For decades Venezuela has been touted as the capital cacáo-growing country in the world, based on earned reputation & the strength of Maricel Presilla’s correct evaluation at the time in her book New Taste of Chocolate (originally published in 2001), so much so the C-spot™ refers to it as Venzy – the Mercedes Benz of chocolate. Right on its heels comes Ecuador in the minds & tastes buds of the chocolate cartel – those gurus establishing popular opinion on who/what/where does or doesn’t set the bar in this field.

With Chaveztistas running roughshod over large parts of Venezuela’s agricultural & social landscape… coupled to Ecuador’s once-famed / now-fabled Nacional variety rapidly supplanted by ever ubiquitous dumb-clones such as CCN-51, to go along with its shoddy track record of post-harvest practices… as well as Trinidad, home to one of the great cacáo research centers, seeing many of its fertile groves lie fallow due to the island’s off-shore oil boom that diverts labor away from lower-wage cacáo production… the field is shifting. Perhaps the best place where cacáo trees sway may be elsewhere judging from the unexpected work of 2 upstarts.

Both Rogue & Mast Bros are fledgling lines whose releases to date prove it, albeit locked ‘n loaded with potential, & promises of better to come. Each has one bar, however, from the same origin that dramatically raises the curve on their overall average, prompting consideration that that origin might have grounds to be arguably the best source of all.

Further buttressing its status are another couple bars (one of longstanding reputation) by makers from whom great results are routinely expected – Cluizel’s stellar Los Ancones & Vestri’s equally vaunted Vista Alegre. Add to these the recent reports of Chocolate Alchemist John Nanci & The Dominican Republic can stake a claim to the top spot.

While sitting on a panel of “chocolate experts”, a well-known chocophile in the audience asked what accounts for DR’s supremacy, however temporary.

A: Well, it’s a special fertilizer that farmers down there spray on their trees.

Q: What’s so special about it?

A: It’s high in uric acid.

Q: Who makes it & does it cost a lot?

A: No, it’s really cheap, organic too, & farmers can produce it themselves!

Q: Does it require any technical equipment?

A: Hardly; they use their very own tools; whatever they got in the shed.

Seriously now, the genetic stock (diverse), the soil (permeable), the weather (conditions ranging from fabulous to ideal), & post-harvest handling (husbanding continues to improve & in some areas approaches highly advanced – for example, Rizek abandoning wood during fermentation for plastic which yields, theoretically, a cleaner / purer taste)… all of which – at least for the 2008 vintage – aligned for a harmonic convergence.

Move over, Hugo.

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