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InterviewPierre Marcolini on Rare Cocoa Beans, Bad Chocolate and More

Words by Edgar Daily

The master chocolatier talks us through the process of making the best sweet treats around.

We sat down with renowned Belgian chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini to talk rare cocoa beans, catering to international tastes and bad chocolate.

Pierre Marcolini


Pierre Marcolini Inside Pierre Marcolini's Dubai store

Where do you find the rare cocoa beans that you use in your recipes?

In order to unearth the best cocoa beans – the Criollo, Trinitario, Nacional or Forastero – I source them directly from growers in a range of countries. Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Peru, Vietnam or more. The cocoa beans currently originate from more than 12 different locations.

What is it about these rare cocoa beans that draws you to them?

There are as many differences between cocoa beans as there are between the grape varieties in vineyards. These are nuances that you can only discern by going to these places in person. Like grape, cocoa deserves to bear the mark of its noble origins, this is the reason why I denominate the origin of the chocolate. After I gather the best beans in the world and bring them back to my workshop, I subtly blend cocoa from different origins in order to create surprising, original and unique taste sensations.

Which country has the best cocoa?

You can find very good cocoa all over the world. It all depends on the taste you want; bitter, salty, sour, sweet, or savoury.

How many trips have you made to the farms?

I’ve been to so many that I lost count. Maybe more than 100 since I started as chocolatier. What I can tell is that I browse the planet myself to source the beans directly from growers. I know the origin of every bean I use.

Is it hard work being a cocoa bean farmer?

Growing cocoa is as hard as growing a vineyard or running a farm. You have to be very patient and attentive to what nature is offering you. Cultivating natural ingredients is very exciting but sometimes it has lots of surprises. The harvests are highly dependent on nature, climate changes etc . The political environment can also have an impact on the supply.

As a chocolatier, I make a point of honour to work in a good environment. Not only for myself but also for my collaborators and the farmers. It is important for me that they preserve the land they work on, and that they are duly remunerated so that their children are able to go to school. We pay our cocoa growers two to three times the market average. We even commit to multi-year orders with some producers in order to help them sustain their activity.

Pierre Marcolini interview


Pierre Marcolin Taking in the scent of some fresh cocoa

How do you know if the cocoa beans crop is good?

The secret to know if a crop will be successful is when you split the pods and check the mucilage, the white pulp. The pulp is protecting the cocoa bean. If the pulp is another colour, like yellow or green, then it means the cocoa bean isn’t ripe yet. Another secret is to scrape the husk to see the colour of the pulp instead of splitting it open.

With 40 stores across the world, how do you try to cater to each new location?

I try to find the right balance between high-end locations and traffic where I could meet all the chocolate lovers. It takes a lot of research to understand the market but there’s always something unique about every market and that gives me a chance to create something exclusive or new for each market.

Pierre Marcolini


Pierre Marcolin Packaging is exceptional

In your opinion, what makes a bad piece of chocolate?

The roasting is the most important part of the whole chocolate making process. This manipulation is crucial to enhance the flavours. At this stage you even can naturally infuse the beans with vanilla, coffee or other ingredients. I do not like it when the acidity of the beans is too pronounced or when the chocolate is to sweet. I prefer to taste the aromas of the chocolate and not the fat.

What’s the wildest request you’ve had when making a bespoke creation for somebody?

I created a chocolate moulding in “chocolate mâché” for the multi-disciplined French artist Daniel Firman.

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