Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Caffarel - Latte, Gianduia chocolates - Sept. 30, 2015

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Caffarel
- Latte chocolate
- Gianduia chocolate
Good ++
Weight: .7 oz. (19.8 g.) (estimate) in 2 pieces
Calories: 105 calories (estimate) for 2 pieces
Cost: $ ?.?? (lost info)
Purchased from: SweetE Organic, Mill Valley, CA

Today was Day #6 of Chocolate and Italy Theme Week.

Today's small, egg-shaped, Latte and Gianduia chocolates from Caffarel of Torino, Italy (now part of Nestle), were swathed in cheery yellow and green paper outer wrappers. Inside each was a foil-wrapped egg.

These milk chocolates where coated with creamy chocolate and were stuffed with an even creamier, slightly buttery and flavorful ganache (filling); the latter (green) one was hazelnut flavored.

Thanks to Elana T. at SweetE Organic (Mill Valley, CA) for stocking some great Italian sweets. I picked these up at her store earlier this year.



Cloetta Italia - Sperlari Granperle chocolates - Sept. 29, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Cloetta Italia
Sperlari Granperle Fondente con Granella di Torrone - 60% cacao
(Extra Dark Chocolate Pralines - 60% cacao)
Good
Weight: 1.378 oz. (39 g.) / 5.6 oz. (160 g.) in total package
Calories: 210 calories in 3 pieces (approx. 1/4 package)
Cost: $6.25 in one package
Purchased from: The Greedy Ant, Belmont, CA

Today was Day #5 of Chocolate and Italy Theme Week.

These elegantly and individually wrapped chocolate covered nougat spheres were part of the Sperlari* brand, from Cloetta Italia (Italy). The texture was both creamy smooth and softly crunchy, with some small air pockets between layers as I bit into this Granperle chocolate.

These Granperle Fondente con Granella di Torrone (Extra Dark Chocolate Pralines) were covered with 60% cacao "nel guscio."

*The Sperlari brand dates back to 1836.




Monday, September 28, 2015

Element - Dark Chocolate Rice Cakes - Sept. 28, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Element
Dark Chocolate Rice Cakes - Good ++
Sweet Orange Rice Cakes - Good ++ - Very Good

Weight: 1.75 oz. (50 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in 1 package of 6 cakes
Calories: 240 calories in 3 rice cakes
Cost: $3.99 for 1 package of rice cakes
Purchased from: Sprouts, Mountain View, CA

Today was Day #4 of Chocolate and Italy Theme Week.

Life is all about managing expectations. I wasn't expecting much from these Element Dark Chocolate and Sweet Orange, gluten free, non-GMO rice cakes (distributed by Manifesto Industries (NY, NY) and Made in Italy. But they certainly over-delivered.

The dark chocolate coating was of a much higher quality than expected. I could smell the rich, dark difference within several inches of my nose.

Similarly, the orange yogurt coating on the Sweet Orange rice cakes tasted very natural, fragrant with a light touch of orange.

So nice to enjoy a natural tasting product with no artificial flavors, that wasn't over-sweetened.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Venchi - Organic Dark Chocolate 70% bar - Sept. 27, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Venchi S.p.A.
Biologico 70% Dark Chocolate bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: 2.46 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 400 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $7.08 (sale) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere (online order)

Today was Day #3 of Chocolate and Italy Theme Week.

I would be remiss if I didn't include at least one Venchi chocolate this week. This company had its start in the 1800s, in the Piedmont region of Italy.

Today's Venchi organic, extra dark chocolate 70% bar was made with Criollo Blanco and nacional Amendolado cacao beans from Ecuador. These beans are valued for their fine flavor and aroma, and the blend used in this 3-ingredient chocolate ("organic Ecuador cocoa mass, organic sugar cane, organic cocoa butter") yielded a wide spectrum of pleasing flavors.

