Friday, February 5, 2016

SOMA - St. Thomas Parish, 70% Jamaica bar - Feb. 5, 2016

Chocolate of the Day:

SOMA Chocolatemaker
St. Thomas Parish
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: 1.14 oz. (32.5 g.) / 2.29 oz. (65 g.) in total bar
Calories: 173 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $12.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Today was Day #3 of Chocolate and Some Enchanted Islands Theme Week.

After spending the first three days of the Enchanted Islands chocolate tour in the Dominican Republic, we're sailing west to Jamaica, to experience cacao that originated in St. Thomas Parish*.

This cacao-growing island nation produces less cacao than it used to**, and supplies of good beans have been harder to obtain in the last decade, due in part to a drop in supply.

Older farmers have retired and fewer young people have gotten into the business of growing cacao. (Also large companies have moved in to buy farmers crops. This is good for farmers who appreciate a steadier income; but it can make it more difficult for smaller bean-to-bar makers who are looking to buy high-quality Jamaican beans.)

SOMA Chocolatemaker Jamaica bar

Today's Saint Thomas Parish 70% cacao bar was made by SOMA Chocolatemaker (Toronto, Canada). SOMA has been making bean-to-bar chocolate since 2003. Today's Jamaica bar, sealed in a silver pouch, was well crafted. And it had a beautiful imprinted "map" of Toronto—where SOMA is located (in an old whisky distillery near the water). (Newer versions of the bar come with a different imprint with a label displaying Jamaican flag colors.)

Jamaica conjures up notions of bright Caribbean colors, steel drums, and spicy flavors—in short, a bold experience. Everything about today's three-ingredient single origin dark bar was smooth, consistent, well crafted and well balanced.

The SOMA bar contained Trinitario cocoa beans, organic cane sugar and added cocoa butter. The aroma and flavors had muted notes of: light jungle/forest growth, green wood or herb (I experienced a tiny hint of fresh baby green fennel shoots in cream), a mild sweetness (fresh fruit salad made with tropical fruits, raspberries, honey and cream). There wasn't one off note in the entire bar.

The added cocoa butter contributed to the bar's creamy melt, subtle flavors and mild finish. (It also made me wonder what the unadulterated beans tasted like. Were they wilder? Less balanced? What magic was necessary to transform them into this tasting experience?)

*Jamaica is divided into 14 parishes, that are in turn part of three larger counties. Saint Thomas Parish, located in Surrey County, is located at the southeast end of Jamaica. (Sugar and bananas are other export crops from this area.)

**Data from the Jamaican Cocoa Famers' Association website estimates that annual production of cocoa in Jamaica dropped from 2,522 tons in 1992 to 440 tons in 2008.

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