How Denise of Castronovo became a bean to bar chocolate maker

Growing up Denise of Castronovo acquired a taste for fine chocolate from Switzerland. Her aunt would send her Swiss chocolates that weren’t available at that time in the United States. She never imagined becoming a chocolate maker; she was more interested in saving the rainforests and learning about sustainability. She became fascinated with the health benefits found in cacao nibs and how their flavor were remarkably different from any dark chocolate she had ever tried. So her chocolate-making experimentation began - a hobby that quickly turned into more.

Her first batch of chocolate was made from Dominican Republic beans. She was astounded by how flavorful it was. The turning point for her was when she realized that chocolate flavors have been engineered right out of mass-produced chocolate, leaving it flat, expressionless and dull to the taste. Knowing that chocolate has a rich history in Latin America and more flavor notes than wine, she started Castronovo Chocolate to discover fine chocolate flavor. The flavors in the different chocolate origins vary with the bean varietal, soil conditions, climate, and fermentation conditions. Chocolate flavors can be tweaked through roasting and conching. Some examples of how growing conditions can affect flavor is that the Nicaragua is grown in volcanic soil. The fertile soil gives the beans a deep dark color and also some smokiness. Denise can alter the nutty taste in the bean with roasting and conching profiles. She really enjoys roasting the cocoa beans because this step is so crucial for fine flavor. She loves all of the different smells that come off from the beans in this process and the challenge of getting it just right.

Castronovo Chocolate uses methods that pre-date mass production to craft chocolate from the cacao bean to bar in small batches. The process, execution, hunt for new flavors, discovery of rare bean varietals, and the challenge of the craft are what inspire Denise. It is the perfect marriage of art and science. Castronovo Chocolate is in relentless pursuit of discovering the absolute depths of the chocolate experience knowing that it may never get there. But along the way, we can all enjoy a bar of the most flavorful chocolate we can find.

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