Last year I wrote an article talking about “Churros” and where my favorite churro places are. One good friend has asked me to write one post talking about chocolate. So here I go, this time it is not going to be about hot chocolate, the one that you deep the churros in, it is going to be about my favorite chocolate experiences in Spain.
Let me start with a little bit of history. Cacao beans, as many other goodies, arrived in Europe coming from America in 1492. Can you imagine the first time those Spaniards tasted a tomato, potatoes or corn? I bet they thought it was something coming directly from hell.
There were so many new products arriving to this side of the ocean that each one of those weird things were cultivated or processed by different groups of people. For example, the corn was given to pig farmers, and that is the reason why here in Spain it was considered an offense to serve corn on a meal.
The Spanish Jewish community, called the Sephardi, took care of the Cacao beans. At the beginning it was impossible to sell it, it was too bitter. We didn’t know how to use it, until a very clever Sephardi decided to add sugar to the cacao paste and the miracle happened, the chocolate as we know it today was born. It was then when the commercialization of chocolate started.
Unfortunately, the Catholic Monarchs expelled at the same time the Sephardi community. But where did they go? Well, most of them headed north towards France. On their way to freedom, they found that all along at the feet of the Spanish Pyrenees they were welcomed and that is why it is here in the north where we find some very rooted Jewish traditions, one of them being the chocolate production.
Ultimate Chocolatiers in Spain
Carmen Capote is the head chef of this experimental chocolate company. She studied at the Cordon Bleu school in Paris where she was spotted by Régis Ferey, head chef at the Elysee Palace, I mean the home of the French Presidents. From here she moved to the Michelin awarded Étoile restaurant, and finally returned to Spain, where she opened her chocolate shop.
Yes, her chocolate bonbons are delicious, but I personally love her chocolate bars. They are made with the best ingredients and topped with the fanciest and most unexpected goodies. Just try any of them and you will know what I am talking about!
VALOR is the largest and most important chocolate company in Spain. The company opened its doors in the province of Valencia in 1881 and from the very beginning they became an instant success. Today we can find Valor chocolate in every supermarket in Spain, my favorite bar is their extra dark chocolate with almonds.
If you are in the Valencia area, just a little over an hour south of Valencia you will find their chocolate Museum, it is in the Village of Villajoyosa. They open Monday through Saturday and they have a daily 10:00 o’clock English tour.
You will also find their shops in almost every city in Spain, they are easy to be spotted, the exterior is painted in a very distinctive deep green
Curia Street number 16.
If you are like me, a chocolate freak, you need to stop at this tiny (very tiny) chocolate piece of heaven.
It opened in the 60’s and was opened by Pablo Sarandi and his wife Beatriz. They have always baked their goods at the shop. Unfortunately, this couple didn’t have children, so when they were ready to retire they sold it to the Telletxea sisters, the actual owners. They didn’t just sell the store, they sold the recipes and the know how to them as well. These two sisters still do everything the same way as Beatriz taught them.
Their specialty is called “garroticos de chocolate” which are bite size croissants filled with dark chocolate. They are always freshly baked. When you buy them, the chocolate is still warm and it melts. Watch out because it drips. It cannot get any better than this. I bet heaven is made out of croissants filled with black chocolate.
It was 1852 when this family run pastry shop opened its doors in Bilbao. Today it is still an old-style pastry company where the old values of austerity and tradition rule. Their flagship store is located in Gran Via 24 and you will see that by mid afternoon their counters are half way empty. Bilbainos love this place.
If Arrese´s cream-filled truffles are beyond good, their chocolate Palmiers are heavenly. It is a butter based mille feuilles heart shaped crispy pastry covered with soft dark chocolate. I cannot explain how good those palmiers are.
Plaza de Sant Gregori Taumaturg, 2;
Travessera de les Corts, 340,
Benet Mateu, 62
Oriol was born in 1971 in Callafell a small coastal city one hour south of Barcelona. His dad, who was a chocolate master himself, is the one who instilled in Oriol the passion for chocolate. First, he studied at the Pastry school of Barcelona. Later he decides to complete his academic studies by studying fine arts.
As you can imagine his chocolate desserts are works of art both for the eyes and your palate. The worst thing about them is that you need to break them in order to eat them.
If you have ever had an “R” rated chocolate experience in Spain, please share it with all of us. I will go to taste them for sure