The gluten free Venchi 70% bar was thick, sweet, and very creamy, and full of very subtle flavor: floral fruit, nutty, very light smoke, light earth, green olive/wood. I had to really focus to detect this incredible range of flavor notes; but other than that "effort," it was a very easy bar to eat. No real bitterness* (just a very, very balanced subtle hint in the finish); no astringency off-notes, or funky earthy molds.

Very nice and smooth, yet surprisingly complex if you pay attention.

*Polyphenols and Criollo

Plants containing certain bitter compounds and alkaloids are better able to deter insects and other would-be pests that would eat or damage plants. Interestingly, some of us omnivores (monkeys, squirrels, humans) co-evolved to tolerate, and actually benefit from, small amounts of these compounds, such as polyphenols (plant-based molecules that contain anti-oxidants). And, conveniently, monkeys, squirrels and humans helped scatter seeds to other parts of forests, benefiting plants.

Bitter and astringent flavors are present in plant-based foods and beverages such as cacao, tea, wine, berries, nuts, etc. Polyphenols, flavanol polymers, and/or tannins taste bitter or cause a sense of puckery dryness in one's mouth.

Criollo cacao beans are generally lower in polyphenols than, say, Trinitario cacao beans. As a result, chocolate made from Criollo beans tends to be less bitter and/or astringent. And, with less bitterness, subtler floral and fruit flavors can be easier to detect as well.



Saturday, September 26, 2015

Amedei - Toscano Brown Cioccolato al Latte bar - Sept. 26, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Amedei
Toscano Brown Cioccolato al Latte bar
Good +
Weight: .875 oz. (25 g.) /1.75 oz. (50 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 131 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $8.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #2 of Chocolate and Italy Theme Week.

This Toscano* Brown Cioccolato al Latte bar was made by Amedei (Pontedera (Pisa), Italy) in Tuscany.*

Amedei was founded in 1990, by brother and sister team, Alessio and Cecilia Tessieri. (The inside of this Latte bar's packaging contained information about Amedei single origin and other bars.)

Today's creamy milk chocolate (35% cacao) bar had slight five-spice and hazelnut notes to it but otherwise was relatively even in tone.

Fun fact I enjoyed reading in Wikipedia about Amedei chocolate:

"Amedei chocolate is used in making the world's most expensive cupcake, The Golden Phoenix, which is made by Bloomsbury's, a boutique cafe in Dubai." These cupcakes start at $1,000 apiece, and involve a lot of edible gold.

*I'm not really sure why we need to tell other people how to pronounce their name. In Italy they call the large region in their own country Toscano. We call it Tuscany. It's a beautiful region in any language. 




Friday, September 25, 2015

Domori - Teyuna 70% Colombia bar - Sept. 25, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Domori
Teyuna Colombia Dark Chocolate 70% bar
Good ++
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) in total bar
Calories: 132 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $N/A - sample
Purchased from: N/A

Today was the last day, Day #7, of Chocolate and Colombia Theme Week, and the dawning (Day #1) of Chocolate and Italy Week.

In the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region of (Northern) Colombia, there is a lost city (Ciudad Perdida), the site of an ancient city, older than Machu Picchu. This city is also known by local indigenous people as Teyuna.

Criollo cacao grows not too far from the ruins of this lost city. Criollo is one of the oldest types of cacao, and could have become "lost" over time. This fine flavored cacao, that bears smaller fruits, and yields light-colored beans with intriguing, subtle flavors, has survived in the forest, or "up river;" and has been re-discovered, more than once, by discriminating chocolate makers.

Most chocolate is made from more robust cacao types (Forastero, Trinitario, other hybrids). Criollo cacao represents a very small fraction of what is used in chocolate at present. However, it was used to make today's Teyuna Colombia Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao bar from Domori* (None, Italy).

This slim square bar had smooth and interesting flavor that I had a hard time identifying. The following contains the closest series of descriptors I could manage: very subtle hints of cream, fruit, cherry, very mild fruitcake, and bread.

