Wellness guru finds sweet salvation in chocolate

MINNEAPOLIS -- Slow down. Sit on your hands, if you must. First, just look at the piece of chocolate before you. Consider its particular shade. An earthy umber? A glossier Hershey?...

MINNEAPOLIS -- Slow down. Sit on your hands, if you must. First, just look at the piece of chocolate before you. Consider its particular shade. An earthy umber? A glossier Hershey?

Now bring it to your nose. Rub the chocolate and ponder. Is that vanilla? Raisins? Hay? You may wonder how in the world your brain is saying "hay." Patience.

Next, snap the morsel in half. Did the sound surprise you? Has anything filched from the kids' Halloween bags ever cracked like that?

OK, now put a bit on your tongue. Slow down. Let it melt. Close your eyes and think of nothing but chocolate melting in your mouth. Only that.

This is the flavor of revolution.


That's what Anna Bonavita says, at least, and why not believe her? She may have more chocolate.

Chocolate revolution

Bonavita is the champion of what she calls a chocolate revolution that's happening in our midst and, indeed, must happen if we are to preserve the Earth, our health and our peace of mind.

If that sounds a little over the top, so is the story of how Bonavita moved from a career in microelectronics behind the Berlin Wall to leading yoga students in Minneapolis through the finer points of a Trinitario chocolate with 75 percent cacao content.

"We are here to experience pleasure, not just to suffer," Bonavita said. Yet for most of her life, pleasure was an afterthought. Pursuing a career in science, she moved to Russia at 19 to get a doctorate in microelectronics. Ten years later, she returned to work in Bulgaria, only to discover, with the toppling of the Berlin Wall, the superiority of science being done in the West.

Eventually, she and her Italian husband, Massimo, helped to found the Italian Cultural Center in Minneapolis in 2006, a nonprofit whose language classes enable the center to stage an annual Italian film festival.

In 2009, she was laid off from Seagate, a casualty of restructuring. Again at sea, she decided to visit Italy, ending up in Romagna, in the north region, where she decided, on a whim, to attend a chocolate tasting.

In short order, she learned about chocolate's role in the world economy, its role in the fight to preserve and restore rain forests, its role in medical discoveries on the beneficial role of antioxidants. She began educating herself about some of the 600 flavor notes in chocolate -- wine, by comparison, has 200 -- by starting each morning with a chocolate-tasting, before her palate had been compromised by coffee or even toothpaste.


Eventually, she met Gianluca Franzoni, an Italian who makes Domori chocolates -- a level of chocolate that inspires critiques such as having "extraordinary roundness and great persistence." He's also a rock star in the sustainability movement, in which cacao growers in Central and South America are allies in the fight to maintain biodiversity in the face of lumber, mining and oil interests. Bonavita's path seemed clear, albeit ill-advised.

She, Massimo and a friend, Ella Chamba, started Chocolate Bonavita in 2010, offering tastings and classes at the Italian Cultural Center, 528 Hennepin Ave. S., and even a tasting in tandem with a yoga class, believing that a calm mind is most receptive to the nuances of fine chocolate.

Chocolates are for sale on the center's website, , where a 1.75-ounce bar of the award-winning Porcelana goes for $17.

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