Friday, December 28, 2007

Puerto Rican Chocolate

It took me three days to get there, but I spent my winter break under a sun umbrella, above the beach, at the new Flamboyan Guest House on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. In the early part of the twentieth century, Vieques was covered in sugarcane. Later in the twentieth century, it was covered in US-government-issued weapons, used in maneuvers on the military base that replaced the sugar fields. These days, it's covered with travelers who go to sail, swim, hide out from law enforcement, or (like me) read books without anybody bothering them. One thing Vieques is not--and never has been--is covered in chocolate. I never even saw a Hershey's Tropical Chocolate Bar.

However, on my way to the island, I did find the new Corne Port-Royal Chocolatier at #204 San Justo Street in Old San Juan. The proprietors are a Belgian man trained as nurse and his Puerto Rican wife who has some experience working behind the counter in Brussels chocolate shops. Corne Port-Royal is an old fashioned business based in Belgium, and the lovely wife told me that the San Juan shop has exclusive rights to import the bon bons, cookies, and jarred preserves. They opened seven weeks ago and they're slowly learning the ins and outs of management, marketing, publicity, accounting, and importing. Their last shipment ran into trouble in the Panama Canal and arrived several months late, but otherwise, they told me, things are looking up.

I thought about suggesting that they move on from Belgian chocolate. Why pay so much money to send candy weighed down with sugar and preservatives across the high seas? In Puerto Rico, you could buy domestic. Why not open an account with a newsworthy chocolatier in San Francisco, or Philadelphia, or even Providence, Rhode Island? Better yet, just bring in a fine American couverture and develop your own line of bon bons.

But it wasn't my business. This couple wanted to open up a Belgian chocolate shop in Old San Juan, and so they have. The chocolate-covered bit of marzipan I bought to eat on the spot brightened my day, and I'm sure the bon bons will have the same effect on many more tourists. Belgian chocolates may not be the most innovative in the world. And after their trip across the Atlantic, these Corne Port-Royal bon bons may not be the freshest. But the husband and wife won't let quality slack. On the second floor of the colonial building that houses their shop, they've built a secure cold room to protect their chocolate from the balmy Puerto Rican climate--if the temperature rises, an alarm will sound and emergency repair men will be dispatched to the scene within minutes.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Veronica said...

Miss Emily, I think you misunderstood the story. The chocolates are brought in by air in the most strict conditions and the chocolates are the freshest you can find in Puerto Rico. You are right in something ,they are expensive.But besides being traditional Belgian chocolates the fact of being handcrafted by professional chocolatiers makes them special and being recognized as the second best in Europe is not bad at all.
Maybe you were confused when the couple explained that the reason for bringing the chocolates by air is because by sea you cannot control the time of arriving.This happened to their own stuff when they moved to Puerto Rico , their household made a cruise in the caribbean before them !!!
I hope your comments dont harm that beautifull bussines because it is a marvelous product and I personally enjoy them every know and then.

3:28 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Rodrigo said...

Veronica you are right ! I found my way to this store and I have become an addict to Corne Port Royal chocolates. A friend of mine usualy brought me some other branded chocolates when he goes to europ , but by far these ones are the finest I have ever tasted. I was in the store talking to Jo and Vanessa about the chocolates (believe me , they know what they are talking about!!)and they told me also that the chocolates were flown in by plane and it takes about 36 to 48 hours to do so in a special container with temperature and humidity control.
Dont worry , I have already told my family and friends about this shop in the old san juan and all of us "sanjuanitos" are proud to have this quality in our city

10:49 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello,
I would like to know if this store is yet opened [11.9.2009] ?
Thank you.
Kind Regards.

9:38 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cried when they closed. Loved their selection especially the chocolate cover orange peels.

9:42 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Israel said...

Sept. 22-23 San Juan Convention Ctr., Coffee and Choc. Expo. Sandra Farms coffee 100% Adjuntas Mountain Grown will have a very pleasant surprise for coffee/choc. lovers...heads up ! Remember: "Apasionados*" yummy !

6:51 AM GMT-5  

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