THE DISH: C-AMARO
"It’s like a passion for us. It’s not just work. We love what we do. That’s the key."
Andrea Colzani, owner of C-Hotel in Lake Como, might be making a name for himself as a hotelier, but his family's brand of chocolate, C-Amaro, is widely renowned. Colzani says there are three keys to making their artisanal confection: an excellent chocolate bean, a good traditional yet high-tech manufacturing process, and a love of chocolate. “There is a big difference between handmade chocolate and the industrial kind,” he says.
The process starts with cocoa beans from a world away in Ecuador, Venezuela, Trinidad, Santa Domingo, and the island of São Tomé, off the western central coast of Africa. Each one has its own distinctive traits: the São Tomé beans are full-bodied and tannic, while the Ecuadorian ones have persistent and smooth flavor. The beans are fermented locally and then dried in the sun before workers sift through them to toss out any that don’t meet their high standards.
Once the beans are hand-selected, they are roasted at about 150-degrees Celsius (about 300 degrees Fahrenheit), which helps to develop the bean’s aroma, as well as purify them. But each bean is different, and only the most expert confectioners like Andrea’s father, Fausto, and brother, Marco, knows how to cook each one with just the right temperature and roasting time. They know, for instance, not to roast the São Tomé beans above 135-degrees C.
While the beans are still hot, a cocoa mill grounds them up, winnowing the husks from the rest of the bean and leaving a highly pure cocoa “nib,” which consists of a solid part, the cocoa, and a fatty part, cocoa butter.
Next, a special mill that becomes hot grounds the nibs, producing cocoa liquor, which, when cools, is 100 percent pure cocoa. The only other ingredient added to produce C-Amaro chocolate is pure cane sugar. The artisan’s skill lies in finding the perfect balance between the two. The chocolate then is “conched,” or rocked back and forth in a conching machine that helps to lower the acetic and tannic acidity naturally present and make it smoother and taste better. Before the chocolate is molded into various shapes, like the classic bar, it needs to be “tempered”—rapidly cooled from 50-degrees C to 29-degrees C—to become hard and shiny.
The final step, of course, is to taste it and pronounce it worthy of the C-Amaro label.