Saturday, April 17, 2021

Theo Chocolate - Organic, Fair Trade Raspberry Cocoa Nib 55% Dark Chocolate (bar) - Apr. 17, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Theo Chocolate
Organic, Fair Trade Raspberry Cocoa Nib 55% Dark Chocolate (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42.5 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 240 calories in 1/2 bar 
Cost: $3.99 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Missing information 

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate and RSTU Theme Week, featuring items with origins and flavor inclusions that start with the letters R, S, T and/or U.

Today's Organic, Fair Trade Raspberry Cocoa Nib 55% Dark Chocolate (bar) was from Theo Chocolate (Seattle, WA). The company was an early advocate (and provider) of fair trade chocolate. (This bar bore the "fair for life"* symbol.)

This was a flavorful bar, but I had to lean in to catch the full aroma. A nose-to-bar inhalation revealed deep, dark chocolate and authentic red raspberry notes. 

Cacao nibs and raspberry bits gave this chocolate a hearty, crunchy texture and a blend of rich, robust cacao and bright red berry flavors that lingered into the finish. Ground vanilla bean added a bit of upbeat, floral warmth.

The maker's notes read as follows: "...fruity, bright and crunchy."

Ingredients: Organic, fair trade cocoa beans; organic, fair trade cane sugar; organic, fair trade cocoa butter; organic freeze-dried raspberries; organic ground vanilla bean.

Allergen-related information: USDA Organic, fair for life, no soy, kosher dairy; "Made on equipment that also processes milk, wheat, and tree nuts and in a facility that handles peanuts, eggs and sesame. 

*Fair trade standards and programs have helped highlight the need for fair/better pay and conditions for cacao (and other) farmers, who are often being paid very little. And better pay and infrastructure (e.g. access to local cacao fermenteries, agro experts, water, etc.) not only help farmers, but also can help preserve and enable production of fine cacao (and great chocolate).

More information specifically on Fair for Life can be found on their website: https://fairforlife.org.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Raaka Chocolate - Rose Cardamom Unroasted Dark Chocolate 70% (bar) - Apr. 16, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Raaka Chocolate
Rose Cardamom Unroasted Dark Chocolate 70% (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.8 oz. (50.9 g.) in total bar
Calories: 266 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $6.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Raaka, online order

Welcome to Day #1 of Chocolate and RSTU Theme Week, featuring chocolate items with origins and flavor inclusions starting with the letters R, S, T, and/or U.

Today's Rose Cardamom Unroasted Dark Chocolate 70% (bar) was made from bean-to-bar by the makers at Raaka Chocolate (Brooklyn, NY).

This bar had a lovely warm floral and spice aroma, and smooth, dark 70% Cacao (unroasted) chocolate texture and flavor, with a barely detectable fruit/spice astringency.

The single origin cacao used to make this Limited Batch chocolate bar was from Kokoa Kamili (a cacao growers organization), in Tanzania -- "steamed over rose petals and cardamom...Celestial and dreamy."

The flavors were a bit clearer/stronger (than the aroma), and it was easier to tease out the rose flavoring, which was followed by a balanced and sustained (but still relatively subtle) cardamom note.

Ingredients: Organic cacao beans, organic cane sugar, organic cacao butter, organic rose petals, organic cardamom

Allergen-related/additional information: Vegan, Gluten Free, Soy Free, Nut Free, Non-GMO Project Verified, USDA Organic, Transparent Trade


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Puchero - 50% Mexico Pinon Soconusco (bar) - Apr. 15, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Puchero 
50% Mexico Pinon Soconusco (bar)
Good ++
Weight: 1.235 oz. (35 g.) / 2.47 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 223.3 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $11.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Bienvenidos a (welcome to) Day #9 of Chocolate, Trees and Bees Theme Week. Today's focus is back on the wondrous things that trees give us, including cacao trees (cacao) and pine trees (pine nuts).

Today's 50% Mexico Pinon Soconusco (bar) was crafted from bean-to-bar by the makers at Puchero (Valladolid, Spain). Puchero is focused on producing high-quality, specialty coffee and craft chocolate.

This chocolate had a faint aroma. Pine nuts (aka pinones, pignoli) have a subtle, delicate scent and buttery texture and flavor. The ground pine nuts in this bar softly muted the scents of the cacao. 