Domori's home in None, Italy is near Turin, a city in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy that is known for chocolates and blends of hazelnuts and chocolate. (Think Nutella and Gianduja.)

From the first visit Domori founder, Gianluca Franzoni, made to a cacao plantation with rare Criollo cacao back in the 1990s, he sought to "rescue" prized, fine flavored cacao in regions of South America where cacao originated. And he"sought to bridge the gap between grower and chocolate maker." After all, you can't have great single origin bar without great cacao; and great cacao starts with the farmers and the trees.

*Domori became part of Illy SpA group in 2006.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Santander - Colombian Single Origin 65% bar - Sept. 24, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Nacional de Chocolates
Chocolate Santander
Colombian Single Origin Dark Chocolate - 65% cacao bar
Good++ - Very Good
Weight: 1.23 oz. (35 g.) / 2.46 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 175 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $2.90 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere (online)

Today was Day #6 of Chocolate and Colombia Theme Week.

This Chocolate Santander Colombian Single Origin bar was made by Compania Nacional de Chocolates (affiliated with food processor Grupo Nutresa, Medellin, Colombia), an organization that had its beginnings in 1920.

Today's 65% dark chocolate bar (and other Chocolate Santander bars) are made with cacao beans from many family farms across the department* of Santander in Eastern Colombia, a region known for growing fine cacao and coffee.

This thick, gluten free and kosher bar had a smooth mouthfeel and melt, and tasted like a rich, sweet, fudgey, nutty chocolate brownie. It was a "brownie" bar through and through, had a brief sweet fruit-nut brightness, and a hint of smooth earthiness toward the end.

*Colombia is divided into 32 departments and 1 capital district (Bogota) -- similar to the way that the U.S. has 50 states and our capital district area is Wash., D.C.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Santander Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs - Sept. 23, 2015

Chocolate of the Day:

Chocolate Santander
Santander Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs
Very Good
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42.25 g.) / 3.52 oz. (100 g.) in total package
Calories: 225 calories (estimate) for 1.5 oz. (42.45 g.) serving
Cost: $3.95 for 1 package
Purchased from: Chocosphere (online order)

Today was Day #5 of Chocolate and Colombia Theme Week.

Cocoa nibs are ground bits of cocoa beans. And fresh cacao nibs are full of aroma and flavor.

When I opened this small (100 g.) package of Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs that I ordered from the Chocosphere website, I was greeted by the intoxicating smell of freshly baked brownies, made with cacao that had a very pleasing, well-rounded, almost nutty flavor profile.

Each small nib was coated with Santander (Colombian single origin) 53% dark chocolate and had a soft crunch.

I could eat these all day long.

Santander is the name of a department in Colombia, with fertile soil in the Yariguies Mountains, where cacao is grown. Chocolate Santander is the name of a company based in Colombia -- one of the only single origin, chocolate makers producing chocolate in-country (vs. shipping beans overseas to chocolate makers, typically in the Northern Hemisphere). Fortunately, for those in the U.S., it can also be found and ordered online.


Artisan du Chocolat - Arauca, Orinoquia region, Colombia bar - Sept. 22, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Artisan du Chocolat
Arauca - Orinoquia region, Colombia bar
Good ++
Weight: 1..59 oz. (45 g.) in total bar
Calories:  239 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $7.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: ZombieRunner, Palo Alto, CA

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

Today's 72% cocoa, dark chocolate Aruaca (Colombia) bar from Artisan du Chocolat (Kent and London, U.K.) was made in Colombia and Great Britain.*

This Limited Edition single origin bar came with quite a bit of information (via Gerard's Notes, printed on the back of the attractive gold packaging) about its origin.

For example, "Arauca is a department of Colombia shaped by the Casanare and Meta rivers and located in the extreme north of the Orinoco region, bordering Venezuela." Beans from Trinitario hybrid cacao, that apparently have maintained some fine flavor, heritage Criollo cacao characteristics, were used to make the bar.

