When I was in Italy this past June, there was so much to learn about the food and drink (and culture!) from the Piedmont region. I’ve already done a few blog posts about the meats, and cheeses and vermouth there. But, there are a few things left that I absolutely couldn’t NOT talk about…and that is coffee, chocolate and hazelnuts!!
When I was thinking about separating all of my findings into similar groups, these three seemed like a logical pairing!
So, let’s start with hazelnuts, shall we?
In the heart of the Langhe region, in the provinces of Cuneo, Asti, and Alessandria you will find large hazelnut groves where the nuts are picked by hand. These amazing Piemonte IGP hazelnuts are known as the best in the world. Today, the production of this nut (which is actually a fruit) is almost totally absorbed by the confectionery/chocolate industry. The Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) certification is what guarantees both the quality and the authenticity of the hazelnuts. And, in July 2014, this incredible land has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
When you travel throughout the region, you will find hazelnuts on many menus. Whether it’s in your pasta, in your dessert or just on the breakfast table served with a drizzle of honey, the freshness of these incredible nuts can’t be beat!
Now, let’s move onto chocolate!!
You may have learned, from a blog post I did a few months back, that bonet is a very typical dessert served in the Piedmont area (if you don’t remember and want to revisit this amazing recipe, take a peek here!). It is similar in texture to creme caramel or panna cotta with the addition of chocolate and crushed amaretti cookies – and it’s divine!
While I was researching this recipe, I found out how important chocolate is to this particular area of Italy. But it wasn’t until I visited, that I realized how wonderful their confections really are!
Our first trip into the world of Italian chocolate was to the Caffarel factory, where the history of chocolate in Italy really began. In 1826, Paul Caffarel arrived in Turin with a passion for chocolate. He took over a small tannery and created the laboratory, which was one of the first chocolate factories in Italy (and Europe!). In 1852, with the price of chocolate rising each year, they decide to mix cocoa with the hazelnuts of Langhe and the result was a soft dough which was then shaped into small boats…now known as gianduja!!
Our next chocolate stop was at Domori, which is the first chocolate company in the world to process only high-quality cocoa, also knows as aromatic cocoa.
Their chocolate was beyond spectacular and their chocolate covered cherries, orange peel,and figs were seriously the best I have ever tasted!
Finally, before we leave the topic of chocolate, I have to mention how great it was to use some of this amazing cocoa when we made an incredible tiramisu (made with local beer crafted from coffee beans!!) at the University of Gastronomic Sciences!!
The icing on the cake for me (oddly enough, because I am such a chocoholic!) was our foray into the land of Italian coffee. Our first coffee stop was at Orso Laboratoria Caffe (if a coffee house calls itself a coffee laboratory, you know they’re serious about their coffee!!).
We had a full coffee tasting experience where we walked through an educational lesson with full explanations, similar to a wine tasting….amazing!
They definitely take their coffee seriously! Serving Giuliano coffee, they even had a chart in the cafe where you could have your coffee sediment “read” for the day. All I can say is, the marketing for this coffee brand is excellent!!
Our final stop was an extraordinary visit to the Lavazza Museum! We learned that in 1895, a young entrepreneur named Luigi Lavazza opened a small grocer’s shop in Turin, selling dry goods. He soon found his coffee, roasted on site, to be a best-seller with the fine attention to detail and the Italian craftsmanship…he quickly found its niche!! Now, over 120 years later, the Lavazza brand it still the name for quality and prestige in coffee and has grown into a symbol of Italian excellence.
As we toured the facilities, it became clear that there was a creative spirit in Luigi Lavazza which was expressed in his vision of his coffee empire as well as his ventures which explored the unfamiliar, at the time, world of advertising.
A collaboration began with Armando Testa, who led Lavazza to the forefront of advertising graphics. The art history within the museum tells a wonderful story that shouldn’t be missed if you ever visit Torino!
The 70’s vibe in the museum made for such a memorable tour, ending with a barista serving us coffee scented popcorn..
…and a unique spoonful of “coffee caviar” using molecular gastronomy!
Here’s a quick peek at the museum…watch it to the end to experience everything we saw on our tour!! A must see when you’re there!!!
So, now that you’ve had a peek at all the goodness that surrounds coffee and chocolate and hazelnuts in Torino, why not try your hand at combining all of these flavours to make your very own iced hazelnut mocha latte? It’s super easy and just what the doctor order for these hot summer nights!
The Best Iced Mocha Hazelnut Latte
- 2 cup freshly brewed coffee, cooled
- 1 1/2 cups hazelnut milk (you can sub in any milk)
- 2 ice cubes (you can use frozen coffee ice cubes!)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 tbsp hazelnut spread, divided
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped
- In a blender, blend together coffee, milk 2 tbsp hazelnut spread and vanilla.
- Prepare your two serving glasses by spreading 1 tbsp around the top edge of each glass and then dip the rim of the glass into the chopped hazelnuts.
- Pour half of the coffee mixture into on glass and the other half into the other glass, being careful not to disturb the rim.
- Serve immediately