Did you know that at FICO Eataly World in Bologna you can attend a Venchi chocolate tour called Bean to Bar?
The story of Venchi chocolate dates back to 1800 when 16 years old Silviano started creating chocolates in his shop in Cuneo, Piedmont. The company was officially founded in 1878 in Turin. It now has stores in more than 70 countries in the whole world.
At FICO, Venchi chocolate has a small factory with some machines in reduced size (if compared to those in use at the actual factory), perfect to show to the public how chocolate is made.
I had the chance to attend this experience with the guide of Giulia Moscatelli, a young and beautiful chocolate expert. Grazie, Giulia!
Venchi chocolate tour: Bean to Bar
Giulia started this workshop by explaining the origins of cocoa beans, South America. There, at the beginning of cocoa history, the local population used to mince the beans with rocks and then soak them in hot water to obtain an energetic drink. They called it chocolatl, meaning bitter water. At that time, in fact, sugar hadn’t been invented yet.
Around 1500, the conquest of Central and South America by the Spaniards led to the importation of chocolate into Europe. Then, the diffusion of sugar was a game-changer starting from 1600.
In Italy, one of the first chocolate “hubs” was Piedmont. Here many of the first machines to process chocolate were invented.
The raw material
Giulia righteously explained that the process to obtain the best chocolate starts choosing the best raw materials. I learned for example that you can manage to hide some flaws, if the chocolate has less than 70% of cocoa, or if it’s milk chocolate. So, you can better judge the quality of chocolate, when it’s closer to 100%. A truly good 100% chocolate is not as bitter as we may think. We may have tried only products, which are not excellent.
I saw the colorful fruits of cocoa, that can be green, yellow or red, which grow directly on the tree trunk. The fruits are collected by hand and open like coconuts. They contain the beans, covered by a sweet white pulp. This pulp, in contact with air, activates a fermentation process, which allows the aromas of our chocolate to develop. This phase must be controlled to avoid the formation of mold and bacteria and to avoid unpleasant aftertaste. The beans are then sun-dried and put inside jute sacks.
- Toasting. In order to completely dry the beans, and to fully give off their aromas, we have the toasting machine. It’s an utterly important phase. There are no rules. Every chocolatier sets different timings and temperatures, according to the product he/she wants to obtain. Think that cocoa can give off up to 560 different aromas!
- Winnowing. After toasting, there’s the winnowing phase. The machine eliminates the skin of the beans and then grinds them to form small grains. Its smell is already similar to chocolate.
- Grinding. The machine grinds the grains, forming a thick paste called cocoa liquor.
- Refining phase. We have to proceed differently, depending on the product we want to obtain. To produce a certain kind of chocolate, we have to add the right amount of sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla, soy lecithin, and other possible ingredients. The refining machine contains small steel spheres that, rotating and clashing, manage to refine the chocolate mass together with the other ingredients.
- Conching. This machinery was invented by Mr. Lindt. It allows to reduce acidity and moisture and to soften the mass. Not every chocolatier follow this step. It’s a delicate point, cause too much conching can cause the loss of the aromas.
- Tempering. The machine allows chocolate to reach the right temperature to be malleable, ensuring a glossy and crisp finish. It’s really fascinating to watch chocolatiers at work while they temper chocolate with a spatula on a marble top. But of course, factories use more convenient machinery.
At this point, I had the pleasure to taste 5 different chocolates by Venchi, each one more delicious than the last:
- Nougatine, one of Venchi’s most famous creations, dating back to 1922. It consists of crushed and caramelized hazelnuts coated in dark chocolate.
- Gianduiotto Venezuela limited edition
- Espresso caffè
- Fondente 85% cuor di cacao
- Ficone, chocolate fondant filled with caramelized figs and mascarpone (I loved it, by the way).
At this point, I customized my own chocolate bar. I chose bitter chocolate, and I adorned with hazelnuts, chopped hazelnuts and dried raspberry powder. 15 minutes in the refrigerator and then I was able to bring it home with me.
This workshop was a lovely and informative experience, especially thanks to Giulia. I omitted many of the info she gave me and some of the best anecdotes. I don’t want to be a spoilsport for those who wish to try this experience. Below you can find the photo I posted on Instagram and the details of the workshop.
Venchi chocolate tour Bean to Bar hours and bookings
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 4.30 pm – 5.30 pm, 7 pm – 8 pm
Friday 7 pm – 8 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 pm – 1 pm, 4.30 pm – 5.30 pm, 7 pm – 8 pm
Se prices and book at eatalyworld.it/venchi