The chocolate was interesting and flavorful, with a honey-like sweetness; that is, it had a sweeter (almost nutty) flavor than I associated with many 72% dark chocolate bars. I got a quick hit of red fruit/berry flavor, followed by a pause, then a slight earthy note at the end.

*The common practice is to ship fermented, dried cacao beans from the growing country to chocolate makers in the Northern Hemisphere, who make the chocolate bars (involving many steps, such as conching, refining and tempering of chocolate) in their factory. This bar was produced in Bogota, Colombia, by Casa Luker (a family-owned Colombian company). It was nice to see this alliance and credit given to work being done in the country of origin. 




Monday, September 21, 2015

L'Amourette Chocolat - Single Origin Colombia 85% Dark bar - Sept. 21, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

L'Amourette Chocolat LLC
L'Amourette Gold - Single Origin Colombia Dark Chocolate 85% bar
Good +
Weight: .7 oz. (20 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 130 calories (per label) in 1/5 bar
Cost: $7.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: ZombieRunner, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #3 of Chocolate and Colombia Theme Week.

Today's Dark Chocolate 85% cacao Colombia bar from L'Amourette Chocolat (San Francisco, CA) was part of the company's "L'Amourette Gold" series of single origin bars.

This was a four-ingredient bar -- Colombian cocoa beans, cocoa butter*, sugar and Bourbon vanilla beans. The 85% refers to the cocoa bean content (the darker solids + cocoa butter); and the remaining 15% was sugar and Bourbon vanilla beans. Without a lot of sugar, you taste a lot more of the deep, dark tones and flavors associated with ultra-dark chocolate.

This deep dark bar had an even, slow melt, in part due to its thickness. This enabled a gradual reveal of flavors: acidic/sour fruit (citrus, green apricot), followed by chocolate brownies, then a very slight bit of earth, and a gradual, clean finish.

On the back of the package, L'Amourette's chocolate maker (Andre V.) suggests pairing this "with a single malt whiskey or just by itself."

*A cocoa bean is about 50% fat (largely in the form of cocoa butter), depending on the bean origin. (Beans that grow further away from the Equator, e.g. in Hawaii, might pack on a bit of extra fat.) Sometimes chocolate makers will add a bit more cocoa butter to arrive at just the right balance of creamy texture and/or a balanced flavor profile. Cocoa butter is more true to the cocoa bean taste, and is preferable to emulsifiers, such as soy lecithin or other vegetable fats. However, making chocolate without these additives may require a bit more skill (and cost/time).






Sunday, September 20, 2015

Castronovo Chocolate - Dark Milk Colombia bar - Sept. 20, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Castronovo Chocolate
Dark Milk Chocolate 63% Criollo and Trinitario Cacao (Colombia) bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: .73 oz. (20.8 g.) / 2.2 oz. (62.4 g.) in total bar
Calories: 111 calories (estimate) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $12.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #2 of Chocolate and Colombia Theme Week.

Yesterday I featured a dark chocolate bar made with Colombian cacao from Castronovo Chocolate. And today, I'm featuring the company's Dark Milk Chocolate 63% cacao bar (also made from a mix of Criollo and Trinitario cacao).

Founder and chocolatemaker, Denise Castronovo, produces hand-crafted bean-to-bar, single origin bars in Stuart, Florida.

I don't know whether the chocolatemaker blended two different batches of cacao (Criollo beans from Criollo cacao trees, and Trinitario beans from a Trinitario tree), or whether she was able to purchase beans that came from cacao pods/trees that contained two different types of seeds (or beans) in the same pod (fruit). This is possible.

In any case, the cacao originated from the Sierra Nevada coastal mountain range of Colombia in South America. And the results were great.

This 63% cacao dark milk chocolate bar had a creamy mouthfeel, rich caramel notes and hints chocolate + nut flavor. (There were no nuts in this bar.)

On the back of the packaging was listed the batch # (292) and more about the cacao.

For those who prefer only dark chocolate, this dark milk bar illustrates that there are some great single origin milk chocolate bars out there.



