I am originally from Brazil, but moved to NYC a while ago.
When my only source of chocolate was the local Brazilian one, I actually never had any complains. Once I moved to the US and started to try different chocolates, then I discovered something impressive: that I hated Brazilian chocolate! But that was 8 years ago.
Recently a friend was visiting from Rio and she brought me some chocolate from different companies. Most of them still have something that is very unattractive; some sort of after taste that lingers for a while; quite heavy and oily. I can't explain what is it. Besides, they are too sweet.
But there is this small company called Cacau Noir that makes some very nice chocolate. They are expensive, but worth it!
Have you found out anything else about Brazilian chocolate since you first posted in October 2008?
I have just come back from Brazil and did a very complete search for fine chocolates in Rio and Sao Paulo! I found a few promising suspects. I haven't tried any of them, but the one prominent brand (in the duty free shop, too) is Damazonia (Damazonia.com.br). I purchased a box of assorted dark chocolates with amazon fruits, I'll try it soon and update this post. There's also a company called Nugali, I bought a 70% and 80% bar (Nugali.com.br). The 80% I opened first and to my dismay there was evidence of bugs inside so...I didn't try it. But the 70% looks safe. Then there's Barion (barioncia.com.br), I chose a 70% Wine Chocolate from that company, I suppose it's just supposed to be paired with wine as it's not an ingredient. Lastly, I found Neugebauer (neugebauer.com.br), they had a 70% bar called 1891, but they mostly make candies. I hope this is what you were looking for, but I will be back with reviews :)
Yeah I would bet these companies are relatively new. Gourmet chocolate as a global phenomenon has taken off recently..I feel like the Europeans have had a great variety for a long while (I was in Germany last summer and was floored by the enormous chocolate collections of department stores!).
One thing I love about some European brands is the quality of their alcoholic ganaches or fillings. I am not a big drinker, but when I get a champagne truffle, I love really tasting the champagne - or any other liquor for that matter.
I believe there is a law (per State) in the US that does not allow for a chocolate to contain above a certain quantity of alcohol. Not sure how it works, though.
Although there are many chocolate shops and manufacturers in Brazil, some of high quality, 99.9% are users of Cargill, ADM, Nestle or Callibut products. Bean to bar is not in existant. There are currently several small attempts to start-up but have not formally begun to operate.
The cacau producing region is in the Northeast and very warm and humid, Not very conducive for producing high end chocolate. Most known brands are produced in the South or Mid-south, i.e. Sao Paulo. In addition, the economic level of Brazil's population does not support bean-bar prices.
I wish you would have contacted us before your travels in Brazil as it would have been a pleasure to have you visit our cacau farms and the regions that produce. Next time!