Thursday, December 31, 2020

Firetree Chocolate - Solomon Islands Guadalcanal 69% Cacao (bar) - Dec. 31, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Firetree Chocolate
Solomon Islands Guadalcanal 69% Cacao (bar)
Good ++
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) in total bar
Calories: 140 kcals (calories) in 1 bar
Cost: $4.00 for 1 mini bar 
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order 

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate and South Pacific Islands.

Today's Guadalcanal 69% (bar) was from Firetree Chocolate (Peterborough, U.K.). The company produces "rich volcanic chocolate" (bars) made from cacao grown on Pacific islands.

The volcanic theme (carried over into Firetree's striking black and lava-like colors in their packaging) refers not only to the islands' geological origins, but also to the rich, volcanic soil where the cacao trees grow. 

Today's Single Estate 69% Guadalcanal (Solomon Islands) bar had a relatively subdued, but still rich aroma, with notes of dark chocolate (bold, medium acidity) and fruit (plum). 

The texture of this chocolate was smooth and even.

The flavor was true to the aroma with similar flavor notes: bold but well balanced, roasted cacao with medium-acidity (often identified as "citrus"), fruit with plum and red fruit (pomegranate, red apple) and very faint flickers of spice (cinnamon).

The maker's "taste notes" read as follows: "red fruit, citrus, plum" -- signified with red, yellow and purple color icons, respectively, on the packaging.

Ingredients: Cocoa mass, unrefined sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier: sunflower lecithin. (Those with food sensitivities may be happy to read that this bar was dairy free and made in a nut-free factory.)


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Firetree Chocolate - Guadacanal 100% (bar) - Dec. 30, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Firetree Chocolate Limited
Guadalcanal 100% (bar)
Good ++
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 kcals (calories) in 1 bar
Cost: $4.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order 

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and South Pacific Islands.

Today's Guadalcanal 100% (bar) was from Firetree Chocolate Limited (Peterborough, U.K.). 

The company name, firetree, was inspired by the volcanic nature (and rich, dark soils) of the Pacific Islands, and the cacao trees that grow there...with pods/fruits covered in bright, fiery colors.* This inspiration carried over to the attractive packaging for their line of bars--black with a contrasting field of bright, swirling hot lava-like colors. (Although the packaging for today's 100% cacao bar was all black.)

This 100% bar had balanced, true chocolate, faint fruit (light citrus, light berry-plum), faint seed/nut, and faint sweet aroma notes. 

Yes, but would the taste reflect the same sweetness perceived in the aroma? Or would it take a turn to the dark (unsweetened) side on the taste buds?

Amazing. The slight sweetness remained although it faded very gradually. This was a very polite and sophisticated 100% ultra-dark bar, with slightly muted flavors (nothing spiky) that lingered with a relatively light, balanced bitterness that extended into the finish. (If you're a chocolate lover who is wanting to cut out sugar, this would be a good chocolate to evaluate as part of a 100% bar (tasting) flight.)

I am not sure how the cocoa mass used to make this single-ingredient** bar was fermented or processed, but the resulting chocolate was very approachable.

This bar also had a creamy smooth, almost nut butter-like texture--putting this chocolate even higher on the "friendly" end of the scale for an ultra-dark bar. ("Ferocious" might be at the opposite end of this same scale. Although many wild beasts can be lovable as well.)

* The swirl of color(s) used on the packaging of other Firetree bars are functional as well as beautiful. They're designed to reflect the maker's tasting notes. E.g. a pattern of color with yellow might reflect "citrus" notes in the specific chocolate inside. But, I will include more about this as I feature more Firetree bars this week.

**Ingredients: Cacao mass (100% minimum cacao solids)


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Jasper + Myrtle - Himalayan Rock Salt and Wakame Dark Chocolate 70% (bar) - Dec. 29, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Jasper + Myrtle 
Himalayan Rock Salt and Wakame Dark Chocolate 70% (bar)
Good ++ 
Weight: 2.5 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 163 calories (per label, looks too low) in 1 bar (679.7 kj in 70 g. bar)
Cost: $9.75 + shipping for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate and South Pacific Islands Theme Week.

Today's Himalayan Rock Salt and Wakame Dark Chocolate 70% (bar) was from Jasper + Myrtle Premium Handmade Chocolate (based in Fyshwick, in Australian Capital Territory (ACT)--Australia's smallest territory and home to Australia's capital city Canberra and surrounding townships). 

ACT may be a small territory, but it's culturally rich and, if today's bar is any indication, it has some great chocolate.

Jasper and Myrtle was created by Li Peng Monroe. Li Peng and partner Peter make bean-to-bar chocolate using cacao beans from Peru, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Vietnam. It's no accident that several of the craft chocolate bars featured in this Chocolate and South Pacific Theme Week are being produced by Australian makers, who are geographically closer to these growing regions.

Today's well-rounded, flavorful and very slightly savory 70% Himalayan salt and wakame (seaweed) chocolate bar was crafted using stoneground cacao. Beans were sourced by the owners from Bouganville, Papua New Guinea.

This bar had faint, balanced fermented cacao and savory, nutty, earthy (woodsy) and clean green aroma and flavor notes. The texture was smooth yet robust with soft crunchy flecks. A judicious amount of Himalayan rock salt, and a smattering of wakame bits (that were faintly visible on the back side of the bar), added a delicious, delicate infusion of well-rounded, hearty savory flavor. 

I like savory chocolates, and this one was quite good. I'd also be curious to see what a 75% cacao version of this 70% bar (with a bit less sugar) might taste like. It may or may not taste better (I trust the maker's judgment here); but I'm often interested in seeing how much one can reduce sugar and still have something that works as sugar can obfuscate some flavors.

Ingredients: cocoa beans, cocoa butter, wakame, Himalayan rock salt, sugar.

Metiisto Chocolate - Patovaki 72% Dark (bar) - Dec. 28, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Metiisto Chocolate
Patovaki 72% Dark (bar)
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.325 oz. (37.5 g.) / 2.65? oz. (75 g.) in total bar
Calories: 204 calories (estimate per label) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $10.00 + shipping for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and South Pacific Islands Theme Week.

Today's Patovaki 72% Dark (bar) was made with cacao grown, fermented and sun-dried by Kenny Patovaki on the small island of Paspaskato (Solomon Islands), and made into chocolate by Metiisto Artisan Chocolate (Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia).

Metiisto ("craftsman" in English) got its start in Sweden in 2011-2012, and the small operation relocated to Australia in 2018. (Chief chocolate maker, Trevor Smith, grew up in Alice Springs in Central Australia and his background included being a panel beater.*) The company is applying "old world" chocolate making techniques and "new world ideas" to craft chocolate. 

This chocolate had a relatively mild chocolate aroma with paper/malty cereal box (oxidized) and very faint fruit (citrus) and green notes. 

The bar broke with a well-tempered snap and had a smooth, almost creamy melt and mouthfeel.

