Monday, March 4, 2024

Mexican chocolate maker in the international spotlight

Champions of Mexican chocolate claimed a victory on an international stage last week with six awards going to chocolate maker José Ramón Castillo at the International Chocolate Awards’ Americas Bean-to-Bar and Chocolatier competition in New York City.

The chef behind the celebrated Mexico City’s Que BO! won five bronze medals with his micro batch dark chocolate bars, orange and rosemary bonbons and almond, cardamom and milk chocolate sweets, and a silver medal for his micro batch milk chocolate bars.

The winners were chosen by professional chocolate judges from the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Guatemala and Ecuador.

“It’s a panel made up of 70 judges,” Castillo said, “and this year they received more than 970 [chocolate] samples from all over the Americas, from Canada to Argentina. To take home six medals is a big deal; it’s not an everyday kind of achievement in a competition with so many people. Between 15 or 20 chocolate masters from each country attend to show off their work.”

The Mexican chocolate maker said his principal endeavor has been to elevate Mexican chocolate, in everything from quality to aesthetic questions such as color and texture.

“My raw material is always Mexican. I always try to look for criollo beans from cacao-growing regions such as Tabasco or Chiapas, and from that I begin to make the chocolate. We look at different roasts and formulas until we arrive at the flavor and aroma we want. Then we make the chocolate bars, bonbons and truffles, making daily adjustments through trial and error.”

However, Castillo said it has not always been easy to convince consumers to pay more for Mexican artisanal chocolate, but he has made it his mission over the course of 15 years to educate chocolate lovers about the value and work behind each morsel.

“At the beginning it was very hard because there were many who dismissed Mexican chocolate; the best chocolate was thought to be Belgian . . . . But now, Que BO! has positioned itself as a brand with high aspirations, and many people travel to Mexico City just to try our products.”

In 2012, the Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development recognized José Ramón Castillo’s work and honored him as the face of Mexican chocolate.

Que BO! won a bronze medal last year at the International Chocolate Awards in Florence, Italy.

Source: Informador (sp)

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