20 May The wonderful world of chocolate
May 20, 2019
Depending on what part of the world you find yourself in, you may find cacao (the raw ingredient that is deliciously transformed into chocolate) in some unexpected places like shampoo and baths in Ecuador. Chocolate just can’t be escaped! If you’re a fellow chocolate lover, you’ll want to keep reading to hear what Santiago Paz Lopez of Norandino had to say about making some of the world’s best cocoa and enjoying chocolate with all of your senses.
Santiago has been at Norandino since the early 1990’s. He started working with coffee, then moved to panela (unrefined whole cane sugar), and then to cacao in 2006. He says, “I started without knowing anything.” So, Santiago visited chocolate makers and learned the ins and outs of making the finest chocolate, starting with the cacao trees that produce white cacao.
Chocolate is made from the seeds of the cacao tree. The seeds are fermented, dried, and roasted before being separated into cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The cocoa solids are combined with cocoa butter to make chocolate. Often, sugar, milk powder, and vanilla are also added to the cocoa. The most delicate chocolate is made from white cacao. It has a less bitter taste and is popular among European chocolatiers.
Every step in the process of making chocolate affects the taste. The climate where the cacao trees grow plays a significant role. The best chocolate is from cacao trees grown in dry tropical climates like northern Peru. Norandino cocoa is highly awarded for its luxurious cocoa in part because the microclimate where the trees are grown in northern Peru favors the white cacao. Other regions that produce exquisite cocoa are Chuao in Venezuela and Cusco in southeastern Peru. (The cacao from Cusco is known as chuncho.) Unfortunately for chocolate lovers around the world, these regions produce small quantities of cacao, making it highly sought after and hard to find.
If you are lucky enough to sample chocolate made with cocoa solely from one of these white cacao producing microclimates, savor it! Due to the high quality of the cocoa, there probably won’t be any milk powder (a big win for dairy free chocolate lovers!) or vanilla, and sugar will be kept to a minimum.
Chocolate can be enjoyed by multiple senses, just like a fine wine. Enjoy the aroma, the texture, the initial taste, and the lingering after taste. Just like wine, you’ll notice subtle notes in the flavor: citrusy, floral, spicy, nutty, or earthy. Textures range from melt-in-your mouth smooth to grainy and soft as silk to sticky like peanut butter. The different textures are a result of the processing of the cacao and the ratio of cocoa solids to cocoa butter. The different flavor notes are also related to the processing but also to the flavonoids inherent to the cacao grown in each microclimate.
To sum it up, there is a way to enjoy your indulgence without guilt. Savor it! Choose a high quality chocolate (preferably of single origin for a unique flavor profile) with no added vanilla or milk powder, with a high percentage of cocoa, and less sugar than your average chocolate bar. Stop to notice the aroma before taking a bite. Take a small bite and feel the texture. Observe how the taste evolves as you savor the first bite. And lastly, repeat! By choosing a high quality chocolate, you can enjoy the decedent aroma, texture, and taste and feel satisfied and totally indulgent without eating more than a small portion of fantastic chocolate. So when the chocolate craving hits, remember to savor your chocolate to the fullest.
Special thanks to Micaela Castillo from Norandino for her excellent translations.