I met Claudio Corallo, the “king of chocolate”, on the Sunday I was in Principe. The appointment was set for 4.30 pm in his home in Terra Velho, a former colonial plantation in the southeast of the island. I arrived punctually, picking up a run-down road like few others. Claudio Corallo is Florentine, and the Florentine speaks, even though he has lived in Sao Tome and Principe for thirty years: he arrived in 1992, he owns the Velho Terra plantation since 1997, before he had been in Zaire and Bolivia. Specializing in tropical agronomy, it has always been dedicated to cocoa and coffee.
While he tells me Corallo offers me the only distillate in the world extracted from cocoa pulp: extraordinary, at 65 degrees! And pieces of his chocolate: 100%; the one that contains the distillate; the 73%, with cocoa grains, and then those with ginger and orange peel. I had already tasted them not only in Sao Tome, where they can be bought at the supermarket, but also in Italy, in the “Fontanafredda” restaurant in Sorgnano di Carrara, run by the sisters Paola and Raffaella and by his brother Francesco (in the photo below, by Enrico Amici , admire the Corallo chocolate paired with Luteraia, a noble wine from Montepulciano).
That the “best chocolate in the world” comes from Corallo’s capacity, almost an obsession, I have no doubt. But as a profane, in love, as Corallo, Sao Tome and Principe is, I think that the cocoa of these “islands in the center of the world” has a bit of merit too. Moreover, the originality of Corallo chocolate is that it “tastes like cocoa”, a taste and aroma that seem to have been lost. In these months I have been traveling to so many plantations, I visited driers, in the past few days I also slept in Monteforte in a candlelit house like that of Corallo, where at night you only smell the smell of cocoa and the grunts of pigs.
Wherever I ate cocoa beans and I must say that they are really good. To peel a bean just take it between thumb and forefinger and squeeze it lightly against a hard surface: the peel breaks and you taste the divine fruit (Theobroma cacao “, from the Greek” divine drink “, is the scientific name of the plant). Corallo explained to me that the Principe beans are special. When he arrived in Terra Velho the forest had completely invaded the plantation: he cleaned the undergrowth and replanted the trees of the “forest of shadow” that had been cut to make wood, until recreating the ideal environment for the growth of the fruit of the past . In essence, Corallo managed to trace back to the old seeds, now virtually disappeared, and transformed them, thanks to a special production process, into chocolate number 1. So – I think Corallo agrees – honor should also be given to these old beans.