The chocolate had a notable, but nicely harnessed tart fruit acidity (pink grapefruit) and relatively mellow true chocolate notes. The "oxidized" (paper/cereal box) note re-appeared very briefly in the finish.

The choice of a 72% cacao blend worked. There was still quite a bit of natural, tart-sweetness. Adding even 2 percent more sugar (i.e. choosing to make this a 70% version) might have resulted in a bar that was too sugary sweet.

Ingredients: Cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter.

*A panel beater is someone who repairs cars. (Think about how you might go about fixing dents and dings in crumpled sheets of metal.)


 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Atypic Chocolate - 70% Dark Chocolate Solomon Islands (bar) - Dec. 27, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Atypic Chocolate
70% Dark Chocolate Solomon Islands (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.235 oz. (35 g.) / 2.47 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 165 calories (estim. per label) in 1 bar
Cost: $10.00 + shipping for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate and South Pacific Islands Theme Week. 

Many of the bars this week, including today's 70% bar, were made from cacao grown in the Solomon Islands--a country that includes six larger islands (e.g. Guadalcanal) and hundreds of smaller islands. This island nation is part of a larger (cacao-growing) island chain that extends up (northwest) to Papua New Guinea and down (southeast) to Vanuatu. The history of cacao planting in the Solomon Islands stretches back to the late 1800s.

Today's 70% Dark Chocolate Solomon Islands (bar) was from Atypic Chocolate/Atypic Artiste Chocolatier (made in South Melbourne Market, VIC, Australia). The company sources sustainably farmed cacao beans "from all over the South Pacific..." and carefully crafts single origin, island nation bars, each with its own flavor nuances.

This bar had an aroma with a green (orchid) floral note, followed by the faint possibility of a bitter dark chocolate, and then a warmer, roasted nutty/nut butter aroma note.

The flavor had a chocolatey flavor with nutty and then bright, sweet (sweet-tart apple jelly) notes. The flavor was more sweet than bitter; and the sweetness lingered into the finish.

Maker's notes read: "Our 70% dark chocolate is made with beans from the heart of the Solomon Islands, with notes of honey, malt and caramel."

Ingredients: Cacao beans, organic cane sugar, cacao butter, sunflower lecithin.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Atypic Chocolate - Heart of Pacific 88% Dark Chocolate with Nibs (bar) - Dec. 28, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Atypic Chocolate
Heart of Pacific 88% Dark Chocolate with Nibs (bar)
Good ++
Weight: 1.235 oz. (35 g.) / 2.47 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 173 calories (per label) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $9.25 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Welcome to Day #1 of Chocolate and South Pacific Islands Theme Week.

Today's "Heart of Pacific" 88% Dark Chocolate with Nibs bar was from Atypic Chocolate*(Melbourne, Victoria, Australia). This multi-origin bar was crafted in Australia using sustainably harvested cacao beans from islands in the South Pacific.

The aroma of this bar had caramel notes associated with a creamy, dark milk chocolate with milk and sugar. I had to double check the label. Was there milk in this ultra-dark milk bar? (No.)

Note: Sometimes aroma and flavor notes for a dark chocolate bar are very similar; and the taste is just an extension of the smell. However, beans with complex flavors and/or very dark chocolates can have surprising differences between aroma and flavor. Today's 88% bar fell in this latter category, with a more complex, layered experience.

Admission: I love a well-made chocolate with an interesting, complex flavor ride.

The texture alternated between smooth ultra-dark chocolate 88% base chocolate and hearty, crunchy cocoa nibs. There was sweetness (more than one might find in most 88% chocolate bars), but certainly not the sweet caramel "candy" kind. It was a very satisfying blend.

The flavor was bold with very balanced earthy, woodsy real cacao flavor, with a very slightly fermented cacao note. The acidity and bitterness levels were just right (not too high).

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

*The company's name, Atypic, comes from the French word meaning atypical. Many entrepreneurial, bean-to-bar makers have had to diverge from the far more popular way of selling chocolates--by buying and using someone else's chocolate, and re-melting it to make bars and confections. 

The "new wave" of craft/artisan chocolate makers have many more steps to follow if they're making their own chocolate from scratch, from the cacao bean. And most chocolate makers who take this "atypical" road less traveled, if they really care about high-quality, will likely find themselves traveling to cacao-growing countries, getting to know cacao farmers, learning about fermenteries, examining aspects of fair trade--to ensure they have access to the best beans, to make the best chocolate, from start to finish. 

I have tried to honor all chocolate makers on Chocolate Banquet. I believe anyone starting a small business deserves respect. And to tackle complex craft food and beverage items, however intellectually satisfying it may be, deserves an extra helping of respect, and our thanks.


Francois Pralus - Costa Rica Trinitario 75% (bar) - Dec. 25, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Patisserie Chocolaterie Pralus s.a.s. - Francois Pralus 
Costa Rica Trinitario 75% (bar)
Good ++
Weight: 1.75 oz. (50 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 297.5 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $8.60 (+ shipping) for 1 bar
Purchased from:  Chocosphere.com, online order

Welcome to Day #9, the last day, of Chocolate and Costa Rica Theme Week. Merry Christmas to all who celebrate. 

Today's Costa Rica Trinitario 75% (bar) was from Pastisserie Chocolaterie Pralus s.a.s., founded by master chocolate maker Francois Pralus (Roanne, France). 

Francois Pralus, who came from a confection/patisserie background, was an early convert to craft, bean-to-bar, chocolate in France. And he continues to search out and find the best cacao from different countries to produce great single origin chocolate bars.

This 75% cacao dark, rich, true chocolate (dark chocolate cake), with light spice (mixed spices), fruit (berry blend), and light, clean green/floral notes (vanilla). 

The melt was creamy and the texture was velvety smooth.

The flavor had deep, smooth chocolate (brownie) notes with a balanced bitter-sweetness and authentic (cocoa nib-like) flavor. The finish was light and lingering with a faint, smooth roasted nut note, followed by a fleeting light tropical fruit (mild mango) note, interlaced with more chocolate brownie notes.

The choice to use 75% cacao (vs. 70% cacao) was a good choice. Dark chocolate lovers will enjoy this bar. And it was still sweet and smooth enough to support going a little darker, without alienating chocolate lovers with a sweet tooth.

Pralus tasting notes: "Woody and robust, fresh and vanilla"

Ingredients: "75% cacao, sugar, buerre de cacao (cocoa butter), soy lecithin (non-GMO)"

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Dandelion Chocolate - 70% Hacienda Azul, Costa Rica 2016 Harvest (bar) - Dec. 24, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Dandelion Chocolate
70% Hacienda Azul Costa Rica 2016 Harvest (bar) 
Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.) / 2 oz. (56 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $8.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: ZombieRunner, Palo Alto, CA

Buenos Dias a todos. Good day to you all, Happy Christmas Eve, and welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and Costa Rica Theme Week.

What's it like to celebrate Christmas in Costa Rica? A traditional, hearty Christmas Eve meal might consist of tamales, roast pork, potatoes, rice, vegetables and eggnog, with a piece of tres leches cake for dessert. 

