Did you know that in Italy, there’s a chocolate factory that rivals Willy Wonka’s? It’s called Amedei and it’s located in Pontedera, Tuscany, nestled within the renowned “Chocolate Valley” of Italy. Unlike the mythical golden ticket needed for Mr. Wonka’s factory, visiting Amedei only requires a reservation here.
During the tour of this factory, which continues to craft exquisite chocolate through artisanal methods for the past 30 years, expert master chocolatiers will unveil the secrets of crafting exceptional chocolate. They begin with the rarest and most precious cocoa beans (Theobroma cacao) and transform them into bars, drops, pralines, and other exquisite treats.
Let’s delve into the process step by step. To achieve excellence, it must begin with high-quality raw materials. Amedei has scouted and celebrated cocoa plantations in equatorial regions where the most precious cocoa varieties flourish. These include Criollo, mainly sourced from Venezuela and Peru, as well as Trinitario and Forastero, originating from places like Trinidad, Madagascar, Grenada, and Ecuador.
After harvesting the cocoa tree’s fruits, known as cabosse, the seeds or beans are extracted with a machete and left to ferment and dry under the sun for about two to three weeks, allowing the flavor precursors to develop. Once this phase is complete, the seeds are placed in jute sacks and shipped to the Amedei factory. Here, a small sample of seeds is subjected to a quality control test known as the “cut test,” where they are cut using a guillotine to assess and classify their quality.
Next, the best seeds undergo air-roasting indirectly in a dedicated roaster, releasing their full aroma. Subsequently, the darkened cocoa beans from roasting are cracked in a concasseur to separate the seeds from the husks, creating nibs that are crushed to obtain cocoa mass.
Following a blending with pure cane sugars, the ingredients undergo a multi-phase refinement, yielding a very fine mixture. The subsequent conching phase, one of the most critical in producing high-quality chocolate, involves mixing the cocoa mass for up to 72 hours in special tanks called “conches.” This imparts a velvety, uniform, and balanced consistency, releasing the best aromatic bouquet.
Following conching, tempering ensures the correct crystallization of cocoa butter within the liquid chocolate. This results in a final product that is both balanced and smooth. The chocolate exhibits a shiny, consistent appearance, ready for molding into Amedei’s signature creations, whether enjoyed as is or enriched with ingredients that enhance various recipes, such as Bronte pistachios, Avola almonds, and Piedmont hazelnuts.
In celebration of the history of the Pontedera production site, Amedei has recently unveiled a new collection aptly named the “Chocolate Factory.” This collection aims to encapsulate the company’s philosophy and the multitude of delights that have garnered it 92 national and international awards, including the highest number of Golden Bean awards at the prestigious Academy of Chocolate in London.
The Chocolate Factory collection comprises three distinct packages – Icon, Travel and Factory – each offering a unique assortment of chocolates and a story of its own. Icon, as the name suggests, pays homage to the products that have shaped the company’s legacy, including Toscano Black 70, a 70% dark blend that marked Amedei’s inaugural chocolate bar and a milestone in the industry. Let’s not overlook Bianco De Criollo, a vintage chocolate named after the rarest and most precious cocoa variety, Criollo.
Travel, on the other hand, represents the cocoa’s extensive journey, from Africa to Central America, culminating in Tuscany, where it is transformed into small chocolate masterpieces by Amedei’s skilled chocolate artisans.
Lastly, Factory reminds us of the flavour expedition that unfolds within the factory itself, where meticulous processing ensures a gratifying and memorable tasting experience, regardless of the chosen product. You must experience it to believe it!