Monday, November 11, 2019

The Prolific Bean - Organic Cacao (beans) - Nov. 11, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

The Prolific Bean
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight:  .082 oz. (2.36 g.) / 2 oz. (56.6 g.) in total package
Calories: 12 calories (per package) in 2 beans*
Cost: $11.95 for 1 package
Purchased from: Country Sun Natural Foods, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and Nibs Theme Week.

Today's package of "Cacao" (beans) were from The Prolific Bean (Menlo Park, CA), a company that specializes in high-end coffee and cacao beans.

The descriptive terms listed for today's cacao beans included: "Organic, Whole Bean, Hand Peeled, Low Caffeine, Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant."  (They're also gluten free, vegan and soy free.) The country of origin for the cacao was not identified.

This "sustainably-farmed, all natural energy snack" was very good, with all the satisfying flavor elements one might find in a relatively delicate but complex chocolate with no "off" or extremely bitter flavors. (More of a citrus fruit note in the aroma than a bitter one.)

The texture and "chew" was just what you might hope to find in a roasted cacao bean. With each bite, the bean gently fractured into lovely nib pieces. Selling roasted cacao beans intact may help preserve flavor as well. (Less surface area(s) exposed to open to the air mean less drying out/staleness.)

These cacao beans were pricey, but also of very high quality. And one or two beans might be enough to satisfy your cacao or chocolate craving. Nibs (and whole beans) are high in flavor and very low in calories (with zero sugar or sweetener).

*These beans were labeled as containing approximately 6 calories per bean. (Each bean only weighs about .041 oz.) 

The numbers for 1 oz. of cacao nibs varies from 130 to 170 calories per oz. The percentage of fat in cacao beans depends in part on where the cacao was grown. (Cacao grown in colder climates has a bit more fat, which may help explain the variance.)

TCHO - Organic, Fair Trade Roasted Cacao Nibs - Nov. 10, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Roasted Cacao Nibs
Good +
Weight: 1 TB (3 g.) / 7.84 oz. (222 g.) in total package
Calories: 20 calories in 1 serving
Cost: $6.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: (online order)

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate and Nibs Theme Week.

Today's Organic, Fair Trade Certified Roasted Cacao Nibs were from TCHO (Berkeley, CA).

Opening up a fresh package of roasted cacao nibs is an invitation to experience the essence and origin of true, deep, unsweetened chocolate flavor. Frequently nibs (unless raw) will have roasted, nutty or coffee notes. In this case, the nibs had nice roasted chocolate aroma and flavor with a faint, not unpleasant, green tea note.

TCHO tasting notes for these nibs read as follows: "Intense fudge-like flavor with notes of roasted almonds and malt."

These humble little cacao bean bits had uniform flavor and crunchy texture with no "off" notes. This tells me that the cacao beans were fermented, dried, sorted and roasted by a sequence of experienced hands.

While plain nibs will be too bitter for some sweet chocolate lovers, most will appreciate the opportunity to try cacao nibs at least once.

And, for those fortunate cooks and chocolate lovers who are creative, you will have a ball with these. They can be used in so many ways, in both sweet desserts (brownies, chocolate chip cookies, marinated in spirits of your choice and sprinkled over ice cream, etc.),  and beverages/smoothies, and also in savory dishes (spice rubs, marinades, with salads, smoked, etc.). Add nibs to coffee (during the brewing and filtering process), for a touch of roasted mocha flavor. Or infuse nibs into hot milk and strain them out before serving.

At 1 gram of Carbohydrate, 1.5 g. of (unsaturated) Fat, and 20 calories, a single (1 TB) serving of roasted cacao nibs offers a lot of satisfying flavor for very little "cost" for those watching what they eat. And, no sugar. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Joe Chocolate Co. - Roasted Cacao - Dark Chocolate Espresso Bark with Nibs - Nov. 9, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Joe Chocolate Co.
Roasted Cacao - Dark Chocolate Espresso Bark with Coffee and Roasted Cacao Nibs
Good +
Weight: .5 oz. (14 g.) / 1 oz. (28 g.) in total package
Calories: 85 calories in 1/2 package
Cost: $ N/A - gift from a friend
Purchased from: N/A - gift from a friend

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and Cacao Nibs Theme Week.

Today's Joe Chocolate Co. (Seattle, WA) dark chocolate bark was a gift from a friend. Thank you Elise! She found this Roasted Cacao - Dark Chocolate Espresso Bark with Coffee and Roasted Cacao Nibs snack while traveling in Washington.