I replicated part of this meal today (roasted chicken tamales, potatoes, vegetables and a reasonable facsimile of eggnog with grated nutmeg. But, being able to enjoy tasty Costa Rica dark chocolate bars (featured today and this week) was a true gift. Costa Rica has continued to produce more and better cacao and chocolate--thanks to great farmers, chocolate makers and a growing knowledge of successful growing, fermenting, roasting and other techniques.*

This rich, smooth dark chocolate had a smooth, sophisticated complexity with a true dark chocolate (chocolate torte/cake) flavor and a naturally sweet taste (fig cookie) with balanced fruit acidity/tartness (cherry), and a few fleeting background notes--including very faint, fleeting spice and clean green/floral notes. 

Ingredients: Cocoa beans and cane sugar

*E.g., Dandelion Chocolate and others have deepened their relationships with farmers in growing countries. Dandelion notes for this bar offered insight(s) into some of the depth and complexity in this bar when they mentioned different batches of cacao beans with different roasting profiles that were combined/used to make this bar.

Note: This bar was eaten past its expiration date. So my apologies to Dandelion if this review could have been even greater with a fresher bar.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Sibu/Sibo Chocolate - Milk Chocolate 63% Cacao Dark Milk Costa Rica (bar) - Dec. 23, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Sibu/Sibo Chocolate
Milk Chocolate 63% Cacao Dark Milk Costa Rica (bar) 
Good ++
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 280 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $6.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere, online order

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and Costa Rica Theme Week.

Today's Sibu Chocolate (Sibo Chocolate in the U.S.) Milk Chocolate 63% Cacao Dark Milk Costa Rica (bar) was made in Costa Rica by Chocoindustria Cinco S.A.

"Dark milk" chocolates contain milk (powder) and relatively more sugar than your average 70% cacao plus dark chocolate bars. These two ingredients tend to veil or neutralize unique cacao notes present in single origin bars. And, while I appreciate a bit of well-executed chocolate candy every once in a while, if you're making chocolate with great, fine flavored cacao, ideally these cacao flavors would be preserved.*

A 40-50% cacao dark milk chocolate generally reveals its extra sugar content with the first whiff. The aroma often has subtle caramel (or candy) notes.

Happily, this 63% cacao dark milk Costa Rica bar had an initial aroma with stronger, more complex dark chocolate notes. The melt and texture were smooth. And the milk powder added a bit of creaminess, and a caramel note, without muting flavors (fruit acidity, light molasses, spice) as much. This was a "best of both worlds" bar; that is, it had high points associated with both good dark milk and dark chocolate offerings.

Sibu/Sibo tasting notes read as follows: "Flavor profile: Notes of yellow fruit, cherry and praline."

Ingredients: Chocolate (cacao beans, cane sugar, cacao butter, milk powder). 

*The cacao used to make this dark chocolate bar was from Talamanca, in southeastern Costa Rica. In the past decade some great, complex and flavorful cacao has been coming out of Central America--signaling a rediscovery of a cacao growing region with a centuries old cacao history and traditions. 

A fungal disease caused a loss of cacao trees in Central American countries in the 1970s, and it took decades to fully recover for many cacao-producing countries. So, there is a tendency to want to experience and celebrate resurgent, heritage cacao flavors that have been carefully nurtured, preserved and in some cases enhanced. 

Long may they live...the cacao varieties, the farmers that support them, and the people that make them into delicious chocolate.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Sibu/Sibo Chocolate - Brunca Costa Rica Dark Chocolate 70% (bar) - Dec. 22, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Sibu Chocolate / Sibo Chocolate
Brunca Costa Rica Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao (bar)
Good  ++ - Good +++
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 280 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $6.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate and Costa Rica Theme Week. 

Today's Brunca Costa Rica Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao (bar) was from Sibu Chocolate in Costa Rica (known as Sibo Chocolate in the U.S.). The company offers a variety of bars (with and without flavor inclusions) that feature Costa Rican cacao from different regions of the country.

This bar had a very rich aroma--a dark chocolate that recalled a good, bracing cup of freshly roasted, sweetened coffee first thing in the morning--with notes of fruit (tart cherry, light citrus, fig) and faint spice.

This balanced and bold dark chocolate had an even melt and smooth texture. 

The flavor was similar to the aroma notes mentioned above. The chocolate had a medium acidity and a light astringency. The finish was coffee-like as well, with roasted, robust yet smooth, faintly nutty flavor notes. Yet the flavor was distinctly one of cacao and not coffee beans, that connection persisted, perhaps enhanced by the cacao variety and roast profile.

This 70% chocolate bar was made in Costa Rica, from cacao beans that were grown in the Brunca Region is a socioeconomic region that straddles Puntarenas and San Jose Provinces in southwest Costa Rica, named after the Boruca (also known as the Brunca or Brunka) indigenous people. And, to tie this roots story back to today's chocolate, Sibu is the name of "the creator of everything" in native Boruca/Brunca stories.

The company's tasting notes for this Brunca bar read as follows: "Flavor profile: spice, with notes of dried fruit and a nutty finish."

Ingredients: Chocolate (cacao beans, cane sugar, organic cacao butter)

 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Sibu/Sibo Chocolate - Talamanca Costa Rica Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao (bar) - Dec. 21, 2020

 Chocolate of the Day

Sibu Chocolate / Sibo Chocolate
Talamanca Costa Rica Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao (bar)
Good  ++ 
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 280 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $6.50 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and Costa Rica Theme Week. 

Today's Sibu Chocolate (known as Sibo Chocolate in the U.S.) Talamanca* Costa Rica Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao (bar) was made in Costa Rica by Chocoindustria Cinco S.A.

Sibu/Sibo offers a variety of bars (with and without flavor inclusions) that feature cacao(s) grown in different regions of Costa Rica.

The aroma of this smooth, dark and complex Costa Rica chocolate included subtle earth, savory, dried fruit (berries, fig, green banana) and faint floral spice (saffron) notes. 

The bar had a friendly, true dark chocolate (brownie) flavor with dried fruit (berries, green banana) and fig cookie and caramel notes. There was also a fleeting, very faint light mint/menthol note. This bar contained a treasure chest of aroma and flavor notes.

This 70% chocolate was made in Costa Rica, from cacao beans that were grown in the Limon Province in Costa Rica.* Sibo has worked with two small farms for their cacao in this area, and cacao for this bar was "fermented and dried by the Gaitan family..."

Chocosphere tasting notes read: "...Sibo Talamanca 70% Dark Chocolate Bar, Single origin dark chocolate...has a very complex flavor profile. Hints of local herbs and dried fruits with a caramel undertone."

Ingredients: Chocolate (cacao beans, organic, cane sugar, cacao butter) 

*There are seven provinces in Costa Rica. All seven have cacao farms or plantations: Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas and San Jose--proof that this country has a climate very well-suited for cacao. Talamanca, the source of the cacao used to make today's bar, is a "canton," in the Limon Province, located in the southeast part of (the Caribbean side of) Costa Rica. 

