Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Milk chocolate a taste of the past

Chocolatier Igor Van Gerwen has produced a 47 per cent cacao milk chocolate using Peruvian Pure Nacional, the rarest cacao bean in the world.

In 2013, Belgian-born Van Gerwen was given exclusive rights to introduce the most sought-after chocolate on the planet, Fortunato No. 4, to the Australian market.

Van Gerwen, chief chocolatier at the House of Anvers, in Latrobe, Tasmania, visited Peru in March 2014 to be involved with the harvesting, fermenting and drying of the famous cacao beans. He says the trip satisfied his conscience as a chocolatier that the Fortunato No. 4 was sustainable and that the farmers were receiving a good return. It also inspired a milk chocolate that he says has a cacao content comparable to Belgian dark chocolate.

 Igor Van Gerwen named his chocolate after Peruvian farmer Don Fortunato.
“To me, it’s perfectly balanced. It is like a chocolate macchiato with a dash of milk,” Van Gerwen says. “If you think about it, most Belgian dark chocolate only contains 54 per cent cacao and some as low as 45.5 per cent. The low bitterness of the white beans allows us to increase the cacao content and reduce the sugar content by 30 per cent to make a milk chocolate that is not too bitter,” he says.

Van Gerwen's trip was such a success that he was invited back to Peru in July to talk to farmers at a conference on growing heirloom varieties of cacao, and participate in demonstrations at the 5th Salon del Cacao y Chocolate in Lima from July 3.

Igor Van Gerwen inhaling the exotic aroma of the Pure Nacional Dried Cacao Bean, in situ, in Peru.
For those not in the know about Fortunato No. 4, the story began about a decade ago, when Americans Brian Horsley and Dan Pearson - who were working in Peru sourcing food for miners - rediscovered 24 Pure Nacional cacao trees in the Maranon Valley in Peru. Van Gerwen says the trees have been certified to be the original variety by the US Department of Agriculture. 

"Fortunato No. 4 is couverture chocolate made from the original cacoa strain, thought to have been wiped out by disease in 1916. Lost for around 100 years, it was rediscovered growing at a height of 1000 metres in the remote Maranon Canyon in Peru in 2007. This Pure Nacional cacao has 40 per cent white beans, which adds a nutty flavour to the original fruit and floral flavours," says Van Gerwen.

“Due to the low tannins and bitterness in the white beans, we have been able to develop a milk chocolate with low sugar and high cacao content. Most milk chocolate contains between 30 and 38 per cent cacao, so, in short, this is a full-bodied milk chocolate with a similar cacao content as a Belgian Cark couverture,” he says.

The cacao is prized by some of the world’s top chefs and chocolatiers such as Anthony Bourdain, who uses the first harvest of the beans for his Good & Evil chocolate bar. “I have tried many varieties in my 30 years as a chocolatier and I find the balance of the Fortunato No. 4 cacao bean and the rich dairy used the best I have ever tasted,” he says.

Chocolatier Igor Van Gerwen went to Peru in search of the 'holy grail' of cacao trees in the Highlands.
Van Gerwen says his trip to Peru in search of the prized cacao trees was like searching for ‘the holy grail' in the highlands. The Belgium-born chocolatier named the chocolate he makes using the prized bean after Don Fortunato, the owner of the mother cocoa tree.

In the spirit of collaboration that mainlanders often comment is so typical of Tasmanians, Willy Simpson, of Seven Sheds Brewery, has developed a beer called Black Inca, using the Fortunato No. 4 for flavour. The two producers are geo-tagged onto an interactive map for the Cradle To Coast Tasting Trail, which has many more examples of producers working together in the region for the greater good.

"I hope my customers enjoy this rare treat as much as I do," says Van Gerwen.

 Milk Chocolate made from Fortunato No. 4 is flavour squared.
For more information about Fortunato No. 4 Milk Chocolate, please visit www.anvers-chocolate.com.au

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