We are in Ipanema again, the neighbourhood where many of Brazil’s boutique brands like Lenny Niemeyer, Osklen, Reserva and Bazzar have set up shop. Today we are meeting Rodrigo Aquim, who together with his sister Samantha and his mother established the luxury chocolate brand Q as part of the larger Aquim catering business. He has asked us to meet him in the Q boutique, a sleekly designed space in beige, brown and cream tones.
“Wow,” says Anouk as we walk in, “this looks more like a jeweller’s than a chocolate shop.”
“I think you’ll find that that’s quite accurate,” I tell her after the shop assistant has gone to fetch Rodrigo from his office. “This is chocolate taken to a whole new level, using only the best cacao beans to make high-quality dark chocolate. No additives, no other ingredients…”
“I heard that Q is the only chocolatier in the world that only produces dark chocolate,” says Anouk as Rodrigo comes walking in.
“You heard right!” says Rodrigo as we shake hands. “Only the very best ingredients to produce the very best chocolate!”
We follow him into the storeroom where he shows us a selection of the hand-crafted chocolates.
“You’ve turned chocolate making into an art form,” I say as we inspect the exquisite looking chocolates. “What’s the secret?”
Rodrigo laughs but then turns serious. “You know, people don’t really know the taste of real chocolate,” he says. “Q is about discovering chocolate. We use no additives – no sugar, no milk, no artificial sweeteners… People think that by using only the cacao beans, chocolate will be too bitter. But this isn’t true, it’s about selecting the best beans and using only the cacao near the kernel of the bean – that’s the taste of real chocolate!”
“Selective is certainly the right word to describe your production process,” says Anouk. “So I assume you’re not aiming to expand the business to produce for the mass market?”
“Actually we can’t,” says Rodrigo. “Triple AAA cacao bean makes up about 2 percent of total global cacao production, so Q chocolate is never going to be a product for the masses. We target a small group of connoisseurs around the world – people who are looking to taste the sublime in chocolate.”
“It sounds almost like poetry when you describe it like that,” I say. “But what motivates you from a business point of view?”
“I’m not in it for the money, my quest is to make the perfect chocolate and share that taste with people who can appreciate it – like vintage wine or exclusive caviar,” says Rodrigo. “Of course, in the end I’m a businessman, but I have my principles. For example, recently a company approached us with a request for a monthly order of several thousand chocolates, but they also wanted milk chocolate… We had to cancel the deal, because it is unthinkable for us to start producing milk chocolate – it’s so far from our principles…”
It’s clear that Rodrigo is passionate about Q and the values it stands for. “This is more than a business to me: it’s my name, my life and my family,” he tells us. “In fact, my quest for pure ingredients goes beyond chocolate.”
“You mean you also look for it in other food?” I ask.
“Yes, I want to taste real food – that’s also why I bake my own bread, with four ingredients, no extras,” says Rodrigo. “It simply tastes better, and that’s my main motivation, pure tastes. I’m not trying to convince people to eat only real food. I just want to share my passion with people who are looking for this pure experience. I actually think that there is a growing group of consumers looking for real food.”
“It also fits into the trend towards more sustainable lifestyles and healthier living,” says Anouk.
“Sustainability is a fad now, every brand claims to be the most sustainable, and so does Q – it doesn’t mean much though,” says Rodrigo.
“What is more important to me, to my family – and by extension my company and the Q brand – is purity and real food. It makes us healthier but is also better for our environment, our ecosystem and our society.”
© 2013 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands
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