25 May 2012
Quite a few of us claim to be chocoholics. Perhaps not the kind that keep cupboards full of Cadburys in case of an emergency, but certainly the sort that will happily forgo a starter in favour of the chocolate fondant we’ve already spotted on the dessert menu. But, since meeting Samantha Aquim, the chef responsible for new Brazilian chocolate “Q”, this term has taken on an entirely new meaning.
Made from cocoa beans hand-picked by Samantha herself in the deepest depths of a Bahia plantation, this designer chocolate is all about the integrity of the original ingredient; removing artificial flavourings to reveal the natural tastes and aromas of Brazilian cocoa. Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil’s most famous architect, is responsible for the unusual presentation and design of both the chocolate – which is formed into beautifully sensuous curved bars, and the packaging – a canvas travel bag containing a large wooden box inscribed with a golden Q. More of a work of art than a piece of confectionary, Q is at the forefront of a new movement in chocolate, and Samantha, it’s very own intrepid pioneer.
We caught up with Samantha to do some tasting (yes, there are some serious perks to this job), and find out a little bit more about Q…
Q. What were you trying to achieve when you first decided to develop Q?
Today what chocolate is, is something that is a texture – a very good texture, a very sensual texture, but with a lot of sugar and vanilla and caramel and a lot of other things that are not cocoa flavours. I tried to find a chocolate bar that could remind me of the wonderful experience I had when I visited the cocoa plantation in Bahia but I couldn’t find one. So after a year of searching , I decided I had to try and make the chocolate to see if it was possible to put the cocoa back into the chocolate. For us this is not a chocolate but a trip to the plantation. It is a way to share what we felt.
Q. What inspired you to become a chef and ultimately to work with chocolate?
I was a sociologist and I was not at all in the food area, but then my family started a food company and one day my mother took me to Italy to do a cooking class. Italy was so magical that I said maybe that’s something I want to do also. So I quit my job and in less than a month I moved to Paris and I went to study at Lenotre. I always go back to Paris; it is the place to talk about food.
Q. What does Q stand for?
We decided to use the letter Q, which we have in our name Aquim, because in Portuguese this is a question. If you see Q and you say the name of the letter in Portuguese it means “what” or “what is it”. For us this is not only a chocolate we want to sell, but also a way of producing chocolate that we want people to copy because we want to eat better chocolate. It’s a statement – let’s talk about chocolate.
Q. You have developed two different types of chocolate; smoothness and intensity. For you, what is the different between them?
For me smoothness is like walking on the beach – fresh, delicious and when the sun is strong you can hardly see. Intensity is like walking in the forest, you miss the sun but it allows the other flavours to come through.
Q. Would you ever consider doing something similar with a different ingredient? Coffee for example?
We have a friend who has a coffee plantation, a very special one in Brazil, and he keeps inviting us to go because he’s very excited to have us there to see how we react to the flavours and aromas…but then for me it’s a little scary. Do I have the intention to work with coffee? No. Will I do it? Probably yes. I hope so because then that would mean that food keeps touching me and inspiring me and I hope that will happen forever.
Words by Katie Manning