Sampling Thought-to-Be-Extinct Chocolate

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Lauren Shockey
What's old is new again.

Thought to be extinct and essentially lost for the past hundred years, the Pure Nacional variety of the cacao tree was just recently rediscovered in Peru. Which is great news for chocoholics, because this type of tree was renowned a century ago and was used to make some of the best chocolates at the time. So what better way to celebrate its return to civilization than by eating chocolate made from its beans!

The chocolate -- called Fortunado No. 4 and produced by Marañón Chocolate -- was recently unveiled at New York City's Institute of Culinary Education, where experts discussed the beans' usage.

Because the beans are so precious, only certain chocolatiers have been able to produce confections. In fact, only Portland-based Moonstruck has been authorized to sell them in the United States. But they can be ordered online, in the form of chocolate-covered beans and regular bars.

One interesting fact is that some of the cacao beans are white-colored and some are purple, which you can determine by biting into the chocolate-covered beans. White beans have fewer bitter anthocyanins (an antioxidant that gives foods their dark hues), and produce a more mellow-tasting, less acidic chocolate. It's actually the result of a mutation that happens when trees are left undisturbed, as was the case with the Pure Nacional. Crazy!

But enough with the background. Let's eat! The chocolate covered beans from Moonstruck are about the size of peanut M&Ms and are lightly dusted with gold powder. The niblets were smooth and hardly bitter at all, with a nice floral flavor. We could eat these all day! Unfortunately, only one of the beans we got in our package was white. But whatever, we're eating extinct chocolate!

The bar was thick and a lot fruitier and mellower than the beans, probably because it didn't contain any trace of the whole bean itself. It would probably be best to use this in a hot chocolate, or to sample on its own.

Is there a huge difference between this and regular chocolate? Somewhat. In all honesty, if we didn't know the chocolate was what it was, it's uncertain if we'd instantly be able to know that it was any different than regular high-quality chocolate, though the mellow, nutty flavor is certainly pronounced. But it was tasty, and we'd eat it again, and that's what really matters at the end of the day, no?


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