Chocolate With a Conscience

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In terms of helping make the world around him a better place, one man's efforts come to mind. On the islands of Principe and Sao Tome off the coast of Guinea in West Africa, Claudio Corallo is producing some of the most interesting chocolate I've tasted in a long time.

I'm not going to tell you that it's the best in the world. By technical chocolate standards, this one probably falls way off the mark; like the folks at Plantations chocolates in Ecuador, the Bonajuto family on the island of Sicily, and others of our favorite producers around the world, Claudio is doing things his own way, not the way the rest of the chocolate world would have it done. What I will tell you is that it's unquestionably one of my favorites right now--it's my top choice in terms of flavor for its balance, complexity, and really nicely clean finish. And the fact that he's doing such good work to make it happen only makes me all the more supportive of his efforts.

Claudio went down to Sao Tome a few decades ago to contribute something positive to one of the poorer places in Africa. He's grown coffee and then cacao, working to help create a positive life for the people on the island. And in the last five years he's been turning those efforts into what I think is some of the most flavorful chocolate around.

Claudio is unique in my experience in the chocolate world because he thinks of himself as a farmer first. He goes out in the fields every day--the soil and the plants are where it all starts.

He's one of the only people in the world who's doing every step of the work, all the way through from growing to fermentation to grinding, mixing and making the finished chocolate. Claudio is unique in my experience in the chocolate world because he truly thinks of himself as a farmer first. He goes out in the fields every day--the soil and the plants are where it all starts.

As with any great food or wine, the reality is that there's a whole lot of not very glamorous attention to detail and day-to-day, rather drudgerous work, that goes into making it what it is. Claudio's chocolate is as good as it is only because he's so passionately driven to both design and execute the work at extremely high levels of quality and in his own innovative ways. Here are a few of the things he's doing that are making the chocolate so darned delicious:

    • Claudio is working with an ancient strain of cacao, brought to the islands by the Portuguese from Brazil in 1822.

    • To attain the high standards he's looking for, Claudio has designed and built his own fermentation bins and drying platform.

    • In line with what I was saying about unorthodox (in a good way!) behaviors, Claudio has added a couple of special steps to the chocolate making process, believing them to be essential to the quality of the finished product.

Presented by

Ari Weinzweig is co-founder of Zingerman's Community of Businesses, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is also the author of Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating. More

After graduating from University of Michigan with a degree in Russian history, Ari Weinzweig went to work washing dishes in a local restaurant and soon discovered that he loved the food business. Along with his partner Paul Saginaw, Ari started Zingerman's Delicatessen in 1982 with a $20,000 bank loan, a staff of two, a small selection of great-tasting specialty foods, and a relatively short sandwich menu. Today, Zingerman's is a community of businesses that employs over 500 people and includes a bakery, creamery, sit-down restaurant, training company, coffee roaster, and mail order service. Ari is the author of the best-selling Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating and the forthcoming Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon.

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