The long product name seemed appropriate to fully capture the big flavor from these small pieces of rich dark bark—flavorful "bits of buzz."

The team at Joe Chocolate turn out "functionally caffeinated" offerings at their combined chocolate factory and coffee bar. (Founders, Sam Tanner and Peter Keckemet,* opened the first Joe Chocolate Co. retail location at Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle on June 1st, 2019.)

As soon as this small package was opened, it yielded wafts of freshly roasted, bold coffee and cacao nibs—uplifting on a cool, misty morning. Each small shard of the bark broke with a snap and each bite offered a roasted espresso and cacao bean nib (heavy on the crunch) extravaganza. The roasted beans complemented the fairly smooth and steady dark chocolate bark base.

*Joe Chocolate Co. was founded in 2016. The founders started production with a trail snack initially aimed at (Pacific Crest Trail) thru-hikers and friends. They use fair labor chocolate and Latin American, co-op sourced coffee beans in their snacks.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Leonidas Chocolate - Leonidas Dark 54% with Cocoa Nibs (bar) - Nov. 8, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Leonidas Chocolate
Leonidas Dark 54% with Nibs (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.05 oz. (30 g.) / 3.53 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 160 calories in 1/3 bar
Cost: $1.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate and Cacao Nibs Theme Week.

Today's Leonidas Dark 54% with Nibs (bar) was from Leonidas Chocolate. The chocolate was made in Belgium and imported to the U.S. by Chocolate Stars (USA), LLC.

This uniform, very sweet dark (Belgian) chocolate had a rich chocolate cake flavor, punctuated with finely ground, crunchy cocoa nib pieces.

Some of these nibs had a pleasing, pure chocolately crunch, and a few tiny particles were quite hard (something that can happen with some nibs).

The chocolate and the cocoa nibs complemented each other. The nibs helped balance the sweetness (good for those who don't like overly sweet chocolate).

*Ingredients: Chocolate liquor, sugar, roasted cocoa beans, cocoa butter, soy lecithin (emulsifier)

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Divine Chocolate - Dark Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs 85% Sao Tome (bar) - Nov. 7, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Divine Chocolate
Rich Dark Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs 85% Cocoa Sao Tome (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.05 oz. (30 g.) / 2.8 oz. (80 g.) in total bar
Calories: 180 calories in 1 serving (30 g.) of bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information 

Welcome to Day #13 of Chocolate and Africa Theme Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate and Cocoa Nibs Theme Week.

Today's Divine Organic Rich Dark Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs 85% Cocoa Sao Tome (bar) was made in Germany and distributed by Divine Chocolate Washington, D.C. (Divine partners with farmers in Africa; and in fact cocoa farmers own 44% of the company. More information is available on the inside of the wrapper.)

This robust, ultra-dark chocolate was studded with earthy cocoa nibs. Nibs added crunchy texture and concentrated cocoa flavor was made using cacao from Sao Tome, part of the African island nation of Sao Tome et Principe.

What are Cocoa Nibs?
Cocoa nibs are pieces of cocoa beans. Generally these beans have been fermented and roasted first (unless they're sold as raw or unroasted), before being crushed into aromatic pieces, or nibs. These small pieces have a true, authentic, unsweetened chocolate flavor, and sometimes have nutty, fruit and/or fermented flavor notes. (Today's bar with nibs had earth and fruit notes.)

Traditionally these nibs have represented one of the first steps in chocolate making. They are ground into a paste to make chocolate, unless, like this week, we are lucky enough to get our hands on them before then.

What are they good for? Cocoa (or cacao) nibs are wonderful flavor inclusions in chocolates, adding flavor and a bit of soft, crunchy texture. Nibs are also very versatile and can also be incorporated into brownies, shakes, and many other sweet or savory edibles (roast spice rubs, filtered coffee drinks, liquor-marinated toppings for ice cream, salads, etc.) As a lesser processed form of cacao, nibs also retain relatively high anti-oxidant and nutrition levels.

*Ingredients: Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, 6% cocoa nibs. (May contain traces of milk, wheat, almonds, hazelnuts and coconut.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Hands Off My Chocolate - Milk Meets Dark - Nov. 6, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Hands Off My Chocolate
Milk Meets Dark
Good +
Weight: 1.75 oz. (50 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 277 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $6.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Missing information 

Welcome to Day #12 of Chocolate and Africa Theme Week.

