The Castronovo Arhuacos 80% Ancestral Cacao Dark Chocolate bar is both intense and elegant, full of rich chocolate flavor with notes of honey, white grape, orange blossom and a hint of nuts. It’s a truly scrumptious bar that I find hard to put down, and I’m usually one who is most satisfied with just a square or two. There’s absolutely no bitterness in this delectably creamy 80% bar.
The bar comes to us with an important message from El Mamo Camilo, the spiritual leader of the Arhuaco, one of the four indigenous tribes who protect the stunning wilderness of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Northern Colombia. El Mamo Camilo exhorts us as lovers of fine cacao and fellow inhabitants of the planet, “You need to listen to the elements: the wind, water, and the ancestral cacao from our forest. They ask you to protect Mother Earth and to be mindful of how you change nature. Those who listen will become part of the Sierra Nevada.”
Denise Castronovo (chocolate maker extraordinaire) and a team of chocolate professionals (including a friend and colleague of mine), were granted a rare visit with the Arhuaco people on a trip to Colombia in 2019. Typically El Mamo Camilo doesn’t meet with strangers so this was a most special honor indeed, indicating the deep trust he has in Denise and those who traveled with her to the place the Arhuacos consider the “heart of the world.”
Featured on the front of this bar’s wrapper (and in the above photo), is Hernan, the man who stands next in line to become El Mamo. Denise asked if she could have his portrait painted for the bar and he agreed. Upon seeing the portrait he was most pleased except for the artist’s rendition of his chin, which he believed to be too round!
When he finished his first bite of the Castronovo bar named after his tribe, El Mamo Camilo remained silent for a moment and then he remarked, “This chocolate captures the essence of the Arhuaco cacao.” Now that is high praise! If you’re curious to taste this tempting and truly special bar from the heart of the world, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. I am confident that you’ll love it.
To learn more about the Arhuaco people, descendants of the Tairona, an ancient cacao-growing and drinking civilization that dates back to the 1st century AD, watch this video.
I've had the pleasure of meeting Denise Castronovo, the maker of this fine chocolate bar. Denise leads the pack of solo female chocolate makers, a rare breed and a group I love to support. She is the only one among them whose U.S. bean-to-bar company has amassed dozens of awards from the International Chocolate Awards (as well as Academy of Chocolate Awards and Good Food Awards). You might expect that a maker as accomplished as Denise has spent a lifetime working in the world of craft chocolate, or at least in the food and pastry industry. Actually, in her former career Denise was an ecologist and preservationist after having studied environmental science and economics in undergrad and graduate school.
Denise had always been a foodie and fine chocolate lover thanks to an aunt who lived in Switzerland and kept her supplied with spectacular chocolate bars that were unavailable in the United States. Those bars, far superior to any chocolate she had ever tasted, made an impact that imprinted on her soul. After a long and successful career dedicated to protecting the environment through mapping technology and spatial analysis, Denise and her husband moved from Massachusetts to Florida, where she decided to approach protection of the environment from a far tastier perspective.
In 2008, Denise bought some cacao nibs from Whole Foods with which to experiment, and began doing research on cacao. She was fascinated by all the different flavor notes and profiles based on genetics and origin. Eventually, in 2013, Denise began to work with fine, heirloom, single origin cacao in earnest, and knew she had found her calling.
Extremely talented and perhaps just a little bit lucky, her first batch of chocolate turned out absolutely delicious, and that kept her motivated to make more. Most craft makers talk about the many mistake batches of “bad” chocolate they had to endure before they honed their skills and turned out something truly special. Denise magically skipped that phase.
Denise is an inspired artisan as well as a steward of the land and protector of indigenous communities. Her chocolate is exceptional, and I know you will appreciate the fine flavor of her bars as well as her commitment to nurturing the natural world and its inhabitants.
- Ingredients: Organic Cocoa Beans, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Cocoa Butter
- Net Weight: 62 g. / 2.2 oz.
- Country of Origin: USA