Whether you prefer a dark chocolate, a truffle, or a mug of hot cocoa, chocolate is the most preferred indulgence for most of us. Well, this indulgence does come at a price. After all, isn’t chocolate bad for us, full of caffeine and saturated fat? However, new research has shown that chocolate can be a part of a guilt-free diet. If you start drooling over the word “cacao”, you’re in for a treat.
Jane Mason was born in Sydney, Australia. She undertook her first travel at the age of 23. Since then she has lived and travelled around the world. She studied and worked as a lawyer before moving into the world of yoga teaching and as a raw food chef. She then moved to Auroville and became a chocolate maker.
“I moved to India for yoga and Auroville. I started making chocolates because, being a vegan and a little bit of a health nut, I couldn’t eat any of the chocolate here as they are full of milk, sugar, and other preservatives. It did not promote the sustainable and organic process that I value so much.”
Mason & Co.
Mason & Co. is an organic and vegan bean-to-bar chocolate company in Auroville, Tamil Nadu. They make chocolates directly from the raw cacao bean by hand in their artisan factory in Auroville. Working directly with farmers, they aim to improve the quality of processing of cacao beans in India to produce the best chocolate.
“We support a sustainable supply chain all the way from our work with the farmers to the final sale of the product. We work towards a no waste policy. We support organic and vegan farming and we support local Indian farmers and produce.”
They have a team of five women employed from the surrounding villages. They have a policy of hiring only women to provide a safe and fair environment for them to work where they are given autonomy, responsibility and opportunities for personal growth as well as are rewarded for their hard work.
The organic love
Jane feels that the organic sector is certainly gaining some movement of support. However, the farmers still struggle to get the recognition and distribution outlets for their produce.
“It has been a pleasure to work with the organic farmers. Since they already have a mindset of doing something different or ‘better’, they are more open to our ideas of changing practices. It breaks my heart to see organic cacao beans (or any other produce) being sold in the open market to mass market companies for the same price as non-organic produce. We hope to change this and provide a market and fair price for organic cacao products in India.”
Sailing over the hurdles
Language barrier has been the biggest hurdle for Jane. They source products, be it raw materials or packaging, all over the country and this turns out to be difficult with language barriers. She believes that
India has so many opportunities for people with the right frame of mind, but you have to be willing and be able to push a little harder to get things done.“If I had to pick one challenge, I would say it is finding good quality cacao beans. We don’t use sub-standard cacao to make our chocolate. It has taken years to find and build partnerships with the farmers. We have done this by spending lots of time on the farms and building personal relationships with the farmers we work with,” she says.
While paddling her canoe
From changing people’s perspective of making dark chocolate in India to be a crazy idea as it might not suit the Indian palate to finding people being so happy and satisfied to have a high quality and consciously produced product, the support and response has been overwhelming. Her journey has had its rocky moments. But, she is keen to learn every day and is very excited about the future.
The one thing that keeps her going, she says, is “Chocolate! But also the women we employ. They work so hard and are so proud about their work that every day it is a pleasure to go to work. I am very blessed to have found such a great team.”
She feels a glass ceiling does exist for women in the corporate world. But she has been lucky enough to work with men who have supported, encouraged, and helped her grow and expand.
“I think that the entrepreneur world does have less barriers for women or certainly different barriers. There is a freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur. And there isn’t the same ‘boys club’ and directly upward ceiling that exists in the corporate world. However, it doesn’t mean that women don’t face the same cultural barriers that exist in the society. These certainly reflect on their work, the expectations placed on them and the measure of their success,” she concludes.