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Bonnat's Venezuelan Chocolates
November 16, 2006
9:14 pm
Scott--DFW
Dallas, USA
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Does anyone know for sure what kind of beans Bonnat uses for its three Venezuelan bars: Puerto Cabello, Hacienda el Rosario, and Chuao? I can’t find any indication on the bars themselves or on Bonnat’s web site as to whether they’re Trinitarios or Criollos.

Scott

November 17, 2006
5:27 pm
Eshra
Southgate, USA
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I haven’t tried Bonnat’s Chuao due to the fact that it isn’t Chuao. Only Amedei has access to Chuao beans, so anything labelled ‘Chuao’ by another company is false and misrepresentative.

My favourite bar by Bonnat is their Puerto Cabello. This bar has character and is using different beans from the El Rosario, I assure you;)

November 18, 2006
8:44 pm
Hans-Peter Rot
USA
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There is no proof suggesting that Bonnat’s Chuao is not “Chuao.” Likewise, there is no proof claiming that Amedei has sole rights to Chuao’s *entire* production. The matter is not as simple as Amedei would like you to believe.

Chuao is not only a plantation, but also a village, a valley, and a cooperative called the Chuao Farmers Work Company, the latter of which does not consist of every Chuao farmer in the valley. Furthermore, the rights Amedei allegedly possess clash harshly with Chavez’s ag policy and is counterproductive to obliging buyers to pay higher prices for a crop that fetches a high price on the world market. By placing a ceiling on some of the world’s most expensive (and highest demand) cacao seems ridiculous to any ag policy, especially for a country (i.e. Venezuela) who is struggling to re-establish its ag sector.

It is possible for Amedei to have access to a portion of the “Chuao” beans but not all. Amedei claims access to 140ha but the valley is larger than 200ha. That’s only 70% accountability. And as aforementioned, not everyone in Chuao is a member of the coop.

Anyway, do not always believe what a company tells you because they will say what they want you to believe. They omit crucial information necessary to understand the full situation (this is what is called marketing). It’s important to read between the lines and be a detective. For example, if you see “puerto” in the name of the chocolate, understand that the cacao comes from various locations and can vary in type outside the discretion of the seller. Likewise, much of the cacao coming from other plantations, villages, regions, whatever, may be a conglomeration of differing cacaos and not always the same kind.

November 22, 2006
11:57 am
Domenico
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Hi Monte,
Thanks for this information. It helps a lot as some doubts were always there. In fact one small question remains:
Why did then Valrhona had to stop the production of Chuao three years ago on the litigation of Amedei?
And, why is it so hard to find any other bar called “Chuao” on the market. Bonnat’s is to my knowledge, the only exception (well once I also tasted a Japanese chuao bar as well…), but please correct me if I am wrong. The other thing is that at some cacao plantations they try to handle “chuao” as a distinct cultivar . I am not convinced this is the case as in the peninsula, a mixture of Forastero and Criollo trees grow (again to my knowledge).

November 22, 2006
5:34 pm
Hans-Peter Rot
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I think the answer could be multifacted but perhaps the most practical reason could be the most revealing. Did you ever taste the last batches of Chuao that Valrhona produced? It tasted nothing like Chuao (to the extent of my knowledge). It would look quite bad for a prestigious company such as Valrhona to produce a subpar chocolate, while Amedei, who is in direct competition with Valrhona, is producing a far superior chocolate that is in fact one of the best in the world. Such a night-and-day contrast could be negative for Valrhona’s image, so the obvious solution is to remove Chuao from production and focus on chocolate at which they excel.

November 22, 2006
9:44 pm
Alex Rast
Manchester, United Kingdom
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quote:


Originally posted by Domenico

… The other thing is that at some cacao plantations they try to handle “chuao” as a distinct cultivar . I am not convinced this is the case as in the peninsula, a mixture of Forastero and Criollo trees grow (again to my knowledge).


Well, Chuao isn’t actually a peninsula – it’s a village embedded on a coast, but there is something of a mix that has historically been grown in the area. However, in addition the Chuao cacao has a very distinct flavour indeed, and what people have done is to isolate those trees responsible for the best cacao and produce clones (most cacao seedlings come from clones) This is how you get Chuao varietals. Domori, for example, is supposedly experimenting with them. There was also, interestingly, a time when “Chuao” was used to designate a *grade* – the finest grade cacao regardless of origin, in much the same way that names of mines were once used to grade diamonds before the well-known GIA system became the norm.

For a while Pralus produced a Chuao, but that has since gone. I don’t think there is anyone else consciously trying to use the name, probably in part because of what Monte mentions – hard to compete with Amedei on quality grounds so why even try? You’re setting yourself up to fail.

Alex Rast
Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com

Alex Rast Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com
December 12, 2006
9:57 pm
Scott--DFW
Dallas, USA
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quote:


Originally posted by Montegrano

For example, if you see “puerto” in the name of the chocolate, understand that the cacao comes from various locations and can vary in type outside the discretion of the seller.


Do you have Bonnat’s “Puerto Cabello” in mind? Puerto Cabello is a port town on the coast. Does the name just mean that the beans are being bought from brokers in that port town, or that the beans are actually produced somewhere in or around the town? It’s profoundly unhelpful that Bonnat’s web site doesn’t provide any specifics (even as to bean type).

Scott

January 31, 2007
5:16 am
Nicholas Zukin
Vancouver, WA, USA
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quote:


Did you ever taste the last batches of Chuao that Valrhona produced? It tasted nothing like Chuao (to the extent of my knowledge). It would look quite bad for a prestigious company such as Valrhona to produce a subpar chocolate, while Amedei, who is in direct competition with Valrhona, is producing a far superior chocolate that is in fact one of the best in the world. Such a night-and-day contrast could be negative for Valrhona’s image, so the obvious solution is to remove Chuao from production and focus on chocolate at which they excel.


