Bay Area Day Trips - Claudio Corallo Chocolate Tasting Tour

Hello chocolate lovers, this post is dedicated to all of you. I am a big chocolate fan and this chocolate tasting is one of the favorite things we have done in Bay Area. While it technically is not a day trip and is actually an indoor activity, it highly deserves a place in this list. To understand that, you need to know a little bit about Claudio Corallo the owner, and the chocolate which is his namesake.

Claudio Corallo offers you the purest form of chocolate there is on this planet. And how could anyone resist tasting that? This chocolate is made in a factory located near the plantation, where the cacao beans are grown, in the islands of Principe & Sao Tome in Africa. He is among the rarest chocolate makers in the world who cultivate their own beans and control the entire process from harvest to the final product. He even has the germ, that typically causes the bitterness in chocolate, removed by hand from each bean in his family-operated factory. He has perfected his process from tending the cacao plants to careful bean selection and fermentation to chocolate production through unmatched passion and trail & error in his laboratory, also located on the island. And the result is the unmistakable taste of cacao beans in his chocolate. Even his 100% cocoa bars are not bitter and reveal the true earthy and nutty taste of the cacao beans. 

If you want to taste pure chocolate, this might be your only option in the US. What's amazing about his chocolates is that they neither have vanilla nor soy lecithin which are commonly used to mask the bitterness caused due to processing by other chocolate manufacturers. His hand-made limited production makes his chocolates expensive but definitely worth a try.

The chocolate tasting is set inside a cute little store in downtown Palo Alto, known as Alegio Chocolate, which is the sole distributor of Claudio Corallo chocolate in the US. The chocolate tasting, which is referred to as a tour as the owner talks you through the story of the chocolate from the cacao plantation and its beans all the way to the making and tasting of this fine chocolate, lasts about an hour. It begins with the tasting of the bean which is surprisingly flavorful. It is followed by samples of the 100% pure cocoa bar and 9 other varieties and flavors, where you are asked to guess the ingredients. "DO NOT CHEW", he often reminds you, urging you to leave it on your tongue and to just savor the taste. It does remind you of wine tasting and the pride they take in their grapes and their process.

Throughout the tasting, they explain the meticulous care taken in growing the plants, in selecting the beans, in fermenting and drying them as well as cleaning, sorting, roasting and manually winnowing them. You not only taste the chocolate but also the underlying passion of the Claudio Corallo in his relentless pursuit of perfection to bring this fine chocolate to the world. It helps you develop a deep relationship with the chocolate and enhances its taste several fold. Needless to say, me and my husband thoroughly enjoyed the tasting and ended up buying a box and returning for more eventually.

Let me take you through some portions of the journey through this post and pictures. Here's a cacao plant and a cacao pod which contains the cocoa beans.

                                                                               Cacao pods on the trees                              Photo Credit: Claudio Corallo

                                                                                        Ripe cacao pods                                       Photo Credit: Claudio Corallo

Cacao pod compared to coffee beans
Here's the cocoa beans extracted from the cacao pods. 

Here's the germ that causes bitterness separated by hand, leaving the nibs.

The nibs are then ground into cocoa liquor and after some other refinements, the cocoa is ready to be made into chocolate that we all love.

Here's the chocolate from the island in an environmental friendly and simple packaging that doesn't distract you from the product. There are about 10 varieties that you end up tasting and its hard to leave the store without buying at least one box/bar for yourself.

Here's two of our favorites varieties.

70% Cacao with Liberica Coffee

80% cacao with crystallized sugar
We also learned that cacao trees originated in South America where some of the best varieties are still grown, though West Africa is now the largest exporter of cacao beans.

If you are even remotely interested in chocolate, I would highly recommend this tour. We love Palo Alto downtown for its lively vibe, cute shops and nice food and go there often but they also have a store in Berkeley, if that's closer to you.


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