29 Aug 2013

Searching for Wild Chocolate in the Amazon


Rowan Atkinson tasted what some people refer to as “the Dom Perignon of the Amazon” and immediately set out to find the man who discovered wild cacao beans growing in the jungles of Bolivia.

They called it Cru Sauvage. The impeccable Swiss packaging alluded to its aboriginal provenance, and inside were two bars wrapped in golden foil, 68 percent cacao. I’d paid $13 (plus shipping!) for these skinny little planks of chocolate, just 100 grams’ worth of “Wild Vintage.” That’s $60 a pound. After savaging its wrapper, I placed a square of the dusky stuff on my tongue and closed my eyes.

Chocolate is the one of the most complex foods we know. It contains more than 600 flavor compounds. (Red wine has only 200.) Chocolate can be bitter, sweet, fruity, nutty, and savory all at once. It takes the vast library of taste and blends it into one revelatory package. The tropical cacao tree has secret things to tell us about flavor and desire, and for more than a decade I’ve made a hobby of tracking down those secrets.

This incredibly rare and expensive chocolate was produced by the venerable firm of Felchlin, which claimed that it was unique in the world, made from an ancient strain of cacao native to the Bolivian Amazon—i.e., wild cacao, au naturel, unmolested by millennia of botanical tinkering. It hit me with an intense nuttiness, but without the slightest hint of bitterness, a combination I’d never experienced. Aromatics burst in my sinuses. Citrus and vanilla. The flavor dove into a deep, rich place, and then, just as I thought I had a handle on it, the bottom fell out and it dove some more. That might sound ridiculous, but I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time “researching” the best chocolate in the world, geeking out on it like the most obnoxious sommelier, and this was something entirely new.

When the feeling finally began to subside, I opened my eyes and started looking for the man responsible.

Read the whole thing.

The stuff is only $37 a pound here.

Hat tip to Fred Lapides.

One Feedback on "Searching for Wild Chocolate in the Amazon"


As a true chocoholic (I buy pounds of bulk chocolate for consumption every evening) I think the author may well be mistaken. Chocolate isn’t necessarily better because it costs more. It may be and he is certainly welcome to pay for it but it looks to me very much like the wine snobbery we often see. Buy and consume what you like but don’t try to convince me you are enjoying one of the fruity, nutty 600 flavor compounds you believe are in there someplace.


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