Ari's Top 5

Luisa Abram Chocolate from Brazil

A rare and amazing chocolate made solely from wild cacao

I’ve tasted a lot of chocolate over the last 20 and 30 years. We have a whole bunch of exceptional bean-to-bar (the chocolate equivalent of farm-to-table) offerings on hand at the Candy Store (and many at the Deli as well)—AskinosieGoodnowFrench BroadMirzamand more. I happily eat all of them regularly. Only one though is made from wild cacao, hand-gathered in the Brazilian Amazon. These special chocolate bars are the result of the passion and dedication of a young woman who’s given the last eight years of her life to working on the project.

Luisa Abram Chocolate

Luisa Abram was actually born in Coventry, England where her father, Andre Banks, was based for work as a financier. The family moved back to São Paulo in Brazil when Luisa was three. Her father still earns his income from banking, but of late he’s added a second, part-time job as his daughter’s partner in the chocolate company, making the daily move from corporate banking by day to cacao beans by night. Luisa’s mother, Mirian, and her older sister, Andrea (an attorney who manages the marketing and sales) also now work at the Luisa Abram chocolate factory in São Paulo. In 2013, Luisa decided to pursue her passion for food and enrolled in culinary school with the intention of opening a specialty food shop. When she finished school, she realized that there were already a lot of folks who’d had the same idea. She found a book about making chocolate at home and grew fascinated.

I looked into where Mother Nature chose to bring cacao to earth and I realized it was the Amazon region. I had always wanted to go to the Amazon, so I researched a lot and found a coop in Acre near the border near Peru (nearly 2000 miles from São Paulo—almost as far, for context, as from Ann Arbor to San Francisco). My dad went with me— he’s an adventurous spirit like me. We got into the Amazon and we traveled in boats and cars for about a day and half to get there. It was the dry season so the boat couldn’t go as fast. As amateurs we had no idea what cacao fruit tasted like or anything. We got all the way there and found out that it wasn’t harvest season so there were no pods to see or cacao fruit to taste! But I got to meet everyone who was involved in the cacao chain… and I got 20 kilos of fermented beans to bring back. I got home and I didn’t have any machinery to turn the cacao beans into chocolate so I had to wait a month to get a mélanger. There was no bean-to-bar industry in Brazil so there wasn’t really anyone here to learn from.

Luisa and her family are the only chocolate makers that I know of working exclusively with wild cacao. It’s not easy work. Yields of wild fruit are small, and more difficult to forecast. Right now, they source from six communities for their cacao. In the spirit of understanding that it takes a good long while for most wonderful things like this to happen, Luisa shared that “Usually it can take like five years to get the cacao where it needs to be by working to help people to improve the way they handle the beans.” Her father added that, “When we started, the fermentation people were doing was too long—like 8-10 days and very bad. We had to convince people to do a 5 to 6 day fermentation.” Like our other chocolate suppliers that I listed above, Luisa and her family are very committed to the communities they buy from. Her father Andre explained that those who were gathering the wild cacao (in that sense they’re not farmers, but more foragers) were getting paid only the low industrial market price for a kilo of cacao: “We pay like 3 to 4 times the price they would otherwise get from the middle men for the cacao that would then be sold to the big corporations.”

We have a trio of great tasting bars from Luisa Abram and we’re hoping to have more soon.

Rio Juruá Wild Cocoa 81%

The cacao is gathered wild in the forests along the 1500-mile long Juruá River. There are about 40 families in the coop who work with the gathering and fermenting of wild cacao. The chocolate is wild in the best possible way. Super juicy, with lots of floral notes, a lovely nose, and hints of blueberries, cherries, or lychee.

Rio Tocantins Wild Cocoa 81%

This was the first regional origin Luisa worked with and the cacao is gathered by communities that live on the banks of the Tocantins River. The name means “Toucan’s beak” in the native Tupi language. The chocolate’s flavor is fascinating—light, very fruity, lots of lovely tannins, sort of in the context of citrus, almost grapefruit. The finish is really clean and long. Luisa’s Rio Tocantins’s bar won a gold medal at the Academy of Chocolate Awards in London last year!

White Chocolate with Brazil Nuts

I’m not usually a huge fan of white chocolate, but in this bar it really works beautifully. The family caramelize the sugar to give the bar a bit more depth of flavor and a delicate undertone of toastiness. Very creamy on the tongue and not super sweet—it’s got the same, relatively small, amount of sugar as a bar with 70% cacao content. The crunchiness comes from a handmade praline made with Brazil nuts. A marvelous little hint of molasses and brown sugar in the finish.

Buy Luisa Abram chocolate from the Candy Store

P.S. We carry the chocolate from Luisa Abram at the Candy Store (inside the Coffee Company) on Plaza Drive. You won’t see Luisa’s bars on the Mail Order site but we’re more than happy to ship you some. Email [email protected]!