Monday, July 22, 2019

Health Lab - Cacao Sea Salt Collagen Ball - July 22, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Health Lab
Cacao Sea Salt Collagen Ball
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.4 oz. (40 g.) for 1 package
Calories: 196 calories in 1 ball
Cost: $0.69 for 1 ball
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and Sea Salt Theme Week.

Today's Cacao Sea Salt Collagen* Ball ("Beauty Snack for hair, skin and nails") was from Health Lab (Melbourne, Australia).

This chocolate had the even aroma and flavor of a fudge brownie, only chewier.
It had a thick, substantial texture and was satisfying, with a sweet cocoa aftertaste.

The added sea salt was quite subtle but was present throughout the tasting experience at about the same level.

*The company uses marine collagen for its collagen balls.



Sunday, July 21, 2019

Goodio Craft Chocolate - Sea Salt 77% Cacao bar - July 21, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Goodio Craft Chocolate
Sea Salt 77% Cacao bar
Good - Good +
Weight: .85 oz. (24 g.) / 1.7 oz. (48 g.) in total bar
Calories: 112.5 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $8.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and (Sea) Salt Theme Week.

Today's four-ingredient* Sea Salt 70% Cacao bar was made from stoneground cacao (from the Congo in Africa) and sea salt (hand harvested from Icelandic fjords) by Goodio Craft Chocolate (Helsinki, Finland).

See image (right) to see this bar, and the three men behind Goodio in the background. (Picture/background shown in photo is from Goodio Craft Chocolate website.) Chief Creative Officer, Jukka Peltola, pictured at far right, founded the company in 2015.

This chocolate had a bold, earthy, slightly acidic chocolate and savory (sea salt) aroma, which in some bars might signal a very strong flavor. However, because this chocolate was made with raw cacao, it did not get roasted, or processed over a certain temperature. It did not have the heavy, acidic or slight smoky "charcoal" flavor that the aroma caused us to brace for.  (Think espresso vs. a mild coffee.)

Instead the chocolate had relatively robust cocoa flavor with a lower acidic and sharpness level than expected. It had light floral,** cocoa, fruit and coconut sugar notes, and a faint sparkle of sea salt.

The chocolate was smooth yet slightly granular in texture because it was stoneground, likely for a relatively shorter period. Larger particle size and less grinding time means more intact flavors. However, the "creamiest" mouthfeel often comes from long grinding/conching time, which, you guessed it, leads to loss in certain flavors. It's a chocolate making trade-off.

The coconut sugar—and less sugar in general with a darker, 77% cacao bar—allows one enjoy flavorful cacao, but with a gentler tasting experience in other aspects. That is, coconut palm sugar has been shown to be lower on the glycemic index than refined cane sugar. So you may experience less of a sugar buzz. (Fine by us.)

Today's bar was raw, vegan and organic.

*Ingredients: Organic Cacao beans (Congo), organic coconut sugar, organic cacao butter and sea salt
** More delicate floral notes are often the first to go when cacao is roasted or heated, so you're more likely to taste these in raw chocolate and in origins where floral flavor is commonly found, but then lost in cacao processing.




Saturday, July 20, 2019

Fossa Chocolate - 70% Dark Sea Salt bar - July 20, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Fossa Chocolate Pte Ltd
70% Dark Sea Salt (bar)
Good +++ - Very Good
Weight: 1.236 oz. (35 g.) in total bar
Calories: 190 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $11.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate and (Sea) Salt Theme Week.

Today's 70% Dark Sea Salt bar was crafted in Singapore by Fossa Chocolate.

The texture of this bar was compact and creamy; and the aroma and flavor was very appealing and, well, yummy. You can tell when you're enjoying a bar when you want it all for yourself, even though you almost always share your chocolate with someone else.

Yes, this bar was, as the tasting notes read: "creamy and full-bodied Pak Eddy* 70% dark chocolate,  accompanied by the delicate crunch from hand-harvested sea salt."

Seeing the visible salt on the back, led me to think this might be adorned by a bit more salt that I would care for, but it did not overpower the fine flavor of the chocolate which had fruit, nut, true chocolate and great, subtle fermentation notes.

*The source of the cacao for this organic, gluten free and vegan Fossa Chocolate bar was a single estate in Indonesia run by Pak Eddy (a local term loosely translated as Uncle Eddy). Pak Eddy cultivates, ferments and dries the cacao before sending it to Fossa. The results speak to a successful relationship.


RXBAR - Chocolate Sea Salt protein bar - July 19, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Chicago Bar Company LLC
RXBAR - Chocolate Sea Salt 12 g. Protein bar
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.83 oz. (52 g.) in total bar
Calories: 210 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $1.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Trader Joe's, Mountain View, CA

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and Sea Salt Theme Week.

