Casa Cacao Boutique at JW Marriott Hotel Riyadh opens up a whole new world of new cacao flavours…

What do you get when one of the world’s best pastry chefs turns his passion towards bean-to-bar chocolate making?

The answer is Casa Cacao, an artisan chocolatier by Jordi Roca of the famed three-Michelin restaurant El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain.

Casa Cacao is, as its name implies, a world-class “house of chocolates”. And now, chocolate lovers in Riyadh will be able to sample the highly sought-after sweet treats at Casa Cacao Boutique in JW Marriott Hotel Riyadh, the first international shop for the luxury Spanish chocolatier.

Casa Cacao chocolate bars

The elegant Spanish import continues where the Girona original began, showcasing high-quality chocolate creations with organic packaging made from recycled cocoa fibres.

Adopting a sustainable bean-to-bar philosophy that echoes the farm-to-table movement, chef Roca and his team source selected cacao beans directly from farmers in locations such as Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, the Dominican Republic, and India.

Each bean is hand-sorted at the workshop in Girona, then roasted, cracked, winnowed and combined with raw cane sugar and cocoa butter before going through the conching process for a minimum of 48 hours, which ensures a perfectly smooth product.

The result? Unadulterated chocolate bars that honour the beans’ roots, regions, and nuanced notes.

Unearthing the flavours of chocolate

Prior to Casa Cacao Boutique’s official opening, we’re invited to JW Marriott Hotel Riyadh to experience chocolate appreciation on a whole new level, alongside Chef Jordi Roca and his mentor, the Master Chocolatier Damian Allsop. Seated at the hotel’s lobby, we’re given a small plate of two types of cacao nibs, a glass of cocoa pulp, three tiny blocks of chocolate, and three pieces of bonbons.

Allsop and Roca masterclass

Then, it’s time for us to take a step back and savour their cacao products. The duo wants their customers to go back to the basics. And through Allsop’s guidance, he demonstrates why chocolate’s complex flavours should be unleashed and appreciated.

A fruity taste seeps over our tongues as we smell and nibble a pinch of the beans. “I’m not adding the flavour of the fruit. I’m opening it up,” Allsop explains. “The fruity flavour comes from the anthocyanin in the seed. The acid opens it up so we can start to receive the flavour of blackcurrant and blackberries. As it opens up more, it will give us raspberries, cherries and even strawberries.”

Casa Cacao chocolate tasting

Allsop has made a name for himself due to his obsession with junking the usual rich butter and cream-based ganache that usually fills chocolates and, instead, perfecting his own closely guarded formula. As a result, he invented the groundbreaking water ganache technique to create the world’s first water ganache.

He shares, “Everybody used cream. I was told that ganache was cream. So I use water; it has a cleaner mouthfeel.” With a water ganache, you get much more of the natural flavour notes from the chocolate.

“Simple things can be amazing. You don’t have to be flashy to get a great experience,” Allsop adds.

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Casa Cacao Riyadh

In the Casa Cacao Boutique located on JW Marriott Hotel Riyadh’s ground floor, you’ll find a variety of pieces of chocolate, with some of them displayed in glass cabinets like jewellery. From boxes of pralines and carambines to nougats and individual chocolate bars, the high-quality, handcrafted chocolate creations showcase a selection with varying countries of origin and cacao percentages.

Of course, being located within the hotel’s The Capital Lounge means guests can also try Casa Cacao’s signature hot chocolate, boasting a thick, velvety profile but with no bitterness.

However, we’re particularly impressed by the chocolatier’s ingenious efforts to reduce waste. Each of the bar’s chic packaging is wrapped in its own discarded cacao shells – pressed and remade into ‘cacao paper’.

A word of advice, though. Perhaps those who find themselves tearing into Casa Cacao’s chocolates this week would be well advised to savour them. So, bite into it, let it melt for a couple of seconds, and the flavour simply floods your mouth.

@casacacaoriyadh