Categories: PeopleHow I Travel

World Chocolate Day: Mysuru Has Its Own Chocolate Tasting Room; The Founder Tells Us More

David Belo started Naviluna Artisan Chocolates, the nation’s first bean-to-bar chocolate house, in 2011. The South African citizen with a global experience of working as a mixologist in London is reshaping the artisanal chocolate brand’s repertoire by adding a one-of-a-kind tasting room at a restored 120-year-old house in Mysuru, Karnataka. In a detailed conversation with Travel & Leisure India & South Asia, the founder shares travel anecdotes and the joy of exploring chocolates. By Chandreyi B

Excerpts from the interview with David Belo, founder of Naviluna Artisan Chocolates

T+L India: How did you start Naviluna? Tell us the story behind it.

David Belo: I started Naviluna (earlier Earth Loaf) six months after moving to India in 2011. I had left my career as a mixologist and bartender in London, and opened a small sourdough bread bakery catering to markets, cafes and restaurants in the central and southeast corners of the city. Having been in and out of the UK for a few years during that time, I realised that I wanted an environment with better weather and a climate that suited experimentation. Mysuru worked! I discovered cacao from Gokarna, and thus, Naviluna was born.

T+L India: Why Mysuru?

David Belo: The city has been my home and the base for the company for over a decade now. It was a natural choice for us to open our first brasserie here in Mysuru.

T+L India: Tell us about Naviluna’s new tasting room.

David Belo: Naviluna is headquartered at Ramavilas road, and is the new nervous system for the brand. We have our bean-to-bar chocolate production, a tasting room and retail outlet, cafe, small bakery, dessert room and brasserie here. The building dates back to 1872. It was in a pretty bad shape when we took over. The owner had already started one phase of restoration. When we came in on the second phase, we had to complete the civil, interior, and utility infrastructure before being able to transform it into the home of the brand. It was an incredibly challenging task, but I hope the results speak for themselves. Naviluna is so much more than a chocolate manufacturer.

T+L India: Are you an avid traveller?

David Belo: When I visit a place, I tend to stay for a while to learn about the culture and history. I prefer slow travelling.

T+L India: Which is your favourite destination?

David Belo: I have a deep affection for Egypt and Morocco, especially the vibrant craftsmanship in the latter. I keep going back to Sri Lanka and I’m very blessed to call Cape Town ‘home’.

T+L India: Did travel play a role in starting Naviluna?

David Belo: Very much so! Naviluna is a blend of the influences I picked up while travelling, particularly the architecture of Marrakech, the old world refinement and simplicity of the East End of London, and the tropical modernism of Sri Lanka. That said, Mysuru and my lens of the city remains a central inspiration.

When I was looking for inspiration, a central and game-changing moment for me was serendipitously standing at Yves Saint Laurent’s desk at the restored 1930’s Cubist House and Majorelle Garden in Marrakech back in 2010. A similar moment occurred eight years later at Geoffrey Bawa’s office on Paradise Road (Colombo), which is now the Gallery Cafe owned by Uday Shanth Fernando.

T+L India: Do you prefer travelling solo or with people? Why?

David Belo: Good company is everything for me, but I’ve actually done most of my travelling solo. It helps me reflect and observe the place from a distance, whilst pushing me to connect with the people of the place. I have learned that most people around the world are really warm as long as you stay grounded, maintain your boundaries, and respect and try to understand the culture.

T+L India: Your travel bucket list?

David Belo: Right now, it’s São Tomé & Príncipe, Nicaragua, Cuba, New York and Lisbon. The first three are mainly cacao- and chocolate-related, whilst New York, for me, is the ‘other’ London filled with cocktails I need to drink, food I need to taste, and hardcore bands I need to pay homage to. Lisbon is a city that’s been getting a lot of airtime in the last few years. Being from the Afro-Portuguese diaspora, I am keen to see the developments for myself.

T+L India: Top five places to visit in the world for chocolates?

David Belo: Bahia, Brazil — the home of the Brazilian chocolate industry. Nicaragua, for some of the best fine flavour cacao in the world with producers working towards cacao innovation. Hawaii — the only state in the USA that is growing and producing cacao and craft chocolate, both. Thailand, as it has become a hive of fine flavour cacao and craft chocolate in recent years. Copenhagen, Denmark, as it boasts of some stellar craft chocolate makers, and a spectacular food and drink scene.

Related: Taste The World With These Chocolate Dessert Recipes

Bayar Jain

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