Today's RXBAR Chocolate Sea Salt* 12 g. Protein bar was distributed by Chicago Bar Company LLC (Chicago, IL).

This gluten free bar had a chewy, satisfying texture and flavor. Nut pieces (almond) were visible with each bite. The chocolate flavor was somewhat muted, but still present. The bar wasn't too sweet. (No added sugar, just 2 dates. Thank you!).

The short list of ingredients, and transparency regarding the ingredients list (highlighted on the front of the wrapper), were also much appreciated.

*While crystals of salt were visible on one side, this bar was not as salty as it looked. The salt and sweet levels were quite well balanced (also appreciated). 



Thursday, July 18, 2019

OWYN - Dark Chocolate Sea Salt bar - July 18, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Only What You Need, Inc.
OWYN Dark Chocolate Sea Salt bar
Good +
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 240 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate and Sea Salt Theme Week.

Today's Dark Chocolate Sea Salt 10g Protein Bar was distributed by Only What You Need, Inc. (OWYN) (Fairfield, NJ)

This 100% plant-based bar contained 10 grams of protein and was made with the company's own OWYN protein blend that contained pumpkin seeds, pea protein isolate and chia seeds.

The bar had a chewy, substantial texture that was in between a not-too-sweet (thank you) brownie cookie and a conventional protein bar. A generous helping of whole pumpkin seeds provided soft crunchy texture. The chocolate taste (provided by semi-sweet chocolate chips and cocoa powder) shared the spotlight with the other ingredients. The sea salt added a delicate, uniform savory flavor that helped balance the sweetness (brown rice syrup, cane sugar).

This bar was gluten free and made in a dedicated peanut-free facility.

While the list of ingredients for this bar was short, by traditional protein bar standards, it did contain "natural flavors" and I can't help but wonder what those were and if we really needed them.


Hageland - Sea Salt Dark Chocolate 54% bar - July 17, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Hageland
Sea Salt Dark Chocolate 54% bar
Good+
Weight: 2 squares (29 g.) / 10.5 oz. (300 g.) in total bar
Calories: 160 calories in 2 squares (29 g.) of bar
Cost: $3.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and (Sea) Salt Theme Week.

Today's Sea Salt Dark Chocolate 54% bar was from Hageland (Belgium). The large, thick bar would be practical for cooking, sharing, fondue, or even chocolate painting.*

The chocolate had an appealing dark chocolate aroma and flavor with a light touch of sea salt. The sugar and salt levels were relatively well-balanced for a 54% bar, i.e. the chocolate did not taste overly sweet.

*Painting with Chocolate
For those interested in dabbling with painting with melted chocolate, starting with a small piece of chocolate with salt is a good way to start. Watch for a YouTube video on this subject.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Xocolatl de David - Jacobsen Salt Co. 72% Cacao bar - July 16, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Xocolatl de David
Jacobsen Salt Co. 72% Cacao (bar)
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: 1.1 oz. (31 g.) / 2.2 oz. (62 g.) in total bar
Calories: 165 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: James at Home, San Diego, CA

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate and Sea Salt Theme Week.

Today's Jacobsen Salt Co. 72% Cacao (bar) was made in Portland, OR, by Xocolatl de David—a company specializing in chocolates with savory or umami flavor inclusions. (Confession: I love umami flavors.)

This particular bar with Oregon Sea Salt was a collaboration with Jacobsen Salt Co. (Portland, OR), a company that offers high-end salts, honey and other products to discerning home cooks and chefs.

This 72% dark chocolate (made with Ecuador cacao) had a great, complex but smooth aroma with some subtle nut butter*, fruit, savory, green and balanced, mellow, sauteed mushroom earth and spice (+ a barely-there hint of floral) notes. All good. The melt and texture were smooth and fairly creamy.

The dark chocolate taste was satisfying with the occasional, balanced (there's that word again)* light sparkle of salt. And it was not too sweet (thank you!).

*There were no nuts in this bar. Every batch of cacao can potentially bring with it many flavors that remind us of other foods, flowers and plants, fruits, etc. Chocolate makers also shape what we taste by steps they take to enhance or suppress certain flavor characteristics, as they transform cacao into chocolate.

**Balanced aromas and flavors can be subjective attributes. One person's savory picnic could be another person's umami nightmare. And one person's favorite sweet chocolate could be another's undesirable sugary candy, and so on. However, balanced and layered flavors are key characteristics of great craft chocolate, craft beer and so many other artisan foods and beverages. 



Monday, July 15, 2019

Brona Chocolates - Dark Chocolate with Beara Sea Salt bar - July 15, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Brona Chocolates
Beara Sea Salt - Dark Chocolate bar with Beara Sea Salt
Good +
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) / 3.52 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 265 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $5.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: World Market, North Scottsdale, AZ

Welcome to Day #1 of Chocolate and Sea Salt Theme Week.

