“The initial response of Myanmar people—now it’s changing, very slowly, but it’s changing—their first reaction [to his chocolate] is ‘it’s produced in Myanmar; it’s not good,'” he said. “But it’s changing.”
-Jean-Yves Branchard, Founder of Ananda Chocolate
Despite the fact that Myanmar is more well known for its historic temples and ongoing civil conflict than for its blooming agricultural industry and growing tourist industry, both of these sectors are seeing growth in the nation. And for those who aren’t aware of it yet, Myanmar is also producing a growing quantity of cacao, which is then completely transformed into chocolate with additional value at a rate of close to one ton per month. Each item is painstakingly selected by a small team directed by long-term expat Jean-Yves Branchard. Almost all of the ingredients are farmed organically and locally.
The tall Frenchman is known as a trailblazer in the Burmese cacao industry. In the early 2000s, he imported over a dozen different cacao varieties to Myanmar from his own country. However, why did it take you such a long time to become aware that chocolate is produced in Myanmar? Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get your hands on any of this tree-to-bar Burmese chocolate if you live outside of the nation. But in order for you to understand why, you will have to overhear what we are saying.
Click this link to read an article on cacao and chocolate in the adjacent country of Thailand.
Topics We Cover
- What motivated Jean-Yves to bring cocoa to Myanmar and how he did it
- The perilous transition that the family company made to cocoa
- There are a variety of social and environmental variables, which, when combined, have caused Ananda Chocolate manufacturing to be halted and delayed for years at a time.
- current and historical events in Myanmar that have an impact on the country’s agriculture and tourist sectors
- issues with the cultivation of cacao in Myanmar, or more specifically issues with transporting cacao in Myanmar
- the history and tradition of chocolate consumption in Myanmar (or rather, lack thereof)
- what kinds of chocolates are the most popular among Burmese consumers?
0:00-1:40~ Country & contextual introduction to Burmese culture
1:40-3:45~ Background on Jean-Yves and how he came to start a cacao project in Myanmar over 15 years ago
3:45-14:00~ Diving into how cacao was brought to Myanmar in earnest, and the farming project was repeatedly started & stopped by various external factors
14:00-22:00~ Jean-Yves on building a chocolate factory in the jungle, and teaching locals to appreciate the unique flavors which can come out of their country
22:00-25:00~ Tasting Ananda Chocolate with local Burmese people
25:00-30:15~ Future expansion of Ananda, and a different perspective on Myanmar as a tourist destination
30:15-31:58~ Final thoughts on the Burmese chocolate scene, & the end of the episode.
More About Our Guests
Ananda Cocoa & Coffee is a tree-to-bar chocolate business with its headquarters in Yangon, Myanmar. Jean-Yves Branchard is the cacao grower and creator of the firm. Visit Ananda’s Facebook page to keep up to date on the many locations in Myanmar where you can purchase delicious chocolates.
Dustin Main is the author and photographer of the travel site DustinMain.com, which focuses on providing material and pictures related to Myanmar. Visit Dustin’s Instagram, Facebook, and website to take in some of his stunning photographs and read some of his insightful travel advice.
- More on the history of Myanmar
- Local coverage of Ananda Chocolate, including more pictures of Jean-Yves with his trees
- This Myanmar Life: a project focusing on real-life stories of Burmese people
- December 2019 update on the Rohingya Genocide
- Chocolate expert Alain d’Aboville has an interview-based book including a more in-depth interview with Jean-Yves Branchard