 

French Broad Chocolates - Costa Rica Dark Chocolate 80% Cacao (bar) - Dec. 20, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

French Broad Chocolates
Costa Rica Dark Chocolate 80% Cacao (bar)
Good ++ - Good +++ 
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.) in total bar
Calories: 180 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $4.99 for 1 bar 
Purchased from: Village Market, Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA  

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate and Costa Rica Theme Week.

Today's artful Costa Rica Dark Chocolate 80% Cacao (bar) (Batch #1065) was from French Broad Chocolates (Asheville, North Carolina). 

This bar's robin's egg blue and shiny gold packaging was beautiful. The French Broad River (that inspired the company's name) is depicted in sinuous gold. I'm intrigued by maps; and any product information that includes a map (and the latitude and longitude coordinates) that honors and conveys a sense of place, for me, is a plus. Like many craft foods and beverages, place(s) are very important for chocolate.

This robust bar had a complex aroma with earthy, savory, smoky/roasted, very light nutty tobacco notes, followed by concentrated fruit (dried apricot, dried plum and dried banana) notes. 

The flavor notes were similar to the aroma notes listed above; although the taste had a slightly more muted quality--likely due to cocoa butter. (Added cocoa butter can help manage/soften acidity and bitterness, and can help create a luscious texture.) This well-tempered, chocolate had a dense, velvety, almost nut butter-like texture.

Artful to the end...this 80% chocolate had a satisfying, relatively light, lingering finish with a faint balanced, bitterness and then (after another minute) a fainter sweeter fruit (berry) note. All this with just two ingredients: cacao and sugar.

French Broad Chocolate founders, Dan and Jael Rattigan, lived in Costa Rica for a time, made connections there, and below is information from them that talks about how this experience continues to contribute to their chocolate making today. (See below for an excerpt.)

French Broad Chocolate maker's notes:

"No chocolate connects us more deeply with our roots than this bar. Dan and Jael lived in the cacao-rich jungles of Costa Rica for two years, where they opened a small café, called Bread and Chocolate.
Daniel South was brought on as a dishwasher, eventually being trained as Head Baker. Now Daniel has returned to his agricultural roots as a cacao processor, cultivating cacao on his farm and buying the seeds from his neighbors. He ferments in wooden boxes made from trees felled on his land, and exports cacao directly to French Broad Chocolates. Building a viable cacao business hasn’t been easy for Daniel, but we are seeing his efforts bear fruit.
This two-ingredient chocolate contains a robust eighty percent cacao with an earthy aroma. The flavor profile begins with chocolate wafer cookie and transforms into tart raspberry."

Ingredients: cacao, organic sugar

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Nuance Chocolate - Costa Rica Hacienda Azul 2017 70% Pure Dark bar - Dec. 19, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Nuance Chocolate Company
Costa Rica Hacienda Azul 2017 70% Pure Dark bar
Good ++
Weight: 1.94 oz. (55 g.) in total bar
Calories: 300 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $8.50 (plus shipping) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Nuance Chocolate, online order  

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and Costa Rica Theme Week.

Today's Nuance Chocolate's Costa Rica Hacienda Azul's 2017 70% Pure Dark bar was made by Nuance Chocolate Company (in (Old Town) Fort Collins, CO). 

Nuance offers a variety of flavorful, bean-to-bar, single origin and flavored bars--including some infused with spirits (a variety of whiskeys)--in northern Colorado. Up until the 2000s, chocolatiers across the U.S. had been cranking out smooth, relatively uniform-tasting dark chocolate bars and confections. 

Thankfully--and mirroring a wave of artisan food and beverage providers in recent decades--a growing number of artisan chocolate makers, like Nuance, are providing us with chocolates that possess a unique depth and breadth of flavor, while also using fewer additives, preservatives and blending steps that might obscure these flavors.

Today's Nuance 70% dark bar had an aroma with true chocolate, fruit, and very faint spice and nut notes. The melt and texture were smooth.

The flavor included fruit (red fruit (a mix of red and black currants), dark, ripe cherry, dark berry tart with a flash of mango), raisin cinnamon toast, and a faint sweet herb and balanced earthy bitter-sweetness, fermented fruit and green nut notes--with a gradually diminishing finish. 

This chocolate provided a satisfying, multi-layered flavor ride. All this thanks to cacao beans grown in Costa Rica (Hacienda Azul*), professional fermentation, a thoughtful supply chain, and Nuance's skilled chocolate makers. (Thank you to founders/owners Toby and Alix Gadd.)

"Ingredients: cacao, cane sugar, cocoa butter. All natural and GMO-free."

*Hacienda Azul roughly translates to blue "house" in English. More specifically a hacienda refers to a main/large house on a plantation or estate in a Spanish-speaking country. 

Hacienda Azul is a single estate (cacao grower) is located in central Costa Rica, near Turrialba (the name of a town and an active volcano). The estate grows cacao trees in a biodiverse environment, intermingled with jungle, rather than in a "shaved land" mono-culture farm configuration we might be more familiar with in the U.S. This method of planting can offer several benefits, e.g. a more hospitable environment for the midges (insects) that pollinate cacao flowers.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Sibu/Sibo Chocolate - Costa Rica 70% Cacao Crystallized Ginger Dark Chocolate (bar) - Dec. 18, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Sibu Chocolate/Sibo Chocolate
Costa Rica 70% Cacao Crystallized Ginger Dark Chocolate (bar)
Good 
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 135 calories in 1 bar (per label)
Cost: $6.50 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

Welcome to Day #10 of Chocolate and Spices Theme Week, and Day #2 of Chocolate and Costa Rica Theme Week.

Today's Costa Rica 70% Cacao Crystallized Ginger Dark Chocolate (bar) was from Sibu Chocolate (Sibo Chocolate in the U.S.). It was made in Costa Rica by Chocoindustria Cinco S.A.

This chocolate had an appealing dark chocolate aroma with faint warm botanical spice note. And the spicy flavor from sugar-crystallized fresh ginger bits kicked in with the first bite. The ginger in this bar was tasty, with a very authentic flavor, but was also a bit variable.

Ginger and dark chocolate are naturally complementary. These two relatively strong flavors can both shine without eclipsing each other as long as the proportions are right. I enjoyed the generous amount of ginger in this bar. And I could still make out rich cacao with faint fermented fruit and light herbal notes flavor notes in the base chocolate. 

The company purchases cacao from different regions and farms in Costa Rica to make their chocolates. The cacao used to make this bar came from a single estate, Guacimo Limon, in SE Costa Rica (on the Caribbean side of the country, where the climate and topography are well-suited for cacao cultivation).

I wondered what a slightly darker (75-78% cacao) version of this bar might taste like. A little less sugar, and more cacao and ginger. Bring on the bold flavors. 

Ingredients: Chocolate (organic cacao beans, organic cacao butter, organic cane sugar), fresh ginger, sugar.


