To’ak Chocolate is an Ecuadorian company. Jerry Toth and Carl Schweizer founded To’ak (pronounced Toe-Ahk) in 2013. The company produces the most expensive chocolate in the world. To’ak’s mission is to change the way we consume chocolate.
Prices can go up to around €200 for a single 50-gram bar of chocolate. The special Art Series edition is a collaboration with prominent Ecuadorian artists and has a waiting list of 6 weeks and costs €446. But what are the reasons is it so expensive and what is the story behind To’ak Chocolate?
Why To’ak Chocalate is world’s most expensive chocolate
1. The Cocoa Beans used in To’ak Chocolate
The first reason is the variety of cocoa beans they use. To’ak produces their chocolate bars with a very rare variety of Arriba cocoa called ‘Nacional cocoa’. People say it has more floral notes and richness of flavors than any other cocoa variety.
Experts thought the Nacional cocoa variety to be extinct. However, cocoa trees producing the variety were discovered in the valley of Piedra de Plata located in the mountains of the Arriba cocoa-growing region of Ecuador, in the province called Manabi.
Then, DNA analysis confirmed that the beans were purely of the Nacional cocoa variety.
Production involves fermenting the cocoa beans. Fermentation and drying of the cocoa beans are the most delicate phases after the harvest. The fermentation facility uses the best Ecuadorian techniques and (patented) innovations.
As part of this post-harvest process, To’ak places the beans in fermentation boxes (made of Spanish Elm wood) for five to seven days. Fermentation breaks down undesirable tannins and other polyphenols.
This old technique brings out the most subtle and delicate flavours of the cocoa while considerably reducing its bitterness. Drying of the fermented beans then takes place naturally in the sun and fresh air in a kind of greenhouse.
Throughout the manufacturing process (from pre-harvest to production), six manual selection phases help to identify the best beans.
2. Producing To’ak Chocolate
The second reason is the time To’ak takes to produce chocolate from these exceptional beans. The company ages bars in wood casks and empty liquor casks. For example, To’ak ages rare cocoa beans (also spelled cacao beans) in French oak cognac casks for four years. Or they use bourbon, tequila, sherry casks or other liquor casks.
To’ak has been described as a boundary-pushing chocolate company for launching a bar of dark chocolate that has been aged for 18 months in a 50-year-old Cognac cask. They have also aged chocolate for 2 years in a Laphroaig Islay whisky cask.
Like some vintage wines, dark chocolate can improve with age softening the tannins and other polyphenols. The taste profile of the chocolate then slowly develops into the unique floral aroma To’ak chocolate is known for.
3. To’ak Chocolate is Handcrafted and Sold as a Luxury Brand
The third reason is that To’ak’s chocolate’s processing is completely handcrafted. To’ak uses light wooden sticks to smell the chocolate so that the smell of the hands does not distort the product. Tasting then becomes a divine moment.
To’ak chocolate is pure chocolate. They make it exclusively from cocoa and cane sugar, unlike most producers. To’ak does not embellish it with nuts, gold dust, or ganache, as is the case with some of the world’s other expensive chocolates.
You can buy To’ak chocolate only in their own online shop or luxury brand shops, hotels or resorts.
To’ak is sold very much like cognac and whisky. Older bottles come with a premium. To’ak charges more for older chocolate editions/vintages. All is very much set up like other luxury brands do. The chocolate even comes with tasting guides and special utensils.
In their Signature Harvest Series To’ak produced the world’s first limited edition chocolate bar made from cacao from the Galapagos. Sourced from 2 small farms on the Galapagos Islands that imported the Heirloom cacao trees back in the early 1900’s. When I am writing this article this was sold out. But you can still get the El Niño Harvest 2016.
This Heirloom Nacional cocoa bar produced by To’ak Chocolate is the most expensive chocolate bar in the world. It will cost you €40 for 50 grams (1.76 oz). The chocolate bar is composed entirely of the Nacional cocoa bean, with a slight amount of cane sugar added. In the middle of the bar is a single roasted cocoa bean, showcasing the uniquue and unmanipulated flavor of Nacional cocoa and serving as a reminder where chocolate comes from.
The Origin Harvest 2017 and Origin Aged series is sold in handcrafted Spanish Elm wood boxes with individual bar numbers engraved on the back. In the box you will find tasting utensils and a booklet/tasting guide.
The Art Series Blend combines two vintage editions of To’ak chocolate. This special edition is Organic USDA and EU certified and made from 77 per cent cocoa beans. It has a six-week waiting list from date of order when I am writing this article. The price is €446
To’ak also makes ground powder for organic drinking chocolate under the name T.Cacao that cost up to €40 for 200 grams (7.1 oz).
Is To’ak Chocolate Organic or Fair Trade?
In January 2016, To’ak’s cacao was designated Heirloom by the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund (HCP).. To’ak also has social and environmental objectives in mind. Their product is organic and fair trade and they partner with the Ecuador-based rainforest conservation foundation Third Millennium Alliance.
To’ak and the foundation are currently working together to preserve this endangered cacao variety by DNA grafting and planting of new seedlings in a protected area in Ecuador.
The Story of To’ak
The company To’ak Chocolate started in 2007 as a spin-off from a tropical forest conservation project in Ecuador. To’ak translates to ‘earth’ and ‘tree’ in ancient Ecuadorian dialects.
Jerry Toth, co-founder of the company, started growing cocoa trees and making chocolate in a thatched bamboo house, without electricity, in the middle of the Jama-Coaque reserve.
Jerry got his first experience of making and tasting the local chocolate. In the middle of the wooded mountains, he found out that Ecuadorian cocoa has an incomparable and unique taste with a powerful floral aroma.
Carl Schweizer and fourth-generation Ecuadorian chocolate producer Servio Pachard then joined forces to create To’ak Chocolate. The fermentation facilty is located in the middle of Servio Pachard’s farm, downstream from the Piedra de Plata valley. Together they are changing the way people perceive dark chocolate.
For more on To’ak Chocolate recommend you to visit their blog.