Then there are the chocolates that make wacky top 10 lists, bolstered with gold, diamonds or hand-delivery by ’80s British pop singer Tony Hadley to send prices soaring into the thousands for a single truffle or bar.
But putting pageantry and auction prices aside, at $260 for a roughly 1.5-ounce bar, new brand To’ak may be the most expensive pure chocolate in the world. The ingredients: just cacao and cane sugar.
To’ak began after Chicagoan Jerry Toth, now 36, moved to Ecuador in his 20s to help start a rainforest conversation organization. There, he met fourth-generation cacao grower Servio Pachard, who led him deep into the mountains to a patch of 100-plus-year-old Arriba cacao trees that are some of the last of their kind—and produce some of the most coveted cacao beans in the world.
The current batch of To’ak, made from rare Ecuadorian cacao beans, is 81% dark chocolate.
After fermenting the beans—a time-consuming step that chocolate producers often skip—Toth and his partners dry, roast, de-shell and grind each batch by hand. It has taken them 2 years to make 574 bars, which are sold in individual wooden boxes filled with cacao bean husks and numbered by harvest.
Each To’ak bar comes with a cacao bean in the center to remind you that chocolate comes from a tree—not a factory.
The Big Question: How does To’ak taste?
I sampled a To’ak bar with Toth, who suggests breaking it along the lines while still in its gold wrapper, then using the wooden tweezers that come in each box to pick up a piece so the oils on your fingertips don’t interfere with the taste. Instead of chewing, let the chocolate melt in the back of your mouth. The result: a rich, deep, pleasantly bitter flavor with surprisingly fruity undertones—though there’s no fruit added, the Arriba bean unleashes a natural sweetness I’ve never tasted in another chocolate.
“We’re trying to remind people that chocolate doesn’t come from a factory,” Toth says. “It comes from the land.”
The vital stats: To’ak chocolate ($260 for a 50-gram bar) went on sale this month; at press time, 380 bars are still available. Buy one here.