A month ago, The New York Times reported on a discovery made two years ago of a rare cacao tree, the Nacional, in Peru. The Nacional was thought to be extinct after pure varieties of the tree had succumbed to disease in Ecuador -- the world's largest producer of cacao.
The chocolate made from Nacional cacao beans is also rare -- and expensive. But local master chocolatier Aaron Dearinger, of Annedore's Fine Chocolates at 5006 State Line, really wanted to taste it.
"A friend of mine in Switzerland made arrangements to acquire some of the Nacional chocolate, and he mailed some to me," says Dearinger, who let me taste a little of his cache: rich, smooth dark-chocolate pieces made from 85-percent pure chocolate. The New York Times writer, Florence Fabricant, described a Nacional chocolate bar this way:
"The chocolate is intense, with a floral aroma and a persistent mellow richness. Its lack of bitterness is remarkable."Nacional chocolate isn't cheap: The rough cost of a pound of Nacional is about $65. Most good-quality imported dark chocolate sells for about $12 per pound. Nacional is too costly, right now, to create popular candy confections -- and Annedore's currently doesn't sell it at all -- but Dearinger would someday like to create and sell hand-made truffles made with Nacional and Highland Scotch. "I'm partial to a good scotch," he says. "And the rich, smoky flavor of the Nacional would make this an excellent pairing."