minerals,” Brosseau said, pointing out that the popular association of chocolate with candy doesn’t paint the whole picture given the bean’s complexity.
From growing the beans for five years to harvesting, fermenting, drying and shipping, then sorting and grading, the bean production process is managed by local farmers. The Brosseau chocolate factory performs roasting, crushing, winnowing and grinding, then adds sugar or flavorings and performs tempering, molding and packaging.
“Every three days we can produce around 100 kg of chocolate. When we have chocolate ready, we mold and package the final products,” he says.
For dark chocolate, it maintains the flavor at around 85-95% which is very strong, while the 65% is much sweeter as it contains more sugar. For his own tastes, he recommends his 70% chocolate with cashews added inside for a nice, smooth taste that’s neither too strong nor too sweet.
He says the Siem Reap-based factory currently produces around 250kg of chocolate per month and does so based on demand.
Brosseau said that in 2018, to his knowledge, he was the first to produce chocolate in Cambodia and even today he is not sure if there is another person who does it in the whole world. Kingdom.
“I was interested in producing chocolate here because no one else does. When I arrived I found this great cocoa in Mondulkiri and no one was making chocolate from it locally. So I decided to give it a try since no one else was doing it,” he says.
Brosseau first made chocolate in Cambodia in July 2018, but the first chocolate he sold was in December 2019 after a long development process during which he refined his recipes and made commercial preparations.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Frenchman evolved his products and went from nine types of chocolate to 21 different types.
“Covid-19 gave me time to develop everything. It wasn’t what I wanted, but like everyone else, I had no choice. Business so far is slow, but we have developed a lot of very good and very different products,” he says.
Now that things are back to normal in Cambodia, his chocolate factory has started working with hotels like Sofitel, Rosewood, Baitong and Park Hyatt Siem Reap.
While things are generally improving and more and more tourists are returning, he says Phnom Penh is doing better at the moment than Siem Reap, where everything is still very quiet.
“We still have the factory there. So the factory is perfect. But we don’t have a store there, only the factory because it’s so quiet. You can buy the chocolate, but we don’t have coffee like this. When the tourists come back, I might start another little cafe like this there,” he said.
One of five chocolatiers at the Siem Reap factory, Noun Vathkhanitha transitioned from chef to chocolatier because she wanted to learn a new career and additional food-related skills.
“I have experience in the kitchen but with chocolate it is my first job because it is new in Cambodia. I worked at the factory for about a year,” she says. “Working for this factory, I learned and understood so much about chocolate that I didn’t know before, and most importantly, I can say that I know how to make chocolate.”
In addition to producing the chocolate, Khanitha also gives presentations and gives tours to visitors who want to learn about the process of bringing harvested cocoa plants to Mondulkiri to mix the beans with sugar to mold it into shapes and add flavors to create the 21 varieties on packaging. all that.
Brosseau said some local people started supporting the business. Previously, many Cambodians did not know dark chocolate, but they liked sweet. He says his customers are mainly Japanese, Koreans, and lately more and more chocolate-loving Cambodians.
He said that the main reason he has the ambition to export his products to the world is that the cocoa from Mondulkiri is of very good quality with large size pods and after fermentation it dries very well and has a rich flavor.
“Next step, it will be better and better if they can grow a lot of cocoa. I think Cambodian cocoa products can travel all over the world given their quality,” he says. “In my factory, there are five Khmer employees who make chocolate. I don’t hire other foreigners to make chocolate, it’s just me and my wife.
Today, Wat Chocolate Phnom Penh has seven local employees, including five at the Siem Reap factory and two at the Temple Cocoa Cambodia cafe in Phnom Penh.
Interested customers can find praline chocolates that contain caramel, Asian nuts and almonds. There are also pistachio, orange peel, mango and white chocolate chocolates as well as café latte chocolates and even cupcakes including tiramisu, lava cake, orangette , manguette, nama, pistachio and truffle.
Wat Chocolate Phnom Penh Temple Cocoa Cambodia Cafe is located at No. 23 St 360 at Sangkat Boeng Keng Kang I of Khan Beong Keng Kang in Phnom Penh.
For more details, visit their website at: www.watchocolate.com