This is the most expensive chocolate tablet in the world
The brand is called To'ak and comes from Ecuador
It is called To'ak and comes from Ecuador © D.R.
Face off a 300 euro chocolate tablet It is not an easy task. It's like seeing for the first time a work like Mona Lisa: Will I be up to it? Will I be able to capture the essence? Decipher your stroke? I imagined that the picture was much bigger ...
In Ecuador the National variety cocoa, which is over 5,300 years old and was on the verge of extinction. It is currently cultivated by farmers of the community of the Valle de la Plata. Its aroma and properties make it unique. Tasting it is an experience.
Well, first of all calm, that the nerves are not noticed. Where do I start? Yes, by the wooden tweezers. If they are there, it is because they have to be used, as is the case in high-topped restaurants, which provide a whole cutlery artillery: They are there for something.
If the clamps are there, it is for something © D.R.
In front of me is a rectangular golden tray with six compartments. Each of them houses a piece of different crops of this distinguished chocolate. The offices, the room, the daring ... Everything emanates a minimalist air, with special attention to design and staging.
One of them is a 100% National chocolate (like all its production), aged for three years in a cognac barrel made of oak from the Limousine forest (France), the non plus ultra of the foodies.
As I get soaked with more and more information, everything becomes more solemn. The situation has some Masonic rite, of experience reserved only for a few insiders.
I take a deep breath, look at the delicacy again. It has an intense dark brown color, the light rays that come from the lamp shine. I make an olfactory approach and indeed the unequivocal e intense aroma of brandy, even though he was never in touch with the liquor.
Now play the final test. Taste buds salivate in verbena mode. Carl Schweizer, one of the founding partners and tasting guide, informs me that I should not chew it, just let it go melting inside the mouth.
Unexpected flavor notes © D.R.
I adopt the role of applied student and follow the instructions to the letter. Cocoa begins to melt due to body temperature, its taste reaches my mouth like a tsunami, fruity aromas, honey and jasmine notes emerge, in the rear the cognac makes its stellar appearance.
I marvel at such a complexity of reminiscences, when in reality it only contains cocoa and sugar cane. My particular Cicerone explains to me that this is because Cocoa has 750 aromatic molecules, twice as much as wine.
ORIGINS OF CHOCOLATE
Beyond the empirical (almost religious) experience, to enjoy this chocolate it is essential to know the historical framework and its complex production process.
Recently a group of French researchers found petrified liquid chocolate in some clay containers in the Amazonian town of Chinchipe (Zamora, Ecuador). Carbon 14 tests revealed that the remains hadn 5,300 years old, being until today the oldest vestige of domestic use that exists on the planet.
Its taste reaches your mouth like a tsunami © D.R.
Now let's make a little jump in time until late nineteenth century. Cocoa is grown and exported with enthusiasm to Europe until two terrible plagues, the Monilla and Broom of the Witch, led to the edge of the National species extinction (currently one of the most valued types for its purity and aroma).
Farmers, not to lose their job, began to introduce other varieties mostly from Venezuela. These cocoa were crossed with the local variety, giving very productive hybrids, but with an aroma and quality lower than the original. The Pure National was transformed into a myth of the likes of El Dorado.
Again we make a jump to the year 2003. Here it appears Jerry toth, a spiky and friendly thirty-year-old economics student who came to work on Wall Street, but who realized that that was not his thing. He left the stock market and decided to travel through Latin America and write novels. On the trip he fell in love and He went to live in Ecuador.
In his particular version of Into the Wild he bought some jungle land on the Ecuadorian coast with all the savings he had, he settled there and He founded the Jama Coaque Conservation Reserve. He lived at that time in a bamboo hut and ate hot chocolate every morning that he picked himself up.
Right there he noticed two things: one, which that cocoa was a true wonder; Two, he had to start thinking about some way to pay his bills.
Here comes the third character in this story: Servio Pachard, a cocoa farmer from the area expert in traditional cultivation methods.
The packaging is an ode to detail and elegance © D.R.
Toth, embedded in the stories of the Pure National, which Indiana Jones exiled to the Middle of the World, explained his obsession to Pachard, who informed him that there was a remote place, following the coast about 200 kilometers south of the reserve, where there were cocoa plants over 100 years old. "Eureka," he shouted out of his mind. This meant that some individuals from Nacional could have survived the pests.
After several weeks of searching they came to a forest not intervened with jungle vegetation: the Silver Valley. Among a mirror foliage with lianas and trees up to 30 meters, and the presence of jaguars, monkeys and other wildlife, found numerous Theobroma cacao plants (the scientific name of the plant, which in its Greek etymology means 'food of the gods').
They mapped the area with GPS and took several grain samples to a laboratory. Nine of the trees were genetically 100% National. They had found the Holy Grail of cocoa.
This finding resulted in the birth in 2013 of the To'ak brand, which in legua quichua means 'earth and tree' and that today is the most expensive in the world.
The other Austrian partner, Carl Schweizer, is responsible for all the design and marketing of the brand. The packaging is a ode to detail and elegance.
They are committed to practices that respect the environment © D.R.
The matrioshkas doll dance begins with a paper box originally from Italy with silkscreens of plant motifs and the brand's logo. Then there is a laurel wood box containing some wooden tweezers, an illustrated book of more than 100 pages and a new transparent wrap of great finesse. The treasure is revealed after a last metallic paper decorated with geometric shapes.
Annually they only produce 500 tablets This is due to strict processes and quality filters, which include the selection of the tree and the cob, the process of fermentation in a laurel drawer, drying, roasting and finally the tempering process, where the perfect homogeneous structure is sought.
This small company only works with small local producers with traditional practices and respectful with the environment.
Today they have two production lines: the harvest edition (vintage edition) and the vintage, where chocolate is aged in whiskey and cognac barrels.
It can only be purchased at Harrods stores (London), in Beijing and in a couple of cities in the United States. Much of its sales are made by postal shipping worldwide. Of course, transport is included in the price of the tablet.
Among its customers abound world class chefs, foodies of high flights and, even, princesses of Saudi royalty that fell rendered before this story worthy of a story of Arabian Nights.
Only 500 tablets are produced per year © D.R.