The World’s 10 Best Chocolates Minus 9: The Chuao Experience

Chuao BonBonsChuao BonBons

I've been trying to get this column out for several weeks now, but when I think about Chuao (choo - wow) chocolates, I am too distracted to write about them. This morning, not wishing to keep you from these gems another day, I made my sacrifice and indulged before facing this challenge.... I woke up at 6:00, put on my favorite CD of opera arias, and brewed a pot of San Francisco French Roast. With my coffee and a fresh box of Chuao truffles in hand, and Kiri Te Kanawa singing Dove Sono on the stereo, I submitted to the comfort of the chaise lounge, à la Marie Antoinette, and took my first bite of a Picante truffle....

Welcome to Chuao. Chuao is to chocolate what Beluga is to caviar. A transcendental experience.

I've been a chocophile since the age of three when my mother, herself a chocolatiere, got me hooked. It was not a sugar addiction, but a yearning for the pure, smooth texture and flavor of unadulterated cocoa, that kept my interest in chocolate tasting alive. And while I've tried most of what is touted to be the world's greatest chocolates, including most of those on the Forbes Most Expensive Chocolates list, Chuao stands out as truly unique among them.

The best chocolate starts with the finest cocoa beans; Chuao Chocolatier uses only Venezuelan cocoa, most from its namesake, the Chuao region on the north coast of Venezuela, where arguably the best cocoa originates. The experience that Chuao creates is within the premier chocolate shells.. the creative, artistic, surprising gastronomic assortment of fillings!

FramboiseFramboiseChuao makes 30 to 40 different BonBons (truffles). The Chuao website has beautiful pictures and detailed, no-hype descriptions of its BonBon fillings. But nothing, believe me, nothing can describe the experience of inhaling and tasting a Chuao BonBon. The flavors of the familiar and the exotic, of fruits, nuts, spices, and liqueurs linger on your tongue... at once, you can taste each ingredient individually and the blend of them together. The effect is truly indescribable, just as words or pictures can't do justice to the bouquet, depth, or overtones of a fine wine.

Take for example, the Cardamom: a "soft cream ganache scented with fresh cardamom, covered with Venezuelan dark chocolate." Now you know what is inside this little devil (ganache is mixture of fresh cream and chocolate, fruit, or other flavor ingredients), but you still don't know what is brilliant about this chocolate. You have to taste it. Chuao infuses a variety of spices into its BonBons (cardamom, chile, chipotle, etc.), and the impact is profound... without ever overtaking the chocolate. Even if you don't care for "spicy," you will fall for these truffles.

The Chevere, "a silky goat cheese and Pear Williams buttercream, enhanced with a touch of crushed black peppercorns inside a dark Venezuelan chocolate BonBon," might make you curious or, perhaps, disgusted (who wants goat cheese in their chocolate?), but when you taste it, it all makes perfect, delectable sense.

I've now tried most of Chuao's BonBons (My budget is the worse for it, but I had to do my research!) and, although I'm partial to dark chocolate, I respect every Chuao creation. My faves, if I have to pick, are the Zen, the Framboise, the Candela, the Modena, the Cardamom, the Olivet... Oh jeez, I can't pick them! I love the crunchy ball truffles in Chuao's Nueces collection , a sweet five-piece sampler; the taste is of chocolate and nut, but the texture is more crisp and precise than you expect, like that of a potato chip. Really, your taste buds get a surprise in every piece.

What drives me absolutely crazy are Chuao's hot chocolates, both the Abuela and the Spicy Mayan. Abuela isHot ChocolateHot Chocolate traditionally made in Latin America from cocao, cane juice, and milk and cooked for several hours. I've tried to make it myself, but something (maybe my patience) is always missing. So I was thrilled to find Chuao's ready made cocoa mix, all natural, of course. The hot cocoa is outlandish! Follow the directions and cook the water on the stove, not in the microwave. It makes a big difference!

The Chocopods are another must-have! These pod-shaped chocolate treats are individually wrapped, so you can slip them into a pocket and sneak off somewhere for a fix. ChocoPodChocoPodThere are six choices now and they contain some of the caramels from the BonBon collection... Modena, for example, a "strawberry caramel made with balsamic vinegar from Modena (Italy)," or Candela, a "spicy macadamia praline." The pods are dark chocolate with a tad of filling in the center and are indeed something to look forward to with your mid-morning coffee.

Chuao offers a distinctive selection of wine pairings for your chocolates, that I wholeheartedly recommend for your evening Chuao experience. I am partial to the Edmeades Alden Vineyard Late Harvest Zinfandel, but note that Chuao only ships wine within California. You can look for the Chuao recommended wines near your home or try some that are similar. The Chuao website has some general tips for choosing a wine to accompany your chocolates , as well as information about chocolate, and suggestions on how to taste chocolate!

If you are going to purchase Chuao by mail, I recommend you choose BonBons, Chocopods, or hot chocolate. Otherwise, call (888-635-1444) to find out when some of the other items, like the Chocolate Bars, were packaged. (The freshness of the chocolate allows you to experience Chuao to the maximum.) And If you happen to visit one of Chuao's stores in southern California, make sure you splurge on Chuao's divine flourless desserts.A limited selection of Chuao chocolates are also available from Amazon here.

Chuao is an original, a delicacy... each bite a surprise! The enjoyment of its attributes are to be savored, not consumed. Make an experience out of it. (Eat it while it's fresh!)

There! I'm off to my mid-morning Chocopod break! (As Oscar Wilde said "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it!")

Keeping you posted....

Boomer Babe Featured Blogger

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May 21, 2007
by Anonymous Jon Bonbon (not verified)

Lots of New Chocolate Bars Out There!

I've noticed a bunch of new chocolate bars with fancy names and odd flavors.  This seems to be in response to the most recent reports asserting that there are possible health benefits from eating chocolate.  Now that the candy manufacturers know that more people might be interested in buying chocolate, they have found a way to add more than just flavorings--higher costs.

I tried a rather inexpensive dark chocolate since there was a coupon in the newspaper for a free bar (value $2.50-2.99).  It was "okay", but I'd still rather have a basic Hershey bar (which I can typically purchase on sale at 3 for $1.00).

 Glad you enjoyed your chocolate experience, but I'm not going to buy something new and more expensive if it doesn't really taste any better.

Feb 7, 2008
by Anonymous (not verified)

Try and become a believer

I know that there are several companies trying new flavors and different % bars. For me Hershey is a commercial low price chocolate, to sweet to be a dark chocolate. This is like comparing a Rolls Royce with a Chevrolet AVEO. I am more of a dark chocolate girl. I love 70% and higher, not only because it is good for your health, but because it doesn't have the sugar or milk to change the flavor, you get PURE Chocolate and not pure SUGAR. For me, i have tried several ones like hershey reserve, lindt, amongst other and the best one is the 74% from Chuao Chocolatier. I know the price point is higher but the flavor and aromas are extraordinary. give it a chance before you say no. they also have 61 and 41% bars.