Thursday, August 6, 2020

Solstice Chocolate - Cacao Bean Sweet Nibs - Aug. 6, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Solstice Chocolate 
Cacao Bean Sweet Nibs
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) serving / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) total package
Calories: 165 calories in 1 oz. (28.3 g.) serving
Cost: $8.00 for 1 package 
Purchased from: Solstice Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #3 of Cocoa Nibs Theme Week.

Today's Cacao Bean Sweet Nibs were from bean-to-bar makers, Solstice Chocolate (Salt Lake City).

These sweetened bits of cacao bean had an aroma of sweet brownies, fresh out of the oven with a hint of sweet tobacco and vanilla, and a crunchy, nutty texture.

The nibs had an initial sweetness that gently faded into true chocolate, bolder, deeper flavor, then into a very mild, balanced bitter note. It was a nice progression, and a tasting curve I wouldn't expect with a more homogenized, finished bar. (Well executed layers of flavor are good.) Unlike finished chocolate, the sugar is located more on the outside surfaces of nib pieces, so you get to taste both sweetened and unsweetened parts of the bean when you chew on them.

There was no "off" taste to any of today's nibs--which spoke to the quality of the cacao beans, and to careful sorting and removal of any less desirable pieces in a shipment. Judging from the quality, these nibs likely would have been good either with or without sweetener. The lack of a mention of an origin also gave/gives the maker some flexibility to pick the best blend or batch of beans for this product over time.

Sugar and Nibs: To Sweeten or Not to Sweeten?
Occasionally, I'll get the question: "If cacao nibs are so great, why add sugar to them? The answer to this question often lies in a Goldilocks chocolate balance zone (not too much, and not too little), and/or is a matter of personal preference. It also depends on the quality of the cacao.

In a finished chocolate bar (where beans/nibs are ground into fine particles with sugar), too much sugar can mask or overpower certain cacao flavors. However, just the right amount of sugar can help brighten or even highlight certain fruit and other notes in a chocolate bar. 

The amount of sugar in today's sweetened nibs was akin to a high-quality 70% cacao bar made with just three ingredients.* (It must be remembered that finished chocolate bars may also contain added cocoa butter to make the chocolate smoother or creamier. Fat is part of flavor too. Cacao beans/nibs may naturally contain 45-50%, fat content, before any extra cocoa butter is added.) 

Unsweetened cacao nib flavor can be more like a 100% (unsweetened) chocolate bar, and is sometimes better, as quality for a "naked" item is demanded. There is no cocoa butter to hide behind. 

Today's high-quality nibs managed to land in the Goldilocks zone. This offering embodied some advantages of both unsweetened and sweetened. Now it's just up to you to decide whether you might prefer sweet or savory/nutty, as nibs can rock either way. 

*Ingredients: Organic cacao bean, cane sugar, vanilla.


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Venchi - GranBlend Montezuma 75% with nibs (squares) - Aug. 5, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Venchi 
GranBlend Montezuma 75% with nibs 
Good ++
Weight: .53 oz. (15 g.) for 2 squares (.265 oz. (7.5 g.) in 1 square)
Calories: 79.5 calories (estimate) in 2 squares
Cost: $2.40 for 2 squares ($1.20 for each)
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

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

Today's GranBlend Montezuma 75% with nibs (squares) were from Venchi S.p.A. (Castelletto Stura, Cuneo, Piedmont, Italy).

These two small, thin chocolate squares had flavor to savor. Cocoa nibs contain more unprocessed cacao bean flavor. And eating these chocolates with nibs more slowly yielded a more interesting tasting experience.

Together, the two squares had aroma and flavor notes that included balanced chocolate nut brownie, earth, light leather. The second one had more faint sweet fruit and green notes. Cocoa nibs added a soft crunchy texture in both cases (slightly softer and nuttier in the first square). Some of the very subtle flavor differences between the two came from the nibs. (Different batches of beans/nibs or origins perhaps.) 

How does one handle "unpredictable" nibs?

Both of today's squares with nibs were good with no "off" flavors. But, all it takes is one funky piece of coca bean (nib) to throw flavors off. Most artisan chocolate makers sort their beans and nibs very carefully to avoid this. 

The other strategy, employed by many high-volume chocolate producers is to increase processing and homogenize batches of cocoa nibs/beans so thoroughly (and grind/conche them for so long--sometimes many days) that any "off" flavors will be greatly reduced or attenuated, even if some desirable or more delicate flavors disappear as well. This leads to a consistent, more predicable flavor over time, but one that can be much less exciting, and one where subtle varietal, harvest and origin flavors can be lost.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Slitti - GranCacao 70% Ecuador Arriba con granella di cacao (nibs) - Aug. 4, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Slitti
GranCacao 70% Ecuador Arriba con Granella di Cacao (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.75 oz. (50 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 288.5 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $9.75 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

Welcome to Day #1 of Chocolate and Cacao Nibs Theme Week, where pieces of cocoa bean (nibs) grace the presence of chocolate bars and confections.

Today's GranCacao 70% Ecuador Arriba con granella di cacao (grains of cocoa (bean), aka cocoa nibs bar) was from Slitti Cacao Pregiati (Tuscany, Italy).

