Chocolate, a small but mighty superhero in our everyday lives. It has the power to brighten our day, it comes in many interesting varieties, always keeping us on our toes and according to the 2022 Forbes Valentine’s Day Gift Guide, a Harvard University study reported that people who ate chocolate at least three times a month, live at least a year longer than those who don’t. Again, our super hero.

But are all chocolates created equal? Chocolate was originally used as a form of currency and carried more “weight than gold” for the ancient Aztec and Mayan people. For a more indulgent look into how chocolate went on to become in the form of which we now know it here is a good read;  Chocolate and It's "Rich" History , that delves into the world of how chocolate came to be and its original purposes vs how we use  it today.

To answer our first question about whether or not all chocolate is created equal we must first look at how chocolate is in fact created. It’s about to get a little scientific but bear with me we will get to the top five reasons very soon! First you take your cacao seed, at this stage bitter and not what you would deem as a very well-liked flavor profile. The bean must then be fermented to “draw out” its unique flavor then dried, cleaned, roasted and opened to reveal the cacao nib that is ground and mixed with other components to make up the “marketable” chocolate that we know and love today.

Ok so what makes one chocolate better than another? Well, we just overly simplified the chocolate making process to just give you a general idea of how it starts but it all depends really on where is your cocoa being sourced from? What method of heating is used to make the chocolate malleable? What other ingredients are being mixed in with the chocolate and how are those affecting the flavor? For a more in depth of the science behind making chocolate here is an excellent read to really wow you into just how much work actually goes into making that little superhero.

Now…. we know Italy best for its cuisine, romantic cobblestone streets, majestic ocean views and their wine of course. But In addition to all the above mentioned, Italians know their chocolate and end up producing some of the most scrumptious, delightful, and luxurious chocolates in the world. Especially when it comes to high end chocolate, in fact, according to this Washington Times article, Italy’s Good Taste in Chocolate, Italy houses some of the world’s finest chocolate companies including Caffarel, Ferrero, Pernigotti and Venchi, some chocolatiers even winning gold medals in international competitions. According to Francine Segan, who wrote the article, “In just one region of Italy, Piemonte, there are more master chocolatiers than in Belgium and France combined. In Tuscany, there is such a concentration of fine chocolate makers that journalists have dubbed the area between Florence and Pisa the Chocolate Valley.” Also, in Piedmont region of Italy we find Baratti & Milano, a chocolate company in business for over 160 years and whose chocolates wowed the King of the House Of Savoy so much so that they were awarded the Royal Crest and officiated as the Royal Chocolatiers of The Royal House of Savoy, I mean how cool is that??? …. So then what is it exactly that makes Italy such chocolate connoisseurs and why are Italian chocolates the best?

  1.     Passion. Like everything else they do, Italians will do it wholeheartedly.

Italian products in general are unique in that they have a secret ingredient, passion. If its true that Italians can barely make a sound with the dramatization of hand gestures ( I can attest to this being 99.99999 % Italian) then you can only imagine the love and effort put into making chocolate, a food meant for celebration, a universal gift that symbolizes thoughtfulness and love.

  1.     The transparency of ingredients used to make their chocolates.

When was the last time you read the label on your chocolate bar? Notice Palm oil or vegetable oil in there? That is how some chocolate companies are able to cut corners and cut costs instead of using cocoa butter much more expensive and a huge reason why some chocolates cost more than others. In this case the old adage “You get what you pay for” might ring true!

  1.     Only the world’s best cocoa beans are selected.

According to an article that specifically focuses on Italy’s dark chocolate , only extremely high-quality cocoa beans go into Italian dark chocolate. If Italy themselves do not have first-class cocoa beans, they will source the beans from other countries, thus doing what it takes to make sure their cocoa is superior to that of other countries and because of this effort you, the consumer, can taste the difference.

  1.     The craftsmanship of the chocolatiers that produce the chocolates.

Not only are the products that go into the chocolate important but also the chocolatiers making the chocolate and their disciplined methods. Some of the chocolate shops still use “by hand” instructions as they pass down their delicate secrets from generation to generation. With mass production companies slowly pushing out the “mom & pop” shops we are lucky to still have companies that support the cause of keeping the artistry and craftsmanship alive. To read more about the dying art of craftsmanship in Italy, visit The Craftmanship Initiative, the article is about shoes but the concept applies to the craftsmanship of our chocolatiers and truly lays out the importance of shopping local and supporting small businesses!

 

  1.     The ingredients used IN the chocolate must be equal in high quality as the chocolate itself.

What is your favorite chocolate? Do you prefer plain or nuts and fruit? Knowing what is in your chocolate is step number one but when you start adding in other ingredients, it is significant to know that those would be just as important to the chocolatier as the actual cacao bean itself. For example, the Piedmont region of Italy is home to the world famous “Tonda e Gentile” hazelnut. The “Tonda e Gentile” hazelnuts are truly one of a kind with distinctive characteristics and cultivated with the highest level of regard. In fact, the area where the hazelnuts are cultivated is so concentrated in high quality land and cultivation of foods and wines that it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The specific Piedmontese soil is able to sustain the hazelnut trees producing a sweeter, more delicate hazelnut. This particular hazelnut can only be cultivated in certain parts of Italy and has a slightly sweeter taste making it perfect to be used in chocolate especially the two most sought out Italian chocolates Cremino and Gianduiotto.  

So there you have it. With Italians sourcing the finest ingredients, paired with the delicate craftsmanship of the chocolatier and a sprinkle of passion, you end up with a delicious treat of chocolate delicacy. My motto is always, “If you are going to indulge, do so royally and unapologetically”

March 03, 2022