A “Fossa” is a cat-like mammal that is indigenous, and unique, to Madagascar having first reached the island almost 20 million years ago. Yilina, Charis and Jay first taste of Craft Chocolate was a Madagascan bar and to commemorate this start to their journey they decided to name their company Fossa.
Fossa Chocolate purchases its cacao directly from cooperatives and grower-centric organisations (a term we’ve borrowed from Raaka), the latter includes sourcing from Kokoa Kamili and a whole host of other growers (see below for more details). The team at Fossa source their beans from friends – farmers and traders – that they trust. Jay and Yilina gravitate towards cacao that are unique in flavours and have the potential to make delicious chocolate, from Cocoa of Excellence award winning cacaos to special nano lots from progressive farmers. Whilst flavour is a key driver, Fossa ensure to only use cacao that are traceable to its source and provide full transparency.
For Fossa’s Pak Eddy bar, it was in 2016 that Yilina and Jay visited their friends in Yogyakarta, Indonesia where they were then introduced to Pak Eddy, a cacao farmer with a reputation of being one of the best cacao farmers and fermenters in Indonesia.
Pak Eddy started planting cacao back in 1992 when the Government encouraged every family to have their own cacao trees by giving seeds for free. Unfortunately, four years later, the price of cacao dropped. As a result, almost all families replaced cacao trees with other cash crops. Pak Eddy was one of the few who kept his cacao alive.
Jay, Fossa’s chief chocolate maker, in his own words “love of making things from scratch and studying new stuff got him into beer brewing, fermentation, machine fixing and eventually chocolate making”. And as well as crafting chocolate, he maintains an active interest in brewing and fermenting his own beer. Yilina is also passionate about food and, with her background at Enterprise Singapore, she takes the lead for Fossa’s business development and sales.
Whist we knew Jay and Yilina shared our passion for all things fermented – beer, wine, whisky, cheese, kefir, kombucha… and of course crafted amazing single estate chocolate, we caught up with the pair to answer more questions to share with our customers…
What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?
Our story began when a few years ago, we tasted a Madagascar single origin plain dark chocolate bar and were hit by wonderful flavours of refreshingly tart raspberries and warm almonds. It really opened our eyes to how craft chocolates can have such flavour clarity – so different from the usual mass-produced industrial chocolate we grew up with.
We’re geeky people and love to find out how things are made and try making them. Naturally we started making chocolate at home, roasting in our tiny oven and hand-peeling the beans. The slow making process provided much joy and made us understand that it’s a craft that requires full dedication. Hence we started Fossa Chocolate to deep dive into this new found obsession.
When did you start your company — and with whom? How many are there of you?
We started the company about 4 years ago after a few years of experimentation. We’re a lean team wearing multiple hats: chocolate makers, chocolatiers, photographers, designers, social media managers, website developers, marketers and more. Here’s our three man team:
Jay, Founder and Chocolate Maker – Jay’s love of making things from scratch and studying new stuff got him into beer brewing, fermentation, machine fixing and eventually chocolate making. Guided by his taste buds, he dreams up new flavours and make them into chocolate with his trusty pair of hands. You can ask him about anything chocolate, beer and fermentation related. He enjoys geeky conversations.
Yilina, Business and Marketing Director – Yilina brings ideas to life and uses her deep imagination to guide her creations in photography, food and business. She’s also our team’s master chef, foraging and dishing out hearty staff meals that fuel us through long days. You can talk to her about potluck parties, marketing ideas and plans for collaboration. Dog treats for her three adorable pups are welcomed too!
Charis, Chocolatier and Designer – Charis is the artist in the team. When she’s not making chocolate, she designs packaging, makes pastries, chocolate bonbons and chocolate flowers. She is a huge foodie and you can talk to her about the best places for food.
What mission have you set yourselves for making chocolate?
We hope to open up people’s minds about ingredients and flavours beyond the classics. Using uncommon combinations together with the wonderfully diverse character of cacao, we strive to present unexpected harmony in flavours.
What is the story behind your company name?
We wanted a name that resonates with what we do and relates with how we started. Fossa is an animal that is unique to the forests in Madagascar – the same origin of the craft chocolate bar we tasted years ago that inspired our journey.
The Fossa is also nimble, agile and well known for its fierce and wild personality. This is similar to our approach in chocolate making, where we constantly challenge ourselves to create bold but mind-blowingly delicious flavours. Our Artisan Chocolates make use of ingredients you never imagined to be associated with chocolate.
Who designed your packaging – and what are you most proud of about your packaging
All our packagings are designed in-house by the team. We are very particular about the material and printing method. Our packaging is made of eco-label paper containing 50% recycled paper, giving it the subtle fibrous appearance. We also work very closely with a local artisan printer whose skilled craftsmen create all our letter-pressed prints by hand.
How did you source your beans?
We source our beans from friends (farmers and traders) we trust. They are sourced without human exploitation and we pay a fair price to remunerate the producers for their work. We gravitate towards cacao that are unique in flavours and have the potential to make delicious chocolate. This includes Cocoa of Excellence award winning cacaos as well as special nano lots from progressive farmers. We use only cacao that are traceable to its source and provide full transparency, giving credit to producers where it is due.
What inspired your choice of wrapper/mould design?
We love the technique of letterpressing. You can admire how the ink gathers along the side of the print, and we have ours pressed deeper so you can run your fingers across the packaging and feel the texture.
The chocolate bar itself is scored for easy breaking and sharing. It is moulded 4mm thick which we feel allows even melt in the mouth without overwhelming the palate.
What innovations in tech, crafting, marketing etc. are you pursuing?
We are constantly in pursuit of innovation in flavour and making techniques for our chocolates. We strive to offer surprising but delicious flavours, making use of ingredients that may or may not be traditionally associated with chocolate. We launch new flavours every one to two months to keep our customers (and ourselves) excited.
What is your favourite food? Wine? Other chocolate makers?
This is tough, there’s just so many. Anything that is fermented intrigues us. Beer, wine, whisky, cheese, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, you name it. Chocolate makers that we admire: Soma Chocolate is super creative and we tasted some amazing bars from them.
What chocolate achievement are you most proud of to date?
Definitely the Salted Egg Cereal Blond chocolate. The first reaction that we receive most often from new customers would be, “What??? A salted duck egg in a chocolate!!? You got to be kidding me.”
We love to see their lips curl up and eyes widen in awe after the first bite.
While fairly unknown internationally, the salted egg is actually a very traditional ingredient in Singapore used in Chinese cooking for decades. We’re proud to be able to place this heritage flavour on the world map.
Is there anything else you want to tell us, or you think our customers should know?
We are more than just a chocolate company. We are also three very different individuals tied together by our passion. Outside chocolate making, each of us engage in very diverse interests such as pottery, photography, cooking & baking, beer brewing, hiking and more. Chat with us over social media or drop us a note when you visit Singapore! We make very good hosts.