The Castronovo Chuao 72% 2020 Harvest Dark Chocolate Bar is nothing short of exceptional. This is a rich, indulgent chocolate masterpiece with subtle notes of lightly toasted nuts and a whisper of pleasant acidity. This exquisite bar is truly one to savor mindfully.
Chuao beans are prized for their high quality and are considered one of the world's rarest and finest cacao beans. The Chuao region, in the cloud forest of the northern coastal range of Venezuela, is hemmed in by mountains. The only way to access this remote area is to board a boat or walk through the jungle. The supply of this variety of Chuao cacao beans is extremely limited.
Experts agree that the Chuao are choice beans not only because of their unique genetics but also because of the intense work of La Empresa Campesina of Chuao during the pre-harvest, harvest and post-harvest. This female-run company has exclusive rights to harvest the Chuao beans, which have been growing in the village for more than 400 years. These women are descendants of the slaves of Chuao’s last-surviving Spanish heir, Doña Catalina, and now the plantation is entirely theirs to tend with love and care. Their excellent farming, fermenting and drying techniques have been passed along from generation to generation, and therefore, the exceptional quality of the Chuao cacao beans has remained consistent throughout the years. As the women work, they sing, “Long live the Chuao cacao, founded by Doña Catalina. It is rich and tasty and harvested by all of us!”
La Empresa Campesina of Chuao and their partners have created a Traceability Certificate to ensure that only the Chuao beans harvested in the Chuao village wind up in chocolate bars that are marketed as Chuao origin. Only a few chocolate makers, such as Denise Castronovo and a few other Barometer Chocolate favorites including Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé, Chapon and Soma, are assigned an allotment of Chuao beans and an identifying serial number. This is what the traceability certificate looks like:
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.
For Denise, making bean-to-bar craft chocolate is a way to improve lives and livelihoods of indigenous people. She insists on protecting the rainforests by supporting natural utilization of the land. None of Denise Castronovo’s beans come from manicured cacao plantations that had once been lush rainforests, cut down in the name of profit. All of the cacao beans she uses to make her luscious bars and treats either grow naturally in the wild or come from small, family-owned farms where cacao just happens to be one of their crops.
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: Cocoa Beans, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Cocoa Butter
- Net Weight: 62 g. / 2.2 oz.
- Country of Origin: USA