Today, on to Venezuela, which might not have the long history of ancient cacao use that Guatemala has, but in terms of quality, remains the king of cacao. After a mere two hours sleep, a pleasant flight with another stop off in Costa Rica, I arrived in a hot, steamy, Caracas in the afternoon.
I was met by Venezuelan pastry chef and chocolatier, Andrés Zakhour. Andrés had until recently worked in the UK for five years, in Michelin star restaurants as well as spending time working with Bill McCarrick at the Sir Hans Sloane Chocolate company, which is how we met.
Andrés has plans to start a quality bean to bar chocolate company in Venezuela, which could be a great project, and it would be a real boost to have a fine chocolate made in a cacao producing country that even gets close to the quality of the best European or US makers.
After the airport, we drove straight to the city to check out a couple of Caracas’s chocolate shops. The first – called simply Kakao – used very modern, colourful design, with plenty of photos of pods around the place. We bought a couple of bars and tried a few ganaches. These were not bad, if a little grainy and sweet. The chocolate would have been El Rey, which is probably the only choice available to chocolatiers in Venezuela at the moment, apart from a few artisans.
Finally we repaired to Andrés’s family home. It was great not to spend the night in a hotel for a change and to enjoy some home comforts. Another bonus was the prospect of a full night’s sleep. We had an early start the next day, and it would be great to be well rested for a change. Tomorrow we head for Choroni, home to many famous names in the chocolate pantheon.