I have stumbled across Josè Noè’s products a number of times. Typically the plastic, air-sealed bag of 250 gr hazelnuts with a brutal yellow colored label attached to the top of the pack. Once I opened these hazelnuts, I cannot tell you the creaminess with the first bite and the perfect toast. Talking to many people in the hazelnut industry, everyone will tell you it’s all in the toast. You toast one second too long and you get a burnt flavor or, if you toast one second too short, the hazelnut is still green. But Papa dei Boschi has the perfect toast.
So after this quite memorable experience, I decided to see if I could come by one day and visit their facility. Josè is a proper farmer, a small business with about four employees. He is the third generation of his family, who owns these 40 ha in the Alta Langa hills, in the town of Lequio Berria, a village that sits up over 700 m a.s.l.–in a zone which has a special climate to grow the Tonda-Gentile hazelnuts and is a IGP protected area.
Their hazelnuts are cultivated without harsh pesticides or other chemicals. They only use organic fertilizers (manure). He believes that timing is crucial and, when the hazelnuts ripen at the end of August, it is very important to collect them as soon as possible (to take them off the soil), so the nuts do not absorb the humidity. Then after, the drying process is quite crucial to maintain the freshness of these hazelnuts. The small factory is open and operating year round. The secret to keep their products as fresh as possible: They practically make everything to order. When the order comes in, then they start.
Sitting down with Josè, a big, burly, rather tall for an Italian man, who was quite humble and was totally the boss. We started to talk about his products. He makes two chocolate-hazelnut creams, one hazelnut cream, and toasted hazelnuts, and that is it. His chocolate-hazelnut creams are so delicious that they win against the be-all end-all of hazelnut creams: Nutella. Josè sources the best chocolates from South America to blend in with hazelnuts. He does not use any preservatives nor palm oil, just chocolate and hazelnuts. That’s it!
We started talking, because he is one of the few people making such products. I asked what got him started in this business? As it turns out, his family has always owned all this land in the Alta Langa and was in the past just hazelnut farmers. It was after Josè’s experience at Ferrero that he was motivated to start something of his own. As story has it, he, alongside a few others, were the final creators of Nutella, well what it is today, and it was his job to travel the world promoting this product. After a few years of this kind of work–a wonderful job and experience Josè explained–home and his land were calling him. He was ready to settle down and wanted to create something of his own.
So from there, he started the first generation to produce final products from his hazelnuts. It started out just him and his wife and from that it has grown quite the little business. Josè proudly explained that he has over one thousand clients worldwide, and you can find his products in just about every corner of the world.
In case you need an excuse to enjoy more hazelnut and hazelnut products, they are considered to be a superfood. They are great for the heart, helping to boost good cholesterol and reduce the bad one. They are full of antioxidants, and they help boost brain function. Just those three reasons alone are enough good excuses!
To find out more about Papa dei Boschi, visit them on their website or, if you are in Piemonte, you can visit them at their factory – Via Pianravero 9 – Lequio Berria (CN). VISITS ARE BY RESERVATION ONLY.
I am Amanda Courtney, an American who came to Italy to get my hands dirty working a crush, and just so happened to meet my Italian crush and from that decided to make Italy my new home. Having experience both as a sommelier and working in a winery for several years, I have come across a new adventure, giving wine tours to people wanting to dive into the Piemonte wines. Today I have an educational blog called Amanda’s Wine Adventures and also offer a service to take people around this area to learn and understand more about this wonderfully complex wine region.