Sunday, February 17, 2013

Kona Origins - 75% Dark bar - Feb. 16, 2013

Chocolate of the Day: 

Kona Origins
75% Cacao Dark Chocolate bar
Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (56.6 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1 oz. serving
Cost: $6.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Kona Origins table at Keauhou Farmers Market, Kona, HI

Most chocolates that people buy are made by confectioners or chocolatiers, who make truffles, bars, confections or desserts using chocolate that was made by a chocolate maker. A small percent of chocolate people buy chocolates directly from a chocolate maker, someone who makes their product from scratch, from the cacao beans.

An even smaller percentage of people buy chocolate from cacao farmers who are also chocolate makers -- those making chocolate from tree to bar.

All this explanation is a round-about way of introducing today's 75% cacao dark chocolate bar made by Kona Origins (Hawaii).

Discovering Kona Origins

During a recent trip, I was fortunate to stay at Green Gecko Coffee Farm in Kona. Friends there took me to the Saturday Keauhou Farmers Market in Kona, where we met Vheissu and Carolyn Keffer, of Kona Origins. In addition to selling bananas and cacao fruit, the Keffers were also selling cacao nibs and dark chocolate bars.

I was impressed with their cacao nibs which tasted smooth, mildly fruity, and uniformly fermented. Later, we tasted their cacao fruit (the white pulp surrounding the cacao seeds), and it had a mild apple banana fruit flavor.

Last, but not least, we sampled the Kona Origins 75% Dark Chocolate bar that we'd also bought at the market. Rich in flavor and texture, the bar tasted more like an 80% bar. It had a dark, earthy flavor. We called and arranged a tour of the Kona Origins farm.

Tree to Bar Chocolate Making

We visited the Keffer's farm in South Kona; and as we walked down to the area where the cacao trees were growing, Vheissu pointed out the original "mother" cacao tree that had been planted on the property almost three decades ago.

When we arrived at a small grove of Forastero cacao trees in the sun, Vheissu cracked open a ripe, yellow-orange cacao fruit pod on a black lava rock that was jutting out of the field. And, from there, we (literally) walked through the process of fermenting, drying and processing cacao beans and nibs -- into chocolate on the property.

Vheissu was making chocolate in true Silicon Valley start-up fashion -- having engineered some of his own equipment in his garage, including a fermentation chamber, that helped him achieve good results. In addition, he talked about stirring (uniformity) and adding some heat to the ferment. All in all, if the cacao nibs were any indication, the result was a good, complete ferment.

Chocolate making can be especially challenging in a semi-tropical climate. Warm temperatures are required for growing and for the initial fermentation; however, cooler, drier climes are often better for the latter stages of processing and bar-making. This dark bar seemed reasonably well tempered and textured given these challenges.

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