Most of us have wonderful childhood memories of the chocolate we enjoyed as youngsters, and because of that we don’t take kindly to people (especially foreigners) talking down our beloved homegrown choccy treats. With that in mind I will try to be diplomatic about this… Many visitors to Rio find that the standard chocolate products on offer here (such as the dreaded Garoto selection box) are a little, ahem, ‘underwhelming’.
But chocoholics need not despair! Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that there is no good Brazilian chocolate – as with many other Brazilian products (wine, cheese, coffee, beer, etc) you just have to know where to look. Here’s list a few of the places and brands that I think do it best.
Q Chocolate (Aquim)
For me, these guys are top of the heap. The Aquim family have a cacau farm in the heart of the Atlantic Forest and it is from this single estate that all the cocoa comes to make their chocolate. This is place for purists – they don’t make any milk chocolate at all. Their chocolate is made from pure cocoa, cocoa butter and sugar. It also comes in absolutely beautiful packaging illustrated with scenes of Brazilian nature and wildlife, making it a great spot to pick up gifts to take home.
This is high-end, serious, chocolate, so don’t expect it to be cheap – but for high quality, high cocoa, dark chocolate, this is the place.
Monday-Saturday 10am – 8pm
The locals’ favourite, Kopenhagen has stores across the city (and also at the airports) offering a really wide range of chocolatey goodies and other sweet candies. They also make a really tasty hot chocolate.
I must admit that I have a soft spot for the cutely packaged (though weirdly named) Língua de Gato (cats tongues!), but I suspect that most Brazilians would start off by singing the praises of the Nhá Benta, a thick chocolate tower filled with a kind of fluffy, soft marshmallow. I have to admit that Nhá Benta aren’t really my thing, but who am I to argue with 205 million Brazilians?
Opening hours vary according to store
While the mall setting (Shopping Leblon) doesn’t do much for me, Dengo’s selection of high-end, luxury chocolate and chocolate related products really blew me away. As well as good old chocolate, they also have nibs, gianduja and, a major rarity in Rio, the delicious mel de cacau (cocoa honey) – a sweet juice extracted at the time of cocoa harvest.
Amma Chocolate [various outlets in Rio including Vero]
Amma do not currently have a physical store in Rio (they do in São Paulo and Salvador), however their excellent organic chocolate (grown in the Atlantic Forest of southern Bahia) is available to purchase from a wide range of locations here in the city. You can find bars of Amma chocolate in the larger, fancier supermarkets (try the Zona Sul supermarkets in Ipanema or Leblon) and in many other foodie locations such as health food stores and delicatessens. You can also taste the Amma chocolate in the chocolate ice-cream sold at Vero in Ipanema.
As well as the core range of dark chocolates with various percentages of cacau, they also have milk chocolate, flavoured chocolates and (my favourite) the mysterious cupulate, a kind of cousin of chocolate made from cupuaçú, an extraordinary Amazonian fruit which is related to cacau (they use its Latin binomial, Theobroma grandiflorum).