The story of our chocolate winds its way down a path which, going backwards in history, unites Sicily with Spain, particularly the County of Modica. Even further back, our chocolate finds its origin in the marvelous, ceremonial civilisation of the Aztecs, the ancient inhabitants of Mexico.
When the "New World" was discovered, the Spanish found an extraordinary variety of foods. 'Xocoàtl' was made by the inhabitants with cocoa seeds, and was held in great regard because it conferred strength and vigour and was also a sign of wealth. The Aztecs made the 'Xocoàtl' using a special rolling pin made of stone, grinding the cocoa seeds on a tool called a 'metate', a curved stone placed on two transversal base stones.
The cocoa flour produced was then mixed with spices, and the mixture was rubbed on the metate until it hardened.
During their domination in Sicily, the Spaniards introduced the method of making chocolate that they had learned from the Aztecs.
This chocolate, in contrast to later versions throughout Europe, never became industrially produced and has remained unchanged through the centuries. Still today, the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto makes chocolate with the same ancient technique and ingredients.
"…the flavour of Modica's chocolate is reminiscent of that of Alicante (and I don't know of which other Spanish towns): a fondant chocolate of two types - vanilla and cinnamon - to be eaten in squares or melted in a cup: the flavour is so unique that whoever tastes it seems to have arrived at the archetype, the absolute, and the chocolate produced elsewhere - even the most famous - seems to be an adulterated or corrupted version…"
Leonardo Sciascia ( La Contea di Modica Electa )
THE METHOD OF PRODUCTION
The production technique used to make our chocolate is very similar to that used by the Aztecs at the time of the discovery of the New World. We begin with a mass of semi-ground cocoa that still contains its cocoa butter.
The mass is heated to make it fluid, and at a precise temperature, it is mixed with castor sugar and spices (cinnamon or vanilla). The mixing is done with a "refiner", a modern-day replacement of the metate.
The mixture is kept at a temperature that prevents the sugar crystals from melting (they remain an integral part of the chocolate bar). The final phase consists of spreading the mixture into forms, which will then be pounded to ensure that the chocolate takes the desired shape.
This particular "cold working" of the chocolate excludes the phase of conching, which many think is the secret to keeping flavours alive that would otherwise disappear. The strength of this particular product is the simplicity of the technique and the fact that there is no addition of butter or other extraneous substances (vegetable fats, milk derivatives or lecithin).
Bonajuto's chocolate is composed only of a mixture of cocoa, sugar and spices -- a final link with those distant peoples whose history we share and whose beliefs about the benefits of chocolate have been passed on through time.
Indeed, the scent of our chocolate is believed to be beneficial in cases of bronchitis or general respiratory problems.
Modica is a town where the wonderful figure of the "ciucculattaru" ('chocolate-man') once could be found. An unknowing colleague of his Spanish counterpart, he carried the metate around with him from door to door on a cart to produce the chocolate that the townsfolk regarded more as a nourishing food than a sweet.
This is the story of our chocolate, which has passed through the centuries with it's original purity intact.
"...chocolate of astonishingly pure, powerful flavor..."
The New York Times