The people at Araya really get it. They make beautiful chocolates that taste fabulous, and present them in lovely boxes designed to keep each little sculptural piece in pristine condition.
I sampled 28 of their luscious line of 35. Each fulfilled my quintessential idea of dessert. The shells were all tempered to a lovely shine and adorned with an appealing array of abstract designs, making them visually tantalizing.
Araya uses El Ray couverture from Venezuela, which isn’t surprising as the three founders, Stefano Zullian, his wife Carla, and her sister Silvana, are from that part of South America. All three quit their day jobs and studied with local chocolatiers before choosing Houston, Texas as their company’s home base.
Araya is the name of a Venezuelan town that straddles the lush rainforest where many of South America’s finest cocoa beans are grown and the parched land across the peninsula where a salt mine stands.
I thoroughly enjoyed every bite from this collection. Some of my favorites were:
Manhattan, a dark ganache infused with Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Vermouth and cherry juice. I would happily order a box of those, all by themselves.
Dulce de Leche, the classic caramel blended with milk chocolate ganache. Another winner.
Orange Marzipan, a deliciously tropical riff on marzipan.
Margarita, truly stellar, housed a dark ganache with Jose Cuervo Tequila and lime zest. It was finished with a few grains of salt and couldn’t be better.
Peanut Butter and Berries, an inspired combination of dark chocolate ganache and peanut butter topped with blackberry pâté de fruit.
Chipotle, an ultra silky 61% Venezuelan ganache perfectly balanced with smokey chipotle heat.
Chai Spice, a gustatory trapeze artist poised on the brink of black tea cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. A true melding of flavors where the whole was far greater than the sum of its parts.
Passion Fruit, the essence of this marvelously addictive flavor in a white chocolate mousse.
Strawberry Balsamic, just enough rich vinegar reduction to heighten the strawberry ganache.
Acai Pomegranate, another layered affair with acai berry pâté de fruit atop a pomegranate dark chocolate ganache. Heaven.
Salty Caramel Rum, a sublime deep caramel and chocolate ganache with anejo rum and a sprinkle of sea salt.
Araya aims to please. If the alcohol infused chocolates appeal to you you can order a box of just those flavors. Ditto for the Dark, Milk, or Nuts collections.
They offer a few different package designs. All are lovely and would make a welcome gift.