Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Patric Chocolate - Sweet and Sassy Milk bar - Nov. 21, 2017

Chocolate of the Day:

Patric Chocolate
Sweet and Sassy Milk bar
Good++ - Very Good
Weight: 2.3 oz. (65 g.) in total bar
Calories: 345 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $15.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #2 of Milk Chocolate Theme Week.

Today's Sweet and Sassy Milk bar was created by Alan "Patric" McClure of Patric Chocolate (Columbia, MO). Alan has produced several award-winning dark milk (and dark) bars.

This creamy dark milk (46% cacao) chocolate bar offered sophisticated rich buttery caramel sweetness tempered with a touch of sea salt.

The bar was made with a short list of high-quality ingredients (organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic whole milk powder, cacao, sea salt).

Don't reach for this rich sweet and salty confection if you're overly hungry. It will completely vanish in minutes.






Monday, November 20, 2017

SOMA Chocolatemaker - Milk Chuao bar - Nov. 20, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

SOMA Chocolatemaker
Milk Chuao bar
Very Good 
Weight: 1.145 oz. (32.5 g.) / 2.29 oz. (65 g.) (estimate) in total bar (no weight listed)
Calories: 172 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $ missing information for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Today it was adios and tchau (goodbye) to South American Chocolate Theme Weeks, and hello to Milk Chocolate Week, with the Milk Chuao bar from SOMA Chocolatemaker (Toronto, ON, Canada).

The SOMA high-end milk chocolate bar was made with fine flavored cacao, grown in the Chuao region of Venezuela, known for its lovely caramel and fruit notes.

This 50% cacao bar had the creaminess and slightly sweeter qualities of a high-percentage cacao milk chocolate, but the complexity of flavor you'd more often find in darker bars. 

This SOMA Chocolatemaker microbatch bean-to-bar chocolate bar may, unfortunately, not be available at the moment. However, look into the company's single origin bars and holiday "twig" chocolates and you won't be disappointed. Creativity and skill are applied in equal measures at SOMA.


Ciao Bella Gelato - South American Dark Chocolate gelato - Nov. 19, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Ciao Bella Gelato Company, Inc.
South American Dark Chocolate gelato
Good - Good +
Weight: 1/2 cup serving (105 g.) / 14 fl. oz. (414 mL) in total container
Calories: 250 calories in 1/2 cup serving
Cost: $ missing information 
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to the last stop on our 29-day virtual chocolate tour of South America. We've explored many single origin, ultra-dark chocolate bars from countries ranging from Venezuela to Bolivia for the past 3-4 weeks.

This month ends on a completely different note: two scoops of South American Dark Chocolate gelato from Ciao Bella Gelato Company, Inc. in the northeastern U.S.

This frozen dessert was packed with a lot more chocolate flavor than one normally finds in a frozen dessert. It was made with fair trade cacao grown in South America, via a partnership with TCHO Chocolate (Berkeley, CA).

At first whiff, this gelato smelled more like rich chocolate; and it had a richer, more fruit-acidic chocolate flavor. The texture and melt were smooth creamy.







Saturday, November 18, 2017

Taza Chocolate - Bolivia 87% Dark bar - Nov. 18, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Taza Chocolate
Bolivia 87% Dark bar
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1.25 oz. (35 g.) / 2.5 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 230 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $7.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Draeger's Market, Los Altos, CA

Welcome to Day #28 of South American Chocolate Theme Weeks.

Today's single origin bar was made with cacao grown in Bolivia. The 87% Dark bar was crafted by Taza Chocolate in Somerville, MA.

This chocolate had a very pleasant hot chocolate/chocolate malt aroma with very faint, but again pleasing, sweet green, fruit and nut notes. This aroma was considerably more upbeat and friendly than one would expect for 87% cacao chocolate, in part due to the addition of what smelled like high-quality vanilla* beans. And the taste was very approachable as well.

Taza has worked hard to perfect the taste and texture of their stoneground drinking chocolate, bars, snacks and confections over the years to balance the benefits of more rustic stoneground beans and a smooth buttery chocolate experience that some desire. Sounds good, but it takes precision and skill to know just how long to (or not to) process/grind/blend cacao beans for the optimal result.

The company used traditional Mexican stone mills (molinos) to grind their beans. And today's bar was described as "perfectly unrefined."

