If you love chocolate (and who doesn't)، then you should put Brazil on your sweets radar، forbes reported.
According to a 2016 Brazilian confectioners trade group، in 2016، Brazil landed in the top ten largest markets for confections and candy، notching a 3.6% growth rate compared to an industry standard of 2%. In 2014، retail sales of Brazilian confections topped R$ 8.03 billion (US $2.05 billion) with 2019 projections expected to grow by over 10%، totaling R$ 8.87 billion (US $2.26 billion).
When it comes to chocolate، Brazil is the 7th largest cocoa producer by volume and was the top ten largest chocolate market by volume as well as value in recent years، according to Euromonitor.
While much of Brazil's chocolate sales are of mass-produced candies، there's a growing movement to showcase just how special Brazilian cacao is، and it centers on doing as little to it as possible.
Nugali، a high-end chocolatier founded in 2004، focuses on creating "bean to bar" products، sourcing high-quality cocoa directly from producers using sustainable farming methods. Q Chocolate، a family-owned chocolate business، also puts a precedent on carefully cultivated cacao: Some of the Q collections features chocolate from a single farm، a single vintage and a single batch. Using no preservatives or dyes، Q chocolates aim to put the taste of the cacao fruit directly into a bar. What unites both high-end chocolatiers? They both source their raw ingredients from Leolinda Farms، a family-owned sustainable business in northern Brazil.
The overriding philosophy to making world-class chocolate at Leolinda? It starts with the raw ingredients.
"We try to remove any defects and let the personality of the beans [shine] through، like fruitiness، sometimes floral and woody notes،" Leolinda owner João Dias Tavares says.
Leolinda uses donkeys and workers، rather than machinery to harvest ripe beans. This is because the donkeys can get around the rocky hills in ways that machines can't.
Moreover، much of Leolinda Farms' land is intentionally left untouched to create biodiversity; called "cabruca،" this type of agroforestry means that cacao plants are grown sustainably in open plantations. By law، the farm has to keep 20% of its forest floor intact، and must not develop areas، such as rivers، that have are protected by the government.
Not only does this encourage animals to move freely among the jungles، but keeping tall trees as natural cover provides shade below to the forest floor. "When you have less sun، you have a longer timespan from the flower to the ripe pod،" Tavares says. "[The ripening period] is longer so you have a more developed flavor."
"This way of growing cacao is the reason why we still this forest in this region،" Nugali Chocolate's Ivan Blumenschein adds. "If people were not growing cacao in this area، they would be raising cattle and take down the forest to make it flat."
The cacao fruit، which grows in heavy pods in the jungle، is harvested by hand. Workers scoop out the pulp by hand، discarding any fruit they deem damaged. Once harvested، the pulp is returned to the farm via a donkey، where it is dropped into tanks to ferment. The wet pulp is fermented twice to remove impurities، at which point the pulp drips off، revealing the cacao beans within. The beans are eventually dried، then roasted، at which point they are ready to be processed into chocolate.
"I can make the best bean in the world but if you don't do fantastic work، you kill it،" Tavares says.
Samantha Aquim، a trained chef turned chocolatier for her family's Q Chocolate brand، says that Tavares's no-frills process delivers beans that transform into chocolates with a quantifiable sense of place. "I can either take you to the cacao plantation or I can bring as much of the cacao plantation to you in terms of flavor،" she says.
"People are asking، Are you trying to do the best chocolate in the world? No،" Aquim says. "I'm trying to do the best chocolate [from each seed] because each seed will give you a different personality."
Aquim so believes in letting chocolate shine through that she has developed a Q chocolate with no sugar at all. Not everyone is ready for a no-sugar dark chocolate but Aquim is confident that eventually، chocolate lovers will develop that palate، similar to expanding one's taste in fine wine.
"What I want for the chocolate world is to have this knowledge،" Aquim says. "So that each bar will tell you something you don't know about some place where there is a cacao tree and someone taking care of it."