Sea salt plays a large role in many cultures and has a rich history. It is with some pride that people identify with single origin salts (as well as chocolates), as salt has its own "terroir" equivalent, based on mineral content, and where waters have passed through on the way to the sea.

Today's Beara Salt - Dark Chocolate bar with Beara Sea Salt was created by Brona Chocolates (Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland), in the southwest of Ireland.

Brona specializes in handmade Irish chocolates. Today's bar had a slight malt and salt aroma and flavor. The Irish Altantic Sea Salt in this bar was from the Beara Peninsula in West Cork (County), Ireland, not that far from Brona Chocolates, and where salt has been harvested for many years.* The salt flakes had a lovely texture, quality and flavor.

The 54% dark bar had a pleasant, uniform fudge brownie, dark chocolate flavor. Its smooth texture was complemented with slightly crunchy, very thin flecks of salt. The result: a well balanced, even-handed blend of chocolate, sugar and sea salt.

*Almost ninety-seven percent of water on our planet is considered saline or salty (vs. fresh) water, and most of that is sea or ocean water. These waters are approximately 3.5 percent salt. Creating salt ponds and evaporating the water in these ponds multiple times (leaving successive layers of salt behind) has been a time-honored way to make salt in coastal regions. Salt was especially valuable for food preservation and seasoning in the pre-industrial era; and the first evidence of humans making salt in Europe dates back to almost 7,000 years ago.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Chocolate Sneak Peak - CocoTerra - July 14, 2019

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

CocoTerra
(Chocolate Samples)
Dark - 70% (different origins)
Dark Milk - hint of salt
Ruby* chocolate
White chocolate
Coffee (round)

Have you ever wanted to make your own chocolate, but were discouraged by all the steps involved?

What if you could just pour some cocoa nibs and sugar into one machine and let a magic, personal chocolate-making machine do all the work, including grinding the nibs and sugar into chocolate, and tempering and molding?

Well, this might become a reality sooner than you'd think. I spoke to CocoTerra (Palo Alto, CA) Chief Operating Officer, Karen Alter, recently about a new chocolate making machine they've been developing. (Photo of machine at right from CocoTerra website.)

CocoTerra is not a traditional chocolate maker. A small team of Silicon Valley engineers, designers, and others have come up with a promising design for a countertop machine that will make bean-to-bar chocolate in a few hours.

In the true Silicon Valley inventor spirit, influences on this patent-pending design may have included coffee machines/appliances, multi-function culinary devices, and beekeeping.

Sounds almost too good to be true, right?

I was given two small bags of chocolate samples to try. I did not see the CocoTerra machine, or how these samples were made. However, they were better than expected. The pieces were in different shapes (likely made with different molds).

The different single origin dark chocolate pieces tasted like they might have been Ecuador or Peru or DR grown cacao-based chocolates. The dark milk had a slightly savory (salt) aroma and flavor and a thick texture, as did the white chocolate. The white chocolate also contained vanilla, and was better than most commercial white chocolates.

CocoTerra's take on ruby* chocolate was a pretty pink color, and had cacao fermentation and light red berry notes. It was not overly sweet (thank you).

I was also given a small, jumbo pearl-shaped coffee-flavored "ball" to taste (they're experimenting with different molds, forms and shapes), that was a very pleasing sweet coffee confection.

I asked if this machine could make 100% cacao chocolate (1 or 2 ingredient bars). The answer was yes, although initially they'll be providing supply kits and supplies, and providing customers "recipes" to help ensure correct proportions and optimal results.

No formal launch date (or pricing) have been announced yet, but CocoTerra does have a website, where you can go to check out intriguing details.

Who Might Use a Personal Chocolate Making Machine?

This might be particularly interesting for those who want to run smaller test batches of craft chocolate (to validate a certain origin, or fermentation or roast profile), or for chocolatiers wanting to broaden their offerings to customers.

Last but not least, this may be popular (depending on price point) for home hobby chocolate makers.

Thank you to Karen Alter for providing these chocolate samples and for answering questions about how their machine might work. Look forward to hearing more details about their machine soon.

*Ruby chocolate was introduced in 2017 by Belgian-Swiss chocolate company, Barry Callebaut as a new type of chocolate. An attractive deep pink color, the details of how this "new" chocolate type was created were not revealed by Callebaut.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Oodaalolly Chocolate - 70% Dark Chocolate Almonds with Sea Salt bar - July 13, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Oodaalolly Chocolate
70% Dark Chocolate Almonds with Sea Salt bar
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar (plus shipping)
Purchased from: Oodaalolly Chocolate (online order)

Welcome to Day #13 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week.

Today's 70% Dark Chocolate Almonds with Sea Salt bar was made in small batches, from bean-to-bar, by Oodaalolly Chocolate, using cacao grown in the Philippines.