Saturday, September 19, 2015

Castronovo Chocolate - Dark 72% Sierra Nevada Colombia bar - Sept. 19, 2015

Source: Colombia-PR.com
Chocolate of the Day: 

Castronovo Chocolate
Rare Cacao Collection - Sierra Nevada Colombia
Dark Chocolate 72% Criollo and Trinitario Cacao bar
Good +
Weight: .73 oz. (20.8 g.) / 2.2 oz. (62.4 g.) in total bar
Calories: 109 calories in 1/3 bar
Cost: $12.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Bienvenidos a (Welcome to) Day #1 of Chocolate and Colombia Theme Week.

Colombia, located in the far north of South America, is in the heart of cacao-growing territory, with neighboring countries such as Venezuela to the east, Ecuador to the southwest, Peru to the south, and Brazil to the southeast. Colombia also links South America to Central America, with a land bridge to Panama to the north.

Today's Dark Chocolate 72% cacao bar was made with Criollo* and Trinitario* cacao grown in the Sierra Nevada region of Colombia. Beans were harvested and shipped to the U.S. And the bar was hand-crafted, from bean-to-bar, by Castronovo Chocolate in Stuart, Florida.

Like many single origin bars (and chocolate makers), this one comes with its own origin story.

The beans come from a "rare cacao that grows along the slopes of Colombia's Sierra Nevada coastal mountain range. The cacao is a mix of cultivated and wild-grown, harvested by settlers and the Arhuaco indigenous people."

The chief Castronovo chocolate maker is company founder Denise Castronovo who has a background in sustainability, and geographic mapping of tree canopy areas in the rainforests.)

Today's 72% dark Colombia bar had rich flavors -- roasted coffee and mildly acidic fruit, with an earthy finish.

*Criollo beans are associated with heirloom or heritage cacao with "fine flavor;" and trees with Criollo cacao tend to bear smaller pods (fruit) with interesting, sometimes more delicate or nuanced flavors. Trinitario cacao is slightly more robust in terms of flavor and constitution. As with all cacao types, a wide variety of different flavors may be either coaxed from (or lost) with a given batch of cacao beans depending on the condition of the beans and the skills of a chocolate maker. 


Friday, September 18, 2015

Raaka - Lapsang Chai Bolivia bar - Sept. 18, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Raaka Chocolate
Lapsang Chai Bolivia bar
Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 1.8 oz. (50.9 g.) in total bar
Calories: 144.4 calories in 1 oz. (28.3 g.) of bar
Cost: $7.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bristol Farms, Westfield Centre, San Francisco, CA

Today was Day #7 of Chocolate and Bolivia Theme Week.

This Lapsang Chai Bolivia 66% cacao bar was made (bean-to-bar) by Raaka Chocolate (Brooklyn, NY), using unroasted cacao.

The lapsang souchong tea and chai spices (cardamom, coriander) were very subtle, and the flavor additions seemed to spring from the cacao itself -- with a very slight hint of floral tea and spice and light marshmallow. (The bar did contain some marshmallow root.)

Even the normally dominant smoky flavor of lapsang souchong tea (which I love) seemed to disappear in a relatively balanced way into the overall flavor profile. Artful flavor blending.

The texture was very slightly grainy, like one might find in flavorful, stoneground chocolates.

This bar with the graphically pleasing wrapper was also soy, nut and gluten free, and vegan.








Thursday, September 17, 2015

El Ceibo - 75% Bolivia bar; Raaka Bolivia bar - Sept. 17, 2015

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

El Ceibo
Bolivia - 75% Organic Cocoa Beans bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: 1.12 oz. (32 g.) / 2.8 oz. (80 g.) in total bar
Calories: 168 calories (estimate) for 2/5 bar
Cost: $9.00 (estimate) for 2/5 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #6 of Chocolate and Bolivia Theme Week -- and it's a two bar day.

