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Luisa Abram is a chocolate maker that dedicates itself to sourcing micro-lot, wildly grown cacao from the Amazon Rainforest. The chocolate is made small-scale in São Paulo, Brazil by the Abram-Banks family: Luisa, Andre, Mirian and Andrea. The family take a very hands-on approach to chocolate-making, controlling and overlooking every stage of the process, from the harvesting of the cacao to the finished bar and logistics. This explains why the chocolate tastes so good and so personal at the same time – quality is very important to Luisa Abram.

Luisa, the eponymous woman of the chocolate, values a commitment to quality in every stage of making a differentiated product.

During fermentation, Luisa will often remove a handful of cocoa beans and cut them in half to see the progress of the fermentation. This is not so much a test that is strictly followed, but Luisa Abram likes to observe this amongst other tests – such as temperature of the mass and its aromas – all to aid the decision of when to stop the fermentation. Tests like this also allow Luisa to check the quality of the cacao.

Cacao had once made Brazil the largest exporter of the commodity in the world; however, once plant-diseases such as ‘Witches Broom’ and ‘Black Pod’ attacked cacao, the production reduced significantly. The answer to overcome this was for farmers to grow hardier beans, typically of the ‘Forastero’ variety. This meant forgoing the growing and harvesting of diverse fine cacao varieties for instead rather mono-varietal, disease-resistant bulk cacao.

However, today, Luisa Abram’s vision is to restore Brazil’s fine-cacao industry.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Luisa’s father André to get a better insight into this exceptional maker…

What’s your background? Why and how did you get into chocolate?        

We are a family business. Everybody is involved, so that everyone’s skills contribute to the whole. There are four of us; Luisa Abram – who was born in Coventry, England. Luisa has just finished Culinary Studies in São Paulo, Brazil. She is our barsmith. She takes care of the tempering process to the packing of the bars. Then there is Luisa’s father; André Banks. André is a native Brazilian from the Northeast of the country with a PhD in maths from Warwick. He takes care of all the machines and does the cleaning, roasting and grinding of the cacao nibs. Mirian Abram is Luisa’s mother. She is also from the Northeast of Brazil, she takes care of the logistics and finances. Then there is Andrea Abram – Luisa’s older sister who has a Law Degree and helps with legal issues.

Luisa Abram

 

Luisa always wanted to have her own business, and chocolate had always been an interest. Once she finished her degree, we started looking for options. We read many newspaper articles, magazines and webpages about competitive food products made in Brazil, made with raw material indigenous from here. We discovered that cacao is from the Amazon Rain Forest, which a large part of it sits in Brazil. Then we started looking for places where the locals collected cacao from the Forest in an organised way. After much effort and time, we found a co-operative that was doing a good job in collecting and fermenting wild cacao from the Forest. Moreover, the cacao is an important source of income to them, acting as a palpable incentive to preserve the Forest, since the cacao trees only grow and bear fruits under the shadow of bigger tress. We were really happy to meet such natural sustainable business model! We brought this cacao to Sao Paulo, made tests and were amazed with its flavour, creaminess and smell! We fell in love with that chocolate and the integration that came with it between the local communities and the preservation of the Rain Forest!!

Where do you want to go next?  New bars?  New beans?  New markets?  

New beans for sure, focused on wild ones. The ones nature created many years ago in the Amazon Rain Forest. We aim for the world to eat our bars and enjoy them.

How did you source your beans?

From small communities in the Brazilian Amazon rivers

What is your favourite food?  Wine?  Other chocolate makers?

Luisa: Tuna sashimi. Chocolate: Naïve 67%, and of course ours most definitely!

Andre: Japanese food, Brazilian cuisine, Indian cuisine. Chocolate: Zotter Peru, Naïve 67%, Domori Canoabo, and ours most definitely!

Mirian: Brazilian cuisine, Indian cuisine

Andrea: Japanese cuisine

As part of our Fairtrade Fortnight series, we take you into the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. One of our greatest discoveries of last year was Brazilian maker Luisa Abram.

Andre Banks and his daughter Luisa are the driving force behind the family-owned chocolate maker. The pair source their beans from a co-operative deep within Amazon. The local people harvest the beans from the cacao trees that grow wild in the Brazilian rainforest.

For the local communities, cacao represents a great source of income and much more. The cacao tress grow best in the shade. The canopy of larger trees and the naturally biodiverse environment of the rainforest therefore allows the cacao trees to thrive and bear fruit. As a result, it is the interest of local communities to do everything they can to protect and preserve their natural environment.Luisa A grower

These beans seem more like magic beans that ‘cocoa’. They provide a livelihood for local people, help to protect the rainforest and (thanks to the harvester’s and Luisa’s skills) produce delicious chocolate. Most excitingly, Andre and Luisa have just had confirmation that their cocoa beans really are special!

The USDA have just confirmed that the cocoa beans used in Luisa Abram’s 71% & 80% dark bars are member of the Purus family. The Purus river valley, a tributary of the Amazon River, is home to one of the 10 unique genetic varietys of the cacao plant (Purus). One the rarest strands, to our knowledge Luisa Abram is the only maker using Purus beans to make chocolate.