Indeed the resulting chocolate maintained good flavor and was both smooth and slightly crunchy, with tiny sparkles of what felt like cane sugar crystals or vanilla* rather than weedy cacao or vanilla bean flecks—the likely result if I tried to make bean-to-bar chocolate in my kitchen with a coffee or nut grinder. (One also needs to know when to put in the sugar and vanilla bean so the right components sparkle and shine.)

*The Bolivia 87% Dark bar contained just three ingredients: Certified Direct Trade organic cacao beans, organic cane sugar, organic vanilla beans


Friday, November 17, 2017

Nibble Chocolate - Peru 72% Organic Dark Single Origin Criollo bar - Nov. 17, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Nibble Chocolate, LLC
72% Cocoa Organic Dark Peru Single Origin Criollo bar
Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (56.69 g.) in total bar
Calories: 135 calories (per label) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $6.00 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Cafe Mingei, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA

Welcome to Day #27 of South American Chocolate Theme Weeks.

Today's 72% Cocoa Organic Dark Peru Single Origin Criollo bar was made by Nibble Chocolate, LLC (San Diego, CA).

Nibble used Peruvian Criollo cacao beans from a small farm, in the Tumbes region of northern Peru, represented by a "co-op that promotes high quality and fair practices."

The company's description(s) for this Peru bar read included: "A delightful complex chocolate with caramel and dry fruit raisin notes, underlying maltiness and a long lasting finish"...and "Tasting notes: Caramel, smokey, nuts, biscuit, dried fruit with underlying malt notes."

That was very close to what I experienced with this certified organic, vegan, soy free and gluten free 72% dark bar, that had just two ingredients: organic cocoa beans and organic cane sugar.

My tasting notes read: "Dried fruit/raisin and slight green and smoked caramel notes in the aroma; the flavor had somewhat intense dried fruit and citrus dark chocolate notes; long finish. More robust/bold acidic flavor than many Criollo bars."

I almost always make my own notes before looking at maker's notes. It's fun to compare the two. They're usually quite close, with only occasional differences. It's interesting to note how different taste buds and preferences (and even memories) perceive different substances.

In this case, Nibble bars' thick 3x3 square matrix also influences the tasting experience. There is enough heft with each square that up to 9 people might each enjoy the full flavor spectrum of this bar. However, others may prefer thinner sheets of chocolate/bars for easy access to texture/melt and flavors.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Raaka - Cabernet Sauvignon Peru 68% bar - Nov. 16, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Raaka
Cabernet Sauvignon Peru 68% Cacao bar
Good +
Weight: .9 oz. (25 g.) /1.8 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 129 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $7.95 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Raaka, online order

Welcome to Day #26 of South American Chocolate Theme Weeks.

Today we're deviating from single origin bars with no flavor inclusions, to include a Cabernet Sauvignon Peru bar from Raaka Chocolate (Brooklyn, NY).

It's challenging to find a good match between red wine and dark chocolate. Often the strong notes in one will drag the other sideways. However, Raaka makers have found a unique and harmonious way to blend these two great-tasting, fermented edibles. This 68% Cacao bar with pleasant red wine grape flavor was made by steaming cacao over simmering red wine.* 

The Peruvian-grown cacao for today's bar was from CAC Pangoa, an agricultural cooperative that produces coffee, cacao and honey, and supports sustainability in the Central Amazon region of Peru.

*Today's gluten free, soy free and vegan bar contained just four ingredients: "organic cacao beans, organic cane sugar, organic cacao butter (and) cabernet sauvignon."



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Shattell - 85% Dark Piura Peru Single Origin bar - Nov. 15, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Shattell Chocolate
(Produced by Qulinaria Peru S.A.C.)
85% Dark (Noir) Cacao Piura Single Origin bar
Good +
Weight: .82 oz. (23.3 g.) / 2.46 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 125 calories (estimate) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $4.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Stars USA, online order

Welcome to Day #25 of South American Chocolate Theme Weeks.

Today's Shattell Chocolate 85% Dark (Noir) Cacao Piura Single Origin bar was produced by Qulinaria Peru S.A.C. (Lima, Peru).

Shattell is an "artisan chocolate factory" located in Lima that specializes in making craft chocolate from beans grown in the Peruvian Amazon.

