One weekend, a friend and I made the 3 ½ hour drive from the Washington, D.C., area to Philadelphia to watch one of the COPA America soccer games. While we were in the area we stopped by Sazon, a Venezuelan restaurant owned by Judy and Robert and where Chocolate Alchemist is based. I had originally heard about them through the D.C. Chocolate Festival. Robert is the Chocolate Alchemist, and after being in the car for a long time, my eyes glazed over and my head in a fog from dealing with traffic, I was not mentally prepared for the intense conversation that was about to happen. Or more like I was listening to Robert verbally pour out his views and I just nodded and tried to ask a question every once in a while.
Robert really knows his stuff! He’s intense, upfront, but honest with his opinions about chocolate and chocolate making. And he’s generous! While my friend and I were there, he went back and forth between helping restaurant customers and talking to us for what was probably almost 3 hours. The time flew by as I was mesmerized listening to Robert. Judy chatted with my friend and helped us feel welcomed. We didn’t get a chance to try any of Judy’s food, but we definitely tried some of Robert’s drinking chocolate. I had his café mocha… I tell you, it’s the real deal!!! It’s everything I imagined a mocha would and should be. It’s not the watered down stuff you get at Starbucks, and it’s not the fake chocolatey mocha that even local coffee shops make. It was the most rich, thick, flavorful and delicious mocha I had ever had! If it weren’t for having to go to the soccer game later that evening, I would have wanted to spend more time savoring it.
I’ll share bullet points of what I remember from my conversation with Robert…
- Blending beans from different origins together are the way to go to ensure your chocolate has a rounded flavor (this was also echoed at the Amedei chocolate tasting I attended a while back).
- He is currently using some beans from Peru.
- He claims many chocolate makers are using granulated sugar, like the kind you find in a grocery store for baking. He uses coconut sugar, local maple sugar, and other organic sugars due to their better quality, better flavor and it’s better for your health as your body metabolizes organic sugars at a slower rate.
- He doesn’t conche since he prefers to retain the natural flavors of the bean (acidity, astringency and all; conching reduces acidity and flavor) and some of the gritty texture from the beans (conching also smooths out and breaks down the chocolate).
- The paper used to wrap his chocolate comes from another country (if I’m remembering that correctly) and they are hand sewn closed locally. The print on the bars is vegetable based. If you get a chocolate bar from him, take care in unwrapping the chocolate so you can mail the wrapper back to him so he reuse it for a future bar. This is TRUE recycling!
- We did discuss a little bit about raw cocoa and he mentioned something about ageing chocolate (the sugars and fats change the flavor as they age), but I can’t clearly remember what his thoughts were on. Hopefully next time I go to Sazon I can ask him about it again…
I definitely plan on returning to Sazon at some point where I hope to try his Clasico drinking chocolate!