New Chocolate in Town

The first Venezuelan chocolatier in New York City sets up shop

Tu Chocolate

There's no shortage of chocolatiers and chocolate shops in New York City, but Maria Busato and Alvaro Insausti have launched a business, dubbed Tu Chocolate, that bills itself as Manhattan's first Venezuelan example of the genre. That's significant because Venezuelan chocolate is some of the world's best, known for its aromatic character and depth of flavor.

Busato and Insausti, natives of you-know-what-country, source organically grown, free-trade Carenero cacao, a regional variety from east of Caracas, known for its notes of fruit and nuts and its intense chocolate flavor. The Carenero is a variety of Trinitario, itself a cross between the rare and legendary Criollo cacao bean (which today accounts for only about 1 percent of the cacao grown worldwide) and the dominant Forastero; it was first developed on the island of Trinidad, for which it is named, in 1727, and today produces much of the best premium chocolate made worldwide.

Tu Chocolate's bars are rectangular and thin, and flavored with a variety of all-natural ingredients. I sampled the 73 percent dark chocolate with pecans, butter toffee almonds, and hazelnuts (just little chips of all) and also with ginger, green tea, and sesame seeds, and the 41 percent milk chocolate with almonds and sea salt. They were surprisingly subtle despite their forthright flavorings, and the base chocolate was superb, rich and earthy and deliciously fragrant.

I mean it as a compliment, however, to say that, in a way, this is minimalist chocolate, pure and a little modest. This isn't decadent, supersweet stuff, in other words. It's more chocolate for measured savoring than for devouring.

Even the packaging is low-key: The bars are wrapped in plastic film made from renewable plant resources and is completely compostable; the brown wrapping is made from recyclable paper imprinted with vegetable-based ink.

Tu Chocolate is available at a number of outlets in New York City and a handful in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but may be ordered by mail.