For me the love of chocolate not only comes from the bean, but also the person. A cacao tree is just a tree. Without human intervention it can never become chocolate. Without people sticking their neck on the line you’ll never have fine chocolate and without people doing things differently we’ll have to endure a life of boring, mass-produced, homogeneous chocolate.
Claudio Corallo may not be the only late-middle-aged man running acre farm and making chocolate from its bounty but there does seem to be something different about its approach. Now, I might be falling victim to the clever marketing and myth-making that many tree to, or, bean-to-bar companies are adept to portray, but I do get a sense there’s more reality than spin to his story.
Príncipe, one half of the island nation of Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe is located some 250 miles from Gabon where the Terreiro Velho has been home to Claudio since he purchased it in 1997 and begain a back-breaking programme of renovation and care for the historic cacao that blessed his land. But toil without skill is meaningless. It appears that Claudio has instilled exacting processes not only in selection of fruit to work with but also the entire chocolate making process from fermentation, roasting, bean selection, etc. That fastidious nature, to my mind at least, does result in very in very fine chocolate.
Opening up the foil wrapper you’re smacked in the face with aroma. It’s dominated by cherry, charred toast, balsamic. It’s blissful. However, much chocolate has an enticing aroma but falls flat on the flavour. This chocolate is labelled ‘soft’ and that’s exactly what it turns out to be. Letting it melt slowly on the tongue those cherry flavours return, but accompanied by almond and those minute cocoa nibs, although almost hidden, add a the very slightest touch of piquancy.
This chocolate neither intended to be polished, pretty or punchy. It does, however, edge close to perfection – but only if you’re able to view it for what it is intended to be – soft. Of course Claudio was blessed with great cacao, which only needed a three-hour conch, but as an estate owner, he obviously need cacao when you purchased the land and his faith in the terroir has been repaid with such a fine chocolate.