I know that I’m jeopardizing Brazil’s status as one of the world’s great dessert oases and will therefore lose some of you readers here, but it simply must be said: there is almost no fine chocolate culture in that country. I confirmed this with the American owner of our bed and breakfast in Paraty (the fabulous Pousada Guaraná), who had to go all the way to São Paulo for a decent-enough cocoa to make his chocolate breakfast cake. He said there just isn’t the demand for fine chocolate as there is in New York, for example, where even the lowliest of bodegas at least stocks Lindt.
As far as I could tell, if you’re on the hunt for chocolate, you have two choices: Garoto or Cacau Show. Garoto is your average, run-of-the-mill, store-bought chocolate that comes in all manner of Euro-style bon-bons and bars, sort of like Cadbury’s in the U.K. or Hershey’s in the U.S. But I tell you this: Garoto is not even as good as Hershey’s. It’s a little gritty, totally waxy, and flavorless– like cheap Polish or Russian chocolate. Are you shocked that it’s now owned by Nestlé after being founded by a German-Brazilian in the 1920s? If you’re hankering for chocolate, eating some Garoto will be such a frustratingly bad experience, it’s probably not even worth it. You’ll moan and cry in despair and hope that at least there’s a Cacau Show store in town somewhere that you can hop a cab to. Cacau Show is the only “high-end” chocolate chain that I could find. It was actually founded by a 17 year old Brazilian kid in 1988 and is still wholly owned by the original company, which is a real feat in the monopolistic world of foodstuffs. The chocolate is unevenly good. The bars and individual chocolates were a disappointment and lacked a rich cocoa flavor. The brightly-wrapped truffles, however, were actually quite good and come in flavors like coconut, chili pepper, and hazelnut. They were probably the only chocolate I had in Brazil that I enjoyed and filled that terrible void that I was beginning to feel very desperate about.