Friday, June 25, 2010

No Purple Prose: Amano Takes Chuao

Perhaps my dark glasses are deceptive. When I was out sampling chocolate in Manhattan this afternoon, I recognized the manager of the Vosges store on Madison Avenue as someone I know. He didn't seem to recognize me, though, as he glanced in my direction and said "excuse me, we don't allow photographs--kindly erase those images from your camera." Well, sir, I certainly appreciate your point of view, but, no, I will not delete my photos of your Harold-and-the-Purple-Crayon shop.

I wonder if Art Pollard wears dark glasses. Just a day ago he called me and declared, proudly but rather stealthily, "I got Chuao." So Art's company, the Utah-based Amano, joins the European chocolate makers Amedei, Valrhona, and Pralus in sourcing cacao from the world's most coveted appellation, an isolated Venezuelan valley only accessible by boat, or on a six-hour hike from the Ocumare valley, another Amano-supplying Venezuelan coastal region. I can envision Art in the village of Chuao, poised behind a pair of bug-eye glasses and a telephoto lens, in careful defiance of the legendary lockdown on the local cacao imposed by the Italian company Amedei for years. On the other hand, maybe he simply relied on patience and good business sense. "To be fair," Art told me when I spoke to him again earlier this evening, "I didn't start going there until Amedei lost their exclusivity and the beans became more generally available," which happened a couple of years ago.

Art says that the the Chuao beans "tend to be darker in color and in flavor" than their counterparts in nearby Ocumare. In the coming weeks, the foodie media may try to get Art to say something dopey about his new product--that, for instance, he's discovered pure "criollo" beans whose genetics haven't changed since the Spaniards transplanted them from Mesoamerica to Venezuela in the seventeenth century. I'll admit it, the hype about Chuao is such that I even tried to get Art to praise Chuao's holy purity. But cacao just doesn't work like that--the trees reproduce sexually and each generation is different from the last. Nonetheless, in a more nuanced way, the Chuao beans are historically important. "Because of its remoteness," Art says, "its genetics reasonably closely resemble what was planted at that time."


Blogger The Cacaoist said...

EMILY! I'm kicking myself that I didn't recognize you. It's been about 2 years! Those dastardly glasses...

I'm just following company policy, swear it! Vosges has a very specific photograph policy - you can only take pictures if people are in them! I'll throw a few samples your way next time you come in. Hope you're well!

9:48 PM GMT-5  

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