This bar had an appealing malty, nutty aroma (and ground nut (almond) flavor and texture). A generous helping of almond bits resulted in a milder chocolate flavor. The touch of sea salt was evenly dispersed and nicely balanced. And this bar was not too sweet (thank you!).

Island Nations and Cacao Conclusions

Can island nations featured this past week (The Philippines and Fiji in the Pacific Ocean, and Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Cuba and other islands in the Atlantic Ocean) produce great chocolate? A few chocolate makers in each of these countries are making an admirable go of it. Bean-to-bar craft chocolate making can be a complex technical business, not for the faint of heart. Their future success will depend on many factors.

The good news is that these island nations are located geographically in the cacao growing sweet spot, a belt (20 degrees above or below the Equator). And chocolate makers worldwide are interested in making and selling single origin chocolates from cacao grown in exotic countries covered with temperate rainforests and volcanic soils, with unique terroir-based flavor(s).

Island infrastructure can create challenges for those growing or trying to make chocolate "in country" (power outages, high costs for air conditioned/temperature and humidity controlled facilities). And there are often other hurdles on the growing side of the cacao supply chain: storm damage, disease, droughts, poor harvests, and other factors beyond one's control. There are many steps between cacao fruit (that contains the seeds or beans) and finished chocolate.

If you're a new maker starting out with a limited budget, you might be tempted to stick with established, known sources for beans or nibs, or just become a chocolatier and buy blocks of chocolate from someone else doing the hard work of making it from scratch.

The proper support of local governments can sometimes be helpful. The Philippine government in 2018* set a very ambitious target for cacao production (100,000 metric tons of cacao by 2022). Many farmers and craft chocolate makers, however, seem to want to focus on value (and higher profit margins) rather than volume, which suits us just fine.

No matter who you are, starting with great cacao/beans is a must, and chocolate makers must execute the many steps required make chocolate flawlessly to achieve true critical recognition and success. Hats off to all craft makers for jumping through hoops, reviving traditions, and allowing a new generation to enjoy better food and beverages than we knew were possible.


*The source of this information: a tweet that accompanied a May 30, 2018, Forbes article by Carol Ramoran-Malasig

Friday, July 12, 2019

Oodaalolly Chocolate - 60% Dark Milk Chocolate bar - July 12, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Oodaalolly Chocolate
Dark Milk Chocolate bar
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150  calories in 1/3 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar (estimate, plus shipping)
Purchased from: Oodaalolly Chocolate (online order)

Welcome to Day #12 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week.

Today's 60% Dark Milk Chocolate bar was made by Oodaalolly* Chocolate, from bean-to-bar, using cacao grown in the Philippines.

Oodaalolly founder and chocolate maker, Hernan Lauber, a Philadelphia native and engineer, has family roots in the Philippines (and chocolate). Lauber's goal is to produce finely crafted bean-to-bar chocolate with Filipino cacao and Swiss technique. After all, Swiss milk chocolates are prized for their sweet, milky and creamy smooth texture.

Today's bar had an authentic fermented cacao and slightly savory (sea salt) aroma. The combination of whole milk powder and added cocoa butter, gave this chocolate a rich, thick creamy melt and mouthfeel (especially early on a cool morning) and texture, and muted, but still bold chocolate flavor.

*Oodaalolly, the company name connoting joyful expression, was inspired by a song sung in an animated Disney version of Robin Hood that his son liked to watch.

Oodaalolly Chocolate - Single Origin 70% Dark Chocolate bar - July 11, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Oodaalolly Chocolate
Single Origin 70% Dark Chocolate (bar)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/3 bar
Cost: $10.00 for 1 bar (plus shipping)
Purchased from: Oodaalolly Chocolate (online order)

Welcome to Day #11 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week.

Today's 70% Dark Chocolate bar was made by Hernan Lauber of Oodaalolly Chocolate from using cacao grown in the Philippines.

In 2017, this island nation had exports of $68.7 billion (USD). Their biggest exports were semiconductors and electronics. And while coconut oil and fruits made up much of the agricultural exports, there has also been a growing interest in quality cacao.

Oodaalolly founder and chocolate maker, Hernan Lauber, a Philadelphia native and engineer, has roots in the Philippines (and chocolate) and chose to become a chocolate maker focusing on Filipino cacao. Lauber felt like there was room for improvement in this niche.

Lauber's goal is to produce finely crafted bean-to-bar chocolate made using Filipino cacao and Swiss technique (e.g. precision, long conching for smooth mouth feel, and careful tempering techniques). Swiss chocolates are known for being sweet, milky and creamy smooth.

Today's two-ingredient bar (cacao beans, unrefined cane sugar) had a chocolate, green, and slightly sharp aroma, faint molasses and rich dark chocolate and mild fruit flavor and a touch of sweetness.