This really is truly an incredible discovery. It is a reminder of the vital role that local cooperatives have in protecting and preserving biodiversity. Through simple but sustainable practices we can support communities and respect their environment. In the words of Andre ‘Most river floodplain in the Amazon Forest at some point has cacao trees. […] We want to pay a fair and just price for every wild cacao we encounter, so that the message it pays off to preserve the Forest as it is, gets through!

Luisa Abram’s approach to chocolate making is admirable and simple. We were blown away when first tasted their two bars, and we can’t wait to see what new beans and new harvests will bring!

 

Discover Luisa Abram’s Chocolate

Luisa Abram is a chocolate maker that dedicates itself to sourcing micro-lot, wildly grown cacao from the Amazon Rainforest. The chocolate is made small-scale in São Paulo, Brazil by the Abram-Banks family: Luisa, Andre, Mirian and Andrea. The family take a very hands-on approach to chocolate-making, controlling and overlooking every stage of the process, from the harvesting of the cacao to the finished bar and logistics. This explains why the chocolate tastes so good and so personal at the same time – quality is very important to Luisa Abram.

Crafted from cacao that’s grown on the river banks of the Tocantins River in the Lower Amazon River Basin, this is the newest wild cacao found and used by Luisa Abram.

Tasting Notes

With its creamy melt, expect a flavour profile that revels in aromatic liquorice and spices, with a tannic backdrop. There’s a sharp citrus note, and with its astringency becomes the perfect accompaniment to a bold red wine.

This 70% bar is from our first Brazilian maker, Luisa Abram. Luisa and her family use wild cacao sourced from small cooperatives in the upper basin of the Amazon. To the beans they add nothing but a little organic sugar, giving the true flavour of Amazonian cacao. 

Along with Fresco’s selection, this is also one of the first vintage bars to join our chocolate library. Much like a fine red wine, the tannins in dark chocolate can age and develop a bar’s flavour profile, enhancing and transforming the taste. The concept of vintage chocolate adds yet another layer to our understanding of what impacts the flavour in chocolate. You can now try bars from a single maker which are made in the exact same way, with the same cocoa percentage, from the same estate within the same origin, with the only difference being the year in which the beans were harvested. You’ll be amazed at the difference in flavour that this seemingly subtle change will make to the chocolate that you taste.

With this Luisa Abram bar we detected strong treacle and liquorice notes with an almost malted molasses. Like Luisa Abram’s other bars the mouthfeel of this vintage 70% is beautifully creamy which makes it a very indulgent treat.

This 81% vintage bar is from our first Brazilian maker, Luisa Abram. Luisa and her family use wild cacao sourced from small cooperatives in the upper basin of the Amazon. To the beans they add nothing but a little organic sugar, giving the true flavour of Amazonian cacao. 

Along with Fresco’s selection, this is also one of the first vintage bars to join our chocolate library. The concept of vintage chocolate adds yet another layer to our understanding of what impacts the flavour in chocolate. Much like a fine red wine, the tannins in dark chocolate can age and develop a bar’s flavour profile, enhancing and transforming the taste. You can now try bars from a single maker which are made in the exact same way, with the same cocoa percentage, from the same estate within the same origin, with the only difference being the year in which the beans were harvested. You’ll be amazed at the difference in flavour that this seemingly subtle change will make to the chocolate that you taste.

Much like Luisa’s 70% vintage, we tasted similar hints of spice and liquorice but that extra 11% packs more of a punch. The malted molasses provides more of a backdrop in this bar. Instead, sharp green floral notes unfold as the bar melts.

This 70% bar is the first bar from our first Brazilian maker, Luisa Abram. Luisa and her family use wild cacao sourced from small cooperatives in the upper basin of the Amazon. To the beans they add nothing but a little organic sugar, giving the true flavour of Amazonian cacao. 

The bar has a thick, slightly fudgy texture that blends well with the dark sweet notes of black treacle. Mixed in with the intense, almost burnt fudge is a floral spice – we detected hints of cardamom with just a shadow of liquorice on the finish. A complex, interesting and indulgent bar, using cacao that is not widely available – this bar is absolutely worth a try.

This 81% dark chocolate is the first bar of our first Brazilian maker, Luisa Abram. Luisa and her family use wild cacao sourced from small cooperatives in the upper basin of the Amazon. To the beans they add nothing but a little organic sugar, giving the true flavour of Amazonian cacao. 

A darker version of their 70% – we detected similar hints of spice and liquorice but with a great deal intensity. The treacle and burnt sugar flavours are more muted in this bar.

 

This 70% dark chocolate bar, and Gold award winner 2018, is crafted by Brazilian chocolate maker, Luisa Abram. Luisa and her family use wild cacao sourced from small cooperatives in the upper basin of the Amazon. To the beans they add nothing but a little organic sugar, giving the true flavour of Amazonian cacao.

The bar comes in two 40g individual squares, ideal for sharing or for simply savouring the bar.