The cacao used to create this chocolate ("Criollo, Trinitario") were grown in Soconusco, Mexico. The cacao chosen (more delicate and nuanced than some bolder Forastero cacaos) was also a good match with the pine nuts. The cacao did not eclipse the more subtle nut/seed flavors.

The texture was divine. Today's ground nut/seed fusion (like gianduja/gianduia, a finely ground hazelnut + chocolate blend) had an incredibly smooth and rich melt and mouthfeel. 

I imagined spreading this creamy 67% cacao chocolate on a warm croissant or freshly baked roll with a butter knife. A very judicious pinch of salt added an addictive quality to the chocolate, which was effortlessly consumed in one sitting.

The pine nut bar had a clean taste and finish. (There was no odd semi-metallic flavor or "pine mouth" after eating this pine nut blend, that occasionally occurs with pine nuts from other sources.) 

Puchero chocolate makers--based in Valladolid (the largest city in Castilla y Leon ("land of medieval castles") historic region in northwest Spain)--selected premium pine nuts from the Pinon-sol co-operative in this area of Spain for this chocolate.

Ingredients: cacao, raw pine nut (25%), sugar, cocoa butter, salt.

Allergen-related information: May contain traces of nuts, milk and gluten

Chocolate Naive - Ambrosia - 67% Dark Chocolate with Bee Pollen, Honey (bar) - Apr. 14, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Chocolate Naive
Ambrosia - 67% Dark Chocolate with Bee Pollen and Honey (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (57 g.) in total bar
Calories: 165.5 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $12.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate, Trees and Bees Theme Week.

Today's Chocolate Naive Ambrosia 67% Dark Chocolate with Bee Pollen and Honey (bar) was produced by Mulate UAB (Vilnius, Lithuania).

This bar had a very interesting aroma with come hither, forest, mossy botanical, honey, beeswax, and light cocoa/milk chocolate notes. (There was no milk in this bar.) 

The melt and mouthfeel were creamy and luxurious.

The flavors were fairly uniform, and sweeter than the aroma; however, authentic and balanced honey notes floated to the forefront at least twice during the tasting experience. 

The finish was deceptively subtle. It conjured ghosts of peanut butter and honey sandwiches and honey and peach jam on buttered toast from childhoods past. Slightly fruity, slightly nutty along with creamed honey.

Chief chocolatier, Domantas Uzpalis, carefully selected this honey and bee pollen from a biodynamic apiary near the forest where bees connect their nectar. (Enclosed in the bar's package was a photo of local hives and beekeepers.) The results: a thick honey with a dark amber color and mossy earth, forest...and "floral acidity" flavors. (I would also add: a very faint green floral beeswax note).

Uzpalis noted that blending the bee pollen and honey with chocolate required a fairly technically sophisticated approach. I believe that. The different textures, flavors, and sweetness level(s) must have called for several test batches. Honey varies a great deal, and bee pollens can be even more variable. Thank you to the chocolate maker for sharing this culinary, bee-enabled, sense of place with us.

Ingredients: specialty cacao*, sugar*, cacao butter*, bee pollen (7%)*, wild forest honey (5%)*, and sunflower lecithin. (*wild or all natural farming)

Allergen related information: May contain traces of milk, barley or nuts.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Ritual Chocolate - Honeycomb Toffee 75% Cacao (bar) - Apr. 13, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Ritual Chocolate
Honeycomb Toffee in Dark Chocolate 75% Cacao (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) / 2.12 oz. (60 g.) in total bar 
Calories: 162 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate, Trees and Bees Theme Week. Once again we pay homage to bees and honey this week, in the form of honeycomb toffee.

Today's Honeycomb Toffee in Dark Chocolate 75% Cacao (bar) was from Ritual Chocolate in Park City, Utah--also known as the beehive state.

Are you a dark chocolate fan who is not fond of sugar, much less toffee? Fear not. This 75% cacao (Belize) dark chocolate had a rich, ultra-dark, roasted, chocolate flavor. Its balanced bitterness off-set flecks of house-made, sweet, honeycomb toffee. 

Rather than the traditional, three-dimensional chunks of airy, crunchy sugary, honeycomb toffee, there was a thin projection of toffee pieces onto the back of this ebony-colored bar, that winked at us like shining sugar stars in the night.

