Postcard from Choroní: The World's Best Chocolate

An effort to preserve the world's finest chocolate is at full tilt on the Venezuelan coast. The sweet past and shaky future of the criollo bean

Mariana Hellmund

Criollo cultivators are trying to preserve the ultimate chocolate treasure.

This is about as far as you can get from the world's boutique chocolate shops. I'm hiking through dense, rain-forest-like vegetation near Venezuela's central coast, shooing away mosquitoes and unsuccessfully dodging spiky palm trees. And yet, as a full-fledged chocoholic, I don't mind: I'm about to find the world's best cacao. A couple more meters down the trail, I see it. Not an especially tall tree, nothing majestic--just the bearer of the divine criollo bean.

The simple bean of the Venezuelan criollo--source of what many connoisseurs consider chocolate's gold standard--had been on the verge of extinction. But here on the Monterosa...

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