This past weekend was Valentine’s Day, and as commercial as it sometimes feels, it is a valiant holiday in that it reminds us all to take time out of our lives to be romantic and indulge in the love around us. Another beautiful aspect about this holiday is its focus on chocolate. Chocolate is known for containing phenylethylaming (PEA), the same chemical that is produced in your body when you are in love. Thus, it is no coincidence that V-day and chocolate go hand in hand.
In celebration of the day I took a trip to a small Chocolate Boutique located in Berkeley’s gourmet ghetto called Alegio Chocolate where I was introduced to a special chocolate- said to be the best in the world. The chocolate is made by Claudio Corallo on the Plantacao De Terriero Velho in a small African Island Country called Sao Tome e Principe. It is unique for many reasons. For one, Claudio Corallo spent his adult life searching for the perfect cocoa bean to use in his chocolate. Even before he found the bean he dedicated himself to producing the highest quality chocolate. Then, when he eventually did find the bean he was looking for, he continued to refine his production techniques, meticulously attending to every detail in the process from growing the plants, to harvesting the beans, to melting and storing the chocolate. Through his experience Claudio Corallo has developed unique methods of processing cocoa beans so as to create the richest and most flavorful chocolate he can muster.
Another characteristic that makes this chocolate unique is that, unlike many chocolates that are available today, this one only contains three ingredients: cocoa, sugar, and cocoa butter. There is no soy lecithin to speak of. He packages the chocolate in an air-tight foil bag to preserve and prevent oxidation of the chocolate while it is being transported from the island to your mouth. When the bag is finally opened the smell of chocolate is so overwhelming that it fills a large room.
The chocolate itself is beautiful to behold. It is not stamped or decorated. It is simply a tablet of pure cocoa. Snapping off a piece to eat, you can hear a crisp angular smack. I was tempted at first to chew the piece I broke off but restrained and was quickly reminded why chocolate must be savored slowly and with patience. The piece of chocolate rested on my tongue for a brief moment before it began to melt. The flavors gradually emerged and unfolded at their own pace. As the silky, buttery chocolate dissolved, the fruity aromas grew bigger and continued to develop. They lingered in my mouth for what seemed like an eternity. Well after the chocolate had disappeared the taste of it was still present in my mouth.
Though I make a habit of eating chocolate quite often, eating Corallo chocolate was mysteriously different. It commanded my attention and took control of my senses. It lulled me into a stupor with its flavor and enamored me with its expounding aroma. It was an all-encompassing joy ride.
Later, I did some investigating of the chocolate and came upon this beautifully written letter, from Claudio Corallo himself, describing how he came to produce the best chocolate in the world. The story is as rich in detail as his product is filled with flavor. It reveals details of his life living in the Congo, building a team of chocolate makers, and even raising a family. The letter also gives you a sense of the passion that went into creating his product and reveals how lucky we are that so many worlds away from him, we are able to taste the bounty of his life’s work.
If you are interested in trying Claudio Corallo chocolate it is not sold in many places throughout the US, but it is available through mail order for $7.50/ 1.76 Oz bar. The 75% bar was recommended to me, but I have to imagine it would be impossible to go wrong with any of his products. I have been enjoying this one delicious package for the past week, tasting a little piece everyday, and truly, it is so big and bold in its flavor that a little is all I can handle. How lucky we are to have these bits of magic sprinkled throughout the world! This is what Valentine’s Day is all about, spreading the love.