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Sibu/Sibo Chocolate - Costa Rica 63% Cacao Chai Milk Chocolate (bar) - Dec. 17, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Sibu Chocolate / Sibo Chocolate
Costa Rica 63% Cacao Chai Milk Chocolate (bar)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 280 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $6.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

Welcome to Day #9 of Chocolate and Spices Theme Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate and Costa Rica Theme Week. It seemed fitting to end with a chocolate infused with a warming Chai spice blend.

Today's Costa Rica 63% Cacao Chai Milk Chocolate (bar) was from Sibu Chocolate in Costa Rica (known as Sibo Chocolate in the U.S.). Sibu/Sibo offers a variety of bars (with and without flavor inclusions) that feature Costa Rican cacao from different regions of the country.

The company began with two individuals (journalist George Soriano and historian Julio Fernandez Amon) just as the last great recession began to hit the Americas (2007-2008). Fortunately for us, they succeeded. Today the company has three sites in Costa Rica, including a restaurant. 

A seductive blend of Chai spices gave today's bar an attractive aroma and flavor, and the dark milk chocolate contributed rich flavor and depth. (Think dark, creamy hot chocolate with cinnamon and many other spices on a cool, winter's day.)

This 63% Chai chocolate was made in Costa Rica, from cacao beans (from the Gaitan family) that were grown "in-country" (Talamanca*, Limon Province, in SE Costa Rica). The company also has a 45% Chai bar/offering.

*The company's description of the flavor profile of Talamanca cacao read as follows: "Herbal, with dried fruit and tapa de dulce (raw cane sugar). (There was also a faint, balanced earthiness in a few bites.)

Ingredients: Chocolate (cacao beans, organic cane sugar, cacao butter, milk powder); Ceylan/Ceylon cinnamon, black pepper, allspice, ginger, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg 


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Theo Chocolate - Ghost Chili dark chocolate mini bar - Dec. 16, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Theo Chocolate
Ghost Chili dark chocolate mini bar
Good + - Good ++
Weight: .5 oz. (14 g.) / 1 oz. (28 g.) in total bar
Calories: 75 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $ unknown (gift from a friend)
Purchased from: N/A - gift from a friend (Thank you Toni!)

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and Spices Theme Week. 

A spices-themed week wouldn't be complete without a little hot chili pepper (hybrid Capsicum from Asia). Today's Ghost Chili dark chocolate mini bar was from Theo Chocolate (Seattle, WA) and was adorned with an image of a floating ghost.

Years ago, I sampled Theo Chocolate's caramel-filled dark chocolate confections with a trace of ghost chili; and as I recall they packed quite a concentrated spicy punch. 

Today's 70% dark chocolate bar had a lovely, appealing, rich dark aroma with a roasted almost savory, almost nutty notes, with a faint whiff of dried tomato/chili. (This bar contained a mix of Ancho and Ghost chili powders*).

The first five seconds of the first bite was all about the smooth, but flavorful dark chocolate, and it did not disappoint. Then the Ghost chili flames kicked in. And that fire dominated the tasting experience for most of the rest of the tasting curve. However, if you savored this chocolate slowly, the chili faded and the dark chocolate returned with slightly altered chocolate notes. The finish lingered with a balanced, post-chili cacao bitterness. A fun ride.

Thank you to my ever-traveling friend, Toni, who visited Theo's Phinney Ave. flagship store housed in a lovely, historic brick building, and brought back chocolates.

Ingredients: Cocoa beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, ancho chili powder, ghost chili powder.

*What a great, complementary mix of Ancho and Ghost chili powders in this dark chocolate bar. Ancho chili starts life as Poblano peppers (Capsicum annuum) that hail from Mexico. And once dried, Poblano peppers are referred to as "Ancho" chili (meaning "wide, broad and/or deep" in English). Ancho chili often anchors chili dishes and savory stews adding richness and depth. 

Ghost chili peppers (Capsicum chinense x Capsicum frutescens) are one of the rock stars of the fiery chili world. They are a hybrid variety from Asia, with a score of 1 million + Scoville Heat Units (SHUs) on the Scoville scale (used to measure chili heat).

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Fu Wan Chocolate - Taiwan Magao (Wild Pepper) Chocolate (bar) - Dec. 15, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Fu Wan Chocolate
Taiwan Magao (Wild Pepper) Chocolate 62% dark (bar)
Good ++
Weight: .795 oz. (22.5 g.) / 1.59 oz. (45 g.) in total bar 
Calories: 135 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and Spices Theme Week(s). We're moving from chocolate and spice offerings created in northern Europe to featuring a chocolate from a slightly warmer place, Taiwan, that is also closer to the spice hub that is southeast Asia.

Today's Taiwan Magao (Wild Pepper) Chocolate 62% dark (bar) was made from "tree to bar" by Fu Wan Chocolate (Taiwan, ROC). "Crafted in the Island of Formosa," this bar contained Magao pepper. Old world pepper varieties have served as prized spices for centuries. Most people are familiar with black pepper, but there are many other "pepper" varieties out there from other plants, seeds and berries.

Magao pepper (Litsea cubeba), also known as a "mountain pepper," grows on evergreen trees native to Taiwan. Its seeds have been harvested and used as a spice/flavoring and a natural medicine by indigenous tribes (Atayal people) in Taiwan for centuries. It's used as an ingredient in traditional Magao pineapple cakes. And it's being explored by culinary explorers looking for unique taste experiences. It is closer to black pepper in flavor; and is not a chili or capsicum pepper. 

This spice gave the chocolate bar a very unique aroma. The bar's aroma had an earth meets water (lagoon/bay/grassy) note followed by fruit (goji berry tea, earthy tropical fruit), and black pepper sweet tea and faint graham cracker notes.

The melt and mouthfeel was very light and creamy (almost a whipped chocolate/cocoa butter feel). The sweet flavor had notes of ginger and lemongrass and faint oolong tea leaf notes, followed by a mild, balanced tea astringency. 

I was so busy enjoying and ferreting out the complex, Taiwan Magao wild pepper flavors that I had to re-taste it again for chocolate (cacao) nuances I might have missed. The relatively mild, sweet 62% dark chocolate base complemented the wild pepper, but it was hard to tell what spice, fruit, nut or earth notes the cacao contributed (apart from the pepper). The cacao (bean and butter) could have even mellowed the pepper flavors. More research is needed.

"Tasting Notes: Lemongrass, Ginger, Citrus, Nuts"

Ingredients: Cacao bean, sugar, cacao butter, Magao (Wild Pepper).

Monday, December 14, 2020

Fazer Confectionery - Nordi Blueberry Spicy Cardamom Dark Chocolate (bar) - Dec. 14, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Fazer Confectionery
Nordi Blueberry and Spicy Cardamom Naturally Flavored Dark Chocolate (bar)
Good 
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) / 3.35 oz. (95 g.) in total bar
Calories: 151 calories in 1 oz. (28.3 g.) of bar
Cost: $1.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate and Spices Theme Week.

