Are You Addicted to Chocolate or the Sugar?
Last week I attended a SLOW FOOD chocolate tasting at a tiny shop in Palo Alto, CA called Alegio Chocolaté. We learned all about the growing, processing, and tasting notes of real chocolate. Have you ever tasted 100% pure chocolate? If so, you understand why I ask the question are you addicted to chocolate or the sugar?
Tasting 100% Chocolate is a little like crunching on cocoa nibs or tasting unsweetened cocoa powder. It's a bitter, chalky flavor that is meant to ward off hungry jungle inhabitants so the seeds can reproduce into more cocoa trees.
I love to ask my clients who swear they are addicted to chocolate to taste a piece of 100%. They often pucker and scrunch up their face."See," I reply...
" you're not addicted to chocolate, you're addicted to the sugar."
When you eat chocolate from the market, what you're most likely tasting is the vanilla flavor and of course the sugar. Not to mention the numerous fillers added: soy lecithin, milk solids, and more sugar in other conspicuous forms.
Meet the REAL chocolate...
At Alegio Chocolaté, the passion for quality is apparent from the moment you walk through the tiny door. The bars are humbly wrapped in brown boxes with white paper labels and black typed font. The brains of the operation, Claudio Corallo, only has one intention and it's obviously not over marketing his chocolate.
Claudio is a 57 year old man with 3 children, he speaks 5 languages, none of them English. He's intelligent, a bit of a perfectionist, and he has given up the mainland to live in a remote Island off the Atlantic coast of Africa. His quest, while living in the wild jungle on the tiny Island of Principe in São Tomé, is to produce the finest dark chocolate in the world.
I like my chocolate black!
I've always considered myself a chocoholic, so naturally I was interested in a chocolate tasting boasting the finest. To be totally upfront, I was sipping wine, I paid $22 for the tasting, I heard an hour of lecture before even tasting the damn chocolate, and I claim to like my chocolate black. So there was the law of escalating commitment in effect.
But, Alegio Chocolaté was amazing and worth every penny. You will pay a pretty penny for this chocolate, I want to be very clear on that. But, it is medicinal grade which means it has 40+ proven health benefits, it is hand grown, hand pruned, hand roasted, hand fermented, and this labor of love demands a fair exchange.
How I came to understand fair exchange...
I once harvested the black walnuts from our tree out back. We knocked the walnuts down, peeled the sticky green peel off, dried the hard nut casing, cracked the shell, and dissected the meat out. We ended up with a handful of crumbled walnuts, stained fingers, stained clothes, and hours of our lives gone that we can never retrieve. I now understand the process of de-shelling walnuts and will pay whatever price the farmer chooses for his treasured nuts. I also feel the same way about chocolate, coffee, tea, cashews and most specialty items my farmers produce.
Alegio is a very special place where you find just a handful of flavors. Most of their bars are 75% pure chocolate with pure organic cane sugar also grown on the island. I loved the orange peel, coffee, crystallized ginger, fermented grape, and even the white pepper with Fleur de sel. I'm usually a minimalist when it comes to chocolate, but the flavors are so REAL with bits of the candied orange peel floating about; it was very hard to resist!
I was taught to place the square on my tongue and allow it to melt. Savor the flavor and enjoy the complexity like you would a fine wine. I tasted so many I thought I would be up all night from the caffeine with a nasty hangover from the sugar. I slept fine however, and woke up without a tummy ache. That's my anecdotal evidence that Alegio chocolates are clean.
I added Alegio Chocolaté bars to my holiday gift list. The price is nothing when considering the value of my friendships. A simple bar of the highest quality chocolate for my highest quality friends. I hope they enjoy it more than a worthless trinket. And who knows, maybe they will share a bite...