In 1916 Pure Nacional, a cacao tree variety native to Peru, was hit by a disease that was thought to have destroyed the entire species. But in 2007 the tree was re-discovered growing on farms in Peru’s Marañón Canyon by Dan Pearson and Brian Horsley, who at the time were sourcing fruit. While the original Pure Nacional pods contained purple seeds, and was highly prized for its fruit and delicate floral flavour, the new variety is a rare mix of both purple and white beans.
Pure Nacional features pods with rare white cacao beans
It took two years for Pearson and Horsley, founders of Marañón Chocolate, to develop the white beans. Eventually the chocolate was turned into a couverture – a premium version of chocolate containing a high percentage of cacao – by a prominent yet unnamed Swiss chocolatier. Longitudinal conche equipment from 1879 was even used to preserve its flavour and purity.
Only a small supply of 12 tonnes of chocolate was produced this year, and was quickly bought up by companies around the world. Another supply is not expected to be ready for at least a year.
Edmonton, Alta.-based Sweet Lollapalooza Confections is one of only two Canadian companies to acquire any of the new chocolate – the other is Montreal’s Christophe Morel Chocolatier – and the only in Western Canada. “It’s got a very distinctive flavour,” says Brett Roy, owner and chocolatier for Sweet Lollapalooza Confections. “It’s got a nutty, berry flavour with a cherry note to it, and it’s completely smooth with no bitterness. I’ve never tasted anything like this before.”
Brett Roy of Edmonton’s Sweet Lollapalooza Confections is one of only two Canadian chocolatiers to be working with the new chocolate
Roy is currently waiting for the arrival of his shipment of the new chocolate variety, named Fortunato No. 4 after the family running the farm on which it was found, as well as on the testing carried out during its development. Explains Roy: “Eighty-one tests were done on how to use this new variety, how to roast and conche it, and the fourth test was considered to produce the best results.”
Sweet Lollapalooza Confections, which produces handmade, top-quality chocolates, will feature the new variety in chocolate bars and a chocolate ganache to be used in Valentine’s Day products. “It works like any other chocolate,” says Roy. “It’s really the unique taste that makes it special.”
The super-premium chocolate also comes with a premium price tag. “I’ve paid about 40 per cent more for this than I’d pay for the premium-quality estate-grown chocolate I usually buy,” says Roy, adding that because of supply and harvest limitations the specialty chocolate will likely not be widely available. But, he says, it’s already generated a lot of interest. “We’ve had a lot of enquiries about it. Hopefully we should have it in any day, and begin selling it by next week.”