Why I Do What I Do is an original AsiaOne series where we showcase people with uncommon professions and what it takes to get there.

Spicy mala, salted egg cereal and satay sauce.

Fossa Chocolate has previously incorporated these bold flavours into its chocolates, and it’s not stopping there.

The homegrown artisanal chocolate brand, known for its unconventional flavours, now has a tomato soup-inspired chocolate bar, just in time for the festive season coming up.

Yilina Leong, one of Fossa Chocolate’s founders alongside Jay Chua and Charis Chia, shares with AsiaOne the inspiration behind the brand’s quirky offerings.

“If this (flavour) could be in a chocolate, it would be great. Then I can bring a chocolate bar around and have this any time.”

With their new tomato and maqaw pepper chocolate, the founders wanted to capture that “warm and cosy feeling” after having a hot bowl of soup, says the 31-year-old.

Going back to the start

The brand isn’t all about gimmicky flavours though. At its core, it took root from its founders’ love for plain good chocolate. 

Like most, Yilina’s love for chocolate began when she was a child. 

“Growing up, chocolate to me was a reward. So it wasn’t something that I would eat every day,” she reminisces.

Back then, her parents wouldn’t allow for such indulgence.

Little did she know that her future as a chocolate maker would mean consuming chocolates on a daily.

Yilina explains that Fossa Chocolate’s journey began when the co-founders tasted single-origin dark chocolate from the US.

They were immediately blown away by the chocolate bar’s fruity flavours. A chocolate bar with an ingredient list of just cocoa beans and sugar captured their attention.

It was then that they realised how “so much flavour was lost” in the chocolates many of us have been eating from a young age.

That experience got them thinking about the possibility of bringing in beans from overseas and making chocolates at home.

Mind you, none of them have any background in chocolate-making.

“So definitely the first few batches, I’ll say that they didn’t taste that nice!” Yilina honestly reveals.

Not that this stopped them from improving their craft.

With feedback from friends and family, the trio reached a level where they felt confident to sell their artisanal chocolates at pop-up markets.

Why is it so expensive?

The decision to head for the pop-up markets seem to come on a whim as they felt there was little to do on the weekends.

So why not sell chocolates, right?

Unfortunately, the first obstacle Fossa Chocolate had to deal with was potential customers being put off by its prices.

Yılına understands that their chocolates are “significantly more expensive” than the ones available in supermarkets.

For instance, a 50g bar of dark chocolate costs $10, while their more creative flavours generally run up to $14. 

But being in a pop-up market setting has its advantages. The founders had the chance to interact with people, have them try the chocolates and explain why they fetched a premium price.

At this early stage, Yilina and her founders noticed a genuine interest from people to learn more about Fossa Chocolates’ products.

The local business is passionate about its single-origin chocolate and often highlights that this is the only type of chocolate it produces.

This means that it tends to source beans from either a single farm or fermentary.

Big commercial players tend to use a blend of cacao from different farms or countries instead, Yilina says.

“When we saw chocolate, we only look for specialty cacao, we work with partners who really value, the flavour and the craftsmanship behind harvesting and growing cacao,” she adds.

Bring on the bold and quirky flavours

Despite receiving positive feedback at pop-up markets, Fossa Chocolate had a bit of a rocky start when the trio decided to run the business full-time.

They understood that the craft chocolate scene in Singapore was close to zero back then and Fossa Chocolate would be introducing a concept that many were unaware of.

“So at the beginning, there were a lot of disappointments. And there were a lot of rejections,” Yilina shares.

Over time, people started to be more receptive to the idea of Fossa Chocolate and Yilina had no doubt what — or in this case, who — drove that change.

“Our supporters from the start were the ones who really helped spread the word to their friends. [They] are the motivators for us.”

Today, Fossa Chocolate carries around 30 different flavours but Yilina suggests that they’ve probably experimented with more than 100 flavours.

When asked to pick a favourite flavour, she struggled for a bit before picking chrysanthemum chocolate, for its refreshing taste.

“I don’t know exactly how much [chocolate] I consume, I probably don’t want to know.

“But we have yoga sessions in our office. So hopefully that helps to burn off some calories!” she quips.

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