Hmm. I prefer Valrhona’s version to Amedei’s, even after sitting in boxes for 4 years. In general, I think I prefer Domori and Valrhona’s chocolates to Amedei’s. (Which is great, given the price difference.) But admittedly, I don’t have as experienced or educated a palate as many here.

Scott, did you ever get an answer to your question elsewhere?

January 31, 2007
12:20 pm
Polarbear
Tromsø, Norway
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Generally I think Amedei is the prime example of a chocolate maker’s “company taste” overwhelming the bean taste. Everything they make has a more or less strong hint of raisin – surely there are some differences, but IMHO, their 66% and 70% are just as good as the Chuao.

***
My name is Polarbear and I am a chocoholic…

*** My name is Polarbear and I am a chocoholic...
January 31, 2007
4:33 pm
cacaocontent
St. Louis, MO, USA
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I don’t mean to come of like a PR person, but I recently finished reading Mort Rosenblum’s book, Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light, and it has a lot of fantastic information about the history of chocolate, several well known chocolatiers, information about tasting chocolate (Chloe D-R is heavily featured), and the complicated world of cacao production and sales – including the Chuao/Amedei connection.
many growers are in business for themselves and their families, and will make an “exclusive” deal with one buyer after he has developed a good business relationship with them (and also offered them a great deal of money) but they can also turn around and make another “exclusive” deal with someone else who invests even more time and money.

January 31, 2007
5:03 pm
seneca
USA
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Just a note of dissent on the Amedei quality issue. While I think their chocolate is certainly fine, I think their blends (the Tavoletta line 70, 66 and milk) in particular are quite overrated, and accordingly overpriced. Give me the Cluizel 72 Noir Amer anyday for a lot less money and just as good a finish.

On the origin question, I think we’ll really be getting somewhere when I can read an externally verifiable appellation and varietal claim on any package. I’m not knocking the quality of Amedei’s Porcelana or Chuao bars, but on the origin front they’re really no more verifiable for the consumer than any other bars out there making similar claims.

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com http://www.bittersweetcafe.com
January 31, 2007
5:50 pm
Masur
Stockholm, Sweden
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Amedei Chuao provides proof of origin:

quote:


The cacao from the village Chuao in Venezuela is world famous for its quality. . . . The Cacao de Chuao was recognised as an appellation of origin through Resolution No. 2006 of the Republic of Venezuela on November 14, 2000


Source:
[url]http://www.origenandino.com/eng/e_indicaciones_cacao_chuao.htm[/url]

No need to expect proof from Bonnat about their Chuao until their “battle” with Amedei is settled.

“Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos” (Maricel E. Presilla)

"Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos" (Maricel E. Presilla)
January 31, 2007
5:59 pm
seneca
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But I’m sure Bonnat makes the same claim :-) A comprehensive appellation system that is rigorous and provides some market disclipline is going to me a must moving forward in the world of cacao.

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com http://www.bittersweetcafe.com
January 31, 2007
6:41 pm
Masur
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quote:


But I’m sure Bonnat makes the same claim


I don’t think Bonnat can make the same claim even if they provide proof of origin. Check this PDF-file and “Branding the Chuao Cocoa Bean”:
[url]http://www.wipo.int/freepublications/en/general/121/2004/wipo_pub_121_2004_01-02.pdf[/url]

“Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos” (Maricel E. Presilla)

"Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos" (Maricel E. Presilla)
January 31, 2007
7:47 pm
seneca
USA
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Interesting! My point is just that we’re talking here about one of the very few cacao appellations that exists at all, and even then we’re not clear on questions of origin (hence this thread). These claims should be independently verifiable, and that will be crucial in the future if cacao appellation is going to continue to/begin to matter to consumers.

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com http://www.bittersweetcafe.com
January 31, 2007
8:01 pm
Scott--DFW
Dallas, USA
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quote:


Originally posted by Nicholas Zukin

Scott, did you ever get an answer to your question elsewhere?


No. If I had to guess, based on some of the vague comments I’ve read, I would say Bonnat is probably using a blend of beans for each of the Venezuelan bars. (I did have one person who had visited the port city of Puerto Cabello tell me that there is definitely no cacao produced in or around the city, and that the locals were quite amused that anyone would name a chocolate Puerto Cabello.)

Scott

January 31, 2007
8:03 pm
Masur
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I agree we should ask for proof so claims could be independently verifiable. I’ve heard of no other official “appellation of origin” than Chuao from Amedei. What about Hacienda el Rosario if Bonnat provide transparency and the ability to check for proof?

“Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos” (Maricel E. Presilla)

"Porcelana: The Holy Grail of Pure Criollos" (Maricel E. Presilla)
January 31, 2007
9:06 pm
seneca
USA
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That would be great! Although I still don’t really think Amedei’s Chuao story is very well-realized or all that verifiable either:
http://www.amedei.com/pdf/amed….._chuao.pdf

I’m not specifically out to critisize Amedei here, but since they are the first to bring to market such high-priced origin bars, I think they need to be held to the highest standards, and I think what we’re seeing is that (as I said above) the market overall needs some disclipline and organization. If I’m going to shell out $300/kilo for a plantation origin chocolate, I think I deserve the same kind of appellation verification that I can get for similar outlays in the worlds of wine, cheese or olive oil…

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com

http://bittersweetcafe.blogspot.com http://www.bittersweetcafe.com