The bar broke with a well-tempered snap and the texture was relatively smooth, with a slight astringency. The flavor notes kept developing (so don't eat this chocolate too quickly). My favorite part of the tasting curve was 2/3 way through, where the chocolate was joined by a bit more mild fruit (peach or mango) and some rich, round caramel flavor that blossomed. The finish was pleasant cocoa with a creamy, mild astringency.



Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Auro Chocolate - Paquibato Origin 70% Dark Chocolate bar - July 10, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Auro Chocolate
Paquibato Origin - 70% Dark Chocolate bar
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: .875 oz. (25 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 145 calories in 1/4 bar (per label)
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Day #10 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week.

Today's 2017 Paquibato* Origin 70% Dark Chocolate bar was made "in country," by Auro Chocolate (Calamba City, Laguna, Philippines). That is, this chocolate was made in the Philippines using cacao grown in the Philippines.

The makers at Auro are aspiring to create fine chocolate from the Philippines; and because they're relatively close* to where the cacao is grown (not usually the case for chocolate makers), they can work more directly with cacao farm cooperatives/farmers to help develop desired flavor profiles for their chocolate.

Today's chocolate had a dark chocolate, green forest and tart red fruit (plum, berry) aroma and flavor with faint earth and black pepper notes,

The bar broke with a hard snap and had a balanced sweetness. (Let the fruit do the work, not the sugar, and a conservative amount of sugar will make the fruit sparkle a bit.)

*Paquibato is located in the Calinan District, Davao City, Davao del Sur, Philippines. Auro Chocolate's Davao City location (and the Malagos Chocolate Museum) are located not far from here. 

However, more to the point, Auro Chocolate (Laguna) sources cacao from coops/farms, including: the Subasta Integrated Cooperative in Calinan, Fardecosa Cadalian in Baguio District, and the Paquibato Tree Development Cooperative—likely the source for today's Paquibato bar.



Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Francios Pralus - Tobago Estate 70% Trinitario bar - July 9, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Francois Pralus
Tobago Estate  - Single Estate Trinitario bar 70% bar
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 155 calories (estimate) in 1 oz. of bar
Cost: $14.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Cacao at The Heathman, Portland, OR


Welcome to Day #9 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week.

Today's Tobago Estate  - Single Estate Trinitario bar 70% bar was made by French chocolate maker Francois Pralus (Roanne, France).

The Tobago Estate is in "the lush green hills of Roxborough...overlooking the Atlantic Ocean." Tobago is part of the twin island country, Trinidad and Tobago, in the West Indies region of the Caribbean Sea/Atlantic Ocean—a region long considered the birthplace of the popular Trinitario* variety of cacao.

This bar had a warm, rich dark chocolate aroma with a hint of spice cake. The texture was creamy and had an almost whipped lightness. It had a natural sugar sweetness, but was not too sweet, with hints of fruit (light berry, faint dried fruit).

The (Pralus) maker's tasting notes read: "Powerful and aromatic nose with layers of raisins, brown sugar and blackberries followed by a long creamy finish."

*Trinitario cacao is often described as a cross between the more delicate, complex Criollo heritage cacao variety and the more robust, bold flavored Forastero variety. There are interesting nuanced differences in flavors between these three varieties, as well as the other, less commonly discussed strains. Flavor is also influenced by the type of soil where cacao is grown, or terroir, and during steps taken to make/process cacao, such as fermentation, bean handling and sorting, and roasting.

9th and Larkin - Fiji Matasawalevu 74% Dark Chocolate bar - July 8, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

9th and Larkin Corporation
Fiji Matasawalevu 74% Cacao, Single Origin Dark Chocolate (bar)
Good ++
Weight: 1.25 oz. (35 g.) / 2.5 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 188 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $12.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Miette Bakery, Oakland, CA

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week.

Today's Fiji Matasawalevu 74% Cacao Single Origin Dark Chocolate bar was crafted by 9th and Larkin Corporation (San Francisco,  CA).

9th and Larkin produces bean-to-bar chocolate and sources cacao from diff. countries around the world.

This chocolate had a warm chocolate aroma with light spice, balanced earth and refreshing fruit and faint green tea notes.

P.S. We also enjoyed pieces of this bar with some almonds, in honor of today's chocolate holiday: National Chocolate and Almonds Day.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Chapon Chocolatier - Fidji Chocolat Noir bar - July 7, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Chapon Chocolatier
Fidji Chocolat Noir bar
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: 1.325 oz. (37.5 g.) / 2.65 oz. (75 g.) in total bar
Calories: 208 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $14.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week.

Today's Fidji Chocolat Noir (Dark Chocolate) bar was from Chapon Chocolatier (Chelles, France).

The packaging of Chapon's bars are adorned with an amazing amalgam of beautiful exotic, modern retro, images and designs. Today's "Fidji" bar was no exception. It included what looked to be an India-inspired scene.

