Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia - - TRENDING -

Crafted from sin­gle-ori­gin ca­cao beans grown in the Malaysian high­lands, the choco­late by this Kuala Lumpur–based cho­co­latier is proudly “tree-to-bar.” “Malaysian ca­cao is un­like any other in the world,” says founder Ning-Geng

Ong, who cred­its his sus­tain­able and trace­able beans for his Co­coa of Ex­cel­lence award won at the Sa­lon du Cho­co­lat in Paris last year.

The coun­try’s mix of trop­i­cal and high­land cli­mate is per­fect for grow­ing ca­cao, and when Dutch colonists in­tro­duced the trees here in the 18th cen­tury, pro­duc­tion took off. Al­though Malaysia re­mains one the world’s top ex­porters of raw ca­cao, few farm­ers pay at­ten­tion to fer­men­ta­tion and roast­ing prac­tices, which are crit­i­cal for coax­ing nu­ances of ter­roir in bean-to-bar choco­late, some­thing Ong learned through his stud­ies in the U.S.

Sourc­ing premium lo­cal ca­cao meant work­ing di­rectly with the grow­ers. Ong part­nered with in­dige­nous Se­mai and Te­muan com­mu­ni­ties, learn­ing to grow, dry and fer­ment the beans along­side the farm­ers. “When cul­ti­vated, fer­mented and roasted cor­rectly, the beans yield ex­quis­ite taste pro­files of saf­fron, nut­meg and dry figs,”

Ong says.

His bars are now stocked in the city’s Four Sea­sons and W Ho­tel and used in cafés and restau­rants around town, but Ong still likes to play match­maker for his cus­tomers at his Bangsar shop, choos­ing bars to suit their pre­ferred sweet­ness: “Pair­ing choco­late lovers with their per­fect bar: that’s still the end goal.” choc­; bars from RM27.

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