A Sicilian Chocolate Experience

Modica the city of chocolate, is a vibrant Baroque town in the south of Sicily.

In the sixteenth century, as Spanish conquistadores were colonising the New World, they came across many new foods, amongst them a concoction of cacao beans known as ‘ xocolatl.’ It was eaten either as it was, or as a drink, mixed with water. “ A cup of this miraculous beverage gives every soldier the strength to march for an entire day”,was reported by Emperor Charles V. He had discovered Europe’s first energy drink.

In the seventeenth-century Europe, chocolate became all the rage and cacao beans became big business. Looking for a suitable place to cultivate cacao and produce chocolate closer to home, the Spanish settled on Modica. Not only did its climate resemble that of South America, but there were plentiful supplies of lava stone, which meant that the beans could be ground in authentic Aztec style.

The chocolate of Modica, typical of the municipality of Modica in Sicily, is characterised by an ancient and original recipe using manual grinding (rather than conching) which gives the chocolate a peculiar grainy texture and aromatic flavour.

Not being able to resist the city of chocolate we spent the morning making chocolate the Sicililan way. It took place at Ciomod just outside Modica where they offered  a ‘chocolate experience’.  We learnt about the cocoa pod, and talked through the process from bean to bar.  I found this fascinating after my own chocolate journey a few years ago with Discover Cacao.

The main differences as mentioned earlier was that the chocolate has the sugar stirred in and creates a bar of chocolate to have a crunchy grainy texture. Also all of the chocolate made here has at least 1% sugar this is how its allowed to be called ‘chocolate’. The chocolate ‘callets’ come from Columbia, Venezuela and Ecuador these cocoa farms have been chosen specifically by the Manager here at Ciomod. They have often chosen farms which need more help or can benefit through their regeneration programme as the company have a strong fairtrade ethos when it comes to everything about their chocolate production. The chocolate is packaged in recycled cardboard, and the paper it is wrapped in is made from agricultural waste from olives, seaweed or salt

Ciomod started business in 2017 and operates as part of a boutique hotel.  A beautiful house with outstanding rural buildings, one that is the chocolate factory! They started with mandarin, salt, seasame and Arauca chocolate but they have now extended their range to eight flavours. All their flavours are sourced locally in Sicily, salt from Trapani, Seasame from Ispica, Madarin from Ciaculli, Olive oil from Monti Iblei and honey from the black bees in the north of the island.

Ciomod supply restaurants, cafes, artisan delis and shops in Sicily as well as mainland Italy.  They also supply to Germany, Copenhagen, and as far as Singapore.

We had a great experience and would highly recommend, as I munch a chunk of my chocolate bar that I bought home!

Unfortunately I missed the ‘Chocobarocco’ festival, held last December in the city but will keep an eye out for my next trip. This is the festival of Sicilian chocolate and one of the most awaited events in Sicily.

 

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