This dark bar (no percentage listed) had a compelling chocolatey and malt aroma, with a creamy melt and texture, and chocolate brownie flavor. There was one tiny earthy uptick in one bite, but other than that, it was luscious smooth dark brownie-time in every bite.

The chocolate was made with a "Torrecaction Courte" (a short, specific roasting process in which some pyrolysis occurs), and a "Conchage Long" (long conche). The latter gives one a creamy mouthfeel (resulting from smaller, polished particles).

And while you do lose some more delicate or volatile (e.g. floral) flavors with conching* (a form of grinding and mixing) cacao paste over time, generally it is a smooth flavor that remains, often with any rough edges/flavors worn down.

*Conching come from the French/Italian (Latin root) word for (conch) shell. The equipment used for conching can resemble a conch or periwinkle shell.



Saturday, July 6, 2019

Sirene Chocolate - Vanua Levu, Fiji 73% Dark Chocolate bar - July 6, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Sirene Chocolate
Vanua Levu, Fiji, 73% Dark Chocolate bar
Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (57 g.) in total bar
Calories: 155 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $9.00 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week.

Today's Vanua Levu, Fiji, 73% Dark Chocolate bar was crafted at Sirene Chocolate (Victoria, British Columbia (located on Vancouver island), Canada).

Cacao used in this bar came from the Dreketi Cocoa Farm (Vanua Levu, Fiji), that raises Amelonado cocoa. Vanua Levu is one of the two largest islands in Fiji* located in the South Pacific.

This bar had a smooth texture, well-balanced dark chocolate, dried fruit (light raisin, mango, other) flavor notes with a hint of green (tea), and a pleasant, lingering finish.

*Fiji is an island nation comprised of 330 islands. Vanua Levu, located in Northern Fiji, is the second largest island, and is also one of the more populated islands. Cacao cultivation in Fiji dates back to the 1800s, when the British likely brought cacao seeds or trees from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Trinidad.

The Matasawalevu Cocoa Farm in Dreketi, Makuata, in Vauua Levu, and other farms and groups like Cacao Fiji, are working to spread the word and expand Fiji cacao production and exports. And chocolate makers around the world who make nice bars like this one will also help increase demand for cacao in this island nation.







Friday, July 5, 2019

Dick Taylor - Fiji Vanua Levu Limited Release 80% Dark Chocolate bar - July 5, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Dick Taylor 
Fiji Vanua Levu Limited Release 80% Dark Chocolate bar
Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2 oz. (57 g.) in total bar
Calories: 170 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week. 

Today's Fiji Vanua Levu Limited Release 80% Dark Chocolate bar was made from scratch by Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate* (Eureka, CA).**

The back of this attractively packaged bar had a map and notes about its origin.

This creamy, flavorful ultra-dark bar was made with two ingredients: Single Estate Matasawalevu cacao grown in Fiji, and organic cane sugar. The chocolate had fruit and faint green notes* and a certain balanced sharpness. Maker's tasting notes read: green tea, cocoa, pear, malt

*Dick Taylor is named for the creative duo: Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor, who perform various feats of magic in their small factory in Northern California (Eureka, CA), not far from the ocean. 

**Eureka is the largest Pacific coast city between San Francisco, CA and Portland, OR. To cover the same distance that separates these two great cities in a sailboat might take 2-3 weeks, or if you go by land, this is a car trip of about 635 miles. 

To put this in island perspective...Fiji is comprised of a very impressive 330 islands over an area of 1.3 million square kilometers in the South Pacific Ocean. About 1/3 of these islands are inhabited by people. Most of Fiji's citizens live on the two largest islands: Viti Levu and Vanua Levu (formerly called Sandalwood Island, and where the cacao for today's bar was grown). These two larger islands are about 40 miles apart from each other, and more than 5,000 miles (by air) from California's Pacific Ocean coast.







Haagen-Dazs - Belgian Chocolate Vanilla and Blackberry Ice Cream - July 4, 2019

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Haagen-Dazs
Crispy Trio Layers Belgian Chocolate Vanilla and Blackberry Ice Cream
Good +
Weight: 1/3 cup (62 g.) / 14 fl. oz. (414 mL) total container
Calories: 180 calories in 1/3 cup
Cost: $1.99 for 1 container
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week.

Happy 4th of July!—also known as Independence Day in the U.S. It was a great evening to see fireworks, on an island.

To honor the red, white and blue today, an appropriately tri-colored ice cream sundae was created and eaten, starting with Crispy Trio Layers Belgian Chocolate Vanilla and Blackberry Ice cream from Haagen-Dazs (distributed by Nestle Dreyer's Ice Cream Company in Oakland, CA).