The cacao used to make this organic bar was grown in the Piura region of Peru; and the bar was a product of Peru as well—rather than coming from an American or European maker. Piura is a coastal region in northwestern Peru, one of several regions where cacao is grown in a country that has seen cacao production climb significantly in the last decade.

Today's ultra-dark Piura bar had an aroma with roasted coffee, acidic dried fruit (dried cherries, raisins) and cocoa notes.

The taste was smoother than the bold aroma, with not as much of an acidic bite and/or bitterness as expected. It did have a slight coffee aftertaste. The texture was relatively creamy and uniform.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Frederic Blondeel - Tablette VII - 75% Peru Dark Chocolate bar - Nov. 14, 2017

Chocolate of the Day:

Frederic Blondeel
Tablette VII - 75% Peru Dark Chocolate bar
Good +
Weight: .636 oz. (18 g.) / 1.59 oz. (45 g.) in total bar
Calories: 97 calories (estimate) in 2/5 bar
Cost: $6.95 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Stars USA, online order

Welcome to Day #24 of South American Chocolate Weeks. This week, we're virtually visiting Peru—via bars made with cacao grown there.

Today's Tablette VII* 75% Peru Dark Chocolate bar had an aroma with notes of chocolate, dried fruit (raisins, plums, fig jam) and a hint of tropical fruit (guava, passion fruit) and green.

The thin chocolate bar allowed immediate access to a cocoa buttery-soy lecithin texture and rapid melt—showing once again that bar thickness or thinness can influence the tasting experience. There were occasionally, in contrast to the buttery-ness, tiny crunchy particles (of either cocoa nib or sugar?) but they weren't off-putting.

It was a pleasant and surprisingly light bar.

*The Frederic Blondeel line, manufactured in Belgium, includes a single origin series of at least 10 different tablettes (bars numbered from I to X).


Zak's Chocolate - 70% Cacao Peru San Martin bar - Nov. 13, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Zak's Chocolate
70% Cacao Peru San Martin bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: .9 oz. (25 g.) /1.8 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 140 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $9.75 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Zak's Chocolate, Scottsdale, AZ

Welcome to Day #23 of South American Chocolate Theme Week.

Today's 70% Cacao Peru San Martin dark bar was hand-crafted by the makers at Zak's Chocolate (Scottsdale, AZ).

I really liked this bar. It was well-crafted, and consistently good. It had an aroma with green, spice (the tasting notes suggest cinnamon/autumn spice, mild nutty) and chocolate notes. The texture was smooth and a creamy* throughout.

This 70% dark Peru bar was a finalist at the 2016 International Chocolate Awards. The single origin bar was gluten free and made with organic cocoa beans, organic sugar and organic cocoa butter.

*Zak's Chocolate is one of a small handful of bean-to-bar craft chocolate companies making single origin bars that also incorporate single origin cocoa butter, that they press themselves. (Arete Fine Chocolate in Milpitas, CA, also does this.) 




Sunday, November 12, 2017

Maverick Chocolate - 80% Dark Chocolate bar - Nov. 12, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Maverick Chocolate Co.  
80% Dark Chocolate bar
Good ++
Weight: 1.15 oz. (32.5 g.) / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) in total bar
Calories: 172 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $11.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #22 of South American Chocolate Weeks.

After exploring Ecuadorean cacao bars and blends for several days, we've moved to Peru. 

Today's 80% Dark Chocolate bar was from the Maverick Chocolate Co., a family-owned and operated bean-to-bar chocolate factory located in Cincinnati, OH.

The cacao used to make this 80% two-ingredient (80% organic cocoa beans, 20% organic cane sugar) bar came from San Martin, Peru.

This ultra-dark bar had an aroma with citrus (grapefruit), bitter + slightly sweet, deep chocolate notes. The chocolate had a pleasant creamy uniform texture, melt and flavor.

Unlike the 80%+ cacao Ecuador bars (this past week) with sweet aromas and more serious flavor, today's Peru bar had a bolder, more bitter aroma and a more friendly taste. It was well-crafted and had a relatively clean, mellow bittersweet finish.








