Chocolates have long been a staple for Easter gifting. Still, the handmade specialty chocolate eggs she grew up with in Tuscany left a genuinely unforgettable impression on Cecilia Tessieri Rabassi, the world’s first female Maitre Chocolatier. When Cecilia was a child, she remembers staring in mesmerization at the fine quality, embellishments and detail of the delicious chocolates gifted to her at Easter. Her innate curiosity and desire to crack the secret properties behind natural cocoa would eventually send her out of Tuscany on a worldwide journey into foreign lands, from France to Belgium, Holland to Germany, and Africa to Latin America, accumulating new flavors, ideas, and innovations that one day would award her recognition as the world’s first female Maître Chocolatier.
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A JOURNEY INTO PURE COCOA AND RARE AND WONDERFUL INFUSIONS
By carefully studying the product and practicing my skills, I acquired a wealth of knowledge that has made me who I am today,” Cecilia says. For this trailblazing chocolate Pioneer, cocoa is not merely an ingredient but a “creature” to explore, learn from, develop, and evolve. In France at Cirad Montpellier, The French agricultural research and international cooperation organization working for the sustainable development of tropical and Mediterranean regions, Cecilia specialized in tropical plants and their aromatic development in cocoa processing. She refined her technical skills in cocoa and chocolate processing technology in Germany. In Venezuela, Jamaica, and Madagascar’s most remote corners, Cecilia set off on exotic expeditions in search of the world’s most precious cocoa beans. Cecilia’s curiosity, passion, and drive for excellence, combined with her innovative approach, Tuscan heritage and the worlds she has travelled, have led Cecilia to break the mold as a woman and mompreneur in a field historically dominated by men. When asked how a woman in any area can break into and excel in a male-dominated space, she said, “Every woman must be a bearer of love and beauty. It’s important to remember that to achieve anything, a woman must put her head and heart into what she does without ever indulging in what is frivolous or fleeting. In the long run, professionalism always pays off. To be successful, you need to work hard and explore. You need elegance, strength, resilience, and discipline.”
THE SECRET INGREDIENT
In 2021, Cecilia was the recipient of the Academy of Chocolate’s first President’s Award for her notable major creative and technical contribution to the world of cocoa and fine chocolate from pod to palate, revolutionizing the world of cocoa and chocolate over the last three decades. According to London’s Academy of Chocolate, only some producers understand the difference between fine chocolate and confectionery, with only about 10% of fine cocoa beans reaching our chocolate. “Chocolate is not just cocoa,” Cecilia says. “To bring my chocolate to life, I need the finest raw materials and must exert constant and accurate control over the entire supply chain.” Cecilia’s need to give the same attention to researching and selecting other ingredients, such as milk, sugar or hazelnuts, as she does cocoa, is the primary motivator for owning and operating her own hazelnut plantation in the hills of Pisa. “Over the years, I have built relationships with several cocoa producers in different countries, from Madagascar to South America: A network of contacts I nourish personally by visiting the plantations and always looking for ways to improve the quality of the raw material.”
Rabassi admits to never growing tired of experimenting and always looking for new flavor combinations to create a chocolate experience that will amaze, dazzle, and entice the senses every time. “My future is about creating The chocolate of tomorrow: The chocolate of the future. To achieve this, I added something extra to my product, derived from innovation: Cocoa pampered in alabaster basins.” Remarkably, Cecilia credits the alabaster stones of Volterra, Tuscany, a precious rock of her native land, as the secret behind the exquisite nature of her products. “After many years of research, I have refined a process that allows me to create a new and exclusive chocolate with sensory harmonies made to take you by surprise.”
For Cecilia, the discovery never ends: Like an enthralling Argentinian tango that sees two dancers leading each other on the dance floor with love and passion, with warmth and sweetness, attention and sacrifice: The land of her roots, where Cecilia chose to return to and build her success and her rich, worldly experiences that come together to create the chocolate of tomorrow.
Located in Capannoli, in the Province of Pisa, 50 kilometres southwest of Florence and 25 kilometres southeast of Pisa, Cecilia Tessieri Ribassi Atelier welcomes chocolate enthusiasts from all over the world who come to experience her multi-sensory haven immersed in hazelnut trees, where palates are surprised, thrilled and fulfilled, and emotions vibrate strongly.
Meeting Cecilia Tessieri Rabassi was like catching up with an old friend and feeling like time had not passed. A warm encounter infused with real emotions based on the simplicity of living, the joy derived from curiosity, and the shared pleasure of excellent chocolate.