This ice cream was topped with fresh blueberries, red raspberries, and a drizzle of Raspberry Aqua Perfecta from St. George's Distillery (based in Alameda, CA, Island #1). It was a great dessert for a backyard, pre-fireworks meal, and it was followed by a chocolate cigar.

Venchi Cuba Chocolate Cigar

Today we also celebrated Independence Day with a Venchi Cuba (Island #2) chocolate and hazelnut cigar, made with cacao from New Guinea (Island #3).



Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Mirzam Chocolate Makers - 85% Dark Chocolate from Cuba bar - July 3, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Mirzam Chocolate Makers
Kakaw Manufacturing Co. LLC
85% Dark Chocolate from Cuba bar
Good ++
Weight: 1.236 oz. (35 g.) / 2.47 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 148 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $11.00 for 1 bar

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week. The focus this week is on chocolate made with cacao grown in island nations, such as Grenada, The Philippines, Fiji and, in today's case, Cuba.

Many of these countries have been gradually increasing their exports of high-end cacao beans and could be poised to increase their market share in the future; but have also faced challenges.*

Today's Mirzam Chocolate Makers 85% Dark Chocolate from Cuba bar was manufactured by Kakaw Manufacturing Co. LLC (Dubai, UAE). The cacao used to make this bar was likely grown in Cuba's Baracoa* area, a coastal area on the eastern end of this island nation.

This well-balanced and well-crafted ultra dark bar had an even, smooth melt, and had a smooth, complex bold flavor with light bitterness and relatively low acidity, light musk, red fruit, earthy dark chocolate flavor with subtle green, spice, floral and nutty flavor notes.

The finish had a mild touch of astringency. The chocolate was refreshingly not too sweet (expected for an 85% bar), but also we were grateful that the maker did such a nice job with other aspects as well.

*Baracoa is a city in the Guantanamo Province in eastern Cuba that is favorable for cacao cultivation. Unfortunately, this area is also susceptible to hurricane damage, affecting people and cacao production. Best wishes for calm weather this season.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Jouvay Chocolate - Granada Cocoa Farmers' Coop - Jouvay 60% Cocoa with Nutmeg (bar) - July 2, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Jouvay Chocolate
Grenada Cocoa Farmers' Coop - Jouvay 60% Cocoa - touch of Nutmeg (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.5 oz. (42.5 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 210 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information


Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week.

Today's Jouvay Chocolate 60% Cocoa (with a) Touch of Nutmeg bar was made with cacao from the Grenada Cocoa Farmers' Coop (Grenada, West Indies). Grenada is a lush tropical island in the Caribbean Sea known for its cacao and spices.

Jouvay Chocolate is a partnership between Grenada cacao farmers and LA Burdick Grenada. The company is majority-owned by the cacao growers who are also involved in the manufacturing process, doing "value-added processing" (several steps further than the fermentation of beans) in-country, where the beans are grown—vs. shipping cacao beans to other countries (U.S., Europe, Australia, etc.) for chocolate making, as is often the case.

The base chocolate in this four-ingredient** bar was sweet and pure. However, it was difficult not to be swept away by the presence of nutmeg, which made itself known in the aroma and flavor.

Nutmeg

This bar had a sustained spike of nutmeg* flavor throughout. Like vanilla, saffron, and many other flowers and "baking" spices, there is a happy warmth that comes with tasting nutmeg—an uplifting spice with a faint hint of aromatic peppercorn. (If you've never tried grating fresh nutmeg into a beverage or dish, I highly recommend trying this.)

*Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) is a ground or grated spice from a seed of an evergreen tree, that originated in the Moluccas (Banda), or Spice Islands, in Indonesia. The British removed nutmeg trees from Indonesia and spread them to British colonies with similar climates in the early 1800s. Today, nutmeg is widely cultivated in Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, and in the West Indies (especially in Grenada).

**Ingredients: cacao beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, nutmeg.





Monday, July 1, 2019

Mirzam Chocolate Makers - 45% Milk Chocolate Loqaimat bar - July 1, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Mirzam Chocolate Makers
(Kakaw Manufacturing Co. LLC)
45% Milk Chocolate Loqaimat bar
Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 2.47 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 142 calories in 1 oz. (28.3 g.) of bar (per label)
Cost: $14.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and Peruvian Superfoods Theme Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate and Island Nations Theme Week. Chocolate, with its far-flung supply chain, and delicious flavor, ties many geographic areas and peoples together.

Today's 45% Milk Chocolate Loqaimat* bar was created by Mirzam Chocolate Makers (Dubai, UAE).

Dubai is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates. And while it is not technically part of an island, it has nonetheless taken island design and building to a whole new level. Some of the created islands are shaped like palm trees. And what prized fruit grows locally on palm trees there? Dates.

