Back in 2001, the Guinness World Record for the most valuable chocolate was established. A buyer in a Christie’s auction paid $688 for a four-inch-long Cadbury’s chocolate bar that had sailed with Captain Robert Scott on his debut expedition to the Antarctic in the early 1900s.
Then there are those chocolates that make crazy top 10 lists, padded with diamonds, gold or hand-delivered by ’80s British pop singer Tony Hadley to send prices skyrocketing into the thousands for a single bar or truffle.
But putting auction prices and wild pageantry aside, at $270 for an approximately 1.5-ounce chocolate bar, the new brand To’ak may just be the priciest pure chocolate in the world. There are only just two ingredients: cacao and cane sugar.
To’ak came into being after Chicagoan Jerry Toth, now 37, moved to Ecuador in his early 20s to help start an organization that focused on rainforest conversation. There, he was introduced to fourth-generation cacao farmer Servio Pachard, who took him into the mountains to a spot where over hundred-year-old Arriba cacao trees are some of the last of their kind. These unique cacao trees produce some of the most coveted (and expensive) cacao beans in the world.
Using these special beans, Toth handles chocolate-making with the same precision and care that goes into bottling a fine wine or distilling a batch of whiskey.
The beans are fermented – which is a time-consuming step that most chocolate makers often skip—Toth and his partners have particular steps that they follow to create the world’s most expensive chocolate. They dry, roast, de-shell and grind each cacao batch by hand.
Some might be surprised to know that it has taken them two years just to make 574 bars, which are then sold in individual wooden boxes stuffed with cacao bean husks and numbered by harvest (just like wine).
Most of the world’s cacao is now produced elsewhere; cacao originated in Ecuador. Nacional, which is the native variety, is considered the finest amongst the finest in the world. Swiss chocolatiers came to Ecuador in the 19th century in search of the best cacao. When they came across it and asked the locals where it came from, the answer they received from the farmers was Rio Arriba — which means upriver — and so the cacao produced along the upper tributaries of the Guayas River Basin in Ecuador became known as Arriba cacao
Toth and his partner Schweizer now work with 14 local farmers of Piedra de Plata. Elio Cantos, whose great grandfather planted most of the centenarian trees is the head farmer. The duo is producing only in Ecuador, deliciously divine chocolate which is made only from that heirloom cacao tree.
Producing such high-quality chocolate is no easy task. The process is long and hard! It starts with six or seven days of fermentation, and then the beans are roasted, shelled and ground.
To’ak chocolate bars are high quality, pure cacao with no cacao butter added and a small amount of organic brown sugar to make the flavor of the chocolate”bloom.” All you taste is the delicious, divine chocolate.