Saturday, November 11, 2017

Alter Eco 85% Dark Blackout, SOMA Black Science Camino Verde bars - Nov. 11, 2017

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Alter Eco
Dark Blackout 85% Cocoa bar
Good +++
Weight: .94 oz. (26.6 g.) / 2.82 oz. (80 g.) in total bar
Calories: 160 calories in 1/3 bar
Cost: $N/A - gift (Thank you Bill)
Purchased from: N/A - gift

SOMA Chocolatemaker
Black Science Camino Verde (Ecuador) 70% Cacao bar
Good +++
Weight: 1.15 oz. (32.5 g.) / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) in total bar
Calories: 175 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $13.00 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #21 of South American Chocolate Theme Weeks. This month we've been taking an edible tour of this great continent, filled with cacao-growing regions that date back to the origin of cacao.

Before moving on from Ecuador to Peru, we'll taste two more bars made from Ecuadorean cacao. Drawing this pair of black aces from the depths of the Chocolate Banquet vault would be considered lucky by anyone with a superstitious chocolate bone in their body. And if it isn't considered so, it should be.

Alter Eco - 85% Cocoa Dark Blackout bar
The 85% Cocoa Dark Blackout bar from Alter Eco (San Francisco, CA) was made from organic, fair trade cocoa grown on the coast of Ecuador. The resulting (gluten-free) ultra-dark bar had complex aroma with notes that included: true dark chocolate (fudge brownie), chocolate covered dried fruits, and a trace of smoked salt.

The chocolate had a creamy, cocoa buttery melt, and a uniform, satisfying deep chocolate flavor with occasional light berry jam notes. Last, but not least, it was devilishly light on sugar.

SOMA Chocolatemaker - Black Science Camino Verde bar
The 70% Black Science Camino Verde (Ecuador) bar had an aroma with lush green forest and bittersweet chocolate notes.

Tasting notes read: "roasted cashews (and) baked bread." The latter did show up a bit in the tasting arc, perhaps aided by a higher sugar percentage content (70%) vs. the ebony-colored 80%+ bars we've been tasting this week.

The cashew was a more subtle, a difficult note to catch. If this bar did have a light sweet nutty note, cashews would be the right nut to describe that.

The "Black Science" term should be a tribute to the the farm, the fermentation expert (Vicente Norero), and the makers at SOMA Chocolatemaker (Toronto, ON, Canada).  Chocolate-making is both artful skill and science. Successful chocolate demands both.





Friday, November 10, 2017

Coracao Chocolate - 81% Heirloom Cacao Sea Salt, Almonds bar - Nov. 10, 2017

Chocolate of the Day:

Coracao Chocolate
81% Heirloom Cacao Sea Salt, Almonds, Dark Chocolate bar
Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (57 g.) in total bar
Calories: 180 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $5.59 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Monterey Market, Berkeley, CA

Welcome to Day #20 of South American Chocolate Theme Weeks.

Today's 81% Heirloom Cacao Sea Salt, Almonds and Dark Chocolate bar was made by Coracao Chocolate (Oakland, CA) with a blend of cacao grown in Ecuador and Peru.

The bar's aroma was a sweet blend of aromas (fruit, floral, faint coconut dried fig spice cookie) plus a very faint hint of savory nuttiness.

The flavor was surprisingly dark, not for a 81% cacao ultra-dark bar, but for a bar that smelled quite sweet.

The company's organic chocolate bars are sweetened with coconut sugar, and this bar also contained sea salts (smoked and Himalayan). Organic, California (Kashiwase Farms) almond pieces added some crunchy texture.

The base chocolate had a buttery dark melt, but subtler cacao notes were competing a bit with the salts and almonds. Try the plain Coracao 81% Heirloom bar (profiled yesterday) for an interesting side-by-side comparison.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Coracao Chocolate - 81% Heirloom Cacao dark bar - Nov. 9, 2017

Chocolate of the Day:

Coracao Chocolate
81% Heirloom Cacao bar
Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (57 g.) in total bar
Calories: 180 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $5.59 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Monterey Market, Berkeley, CA

Welcome to Day #19 of South American Chocolate Theme Weeks.

Today we're moving from Ecuador to Peru on our virtual trip through South America. And what better way to do so than with a bar made from a blend of cacao from Ecuador and Peru.

Today's organic, 81% Heirloom Cacao bar was made by Coracao Chocolate* (Oakland, CA) and was sweetened with coconut sugar. The bar had an intoxicating aroma of hot chocolate, light coconut, fig spice cookies and a light, floral green note.