Today's Milk Meets Dark chocolate was from Hands Off My Chocolate (Laren, North Holland, The Netherlands). Founders Kitty and Thomas set out in 2013 to make the best fairly traded Belgian chocolate possible.

The humorous "Hands Off My Chocolate" name for their company (recalling situations that many chocolate lovers have experienced) surfaced for the founders early on during initial trials and tastings.

Where do you hide your chocolate so that others can't find it? their website queries on one page. (Their website contains graphics that include a list of places people might choose to hide their chocolate.)

And, last but not least, each round piece that comprises the company's aggregate "bars" is printed with the word "Mine." Clever!

A blend of milk and dark chocolate resulted in a chocolate with a minimum of 39% cocoa solids, consisting of several round, bite-sized pieces fused together to make an aggregate "bar."

These thick, round pieces were fairly easy to break apart and eat. And the unique shapes created a fun tasting experience. The chocolate had a dark milk chocolate smooth texture and uniform sweet dark milk chocolate flavor with a hint of malt and vanilla.*

Belgian Chocolate - History
For many years Belgian chocolate was almost synonymous with African cacao. After all, West and Central African cacao-growing countries have been, geographically, the closest source of cacao for most European chocolate makers.

A European colonial history led to the growth of tea, coffee, cacao and other crops in many African nations in the 1800s and 1900s. For example, the former Gold Coast (now Ghana) used to be a British colony until 1959. Ivory Coast was a French colony until 1960. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) used to be the Belgian Congo (1908 - 1960), as recently as 59 years ago.

Times have changed. Today's European chocolate makers, such as Hands Off My Chocolate and many others (including some featured this week) are committed to better, more equitable relationships with farmers. Today's chocolate was made using "Fair Belgian chocolate," alluding to fair trade practices** that generally result in higher prices being paid to farmers for their crops in developing nations.

*Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, emulsifier (soy lecithin), natural vanilla flavoring.

**Built in to most fair trade organizations are also goals such as better working conditions and sustainable agricultural practices.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

White Label Chocolate - Tanzania Kilombero 68% (bar) - Nov. 5, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

White Label Chocolate
Tanzania Kilombero 68% (bar)
Good ++
Weight: 1.14 oz. (32.5 g.) / 2.29 oz. (65 g.) in total bar
Calories: 171 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Mutari Chocolate, Santa Cruz, CA

Welcome to Day #11 of Chocolate and Africa Theme Week.

Today's Tanzania Kilombero 68% (bar) was from White Label Chocolate, purchased at Mutari Chocolate (Santa Cruz, CA). Mutari offers single origin drinking chocolate and bars.

The chocolate in this White Label bar was made using Trinitario variety cacao beans (Amelonado x Nacional). This cacao was grown in a relatively wet, tropical region of Tanzania about 200 meters (approximately 656 feet) above sea level.

This dark bar was well executed and interesting. It had a chocolate aroma with fruit notes, a smooth melt, and initial creamy flavor that blossomed into full, bright tropical citrus + red sweet fruit with faint, fleeting five spice/herb/balanced earth notes.

The chocolate had a subtle, complex finish that began softly, then came subtle balanced bittersweet, and almost nutty notes. Following a few seconds of calm, there was a very tiny throat tickle of delayed sweet-sour astringency.

Maker's tasting notes: cream, nuts citrus rind

Notes about shelf life: This bar was recently expired, but seemed to have maintained good flavor and texture. I will try to re-taste a "freshly made" version of this bar in the near future. While most bars are better (less brittle, more flavorful, more attractive) before their expiration date, a few bars actually seem to benefit from some shelf time—mellowing a bit with age. 

Chocolate Storage Tips

For best results, store chocolate bars in a cool, dry place, at a consistent temperature (60-70 degrees F., or 16-21 degrees Celsius is ideal), to prevent the chocolate from going out of temper and from "bloom," which shows up as a white film or blotching on chocolates. A wine refrigerator (turned up to its higher temperature range) might also be a suitable place to store bars, as long as humidity is not too high.

Chocolate truffles and filled confections (some containing cream) have a much shorter shelf life than solid chocolate bars (often less than a week for optimal freshness), so it may be OK to refrigerate these for a short period if they are covered/well-wrapped to prevent against any condensation or absorption of other fridge flavors.
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