This chocolate bar had an aroma and flavor with green, coconut, bright tropical fruit (pineapple), light spice, fermented dairy (yogurt) and dark chocolate nut brownie notes. Every third or fourth bite, I could detect a small soft crunchy cocoa nibs or two or three--adding some, slightly nutty, essence of cocoa bean flavor and texture.

Ingredients: Cocoa mass (Ecuador), sugar, cocoa powder, grains of cocoa (aka cocoa nibs) (2%).


Monday, August 3, 2020

Goodio Craft Chocolate - Arriba - 71% Arriba Cacao (Ecuador) bar - Aug. 3, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Goodio Craft Chocolate 
Arriba - 71% Arriba Cacao from Ecuador (bar)
Good+
Weight: 1.7 oz. (48 g.) in total bar
Calories: 264 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $6.69 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Country Sun Natural Foods, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #10 of Chocolate and Ecuador Theme Week.

Today's Arriba - 71% Arriba Cacao from Ecuador bar was from Goodio Craft Chocolate (Helsinki, Finland).

This raw, organic, and vegan chocolate was sweetened with coconut palm sugar instead of "white" cane sugar. The overall bar had pleasant, sweet-tasting, balanced flavor profile.

The chocolate had light, warm brown (coconut) sugar-spice, sweet green floral, and chocolate aroma notes.

Ecuadorian cacao beans were not roasted but rather were stoneground in Helsinki and crafted into bars there--before some were shipped back to the Americas near where I live. Like many cacao and chocolate global supply chains, they can include several countries and more than two continents.

Ingredients: Organic cacao beans, organic coconut palm sugar, organic cacao butter, organic vanilla powder.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Mindo Chocolate Makers - Pure 77% Chocolate with Panela (bar) - Aug. 2, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Mindo Chocolate Makers
Pure 77% Chocolate with Panela (bar)
Good +
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) / 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 116 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $8.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Mindo Chocolate Makers, online order

Welcome to Day #9 of Chocolate and Ecuador Theme Week.

Today's Pure 77% Chocolate with Panela (bar) was from Mindo Chocolate Makers (Dexter, MI) and was made in-country (in Mindo, Ecuador)--using organic, shade-grown Nacional cocoa beans grown near the production facility. This is rare, as most chocolate is manufactured in cities thousands of miles away from where the cacao originated.

This bar had a dark chocolate and brown sugar aroma and a smooth melt and texture (and it got creamier as it warmed up more than 20 degrees during the tasting process--from the first bite to the last).

The relatively deep, dark chocolate had a well-executed , even flavor profile (well-tempered, no off flavors or odd spikes) with hints of brown and maple sugar. (The bar did not contain any actual maple sugar.)

Surprisingly, for a bar with "panela" (raw sugar*) in its title, it wasn't that sweet (thank you). The relatively high cacao content (77 percent) allowed the even, solid dark chocolate flavor to run the show and take a bow into a pleasant finish without being too strong or bitter.

Ingredients: cocoa beans, raw sugar (panela)

*The compostable packaging (paper) was made from sugar cane pulp.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Sol Cacao Craft Chocolate - 70% Ecuador (Cedeno Farm) (bar) - Aug. 1, 2020

Chocolate of the Day:

Sol Cacao Craft Chocolate
70% Ecuador (Cedeno Farm) (bar)
Good +
Weight:  1.86 oz. (52.7 g.) in total bar
Calories: 279 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $7.75 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and Ecuador Theme Week.

Today's 70% Ecuador (Cedeno Farm*) (bar) was from Sol Cacao Craft Chocolate (Bronx, NY).

This ultra dark chocolate had delicate aroma notes: roasted green, spice, and floral and very light umami (leather). In tasting the bar, flavor notes were similar: dark chocolate, green, floral, light fermented fruit and dairy, and nicely balanced acidity.

The texture was smooth and uniform with a wee bit of balanced astringency.

This chocolate was full of flavor and was not too sweet (thank you!).

Ingredients: Cacao, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Cocoa Butter, Vanilla Bean

*Cacao beans used to make this dark chocolate bar were grown on the Cedeno family farm in Santa Domingo De Los Tsachilas, Ecuador--an area known for Arriba Nacional variety cacao. (This bar was labeled as Sol Cacao Batch #6A.)




Friday, July 31, 2020

Taste Artisan Chocolate - Limited Edition Palo Santo 75% Ecuador (bar) - July 31, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Taste Artisan Chocolate
Limited Edition Palo Santo 75% Ecuador (bar)
Good 
Weight:  1.5 oz. (42.5 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 225 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $9.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and Ecuador Theme Week.

Today's Limited Edition Palo Santo 75% Ecuador (bar) was crafted by Taste Artisan Chocolate (Provo, UT).

This well-tempered, 75 percent cacao bar had a subtle aroma with polite dark chocolate notes and a hint of green forest. The chocolate had a uniformly smooth, almost creamy melt and texture. Flavor notes included a faint sour milk note, even fainter, green (green tea), marshmallow and light floral (vanilla) notes, muted true chocolate, and a very fleeting uptick of earth. 

There were no strong bitter or sour notes; so this might appeal to those who like a smoother dark chocolate that still has some identifiable flavor notes.

The finish was relatively mild with an almost undetectable amount of astringency (very mild throat tickle), and the bar was not overly sweet (thank you).

Ingredients: Cacao, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Cocoa Butter, Vanilla Bean
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