Tag Archives: chocolatey

AMEDEI: Dark Chocolate Extra 70% Chuao

5 May

Another bar from Chuao, Venezuela made from the much sought after criollo beans, food of the gods.

A sweet cacao start, beginning with a bright acidity.  It will travel across your palate, delicately caressing your senses with notes of citrus, then up tempo to a nutty finale. For the finish a light tartness remains on your tongue as the chocolatey tail pleasantly melts away.

The drama. The intrigue. Chuao.

Amedei is a bean to bar company based in Pisa, Italy. It was started in 1990 by a brother and sister team, Alessio and Cecilia Tessieri. Chocolate is a family craft. They started out as chocolatiers, but turned to chocolate making after an unpleasant visit to the French chocolate maker Valhrona, where they were unable to purchase the company’s best products because according to Valhrona, “…Italy wasn’t evolved enough to appreciate such extraordinary chocolate.”  This information comes from an article in Food & Wine by Pete Wells. After this event they vowed to make the best chocolate in the world working in cooperation with the farmers and paying them fair prices.

They seem to have done quite a good job, because for the last two years in a row, Amedei has won the “Golden Bean” award for their “9” bar from The Academy of Chocolate in London, an international honor reserved for those companies capable of producing the best bean to bar chocolate in the world. I now need to try out this “9” bar, made from a combination of beans from 9 different plantations.

While Cecilia was learning how to make artisan chocolate, Alessio set out to source the highest quality cacao beans in the world. The search led him to Chuao, where he out bid Valhrona for the harvest, a source Valhrona had monopolized for years. Aside from succeeding in an apparently cut throat industry, Amedei is involved with the beans before they even leave the plantation. They also oversee the fermentation process, which has a major impact on the mellowing of the beans and developing the prominent flavors that will be released through the roasting process. This allows them an even greater control over the flavor of the final product.

I love the descriptions they give on their packaging. Very poetic. very Italian. Just like their chocolate.

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AMANO: CHUAO Reserve Dark Chocolate 70%

27 Apr


I was very excited to try this chocolate after I read about the rarity of the beans and that it is of the original criollo strain, coming from a single village in Venezuela, the bar’s namesake, Chuao. Amano is also a very well established chocolate company in the world of  high quality chocolate with a very long list of awards.

This chocolate starts out with a full robust cacao flavor. For me there was no  other imposing taste at the beginning, it is just luxuriously chocolatey. The flavor rounded out into a smooth caramel that melted over my tongue, complemented  by the velvety texture of the chocolate. There was a very subtle tartness, similar to that you experience when you first bite into a plum. And then the caramel and cacao returned for the finish, lingering pleasantly.

Something to send you floating away into chocolatey dreams.

This is clearly a chocolate maker at the top of their game. With some chocolates it is possible to taste the evolution and development of their makers. They are delicious, but you know that they will improve and reach the height of their ability in the future. They may not be the most socially driven, but in the case of flavor and texture, Amano, meaning “by hand” and “they love” actually seems to be worth all the fuss.

TCHO: San Francisco

11 Apr

TCHO

Pier 17: The Embarcadero @ Green Street

San Francisco, CA 94111

Monday to Friday 9 am – 5 pm

Saturday and Sunday 10 am – 5 pm

(415) 981-0189

Tours: Every day at 10:30 am and 2 pm

If you walk down to Pier 17 on the Embarcadero you won’t be able to miss TCHO, right next to a tug boat rental company. You would never know that this building is the home of innovation on several fronts. Founded by Timothy Childs, a former NASA employee on the shuttle program, literally a rocket scientist who turned to chocolate making, and Karl Bittong, a chocolate industry veteran who has been constructing chocolate factories for the last 42 years, TCHO was set up to succeed from the beginning. They sweetened the deal by bringing in the c0-founders of Wired Magazine, Jane Metcalf, as President and Louis Rossetto, as CEO. For anyone who has written a business plan, this is a management dream team. TCHO is the beginning of a socially conscious chocolate revolution that synthesizes the art and science of chocolate making while still maintaining environmental and human ideals by qualifying as a fair trade organic product by third party certifiers such as California Certfied Organic Farmers (CCOF) and Fair Trade USA. We can only hope that their practices will cause a ripple effect throughout the industry.