Today's Nordi Blueberry and Spicy Cardamom Naturally Flavored Dark Chocolate (bar) was from Fazer Confectionery (Ventaa, Finland). 

The "spice" in this bar was (I'm guessing black) cardamom. There are two main varieties of cardamom: green and black. Most of the Scandinavian bars with cardamom I've tasted seem to use black cardamom.*

This "naturally flavored" bar had an aroma with blueberry, light earthy spice, faint menthol and chocolate notes. "Natural flavors" tend not to be as authentic as the real thing, but can offer reasonable facsimiles. 

Ingredients and flavors like apple, birch, vanilla and plum added a sense of "warmth in the winter" to this dark chocolate bar (The bar's outer packaging was adorned with an aerial shot of someone making a snow angel in a field of white.) 

It's been a bit of a grim December this year (2020) with Covid-19 cases peaking worldwide. And it's good to think back on memories of playing in the snow, while being warm inside. 

You may have noticed that most of the chocolate and spice items featured so far this week have been from northern Europe. They know a thing or two about getting through (and brightening up) a rough winter. Hope you all are enjoying some relaxing time by a cozy fire/heater and maybe enjoying a hot spiced chocolate or a bite or two of chocolate. Simple pleasures.

Ingredients:  Dark Chocolate (unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, reduced fat cocoa powder, natural vanilla flavor), Blueberry Flavored Pieces (concentrated apple puree, blueberry puree, concentrated plum puree, apple juice concentrate, sugar, glycerol, citrus fiber, pectin (citrus), natural blueberry flavor), Natural Cardamom Flavor.

*Re: black and green cardamom varieties: Black cardamom (Amomum subulatum) pods, also known as Bengal cardamom, tend to be grown in Nepal, southern Bhutan, Darjeeling, to be slightly larger in size, to be harvested later, and to have a more down to earth flavor. Black cardamom tends to be a little darker, smokier, earthier, and some say it has a light camphor note. 

By contrast, green or "true" cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is native to southern India (think Kerala) and can be found growing wild there. It is also cultivated in Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Indochina, Indonesia/Malayasia and Tanzania. It has green-colored pods, and is more fragrant, with a "sweeter," brighter spice flavor that has an "upbeat feel" -- similar to the aroma/flavor effects of saffron, nutmeg and vanilla. When I think of chai masala tea available in the U.S., I think of green cardamom.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Friis-Holm Chokolade - O'Payo Milk Liquorice 50% (bar) - Dec. 13, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Friis-Holm Chokolade
O'Payo Milk Liquorice 50% (bar)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) / 3.52 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 285 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $19.99* for 1 bar
Purchased from: Village Market, Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and Spices Theme Week.

Today's O'Payo Milk Liquorice 50% "Chunky Salty" (bar) was from Danish bean-to-bar manufacturer Friis-Holm Chokolade (Hvalso, Denmark). Chief chocolate maker and founder, Mikkel Friis-Holm, is a trained chef who, in the 1990s had a relationship with artisan chocolate pioneer, Scharffenberger, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The aroma for this bar was true to its description: sweet milk chocolate, with a dark, salty black licorice candy note. 

A creamy, sweet milk chocolate base was studded with a generous handful of small, chewy chunks of salty black licorice--allowing one to really taste the licorice--unlike most previous chocolate licorice bars I've featured where these two bold flavors (chocolate and licorice) were fully melded and the blend of the two created its own magic. Both approaches can work well: layered flavors and blends. It's fun to try both.

I was afraid this 50% cacao chocolate might be too sweet for my taste. However, the flavors were balanced; and a hint of salt in a dark milk chocolate helped balance out the sugar.

Ingredients: Cacao beans (Nicaragua), sugar, milk powder, cocoa butter, liquorice (8%).

*Yes, chocolate prices have continued to rise as chocolate makers compete for the best cacao from farmers in cacao-growing countries. And while $19.99 (USD) seems pricey for a single chocolate bar. This generously sized 100 g. (3.52 oz.) bar would be comparable to paying $10 (USD) for a 50 gram (1.76 oz.) craft chocolate bar, about what a high-end bar is going for these days. 

One could argue that a high-end craft chocolate bar is still less expensive than a bottle of good wine; but making this comparison can spark a spirited conversation among wine-loving friends who see wine grapes as occupying a higher tier on the vice ladder than cacao fruit. So I'll simply say: skilled makers are required for both wine and chocolate. 

Apologies to licorice makers for leaving you out of this discussion. Thank you to whoever contributed this component.


Saturday, December 12, 2020

Svenska Kakaobolaget - Lakrits (Licorice) Dark milk 55% (bar) - Dec. 12, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Svenska Kakaobolaget 
The Swedish Cacao Company
Lakrits (Licorice) Dark milk 55% (bar)
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: 1.7 oz. (50 g.) for 1 bar (per label)
Calories: 290 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $12.00 for 1 bar 
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA 

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

Today's Lakrits (Licorice) Dark milk 55% (bar) was made from bean-to-bar by Svenska Kakaobolaget (The Swedish Cacao Company) in Osterlen, Sweden. 

Lakrits (lah' kreet(h)s), or licorice, is big in Sweden and other Nordic countries. How big?

There are spirits flavored with licorice root, anise and/or fennel, including Salmiakki Koskenkorve, a licorice flavored liqueur (from Finland). There is salmiak,* a salty licorice confection, as well as salty licorice flavored ice cream (Saltlakritsglass) and gum. 

Did I mention there is an impressively large, annual licorice festival that's been held in Stockholm, Sweden since 2009? (There are licorice and chocolate offerings on display there.) 

Today's Lakrits bar had a hearty, dark milk chocolate aroma accompanied by bold but balanced salty licorice notes (bittersweet, authentic licorice herbal/spice). The melt was satisfyingly, almost velvety smooth (largely due to the milk powder). The flavor of the melted chocolate (in one's mouth) had a dark, seductive, liqueur-like richness. If you like licorice and chocolate, give this bar a try. 

One cacao, different results
The Swedish-made Lakrits (Licorice) 55% dark milk chocolate was made using cacao beans (possibly a blend of Criollo, Trinitario and Nacional varieties) obtained from Oko Caribe in the Dominican Republic. 

Yesterday's Kardemumma (Cardamom) bar--from the same Swedish bean-to-bar maker--used cacao from the same source (Oko Caribe) in the Dominican Republic. The maker skillfully used this cacao to produce unique and successful results/effects with each bar. (And I suspect the same could be said for their other single origin cacao bars.)

Yesterday's 71% dark(er) bar containing more cocoa solids was, not surprisingly, more cacao forward. There was also no added milk to mute or soften cacao and inclusion flavors in this dark bar. And the cardamom in yesterday's bar did not seem to block or neutralize any of the cacao nuances. One could clearly taste the cacao's medium-bold fruit acidity (red berry, cranberry, citrus)...in addition to spice (cardamom), and (interestingly) faint savory (salty licorice spice) notes. 

