Chocolate runs through my veins. I'm speaking figuratively, of course, but I have a personal connection with the food of the gods. As many of you know, chocolate is made from the seeds of the cacao tree. Even though chocolate is eaten all around the world, the cacao tree doesn't grow everywhere. Africa produces the majority of cacao beans, followed by Asia and the Americas. However, the cacao tree is native to the American continent, possibly originating in Venezuela (according to Wikipedia). That's right, I live in the country where cacao may have been born.
|Image by John Loo|
However, my special connection to chocolate goes a little deeper. There are three varieties of cacao: Forastero, Criollo and Trinitario. Forastero is the most produced, due to its high yield and resistance to plant disease. Criollo has the highest quality, but is less resistant to diseases. Trinitario is a hybrid between these varieties, to improve the quality of the first and the resistance of the second. The Criollo cacao is considered a delicacy due to its high quality, and is produced in very few countries. The biggest producer of Criollo beans is Venezuela, with plantations in the Chuao Bay and Maracaibo Lake.
|Image by EverJean|
My mother was born in the Chuao Bay. They moved when she was very little and she hasn't been back ever since. Chuao is a coastal village, surrounded by mountains and rainforest, without any roads leading to it. To visit Chuao, you must take a boat from a nearby port or endure a one day hike through the mountains. I'm not an adventurous person and I get really scared on boats, so I've never been able to visit the place where my mom was born. However, I still brag that my ancestry goes back to the place of high quality cacao beans.
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My love for chocolate is shared by my family, especially by my sister. She needs to eat chocolate everyday (or so she claims) and I can testify she does. Myself, I tried to give up chocolate once, for lent. It's only six weeks, right? I couldn't do it. Chocolate was everywhere, surrounding me, tempting me and calling my name. I gave in and embraced my chocolate addiction.
|Image by Amy Loves Yah|
My fiancé, on the other hand, doesn't like chocolate. Most of his family don't like it either, with the exception of his sister, who shares my passion. The fact that he doesn't eat chocolate has pros and cons. On the bad side, we can't share many desserts. On the good side, I get to have ALL the chocolate for MYSELF, mwahahaha. Also, if someone gives him chocolate, can you guess who the happy recipient is?
|Image by EverJean|
I'd like to finish this post with a personal recommendation. If you can, have a try of Venezuelan chocolate. Ask a Venezuelan friend to bring you some next time they travel or come visit us. If none of those options are available, some deluxe chocolatiers work only with Criollo beans from Venezuela. They might be a bit expensive, but I assure you it will be worth it.