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Eat: Photoessay

By Christine Pemberton
You know that expression “a picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, this might just be one of those moments. What more need one say in the presence of a cake that is 100% guaranteed to put a smile on everyone’s face? Welcome to the world of Mumbai’s iconic Theobroma (& prepare for a little sensory overload!)

Date Published: 12th September 2016

Theobroma, Mumbai Photo

Kainaz Messman, the owner of Theobroma, is the young woman who has a cult following in Mumbai, where, in a little over a decade, her brownies have achieved iconic status. “Brownies are our best selling items because they make the perfect gift and we are a sweet gifting nation.”

Theobroma, Mumbai Photo

Oh yes, Theobroma. What does it mean, we hear you asking. (Don't worry, we had to google it too). It’s the name of a plant, derived from the Greek words theos, meaning "god," and broma, meaning "food”. Roughly translated it means "food of the gods." And, of course, Theobroma Cacao is used for making chocolate. Food of the gods, indeed.

Theobroma, Mumbai Photo

When asked about what made her the chef she is today, Kainaz invariably tals about her childhood, growing up in a food-obsessed family. “I grew up in a sweet smelling house, always surrounded by chocolate”

Theobroma, Mumbai Photo

The journey that has brought Kainaz Messman to Theobroma started in the south of France, when she was 16 and on an exchange programme. “One day, I went to a pastry shop and ate a strawberry tart, baked French style with custard. As soon as I bit into it, I knew this is what I had to do.”

Theobroma, Mumbai Photo

The first Theobroma outlet opened in Colaba in south Mumbai in 2004. 12 years on, there are several outlets all over the city, including the airport. The latter will perhaps obviate the necessity for diehard brownie fans to risk missing their flights because they “have” to carry boxes of brownies to family and friends. (We know. It happened to us).

Theobroma, Mumbai Photo

In the words of Kainaz “Brownies are the cornerstone of our business” and they are Theobroma’s signature dish. “We take our brownies seriously, yet we continue to have fun with it.“

Theobroma, Mumbai Photo

Kainaz credits her love of baking to growing up in a family obsessed with food, where her mother supplied cakes from home. Theobroma started as a family business, and 12 years on, the patisserie is still run by the very hands-on Messman family. Kainaz’s mother, Kamal, is head of retail, father Farokh takes care of business development and her sister Tina Wykes, plans the business strategy for Theobroma.

Theobroma, Mumbai Photo

“I am often asked why our desserts are special and unique. I believe it is because we serve what we like to eat, this was never just a money making venture.”

Theobroma, Mumbai Photo

“I serve smiles on a plate and I spread happiness. I don’t always get things right but I work very hard to make my customers happy. I try to learn along the way, apologies for my mistakes and make things right. “

Theobroma, Mumbai Photo

Today, it’s hard to believe that there could have been doubts at the start of this journey, but as Kainaz outs it “With a hope and a prayer I opened my own little pastry shop, really not knowing what to expect, worrying about filling the four small tables we had ordered.”





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