I found this wonderful El Ceibo 75% cacao (Bolivia) bar in the back of my chocolate vault. The recommended "consume by" date had come and gone, but it was still a great bar.

The chocolate, made with beans from El Ceibo Cooperative in the Covendo Region of Alto Beni, Bolivia, was robust with balanced, complex flavors -- with hints of plum fruit, coffee, earth and olive -- and creamy smooth in texture.

Raaka Chocolate
Maple and Nibs bar
Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 1.8 oz. (50.94 g.) in total bar
Calories:  147 calories in 1 oz. (28.3 g.) of bar
Cost: $7.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bristol Farms, Westfield Centre, San Francisco, CA

Because I wasn't sure if I tried the El Ceibo bar (above) before or not, I decided to include a second bar made with Bolivian cacao.

This Maple and Nibs bar from Raaka Chocolate (Brooklyn, NY) was made with unroasted cacao beans. Using a lower temperature process preserves some flavors, and leaves other flavors (that would be brought out in the roasting process) undeveloped. If you fancy a raw foods diet, unroasted cacao may be of interest.

This bar had a lovely, very subtle maple and smoke aroma, and a flavor that blossomed about 5-10 seconds after taking a bite.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

twenty-four blackbirds - Fine Drinking Chocolate - Sept. 16, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolate, LLC
Fine Drinking Chocolate (Origin: Bolivia)
Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 4 oz. (113 g.) in total package of 4 bars/pieces
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) for 1 bar
Cost: $8.95
Purchased from: Santa Barbara Botanical Garden (gift shop), Santa Barbara, CA

Today was Day #5 of Chocolate and Bolivia Theme Week.

Today's package of Fine Drinking Chocolate chocolate, carefully wrapped in brown craft paper and string, was from twenty-four blackbirds (Santa Barbara, CA). The package contained four 1 oz. (28.3 g.) bars of partially tempered chocolate, made with organic Bolivian cacao beans and organic cane sugar.

This chocolate came with a simple instruction card. One or more bars could be mixed with a small amount of boiling water and stirred to make a rich, thick small cup of drinking chocolate.

Or, bars could be melted to make a rich, chocolately syrup.  Although the chocolate will harden up fairly quickly once cooled. (Once melted, I've found stirring in a teaspoon of unsweetened, organic extra virgin coconut oil keeps the syrup a softer, smoother texture if you have left-overs.)

The resulting hot chocolate had a faint chocolate caramel note in the aroma, and was much richer in chocolate flavor that hot cocoa you might find in most of the U.S. The texture was quite thick (consistent with stoneground and/or rustic drinking chocolate from Mexico and Central America), and not too sweet.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Rogue Chocolatier - Tranquilidad (Bolivia) 75% bar - Sept. 15, 2015

Chocolate of the Day: 

Rogue Chocolatier
Tranquilidad (Bolivia) 75% bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: 2.12 oz. (60 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 318 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $19 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #4 of Chocolate and Bolivia Theme Week.

The aptly named Tranquilidad (tranquility) 75% cacao bar from Rogue Chocolatier (Three Rivers, MA) was made with cacao beans from Hacienda Tranquilidad in the Bolivian Amazon Basin.

I experienced none of the brash, acidic boldness of Bolivian cacao in this bar that I found in other Bolivian cacao bars featured earlier this week. Instead, this bar had lovely, lilting, floral, marshmallow, and cream honey on toast aroma and flavor, with a clean finish.

Lest you think this flavor profile sounds too "sweet" -- I should add, it was not. It was just right. Well executed and well balanced.

I like floral flavors. But, many dark chocolate critics seem unimpressed with this floral + marshmallow + green banana profile, often associated with Ecuadorian cacao-based bars.