Tasting Notes

On first taste, we instantly fell in love with this chocolate. The flavour profile of this bar is foremost chocolatey, with then a hazelnut-edge. It is a bar that one can only describe as a chocolate brownie, with both its rich flavour and fudgy texture. Its aroma hits immediately with intensely chocolatey, fresh bread and warm treacle notes. The thicker mouth texture of this bar lends itself to a slow melt, making the enjoyment of the bar last for that little bit longer.

This 70% dark chocolate is another fantastic bar from our first Brazilian maker, Luisa Abram. Luisa and her family use wild cacao sourced from small cooperatives in the upper basin of the Amazon. To the beans they add nothing but a little organic sugar, giving the true flavour of Amazonian cacao. 

The cocoa from this bar is a wild cocoa sourced from the Rio Jari region, and formed part of the 2017 harvest.

This bar has a green, almost earthy aroma, but the flavour is most unexpected.  A sharply astringent dark chocolate, strong honey notes with a hint of hazlenuts.  We detected a richly indulgent cocoa finish and some toasty malted notes.

The chocolate makers in this month’s box have chosen cacao fromspecific regions with unique micro-climates. Here cacao beans growwith flavour profiles that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

First is a new bar from Luisa Abram. Luisa is dedicated to finding Brazil’s rarest cacaos, mostly grown by remote Amazon communitieswho can only be reached by boat. This new dark is no exception anduses cacao from the Rio Jari region collected during the 2017 harvest.

Next Chocolate Tree has used cacao from a single Venezuelan region. The bean grown here is Venezuelan Porcelana, a varietal unique tothe country which is hugely prized by chocolate makers worldwide.

Then, Rob Anderson from Fresco is one of two chocolate makers inthe world to have these beans, grown by a new association ofsmallholder farmers in the Polochic Valley. It is a delight to be able toshare this with you.

Finally we want to introduce a new craft maker Lapa-Lapa. Founder Pieter-Jan is a Belgian now living and making chocolate inNicaragua. He is currently just using one type of bean, Rugoso, whichgrows in the jungles of Matagalpa.

We hope you enjoy this selection.

LUISA ABRAM – RIO JARI 2017 HARVEST

The dark chocolate has a green, almost earthy aroma. However on first bite, sharp notes along with strong honey and hazelnuts are revealed. The richly indulgent cocoa finish is topped by a toasty malted touch.

The cacao used in this bar is a wild cocoa grown in the Rio Jari region, and formed part of the 2017 harvest. Luisa Abram, the founder and namesake was our first Brazilian chocolate maker. Luisa, her father Andre, and the rest of her family all pitch in. To make her bars, Luisa uses wild cacao sourced from small cooperatives in the upper basin of the Amazon. To the beans she adds nothing but a little organic sugar, giving the true flavour of Amazonian cacao.

Try this single origin bar from Luisa Abram today

CHOCOLATE TREE – AMBANJA MADAGASCAR

A sweetly milk chocolate, whose wonderful

flavours linger on the tongue. Typical berry flavours of Madagascan cacao are blended with sweeter touches of caramel and fudge. The milk gives a rich creamy texture.

Ali and Friederike of Chocolate Tree craft all their bars in their workshop just outside Edinburgh. They are dedicate to working as closely with their suppliers as possible. In 2015 they went to Madagascar to visit Bertil Akesson who owns the Ambanja farm near the Sambirano River in Madagascar. Working closely with the people growing their cacao ensures that they are paid a fair wage. This kind of rainforest agriculture also promotes biodiversity.

Try this milk chocolate bar from Chocolate Tree today

FRESCO – POLOCHIC VALLEY, GUATEMALA; A COCOA RUNNERS EXCLUSIVE

A dark chocolate bar with a perfect slow and smooth melt. The mellow bar opens with hints of rich, fudgy brownie. Gradually notes of dark plums and raisins rise through, creating an intensely fruity finish,

Fresco is one of just two chocolate makers to use these rare Guatemalan beans. The beans are grown by an association of 500 smallholder farmers in the Polochic Valley, one of the hottest micro-climates in Guatemala. As well as cacao they grow coffee and produce honey. The Valley is right next to La Reserva de Biosfera Sierra de las Minas, a forest reserve, which the farmer association is also responsible for protecting.

Try this exclusive bar from Fresco today

LAPA-LAPA – RUGOSO NICARAGUA

This powerful dark bar balances acidity, bitterness and sweetness. It has notes of sharp berries and stone fruits which blend in the finish with tropical wood, smoked tea and aromatic tobacco. An intense chocolate that lingers on the tongue.

Belgian Pieter-Jan’s lifelong passion for chocolate had taken him far from home. Seeking out the best cacao to make the best chocolate, he found himself in Nicaragua where he now makes his bars from local beans. The name Lapa-Lapa comes from his Nicaraguan legend about a mysterious being called the Lapa-Lapa. This individual roams the jungles and hills of Nicaragua every night searching for the best quality cacao.

Try the Lapa-Lapa bar today