Mirzam Chocolate Makers was highlights great chocolate blended with ingredients linked to extensive, historic Arab maritime trade routes, such as dates.**

Today's confection of a bar was made of high-quality, sweet milk chocolate (45% cacao). The chocolate had toffee and caramel flavor and a crunchy, slightly sticky texture, all achieved from two inclusions: 1.) puffed quinoa (there's our Peruvian reference) caramelized with 2.) date syrup (Arab trade item). The results of this blend: pretty, copper-colored flecks seen on the inside wrapper and a sweet treat.

Quinoa
Quinoa, a high-protein pseudo-cereal prized for its nutritious seeds, originated in the harsh upper elevations of Peru, and is now being cultivated around the Mediterranean and in parts of Africa. (It is also similar to millet or Fonio, an up-and-coming West African "superfood" that also grows "where nothing else will grow.") There has been a resurgence of interest in these humble, gluten-free seeds and grains in recent years.

*Loqaimat or luqaimat or lukma is a sweet, fried dough dessert that resembles American doughnut holes.

**The line up of Mirzam chocolate bars features a few bars containing dates. My favorite so far has been their bar with dates and fennel. Dates, have an incredible natural sweetness and have been cultivated in the Middle East for thousands of years. (The largest producers of dates today are: Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.)

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Original Beans - Piura Porcelana 75% bar - June 30, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Original Beans
Piura Porcelana 75% bar
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1.23 oz. (35 g.) /2.46 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories:  calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $7.95 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate and Peruvian Superfoods Theme Week.

Today's Piura Porcelana 75% bar from Original Beans (Amsterdam) was made in Switzerland. It was made using with treasured "white" Porcelana (Piura Valley, Peru) cacao beans from the Piura Valley or Peru.

The inside of the Porcelana cacao seed (bean) is creamy white (instead of the more common purple and white) and these beans are prized for their delicate, complex flavor.

The bar had light, balanced fruit (berries, black currant), faint forest floor earthiness and fermentation notes. It had a smooth dark chocolate melt and taste, with balanced blackberry, black raspberry, black currant and red grape flavor notes. The fruit was subtle, full and round, complex and lower in acidity than most "bright" berry/fruit chocolate.

The flavor finish had a very subtle but long tail. It tapered off but then had a small fruit blip late in the curve, and a very slight earthiness even later.

The makers tasting notes described the flavor as having: lime, raspberry and pecan notes.

Also important to Original Beans founder, Philipp Kauffman, that the origin be honored for its treasured resources, like the Peruvian butterflies part of today's packaging design. Kauffman has pledged to plant one tree for every bar sold "...preserving some of the Earth's rarest places."

More superfoods...
Peruvian cacao could certainly be described as a superfood. A lot of people are using that term to market exotic foods with high nutritional value. But, of course, flavor and texture of the food in question are important too. And high-quality, bean-to-bar chocolate, like today's three ingredient bar (cacao mass, raw cane sugar and cocoa butter) gets high marks in all these areas.

Also consumed today was an Antioxidant Sweet Berry powdered mix from Amazing Grass (Newport Beach, CA), stirred into a glass of water.

The mix contained a variety of fruit and vegetable ingredients, green tea, as well as maca (discussed earlier this week) and camu camu* powders.

It may not have been as yummy as today's chocolate, but the company does produce offer offerings with cacao, as well as a convenient way to hydrate with a beverage full of vitamins and minerals, particularly if you have a tough time eating your greens before they wilt in your fridge.

*Camu Camu is an Amazonian, tart fruit high in Vitamin C. It looks like a bit like a large cherry plum or a miniature red apple in photos.



Saturday, June 29, 2019

Primordial Chocolate - 70% Cacao Salted Maca Crunch bar - June 29, 2019

Chocolate of the Day: 

Primordial Chocolate
(Distributed by Fungi Perfecti, LLC)
70% Cacao Salted Maca Crunch bar
Weight: 1.4 oz. (40 g.) in total bar
Calories: 230 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $4.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Country Sun Natural Foods, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and Peruvian Superfoods Theme Week.

Today's Primordial Chocolate 70% Cacao Salted Maca Crunch bar was distributed by Fungi Perfecti, LLC (Olympia, WA).

This bar had a slightly woodsy, chocolate aroma with a fleeting hint of coconut sugar.

The bar contained chocolate, cacao nibs, maca root and a blend of mushrooms/fungi: including: Lions Mane Mycelium, Reishi Mycelium, Cordyceps Mycelium, Chaga Mycelium; and Myceliated Brown Rice. A subtle touch of Peruvian Pink Salt rounded out this not-too-sweet (thank you!) bar.

A generous helping of cacao nibs gave the bar the "Crunch" that appeared in the title.

*Mycelium has to do with this little white/beige threads that eventually produce mushrooms (the "fruiting body"). Yes, this does make one wrinkle the nose a bit, and perhaps it's better not to know, as the chocolate tasted fun.


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