Some critics prefer bold flavors, the way a wine fan might prefer reds. However, today's bar exemplifies a successful execution of this lighter, floral cacao. Thank you to Colin Gasko at Rogue Chocolatier for his focus on quality and coaxing great flavor out of a variety of cacao types.

twenty-four blackbirds - Palos Blancos 75 percent (Bolivia) bars - Sept. 14, 2015

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

twenty-four blackbirds
Palos Blancos 75 percent (Bolivia) bar
Good - Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 1.4 oz. (40 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1 oz. of bar
Cost: $6.75 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Sweet Shop, Los Altos, CA

Today was Day #3 of Chocolate and Bolivia Theme Week.

twenty-four blackbirds is based in Santa Barbara, CA. This small operation turns carefully made, bean-to-bar chocolate bars and drinking chocolate.

These single origin bars were graced with tile-style letters and symbols -- the image of a single blackbird feather was pressed into a smaller version of the same bar. Both bars were carefully wrapped in brown craft paper.

Today's two Palos Blancos 75 percent bars were made from Bolivian cacao beans, and had a fairly smooth, well balanced flavor.  The bar had a faint aroma that evoked rainforest (green vegetation, rich soil), and the flavor had some of the bold acidity that other single origin Bolivia bars have had this week, with a very slight sour/bitter note.





Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lillie Belle Farms - The Wild Thing Bolivia bar - Sept. 13, 2015

Chocolate of the Day:

Lillie Belle Farms
The Wild Thing Bolivia bar
Good++ - Very Good
Weight: 2.5 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 375 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $8.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Lillie Belle Farms, Central Point, OR

Today was Day #2 of Chocolate and Bolivia Theme Week.

There were several wild things about The Wild Thing 68% Bolivia bar artfully crafted by Jeff Sheperd at Lillie Belle Farms (Central Point, OR).

First, it must have been an honor to work with this special* batch of wild, Criollo cacao harvested from the rainforests of Bolivia.

Second, great bars made from Bolivian cacao sound wildly contradictory when I try to describe them. Bold or robust, but smooth. Acidic, but not. Earthy, but not "dirt" bars. Vexingly subtle flavors that appear halfway through that (if not squashed in the making process) can be difficult to identify.

For example, today's thick, 68% dark chocolate bar had a rich, cocoa, mild earthy aroma. And behind the robustness and mild/balanced acidity were some remarkable and fleeting subtler flavors that I couldn't quite identify. (And the wild thing was I ate the whole darn bar trying to figure them out.)

This was a thick bar. A case can be made for thin (quick access to flavors) or thick (patience yields a slower reveal of flavors). Thickness gave this bar a slow, creamy melt and did seem to reveal flavors more slowly.

Part of the wild thing about Criollo (fine flavor, heritage) cacao beans is that they are subtle and yet full of interesting flavor. However, they can be more delicate, more disease prone when subject to denser, human-cultivated planting areas, and the trees often bear smaller pods (fruit). I hope these great beans are kept alive and unadulterated as long as is possible, so we don't have to say, the wildest thing of all is that these heritage strains still exist at all.

*Note: Unfortunately, The Wild Thing bar may no longer be available; it was not listed on the Lillie Belle Farms website when I wrote this review.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Cello Chocolate - 70% Cacao bar - Sept. 12, 2015

Chocolate of the Day:

Cello Chocolate
70% Bolivia bar
Good ++
Weight: .8 oz. (22.64 g.) / 2 oz. (57 g.) in total bar
Calories: 120 calories (estimate) in 2/5 bar
Cost: $36.00 for set of 6 different single origin bars
Purchased from: Cello Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #1 of Chocolate and Bolivia Theme Week.

Today's 70% cacao Bolivia dark chocolate bar was from Cello Chocolate (Nevada City, CA). The bar had well-rounded, robust, dark earthy and sweet chocolate aroma and flavor.

The maker's notes: Deep creamy and bold, with cedar undertones.

This Bolivia bar was part of a set of six, different single origin bars, crafted by Cello Chocolate founder and chocolate maker, Ned Russell -- and carefully wrapped by Debi Russell.

Russell made this chocolate from scratch (bean-to-bar), in a home kitchen with just three ingredients: certified organic cocoa beans; sugar; and cocoa butter.


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