Lisbon sweetens its allure with a budding chocolate scene.
By Jeff Koehler
For centuries, the Portuguese ruled two of the most important cacao-producing lands in the world: Brazil and the tiny nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, off Africa’s western coast. And while Portuguese colonists pioneered the commercial production of the notoriously fickle crop, the country never became known for its chocolate. That’s beginning to change. In Lisbon’s central Bairro Alto, the historic quarter that’s now one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods, a handful of shops offer sublime, small-batch chocolate – a welcome reward for a day spent walking Lisbon’s hills. Here are four to seek out.
Each morning in the basement beneath their tiny, two-table café, Bettina and Niccolò Corallo craft some of the world’s purest chocolate – no milk, no vanilla – using techniques honed on the family’s cacao farm in São Tomé and Príncipe. Along with a range of bean-to-bar chocolate (including the divine 70 percent cacao with salt flakes and the 80 percent cacao with sugar crystals), they offer 100 percent cacao sorbet and hot chocolate, and heavenly brownies.
Head to the cavernous Lisbon outpost of Porto-based Chocolataria Equador for a wide selection of chocolates, bonbons, and truffles in eye-catching wrappers designed in-house. Standouts include dark chocolate bars with port, ginjinha (sour cherry liqueur), and local sea salt, all of which make perfect gifts.
Landeau Chocolate sells only one food, but founder Sofia Landeau has perfected it: a triple-layer chocolate cake. It sounds simple – a fluffy, dark chocolate cake base with a layer of dark chocolate mousse blanketed in cacao powder. But what elevates Landeau’s dessert are her connections to the finest cacao sources in the world and her knowledge of the best way to blend each origin’s distinctive flavors.
At Denegro, just outside Bairro Alto in Rato, head chocolatier Cristina Poças handcrafts small-batch wonders in a studio that maintains an open- door policy, welcoming visitors to see her process, which blends creativity and tradition. Nearly a decade old, the shop was the first in Lisbon to dedicate itself purely to handmade chocolate. Ask about its seasonally flavored bonbons, and for enthusiasts, about its chocolate workshops.