Tag Archives: venezuela

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.

5th Annual International Chocolate Salon: San Francisco

21 Apr

When I first found out about the International Chocolate Salon I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I just like the word salon. In this case, because it implies that there is a conversation, an exchange of ideas and methods in the art of chocolate.

As I strolled down from the Marina to Fort Mason, I thought about how I was going to approach such an overwhelming situation. What does one do when they are surrounded by table after table of chocolate in all of its delicious reincarnations? What should I taste? Who should I talk to? How will I not get sick from eating too much chocolate? What will I do if I clean out my bank account after being seduced  by a particularly sumptuous looking bunch of truffles?

By the time I arrived at the Festival Building I had decided that I would focus on bars from single origin, bean to bar companies, I would pick three, and I would only taste dark chocolate. The only tasting dark chocolate idea lasted till the second table from the door. I saw salted caramel truffles.

The salon was in full swing when I got there at 11:30 am. The event was very well attended, but not so crowded that you couldn’t snag yourself a sample of whatever chocolate confection or creation may have caught your eye. Also, the exhibitors were generally very helpful and knowledgeable. In several cases I was able to speak to the chocolatiers and chocolate makers themselves.They were all happy to talk about their greatest passion: chocolate.

This is Neo Cocoa’s spread. The salted caramel truffles that were my downfall. I love the time the exhibitors took with their presentation.

And now for our feature presentation:

http://www.cacaoatlanta.com

Kristen Hard (above) is the owner, founder, and chocolate maker behind Cacao Atlanta. As  you may have guessed, the company’s boutique and production facility are located in Atlanta, Georgia, which is where Kristen hails from as well. She is also the first female chocolate maker in the United States. An important specification is that chocolate makers start with the unroasted bean, chocolatiers start with something called chocolate liqueur, after the beans have been roasted, shelled, and ground into a paste. The reason I was originally drawn to Cacao Atlanta was the bars, but one of the interesting things about Kristen, is that while most chocolate makers stick to making bars, she also uses the chocolate that she makes for her own line of truffles. She actually began her chocolate business by creating a variety of herbally infused truffles, which were  not only delicious, but also contained healing properties.She is now heavily involved in sourcing the beans for Cacao Atlanta. She has developed relationships with all of the growers that she works with and considers them to be her friends. Once she decides to buy from someone she goes and participates in the harvest. She is also focused on working with farmers to improve all aspects of the production process, such as fermentation. Recently, she has been assisting the University of the West Indies in developing a documented fermentation method.

Love Bar (Patanemo) Straight Up 75% from Venezuela is one of my new favorites. This bar has a smooth caramel intensity, cushioning your senses with just the right amount of sweetness, so that you only notice the rich cocoa flavor. I think it was Oscar de la Renta that said something to the effect of, “When  you make a dress for a woman, you want people to look and say, “What a beautiful woman!”  not “What a beautiful dress!”.”

The logo is a flying cocoa pod.

http://www.snakeandbutterfly.com

Caught in action, talking about bean to bar.

These are the owners of Snake and Butterfly. From left to right, Celeste Flores, her father Vince Flores, and the guy in the hat as Vince told me. It turns out his name is Ben Bulik and it turns out he does research and development for Snake and Butterfly. They are located in Campbell, CA and I fully intend to go and check it out at some point.

What initially caught my eye in this box of chocolate bars was the third one in from the left. I had never seen a bar from Belize before. However, I seem to be following a trend because I  tasted a Venezuela 75%. It was rich and savory in a way that I haven’t tasted in a chocolate before. There was just the slightest suggestion of citrus at the end. It was bold, yet soft around the edges.

http://www.madecasse.com

Brett (above) and  Tim, his friend in the New York office, started Madecasse after being Peace Corps Volunteers. Their term of service ended, but their lives had become intertwined with those of the people with whom they had been living and working. They knew that 85% of the worlds cocoa comes from Africa, but only 1% is made there. Brett and Tim decided to create a company that would produce in the beans country of origin, but still sell to consumers in the United States. As a result four times more income is generated for the workers in Madagascar than if beans were shipped for production.

I tasted their Madagascar 70% and it is one of the juiciest chocolates I have ever had. The taste of berries floods your mouth. I would say blackberries with a little cranberry tartness. The interesting thing is that the fruitiness doesn’t linger. It recedes and the flavor of pure cocoa lingers and cleanly fades away.

Here is a list of the exhibitors if you want to explore.

SLO Down Wines strikes a pose.

They featured their wine “Sexual Chocolate”, which also has one of the most entertaining wine labels you will ever read. Chip, in the hat, is one of the winemakers.

As it turns out there was also wine tasting! How do you make a good thing better?

There will be an International Chocolate Salon Part II