All this from a blend of organic cacao, coconut sugar, cacao butter, vanilla bean and Himalayan salt.

Despite the high 81% cacao percentage, this was a relatively pleasing and sweet chocolate bar, with a buttery melt (added cacao butter) and a smooth, stone-ground consistency.

Over the years, the company has moved to doing more of their own, small-batch stone-grinding in house. Cacao, coconut sugar and salt (and perhaps vanilla bean?) are ground together over a period of days. The result: a smoother blend than many other stoneground bars, with just enough even, balanced texture left-over that you're still in touch with the real ingredients.

This Coracao bar was dairy free and soy free, and was labeled low glycemic (coconut sugar). All the satisfaction of a confection or cookie, but without the sugar buzz.

*The company's name, Coracao, is a fusion between the Portuguese word for heart (coracao) and the name for the cacao plant (Theobroma cacao -- cacao that is "Food of the Gods"). Coracao + Cacao = Coracao. (Coracao Confections and Coracao Chocolate both refer to the same SF Bay Area company located on the border of Oakland, CA and Emeryville, CA.







Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Manoa - 85% Costa Esmeraldas, Ecuador bar - Nov. 8, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Manoa Chocolate Hawaii
(Grass Shack Industries LLC)
Single Estate 85% Cacao Costa Esmeraldas, Ecuador bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (56.7 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #18 of South American Chocolate Theme Weeks.

What a treat. A third ultra-dark bar this week, made by Manoa Chocolate Hawaii, from cacao grown in Costa Esmeraldas, Ecuador. When there are this many 85% - 100% cacao bars from the same region, estate or plantation, it says something about the beans, the farmer(s) and the makers.

To make bars from one ingredient (cacao beans)—or even two ingredients (cacao beans and sugar)—it says cacao beans from this place must be special. The post-harvest fermentation must have been handled well. The flavor profile is right, and other ingredients aren't needed to amend or dull certain flavors.

Today's bar was made with "Neo Nacional" cacao from a single estate (reclaimed cattle pasture land about 10 miles inland from the Pacific Coast); and these beans were harvested in early 2016.

The bar's aroma was quite bold with traces of sour bitter sweet fruit and dark chocolate. The texture and melt were uniformly smooth and creamy (due in part to added organic cocoa butter). And the flavor (as with other bars from the same origin this week) was much tamer and more pleasant than expected, with faint, fleeting sweet, green, almost floral notes often found in Ecuador bars.

Today's attractively designed and packaged Costa Esmeraldas bar was made bean-to-bar in Hawaii. Manoa Chocolate Hawaii's chocolate factory is located in Kailua, Oahu. And Manoa* founder and chocolate maker Dylan Butterbaugh has been producing chocolate from scratch since 2010, including craft chocolate bars made with Hawaiian-grown cacao and other local ingredients.

Suggested wine and beer pairings with this bar: Cabernet Sauvignon and Kriek lambics.

*Manoa means solid, vast, depth, thick in Hawaiian.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Arete - Ecuador Costa Esmeraldas 100% Dark bar - Nov. 7, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Arete Fine Chocolate
Ecuador Costa Esmeraldas 100% Cacao Dark Chocolate bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: 1.15 oz. (32.5 g.) / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) in total bar
Calories: 172 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #17 of South American Chocolate Weeks.

We're winding up a virtual tour of Ecuador with another ebony-colored bar from Costa Esmeraldas. (Yesterday's bar was made with cacao from the same area.) Today's chocolate is a 100% Ecuador Dark Chocolate bar from Arete Fine Chocolate (Milpitas, CA).

This bar had a bittersweet aroma, with hints of dried fruit (goji berries), light molasses spice, and had a balanced, bitter dark chocolate flavor throughout the tasting experience. The texture was uniformly creamy and pleasing.

This was a one-ingredient bar: just cocoa beans from Costa Esmeraldas, Ecuador, and nothing else.

Chocolate makers and Arete company founders, David and Leslie Senk, often press their own single origin cocoa butter (for extra smoothness). However, adding cocoa butter from the same bean origin as the cocoa solids is not typical. Even though cocoa beans can contain half fat; the percentages will vary according to origin and climate. Extra fat may be needed for leaner beans that typically grow closer to the Equator.