TCHO is a self proclaimed flavor based chocolate company. While the popular trend right now is to focus on the origin of the cacao beans, TCHO has chosen to focus on the primary flavors cacao beans are known to produce. They locate beans that manifest the chosen characteristic, such as chocolatey, citrus, fruity, or nutty and then develop the chocolate making process to maximize their flavor potential. Flavor notes are connected to the regions from which they come, so they usually have a pretty good idea where to start when they begin development.

One of the characteristics that makes TCHO so different from other chocolate making companies, is their scientific approach to the entire chocolate making process from pod to bar. TCHO has worked with farmers to innovate the fermentation and drying process by working with farmers to create a three tiered fermentation system, allowing for thorough fermentation and a mellowing of the cacao bean, and drying beds where beans are exposed to the air on all sides, releasing gases that would otherwise create a harsh or bitter flavor. Also, they have built flavor labs on location at the farms so that farmers can taste what type of product their beans are going to create.

Right now “chocolatey” is from Ghana, “citrus” from Madagascar, “fruity” is from Peru, and “nutty” from Ecuador. The jury is still out on my favorite.

TCHO has also produced a flavor wheel and they are in the process of developing “floral” and “earthy” chocolates. There are also several milk chocolates that are in the beta phase due to demand. They have also developed a line of baking chocolates because chefs and bakers were coming to TCHO asking if they could create a high quality baking chocolate so they could buy  within the United States instead of having rely on Europe. I got some. I will report back on my findings.

The tour guide, Tyler, told us that two of the indicators of a well tempered chocolate, thus having a wonderful mouth-feel and well balanced flavor, is the shine and snap of the chocolate when you break it.

 

I took the factory tour on Saturday. The first part of the tour was a very engaging presentation by Tyler. With the aid of a slide show you learn about the history of chocolate from its origin in the Amazon Basin to the process of fertilization of the cacao flowers performed by a midge, a tiny winged insect. A dried cacao pod is passed around as well as some beans. You get to see them up close. I like the tactile aspect of it. The most interesting thing  I learned about the growing process, is that the cacao pods begin to glow when they are ready to be picked. I’m not joking. It really happens.

The factory itself was not in production so it was a bit of a different experience than it may have been. Tyler said that it is usually extremely loud with all of the machinery going. We had the added benefit of being able to hear a description of what the machines do, while seeing them. The factory was actually moved over to San Francisco piece by piece and reassembled at Pier 17.

You are not allowed to take pictures on the tour so I snagged a few of TCHO’s so I could give everyone an idea of what the factory looks like inside. You have to wear hairnets and beardnets, when applicable, even when the factory is not in production. They are extremely serious about maintaining cleanliness. My favorite part came at the end when we got to taste the chocolate! If you want to, you can talk about the different flavors you tasted. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy. It is always interesting to hear what other people are experiencing. I recommend you try the hot chocolate. It’s amazing. Get one.

P.S. Bonus innovation. They developed an Iphone app so you can run the factory remotely from your Iphone!

TCHO: “chocolatey” 70%

7 Apr

As advertised, this is an intensely chocolatey chocolate. Apparently, chocolatey is actually an industry term so saying chocolatey chocolate is not redundant. The bouquet on this single origin chocolate from Ghana is amazing, a fragrant, earthy, clean scent.Rich and velvety all the way through, you can tell they put a lot of work into creating this bar. The experience starts out with a cranberry tartness easing you into a wash of chocolatey cacao that dominates your palate until its gentle finish.  One thing about this chocolate that differs most from the other bar chocolates that I have tried thus far, is that it doesn’t have that astringent, slightly bitter tail at the end. Instead, there is a full earthy flavor of cacao that slowly fades away. A much appreciated smooth finish.

If you ever want to be adventurous and try a chocolate and cheese combination, I would recommend using TCHO chocolatey and your favorite triple cream. Now all you need is the right wine and the world will be a perfect place.

The TCHO chocolate factory is located down on Pier 17 in San Francisco. I intend to go there this coming weekend for a factory tour, so stay tuned.