You read that right. $300 chocolate. Now, we are happy to call ourselves some of the biggest chocolate lovers on the planet, so that seriously caught our attention. What is this magical treat?! Well, it’s To’ak Chocolate, and you should definitely be putting it on your wish list this holiday season! It’s the world’s most expensive chocolate, but it’s worth every bite thanks to it’s Ecuadorian sourcing and single-origin, completely unique taste profile. Chocolate lovers, line up! Jerry Toth, Co-Founder of To’ak Chocolate, is here to give us the low down on this famous sweet…
What does chocolate mean to you?
Does chocolate differ based on where it comes from?
Very much so. Just like wine, the flavor and aroma profile of a given dark chocolate is influenced by the variety of the cacao, the soil and climate conditions in which it was grown (i.e., terroir), and the production methods used to convert it into chocolate. Here are but a few examples of how these elements shape what you, as the taster, experience inside your mouth:
Dark chocolate from Ghana, which is primarily produced from the Amelonado variety, is kind of like the Merlot of the dark chocolate world. It often has a mild tannic structure, which makes it very approachable, particularly to people who are new to dark chocolate and haven’t yet developed an appreciation for its inherent bitterness. It’s flavor profile is usually dominated by classic “chocolatey” notes, occasionally with a trace of red fruits.
Criollo dark chocolate from Madagascar, on the other hand, is known for a rather lively citric acidity—akin to a fruit-forward New World wine. If you’re organizing a tasting of dark chocolate from various different growing regions throughout the world, Madagascar chocolate is a good one to include, simply because it’s acidic fruit-forward profile is so distinctive. For this same reason, however, it also has a reputation for one-dimensionality.
Although I am admittedly biased, it is fair to say that Nacional cacao from Ecuador most likely claims the greatest degree of complexity among all dark chocolates. Floral, fruity, nutty, and vegetal/earthy notes are all characteristics of Nacional cacao, and in some cases can all be perceived in the same bar of Ecuadorian dark chocolate. The other big thing to look for, especially with Ecuadorian cacao, is complexity. A good Ecuadorian chocolate will unfold like a miniature movie inside your mouth, with a cast of different characters and a developing plot line.
How is To’ak chocolate made?
First, you harvest the fruit of the cacao tree. You ferment the seeds, which are encased in a sweet white flesh, and then dry these seeds, which are also called beans. The beans are then carefully roasted, de-shelled, and ground into tiny bits, which are called nibs. In the most basic sense, dark chocolate is made by further grinding and liquefying the nibs through heat and mixing them with varying amounts of sugar. If you want to make milk chocolate, then you add milk to this mixture. But if you want to make white chocolate, that’s a different story. First, you have to press the cacao beans to extract the fat. You discard the solids (which is where all the antioxidants and other good stuff is) and only use the fat. Then you add milk and sugar. White chocolate is cacao fat, milk, and sugar–that’s pretty much it.
Your chocolate comes at a pretty steep price tag! What makes it worth it?
We use the oldest and rarest variety of cacao on earth, which goes back over 5,300 years and was believed to be extinct as of ten years ago. We produce extremely small editions, typically as few as 100 bars per edition, and so we’re able to devote a great amount of love and attention to every single detail of every single bar. Each bar is packaged in a hand-crafted Spanish Elm wood box with the individual bar number engraved on the back. It includes a 116-page booklet and specially designed tasting utensils that are used to explore the signature aroma of heirloom Ecuadorian cacao. In some cases, our chocolate is aged for several years in cognac or whisky casks that have been carefully selected for their extractable compounds. I would also like to point out that part of the price of our bar is re-invested in both the people we work with and the land we work on. We pay our cacao growers the highest price in all of Ecuador, we donate part of sales to the Ecuadorian rainforest conservation foundation Third Millennium Alliance, and we are working on the ground to preserve this variety of cacao before it goes extinct.
How would you eat or what would you pair the chocolate with?
To’ak chocolate is a special experience on it’s own, but pairing it with certain wines and spirits can take it to an even higher level. Well-aged cognac, certain whiskies, well-aged rum, and sweet fortified wines like vintage port and Pedro Ximénez Sherry are our favorites, although some añejo tequilas can work, and we’ve even had success with absinthe. Contrary to popular belief, red wine is a much trickier pairing partner with dark chocolate; the tannins in red wine tend to clash with the tannins in dark chocolate, although exceptions can be found. Some white wines can be made to work, although sweet dessert wines and especially sweet fortified wines tend to work far better. Likewise, sweeter champagnes tend to work better than dry champagnes.