Some makers will add cocoa butter obtained from another region, even though cocoa fat can add some flavor characteristics. Using beans from the same farm or region for both cocoa solids and fat gives the taster a more pure or concentrated single origin experience.

Monday, November 6, 2017

LetterPress - Costa Esmeraldas Ecuador 70% Dark bar - Nov. 6, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

LetterPress Chocolate LLC
Costa Esmeraldas Ecuador 70% Dark Chocolate bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: 1.15 oz. (32.5 g.) / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) in total bar
Calories: 172 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $13.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #16 of South American Chocolate Theme Weeks.

Today's Costa Esmeraldas Ecuador 70% Dark Chocolate bar was crafted bean-to-bar by the makers at LetterPress Chocolate LLC (Los Angeles, CA).

A Good Food Awards Winner, this ebony-colored dark bar, had aroma notes of acidic fruit, dark chocolate, roasted coffee, and a faint hint of molasses.

However, the flavor was milder than expected. It had an even, well-balanced dark flavor and sweetness from start to finish—with a pleasing but very subtle molasses spice cookie (my favorite kind) undertone. There were no "off" notes.








Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sirene - 73% Ecuador + 73% Madagascar Bars - Nov. 5, 2017

Chocolate(s) of the Day:

Sirene Chocolate
73% Ecuador Bar
Good ++ - Very Good
73% Madagascar Bar
Good ++ - Very Good
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (56.6 g.) in 2 bars
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/2 of 2 bars
Cost: $13.00 for 1 package of 2 bars
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #15 of South American Chocolate Theme Weeks.

Today we're featuring another* side-by-side pairing Sirene Artisan Chocolate Makers (Victoria, Canada). Unfortunately, a bad cold today has reduced my ability to smell and taste. My apologies to the makers for that.

73% Ecuador Bar
This bar, from what I could taste, was a well balanced bar with lots of true chocolate flavor, with more sweetness and brightness than yesterday's 100% Ecuador bar, due to the addition of cane sugar.

73% Madagascar Bar
The second bar had almost the same bright citrus and berry notes (raspberry lemonade) as yesterday's 100% Madagascar bar, and a slight brownie/cookie note toward the end. I'm tempted to say that some of the amazing fruit notes were muted by the sugar (and not by my cold).

Not only was it very interesting to do a side-by-side tasting of 100% versions these two origin bars, it was also great to compare the 100% with their 73% counterparts. As for my taste, if you have a great 100% bar, why dilute them with sugar? But, Sirene did such a nice job with all of these versions, that you can't lose either way.

Sirene founder, Taylor Kennedy, had traveled extensively (as a National Geographic photographer—my dream job) when he founded his chocolate workshop. To be a great photographer and traveler one must be lovingly observant and appreciative/respectful of details. These same traits serve one well in the art and considerable science of chocolate-making.

*See yesterday's (11/4/17) post where we sampled two Sirene 100% cacao bars from Ecuador and Madagascar.







Saturday, November 4, 2017

Sirene - 100% Ecuador + 100% Madagascar bars - Nov. 4, 2017

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Sirene Chocolate
100% Ecuador Bar
Very Good
(Paired with a 100% Madagascar Bar)
Very Good
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (56 g.) in total package of 2
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/2 of 2 different bars
Cost: $13.00 for 1 package of 2 different bars
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #14 of South American Chocolate Theme Weeks. We're sampling bars from Ecuador this week.

Today's offering was a careful co-packaging of two different 100% cacao bars. These rare ultra dark bars contained just one ingredient: cocoa beans, and these two were ideal for a side-by-side tasting.

Both the 100% Ecuador Bar and the 100% Madagascar Bar were hand-crafted by Sirene Artisan Chocolate Makers (Victoria, Canada). The company makes small batches of direct trade chocolate, from beans grown on a limited group of cacao farms around the globe, in their custom workshop.

100% Ecuador Bar
The cacao beans used to make Sirene's 100% Cacao Ecuador Bar came from Camino Verde. A farm description follows:

"In Balao, Ecuador, farmer Vicente Norero treats his cacao beans like fine wine. After carefully nurturing the growth of his indigenous varieties of cacao trees, he harvests the beans and monitors the microbiology of the fermentation process. His exacting control of sugars and acids creates a rich and flavorful bean."

