Traveling *outside* of the United States? Throughout my twenty-two and a half year life, such opportunity had not previously risen. I graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2018 with a B.S. in Mathematics, and started working here full time a month later. My sister, another Mathematics Major at Bowdoin College, had the opportunity to study abroad in Rome this past fall semester, taking classes for her [phenomenal] art minor. My family and I had the chance to pay her a visit over Thanksgiving week, and even though I am still new to the “real world,” I made a strong effort to connect with Amedei directly in Pontedera, in attempts to get a first-hand view of their facility, and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity which had risen.
We departed from Logan Airport in Boston, and had a long flight ahead. I knew we would be flying directly over the alps, and growing up skiing since I was about 3 years old, I could not wait to see the chain in person, as our flight to our layover in Munich, Germany handed me that opportunity on a silver platter. Absolutely breathtaking scenery – and to be honest, I was a bit bummed out I didn’t pack my skis along for the trip…
Landing in Munich with a couple hours to kill, I popped in a few stores, and guess what I was drawn to? Some familiar brands and varietals, some completely new. I snapped a few images of the offerings at the time – and departed for Rome.
Italy is a breath taking country as is. Staying in Rome for a week, three blocks from the Colosseum, I was able to see The Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps, Castel Sant’Angelo, The Vatican, Catacombs of St. Domitilla, and numerous times a day, the Colosseum itself. Rome is an incredibly rich historical city, and the preservation of these old buildings, statues, and monuments is one you have to see in person. Pictures do not quite do a justice – as the sheer size in magnitude in person is what strikes you off-guard.
Before discussing this any further, I want to say thank you to Amedei and the reps facilitating this trip for me. They were extremely kind, and it seemed as if they wanted me to visit as much as I did – I can not say thank you enough.
The morning of the trip to Amedei, I awoke eager to depart. Completely unsure of what to expect traveling alone in another country – I took my seat, and was ready to go.
I traveled in bullet train from Rome to Pontedera, and shortly after arriving an Amedei rep was there to bring me to their facility. After a short drive, I stepped out of the car, and was immediately hit with a chocolate aroma pouring out of their facility – I could not get enough, and I hadn’t even been inside. I snapped a quick photo, and headed inside.
Amedei’s HQ: 100% of Amedei products are manufactured in this facility; and after the ensuing chocolate smell outside, I did not think it could get any better, but I was mistaken the moments the doors opened.
I stepped inside, stuck. Some people may say, “if you work with a given smell too much, you will get sick of it.” Those people, however, do not consider working with chocolate. This aroma is a breath of fresh air, and I do not foresee it ever getting old.
The other folks introduced themselves, and we got to it! There was a phenomenal private presentation set up, as well as, you know, chocolate.
Although prior to the actual chocolate sampling, they had a few great items to present, one of which was preserved cocoa pods. Now, the cocoa “pod” is the whole fruit, whereas the cocoa beans are inside the pod. You can see in the left jar the white-hue of the Criollo beans, which are known for their unparalleled flavor & secondary flavor notes. They are the “rarest” cocoa beans, behind the Forastero and Trinitario which are more readily available, and if of interest, you can read about these varietals here.
The presentation continued, and before actually tasting any chocolate, I was presented with a blind cocoa nib taste test. Cocoa beans consist of both cocoa solids, and cocoa butter, although nibs are roasted & crushed beans, before they are conched in the chocolate-making process.
I had three jars of nibs in front of me. I was informed they were various grades of quality, but gave it my best shot. I was unable to get two of the three, although one of the jars consisted of nibs from, what still may be my favorite bar to this day: Amedei’s Blanco de Criollo, one of their most premium offerings. Amedei produces just 20,000 of these bars a year, each with a hand-written number on the back. It took a few seconds, but I knew I recognized these beans, and it may have have surprised them that I actually got this bean correct, but once you try the Blanco de Criollo bar, you will experience the unique flavor as it is truly a taste you will never forget.
After the nib tastings, they presented me with one of their highly-acclaimed “Golden Bean” Award for their 63% Cacao Toscano Black Dark Chocolate bar. Chocolatiers around the globe pursue this award, and Amedei is one of the few brands awarded this profound golden bean from the Academy of Chocolate.
Amedei is the most-awarded brand from the Academy, and continued its dominance up through 2016, when Amedei’s Founder, Cecelia Tessieri, actually became a judge for the Academy.
The tour continued, and the chocolate tastings began. The proper method is to unwrap & smell the chocolate, noting any secondary scents you may sense in addition to the chocolate itself. The next step? Snap the chocolate in half, and listen for the “snap” the chocolate makes. The louder the snap, the better the quality. Finally, and my favorite part, the tasting. You want to place a broken piece of chocolate on your tongue, and let the chocolate slowly melt, enrobing your taste buds in little time. As the chocolate melts, the flavor progresses, which is followed by the secondary notes, different for each blend.
The final tasting was something I had not seen before, and was new at the time, Amedei’s Gioia. This 75% cacao dark chocolate encapsulates a blend of peach and apricot, with 23K carat gold flakes sprinkled on top. Absolutely amazing.
After the tastings concluded, the tour transitioned to the facility itself, although I could not snap any more photos internally – it felt like I was in a “top secret” facility, just adding to the experience.
I was able to view the entire process first hand, from bean-to-bar, and will never forget what I was able to be a part of on that day. After the tour itself concluded, I got one more photo outside the facility, which will be a memory throughout the rest of my life.
A huge thank you to everyone who played a part in this experience, of which I hope to reconnect with soon. A few days later I returned back to the states, and this post is long overdue, but to anyone who is in the Pontedera area on your next trip to Italy – I highly, highly recommend checking out Amedei’s location – the landscape, scenery, and let’s not forget chocolate, truly creates an unforgettable experience.