Ingredients: Organic cacao, organic cane sugar, honeycomb toffee (organic cane sugar, raw honey, baking soda)

Allergen-related information: May contain traces of peanuts, tree nuts, and wheat

Monday, April 12, 2021

Ritual Chocolate - Juniper Lavender Chocolate 70% Cacao (bar) - Apr. 12, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Ritual Chocolate
Juniper Lavender Chocolate 70% Cacao (bar)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) / 2.12 oz. (60 g.) in total bar
Calories: 162 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate, Trees and Bees Theme Week. We can thank, in part, juniper trees (berries), for today's featured bar.

Today's Juniper Lavender Chocolate 70% Cacao (bar) was from Ritual Chocolate (Park City, UT).

The aroma of this bar--redolent of lavender flower buds and juniper berry--could be bottled and sold. It was heavenly. 

The flavor of these two powerfully aromatic botanical inclusions were skillfully blended with a relatively bold, dark cacao. There was a slight astringency that brought me back down to earth (often a natural component of juniper berries). Still an amazing bar though. I enjoyed the touch of unexpected red berry fruitiness and nicely balanced tart acidity and faint pine/evergreen/citrus (similar to edible Douglas Fir tree branch/needle tips).

A big thumbs up to the makers for orchestrating all these powerful flavors together so successfully.

For a super luxe tasting experience I look forward to buying this special bar again (if, fingers crossed, it is available); and using pieces or shavings to add to/garnish high-end desserts (or as a surprise guest square on fruit and cheese platters, small food plates).

Ingredients: Cacao, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, dried juniper berries, culinary lavender.


Ritual Chocolate - Pine Nut Chocolate 55% Cacao (bar) - Apr. 11, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Ritual Chocolate
Pine Nut Chocolate 55% Cacao (bar) 
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) / 2.12 oz. (60 g.) in total bar
Calories: 165 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $13.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate, Trees and Bees Theme Week.

Today's Pine Nut Chocolate (Ground Pine Nuts and Dark Chocolate) 55% Cacao (bar) was made by Ritual Chocolate (Park City, UT). The company crafts a variety of chocolate bars high in the mountains (7,000 feet/2,134 meters altitude).

Pinyon pine trees in pine and juniper forests in Utah and the Great Basin area of the U.S. are wonderful to look at and offer many benefits. They're also a source of pine nuts.* These ivory-colored seeds are delicate and buttery and have served as a food source for many animals, including humans for a very long time.

Ritual makers have created a great blend of pine nuts and dark chocolate. This bar had a relatively subtle dark chocolate aroma with chocolate cookie and faint nut (cashew shortbread cookie) notes. If you really focus, you can sense a bit of woodsy, pine/oak forest.

The texture was heavenly, with a rapid creamy, velvety melt and mouthfeel, made possible by finely ground pine nuts, added cocoa butter, and what seemed like the perfect amount of conching (cocoa mass grinding) time.

This 55% chocolate tasted bolder, richer and less sweet (thank you!) than most other 55% bars. And yet, the more delicate (and easily eclipsed) pine nuts still contributed an important role in texture and flavor. 

This ebony-colored bar had some deep dark, grounded, forest flavor--that in less skilled hands (and without finely ground pine nuts) might have headed more toward earthy/tannic or very slightly bitter.

Instead, this result was almost perfectly balanced smooth, rich, luxurious chocolate flavor (with faint forest, nut and fruit acidity); a suave, dark, roasted green nut and cocoa finish; and an almost undetectable, fleeting, astringency tickle at the back of the throat after the first few bites.

This pine nut chocolate was wonderful by itself. I'm guessing it would also make a great addition to a chocolate tasting flight or dessert plate; and/or the basis for a dark chocolate pot de creme or dark chocolate gelato. 

Ritual Chocolate tasting notes read as follows: "Nutty, pine-y, earthy"

Ingredients: Cacao, pine nuts, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter

Allergy-related information: "Contains pine nuts, may contain traces of peanuts, tree nuts, and wheat"

*Plant seeds come in a remarkable variety of shapes and sizes. Some are edible; most are not. Technically edible pine "nuts" are seeds (of several species of pine trees worldwide). And cacao beans are actually cacao seeds. I'm grateful for both of these seeds; and today's Pine Nut Chocolate bar shows they can be lovely together.
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