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To'ak: the most expensive dark chocolate in the world – Italian Cuisine


A real jewel arrives from Ecuador in numbered tablets, obtained from a variety of cocoa thought to be extinct

The history of cocoa is lost in the mists of time. A recent Canadian research, conducted by the University of Calgary and the University of British Columbia, has found that the earliest traces of its domestic consumption date back to 5300 years ago, in some communities settled in the highlands of Ecuador. And it is precisely from those suggestive South American lands that today arrive the prestigious products of To'ak Chocolate: a successful company in the enterprise of recovering a variety of cocoa that scholars thought extinct – the ancient Nacional, already grown over 5 thousand years ago ago – turning his beans into chocolate bars, to say the least, exclusive.

The Nacional cacao tree.
The Nacional cacao tree.

These incredibly rare plants, actually very popular until the early nineties, when they were exterminated in mass by a disease called "broom of the witch", have been found for the accuracy in the Ecuadorian province of Manabi, already known worldwide for the excellence of its cocoa crops. DNA tests have confirmed the origin and the genotype, and so the founders of To'ak – Jerry Toth and Carl Schweizer – have started to use the seeds to give life to their special dark chocolate. At the same time working to promote conservation and reproduction, working side by side with the Third Millennium Alliance foundation.

"Imagine that all the Pinot Noir vines of the planet were lost due to illness or hybridization, with the exception of very few specimens scattered in one or two valleys of Burgundy," explain Toth and Schweizer. "This is basically what happened to the cacao Nacional. Now the challenge is to convince farmers to re-seed this variety, which compared to the more modern hybrids gives much lower yields, but at the same time has no equal on the quality front ".

The To'ak chocolate packs.
The To'ak chocolate packs.

And this is what makes To'ak's products unique on an international level: very few plants, far from abundant crops, but at the same time excellent quality, for a cocoa with incredibly complex organoleptic characteristics. The result is a chocolate that for craftsmanship and refinement can be compared only to the finest wines and whiskeys on the market, becoming in all respects a luxury item. Every single 50 gram bar is in fact numbered and sold in a special elm wood box, inside which are all the necessary utensils for tasting, together with a guide to consciously approach the tasting of chocolate and a book with the history of the Nacional.

This goes from the El Niño tablet, made with cocoa harvested in 2016 at the end of the rainy season, with hints of mint and red fruits, up to more structured variants such as the Islay Whiskey Cask: in this case the stay of the beans for three years in barrels used for the aging of whiskey gives powerful scents of caramelized fruit and honey, with a pinch of smoke. Prices? Not exactly accessible, as is easy to imagine. It ranges from 249 euros of the most recent product, that given from the 2017 harvest, to over 320 euros of the most sought after and aged versions. Already, hundreds of euros for 50 grams of chocolate: a remarkable sacrifice, it is true, but necessary to be able to grab what is in effect the most prestigious chocolate on the planet. To be tasted without haste, piece after piece, for a moment of pure fond ecstasy.

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