Today's 55% dark milk bar was a powerful, unified blend, where its overall taste transcended that of individual flavor nuances. It was only at the tail end of this dark, sweet comet (finish) were there was a rare, tiny spark of an individual constituent element (earthy spice or acidity).

Ingredients: Cacao beans, cane sugar, powdered milk, cocoa butter, licorice.

*Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)--also spelled liquorice in other parts of the world--is an herb/spice made from the root of the licorice plant--a member of the Legume/pea family. (While the market for many licorice treats may lie to the north, licorice is grown in sunnier countries, such as India, Iran, Italy, Afghanistan, China.)

**Salmiak is a popular salty licorice in Sweden flavored with ammonium chloride (sal ammoniac), a salt said to add a slight tannic bitterness/astringency. Often available as black, diamond-shaped confection, this shape dates back to an era where Swedish drug stores made their own versions of licorice cough drops/confections for customers.


Friday, December 11, 2020

Svenska Kakaobolaget - Kardemumma (Dom. Repub.) 71% (bar) - Dec. 11, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Svenska Kakaobolaget 
The Swedish Cacao Company
Kardemumma (Cardamom) 71% Dominican Republic, Oko Caribe (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.7 oz. (50 g.) for 1 bar (per label)
Calories: 225 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $12.00 for 1 bar 
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA 

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and Spices Theme Week.

Today's Kardemumma (Cardamom) Dominican Republic Oko Caribe 71% (bar) was made from bean-to-bar by Svenska Kakaobolaget (The Swedish Cacao Company). The company produces their chocolate in a "...late 1800's school house factory in a small town (Osterlen) in rural southern Sweden."

Scandinavians experience long dark winters. One way to brighten things up a bit is to add a touch of exotic warming spices to a favorite food or beverage. Swedish cardamom* cookies (often with a dash of cinnamon) are one example of this tradition. 

Today's Swedish-made Kardmumma 71% dark chocolate was infused with this same aromatic spice, to help warm up cold winter days and evenings, perhaps around a crackling fire. 

The cacao beans came from Oko Caribe, in the Dominican Republic. This bar had a uniform melt and texture and rich, dark chocolate flavor with medium-bold fruit acidity (red berry, cranberry, citrus), spice (cardamom), and faint savory (salty licorice spice) notes.

Ingredients: Cacao, cane sugar, cardamom.

*Cardamom is a spice made from the seeds (and occasionally seedpods/"fruit" with seeds) of a few different plants (from the Elettaria genus (green cardamom) and the Amomum genus (black cardamom)) originally from India and China, respectively. Cardamom is part of the ginger family.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Lonohana Estate Chocolate - Milk and Ginger 50% Dark Milk (bar) - Dec. 10, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Lonohana Estate Chocolate
Milk and Ginger 50% Dark Milk (bar)
Good ++
Weight: 1.15 oz. (32.5 g.) / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) in total bar
Calories: 180 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: Lonohana (and The Chocolate Garage) 

Welcome to Day #19 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Weeks, and Day #2 of Chocolate and Spices Theme Week. 

Today's Milk and Ginger 50% Dark Milk (bar) made with cacao from Honduras and Ecuador, was from Lonohana Estate Chocolate (Honolulu, HI).

I've tried growing ginger on my patio in northern California, and it is possible to get lovely green shoots and more ginger this way. But, Hawaii seems like it would be a far better place to grow this wonderfully spicy item that complements chocolate so nicely.

Lonohana's luxuriously creamy, dark milk chocolate (bar) was infused with natural, warm, fragrant, natural ginger spice, a hint of caramel and very faint citrus (lemongrass) aroma and flavor notes.

The amount of toasted coconut and ginger essential oil(s) tasted just right. Not too much, not too little. 

This chocolate was sweet enough (the increased sugar in a 50% cacao chocolate is generally at my limit) that it was difficult to pick up the flavor nuances of the cacao (from Honduras and Ecuador). The milk chocolate was very smooth and pleasantly balanced. And there were certainly no "off" flavors that I could detect.

Ingredients: Cacao, organic cocoa butter, organic cane sugar, organic whole milk powder,  roasted coconut and ginger oil. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Madre Chocolate - Coffee and Cardamom Lachua Guatemala dark (bar) + Horchata bar - Dec. 9, 2020

Chocolate(s) of the Day

Madre Chocolate

Coffee and Cardamom Lachua Guatemala dark chocolate (bar)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1.5 oz. (43 g.) in total bar
Calories: 228 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $8.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Madre Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #18 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Weeks, and Day #1 of Chocolate and Spices Theme Week. What better confluence of these two themes than these two bars featured today from Madre Chocolate (Honolulu, HI).

Madre's Chocolate Flavormeister, Dr. Nat Bletter, strikes one as a one part explorer and life-time learner, one part botanical mad scientist-genius (in the best possible meaning of this term); and, thankfully, he loves sharing information* (and chocolate) with all the rest of us. 

He has researched, cacao, fruits and other botanical ingredients in Hawaii (and around the world) for possible inclusion in Madre chocolate offerings. I'm sure he spent time researching and gathering each of the ingredients in these two bars.

This Coffee and Cardamom bar was a study in contrasts that held my interest. A creamy velvet, medium sweet but robust 60% dark chocolate base co-existed with crunchy, coarse-ground organic Chiapas coffee bean pieces. 

The relatively "whole" inclusions (coffee, vanilla and perhaps the cardamom) created layers of bold, unique flavors. And this layering tended to hold my attention more than having everything finely ground and homogenized. E.g., the whole vanilla here did not taste like manufactured vanilla extract. It had their own floral, earthy notes. 

This was a meeting of big, authentic flavors and each deserved a turn in the spotlight. A good "wake up" bar.

Ingredients for Coffee and Cardamom bar: Cacao, organic sugar, organic cocoa butter, coffee, whole vanilla, organic cardamom.

Horchata golden chocolate (bar) 
Good +
Weight: 1.5 oz. (43 g.) in total bar
Calories: 230 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $6.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Madre Chocolate, online order

This Horchata golden chocolate bar was "inspired by the popular Spanish and Mexican drink, horchata, made from rice milk, almonds, cinnamon, and vanilla."

Madre has fused these traditional horchata flavors with coconut--a taste I associate with Hawaii and, in recent years, with dairy-free bars. The aroma of this bar had coconut, spices, (cinnamon, chai), roasted, nutty and cocoa butter notes.

The bar's base had a smooth, rich melt and texture. This complemented the soft, chewy, quiet riot of flavorful bits on (and in) the bar that yielded a "white" chocolate with its own suave personality. 

Actually this bar was not "white." It was a lovely golden brown color. White chocolate is a name given to bars and confections made with cocoa butter (the creamy ivory-colored fat from cocoa beans), but without cocoa solids (that add much of the flavor and dark brown color to chocolate). But, it's not always that, well, black and white. As today's golden chocolate shows. There can be interesting shades in between.

Shout out to the perfectly roasted rice. This added an excellent flavor note that elevated the overall blend of  coconut and almond bits, and vanilla, cinnamon, and other ingredients.

