Posted in Kafevend Blog
For those whose Spanish is a little shaky, El Rey means The King and this Venezuelan company has been creating the very finest of chocolate all the way from bean to bar since 1929. They've never had to look very far for the best beans either. Cocoa is native to equatorial America and has been actively cultivated there for centuries past. Although much of the world's demand for chocolate these days is met by the hardier forastero bean, the highly venerated criollo bean is cultivated in greater abundance in Venezuela than anywhere else. The third major variety of cocoa bean, the trinitario, is grown there too. Trinitario is named for the island of Trinidad where it had its beginnings, the result of a crossover between the two main varieties.
Typically, chocolate makers use a blend of cocoa beans to create the flavour they're looking for, but Chocolates El Rey only ever create single origin chocolate with carefully selected varieties of criollo or trinitario beans. Their selection includes a range of dark chocolates, plus milk and white chocolate. Here in the UK we tend to think of white chocolate as firmly in the children's confectionery realm, but El Rey not only secured first place for their Icoa white chocolate at the 2012 International Chocolate Awards in London, but secured the top prize again in 2013.
Several of their chocolates, including the Icoa white chocolate, are made from Carenero Superior criollo beans, that are grown to the east of Caracas. A trinitario bean, the Rio Caribe, is used for other ranges. Rio Caribe beans take their name from a fishing village in the north east of Venezuela, once a vital cocoa trading post for Spanish settlers.
El Rey work cooperatively with the farmers they source their cocoa beans from, promoting sustainability and good soil management and in addition pay above market prices. Currently most of their exported chocolate goes to the USA, but they're certainly a name to watch out for. Keep drooling in the meantime!