The Ecuador bar was described as having "rich, deep chocolatey" flavor. And, as promised, it was infused with true chocolate, deep cocoa, slightly bitter flavor. It had a very pleasing, homemade hot chocolate aftertaste. The bar possessed a deep ebony dark chocolate color.

100% Madagascar Bar
Sirene chose "fruity, citrus, raspberry-toned Madagascar beans" from Somia Plantation for this 100% Madagascar Bar.

"In the Sambirano Valley of Northern Madagascar, the Akesson family harvest a light red bean enriched by volcanic minerals and nutrients. With its strong fruity flavours, including hints of citrus and berry, this cacao is clearly a product of climate and soil and the special way it is fermented by a family who truly cares about chocolate and who has for many years."

In contrast to the deep chocolate 100% Ecuador Bar, the 100% Madagascar Bar was full of bright notes: very authentic fruit punch, raspberry lemonade, true citrus (not just generic "acidity"), with a wonderful, warbling complex fruit and cocoa finish. Even the color was a brighter, redder color than the Ecuador bar.

What a treat to try these bars, separately and together.

Friday, November 3, 2017

K'ul Chocolate - Single Origin 70% Dark Chocolate Farm-to-Bar - Nov. 3, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

K'ul Chocolate
Single Origin 70% Dark Chocolate Hacienda Limon bar
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.23 oz. (35 g.) in total bar
Calories: 190 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $4.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Draeger's, Los Altos, CA

Welcome to Day #13 of South American Chocolate Theme Weeks.

Today's Single Origin 70% Dark Chocolate Farm-to-Bar dark bar was from K'ul* Foods LLC (Minneapolis, MN).

Head chocolate maker, Peter Kelsey, believes in creating simple, healthy food where every ingredient serves a purpose. One of their mottos: "Chocolate is not candy. Chocolate is food." Amen.

The sealed package was designed to be suitable for bicyclists and outdoor sports enthusiasts. And when the package is opened, one is greeted with a robust, complex aroma, of dried fruit (dried mulberries), green plant fiber (fresh green stalks, green tea), roasted coffee/espresso and brown sugar.

Tasting Notes listed on the company's website and packaging read as follows: Brown sugar, citrus/lemon,** pineapple, butter. (I tasted more dried mulberries edging into fig, green, and brown sugar flavor notes than I did lemon or pineapple.)

The bar was made of Nacional beans, a variety designated as an Heirloom bean (by the Fine Chocolate Industry Association). A handful of farms in Ecuador (including Hacienda Limon in Los Rios Province of Ecuador) apparently qualify for this designation.

Ingredients: cacao beans, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, sunflower lecithin

*The company name K'ul (pronounced "cool") was inspired by the Mayan word for energy.
**The cacao farm, Hacienda Limon, is so named because the cacao "tastes a little like lemon..."


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Stone Grindz - Ecuador 84% Cacao bar - Nov. 2, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Stone Grindz Small Batch Chocolate
Ecuador 84% Cacao bar
Good - Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (57 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $7.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Stone Grindz, Scottsdale, AZ

Welcome to Day #12 of South American Chocolate Weeks.

The Ecuador 84% Cacao bar from Stone Grindz Chocolate (Scottsdale, AZ) was a darker version of yesterday's Ecuador 70% Cacao bar from the same maker.

Today's 84% bar had a more acidic, slightly bitter, earthy aroma than yesterday's 70% bar, and lots of uniformly bold dark flavor with minimal sweetness and fruit (pink grapefruit). A few squares will satisfy.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Stone Grindz Chocolate - Ecuador 70% Cacao bar - Nov. 1, 2017

Chocolate of the Day: 

Stone Grindz Small Batch Chocolate
Ecuador 70% Cacao bar
Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (57 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $7.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Stone Grindz, Scottsdale, AZ

Welcome to Day #11 of South American Chocolate Weeks.

Today's Ecuador 70% Cacao bar from Stone Grindz Chocolate (Scottsdale, AZ) had smooth, true dark chocolate flavor with balanced fruit.

Other aroma and flavor micro-notes were very faint and fleeting and not unpleasant, bitter or sharp: slight green, floral, marshmallow, roasted coffee, jungle.


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