A Recent Visit to Amedei in Pontedera, Tuscany....

Oh Chocolat, the mere mention of this magic word sends my mind on a delicious journey. One of our recent cocoa adventures took us to Pontedera and small industrial city located near Pisa in the heart of Tuscany region of Italy. The reason for our  visit - pay homage to the world renowned chocolatier - Amedei. We arrive in Pontedera on a warm but rainy Friday afternoon. As we approach the chocolate mecca my anticipation builds. Is it my imagination or despite the warm rain I can smell hints of chocolate in the air? After a few quick turns and a drive down an unpaved country road we arrive at the "golden gate". We are buzzed in and the gate slowly slides open. Trying to maintain a professional demeanor I restrain my walk to a measured pace rather than sprinting to the front door. As soon as we enter the foyer the aroma of chocolate can not be missed. We are met by Gabriele who will be our chocolate guide for the afternoon. Sitting in what feels like a chocolate themed living room we are surrounded by  jars of preserved cocoa pods, dried cocoa tree leaves and of course shelves full of chocolate memorabilia. Among the memorabilia are trophies accompanying the range of products that have received international acclaim from esteemed Academy du Chocolat. The table is set for a formal tasting with a beautiful, minimalistic display of chocolate napolitains, assortment of  bonbons as well as jars of chocolate and nut pastes. Amedei - a bean to bar chocolate manufacturer and a relatively new comer to the chocolate world was born in 1990. Cecilia Tessieri spent years learning the ins and outs of the chocolate trade before launching  first products in 1998. Since, Amedei has taken the chocolate world by storm.  Cecilia's exclusivity contract for the sourcing of cocoa beans from the highly regarded cocoa growing region of Chuao in Venezuela gave birth to the much loved Chuao bar and pushed many industry giants out of the region at least for a time. What is bean to bar chocolate? A reference to chocolate manufacturing that maintains complete supervision over the production process from bean to bar. Of course even with bean to bar chocolate there are varying degrees of control. Cecilia Tessieri the first woman to be awarded the honor of Master chocolatier does much more than simply source beans from respected cocoa growers. Cecilia works with handful of cacao plantations all specializing in either criollo or trinitario varieties sourced from Chuao region in Venezuela, Grenada, Jamaica, Madagascar, Trinidad, Peru and Ecuador. Some plantations  supplying cocoa exclusively for Amedei. During the tour of the production facility Gabriele explains the extreme attention paid to the quality of the raw product. For each harvest a sampling of cacao beans is sent to Cecilia for quality control. The beans undergo a visual inspection as well as a careful taste and aroma test to ensure beans of consistently high quality are used in the manufacturing of the chocolate. Each batch of cocoa is inspected in its dried form and roasted forms to ensure it will in turn become exceptional chocolate deserving of the Amedei stamp. Over the years we have had the opportunity to visit many production facilities and taste many different cocoa beans and even more chocolate. At Amedei it is difficult not to be impressed by the attention to detail and quality observed with every step of chocolate production. The roasted cocoa beans we sample that afternoon, match the rich aroma of cocoa that surrounds us and quickly remind us of the seductively delicious flavors captured in their range of bars. In our tour, Gabriele points out two roasters one of course for the roasting of the beans the other for the roasting of the nuts. Everything  at Amedei is done from scratch. A glistening stainless steel counter with a stack of mixing bowls is the station where all the fillings for the bonbons are made. Fresh fruit converted to  tantalizing fruit reductions, cherries soaked in liquor, citrus, anise and Madagascar vanilla are converted to a wide range of fillings. The concher is working overtime to ensure the silky smoothness and least amount of astringency in the final product. We are advised it is run more than three times the industry standard to achieve the superior quality. We observe first hand the care, effort and time that goes into this artisanal chocolate production. The attention to detail is incredible for example the coffee bean adorning the cafe bonbon must all face the same way and is done by hand, the decorative swirls on the chocolates are also done by hand. The list goes on and on. Of course such artisanal hand made product using best ingredients sourced around the world come at a price -  but so well worth the unparalleled tasting experience.  Should you find yourself traveling to the Tuscany region do leave time for a visit to Amedei - it is difficult to capture the experience in words.
On to more chocolate adventures...Bon Voyage

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