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In a country long renowned for its cocoa beans, it’s a little ironic that until recently, Indonesia’s inhabitants haven’t had much of a taste for chocolate. The average Indonesian eats just 300 grams of chocolate annually, a sliver of the nine pounds or so put away by the average American, according to Euromonitor. But as incomes rise, tastes are slowly changing and global industry giants are positioning themselves to take full advantage of the sugar rush to come. At the same time, the country’s cocoa industry is slipping. While Indonesians tend to indulge their sweet tooth with traditional treats like fried bananas and flavoured sticky rice, Asia’s demand for chocolate is forecast to grow at nearly twice the global pace, according to market surveys. To serve that growing appetite, Zurich-based Barry Callebaut opened its first chocolate factory in Indonesia last year. US rival Cargill opened a $100 million cocoa processing facility in East Java, its first in Asia, three years ago. And in 2011, Tulip Chocolate — whose products sell to businesses in Asia and the Middle East — opened its Chocolate School. “We felt it was in our interests to help people understand the full potential of creating quality chocolate products,” William Chuang, chief executive officer of Tulip owner PT Freyabadi Indotama, wrote in an email.
Freyabadi is a privately-held partnership between Fuji Oil Holdings, the world’s largest producer of edible fats, and McKeeson Investment. Most locally made commercial chocolate uses “compound,” in which vegetable fat substitutes for the cocoa butter found in higher-quality “couverture.” Compound is a lot cheaper and resists the tropical heat better, but has a waxier taste. Tulip sells both kinds, but its Chocolate School is attempting to raise the bar.On the third floor of a Jakarta shopping arcade, students carefully work molten chocolate on a marble counter to achieve the right temperature and crystal structure. They fill plastic molds then leave the bars to cool as they move on to other things: blending a passion-fruit ganache, hand-painting and filling trays of pralines, lunch. Finally, the moment of truth, as a freshly-minted bar is popped out of its mold. Its lustrous shine shows the chocolate is well-tempered and the texture will be smooth.