Ingredients for Horchata bar: Organic Dominican cocoa butter, organic coconut, organic sugar, roasted rice, almonds, organic cinnamon, Mexican whole vanilla. 

Note: Madre makes chocolate bars in relatively small batches. Their bars may sell out; and they may or may not be available currently. Check their website (online) store for the current line-up.

*There are more cacao farm and chocolate tour options available in Hawaii now than when I started Chocolate Banquet many years ago. If you are visiting Hawaii, you might consider looking into one of Nat's cacao farm/botanical tours--and other farm tours that are now available. You'll gain a unique appreciation of how plants/cacao grow, how plants are made into offerings like chocolate, and why chocolates/foods taste the way they do. Not to mention all the love and hard work that go into these processes.

 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate - 50% Milk Coffee and Cacao Nibs (bar) - Dec. 8, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate
50% Milk Coffee and Cacao Nibs (bar) - Wailua Single Estate
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 2.2 oz. (62 g.) in total bar
Calories: 336 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $15.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA 

Welcome to Day #17 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Weeks.

Today's 50% Milk Coffee and Cacao Nibs (bar) was from Lydgate Farms* Kauai Chocolate (Kapa'a, Kaua'i, HI).

The chocolate had a rich aroma with green (seed, nut, banana), cream, faint earth and fermented cacao bean notes. Appealing complexity for a dark milk chocolate.

This Hawaiian 50% cacao dark milk bar had a sweet, creamy milk chocolate melt and flavor.  However, cacao and coffee bean nibs gave this bar some textural contrast (soft chewy/crunchy bits), and added more flavor depth--making it more interesting for dark chocolate fans. 

Cacao nibs (pieces of the cacao bean) flavors reflect the heart of cacao and chocolate. This bar with nibs had a light pleasant cacao earthiness (with olive, light "winey" fermented bean notes). And, most important from my perspective, cacao (or cocoa) nibs helped balance the sweetness of the milk chocolate base. (Coffee beans do this too.)

The coffee bean flavor was very faint* and very smooth (similar to what I associate with good Kona (Hawaiian grown) coffee with low acidity). To be honest, I had a hard time really tasting the coffee bean initially; but I did receive a slight confirmation "buzz" after eating this bar, presumably from a mix of sugar, cocoa nibs and coffee. (Better a deft touch of coffee than feeling you're eating coffee grounds.)

Ingredients: Lydgate Farms cacao beans, organic whole milk powder, organic sugar, organic cocoa butter, Lydgate Farms cacao nibs, Lydgate Farms coffee beans.

*Lydgate Farms offers educational tours of their farm(s), where they grow/produce cacao--as well as palm-blossom honey, vanilla and fruit. (Given current Covid-19 restrictions this year, do check the Lydgate Farms website for hours and availability before planning a trip.)


Monday, December 7, 2020

Madre Chocolate - 70% Lachua Guatemala dark chocolate (bar) - Dec. 7, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Madre Chocolate 
70% Lachua Guatemala dark chocolate (bar)
Good +++
Weight: 1.5 oz. (43 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 228 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $9.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Madre Chocolate, online order 

Welcome to Day #16 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Weeks.

Today's 70% Lachua Guatemala dark chocolate bar was from Madre Chocolate (Honolulu, HI).

This chocolate had a friendly, alluring aroma and flavor with hot chocolate/fresh baked brownie, light spice (cinnamon, vanilla), nut and fruit notes. (Vanilla bean helped evoke memories of baked brownie and hot chocolate.)

It had a smooth, almost creamy melt and texture, and low acidity, bitterness and astringency. 

The finish tapered off into a fainter version of the chocolatey/baked brownie flavor mentioned above.

The Funda Lachua co-op cacao (grown in Guatemala) was supplied by Maya Mountain Cacao, an organization that has helped farmers improve the quality of cacao and provide fair prices for them. Maya Mountain Cacao also provides valuable connections between farmers in Central America and chocolate makers who looking to buy their cacao (such as Madre Chocolate in Hawaii that hand crafted today's Guatemala chocolate, from bean to bar, in O'ahu).

Ingredients: Organic cacao, cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, whole vanilla.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Lonohana Estate Chocolate, LLC - 73% North Shore (bar) - Dec. 6, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Lonohana Estate Chocolate, LLC
73% North Shore (bar)  
Good +++
Weight: 1.15 oz. (32.5 g.) / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) (estimate) in total bar
Calories: 180 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $15.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Lonohana / The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA*

Welcome to Day #15 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Weeks.

Today's 73% North Shore bar was from Lonohana Estate Chocolate, LLC (Honolulu, HI).

As with other Lonohana bars, today's hand-crafted chocolate was grown and made in Hawaii. Only a handful of U.S. chocolate makers can make this claim; and almost all of them are in Hawaii--the only U.S. state with a climate and latitude (within 20 degrees of the Equator) suitable for growing Theobroma cacao trees outdoors.

Unlike other U.S.-based chocolate makers on the mainland, Lonohana's founder, expert chocolate maker and farmer, Seneca Klassen, also has been able to grow his own cacao where he makes it, in Hawaii, in a model more similar to wine-making, where the grape vines (vineyards) are adjacent to wine-making operations (wineries).

Today's well-executed bar was shaped in a mold that depicted the chain of Hawaiian islands. The chocolate had an inviting dark chocolate aroma with very light spice and fruit notes. 

The first bite of this chocolate yielded a very faint fermented note that was quickly followed by a full, sweet-tart fruit flavor (notes of cherry and tropical fruits). Once the fruit notes receded a bit, the flavor took on a sophisticated, almost "silken" true chocolate finish (high end chocolate silk, flourless tart perhaps). And the finish ended with a trace of well-balanced, bitter-sweet. 

That natural sweetness of the cacao made the choice to use 73% cacao (vs. 70% cacao) resulted in a bit more cacao flavor and less sugar. A great choice.

*Note: This was an early sample bar that was available through a relationship between Lonohana Estate Chocolate and The Chocolate Garage (sadly, now closed). This bar is likely not available to the general public. Lonohana offers chocolate bars through membership in a Chocolate Club, that is similar to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) offering (fruit and vegetable subscription box) and has a store on their website.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Lonohana Estate Chocolate - 100% Hawaiian Cacao bar - Dec. 5, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Lonohana Estate Chocolate, LLC
100% Hawaiian Cacao bar  
Good +++
Weight: 1.15 oz. (32.5 g.) / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) in total bar
Calories: 200 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $15.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: The Chocolate Garage, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #14 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Weeks.

Today's 100% Hawaiian Cacao bar was from Lonohana Estate Chocolate, LLC (Honolulu, HI), offering high-quality, tree-to-bar chocolate.

Made in Hawaii from cacao that was planted, grown, harvested and dried in Hawaii, this 100% Hawaiian cacao bar was a great blend of creamy and crunchy, pure single origin chocolate goodness. There's something to be said for being a vertically-integrated operation, although I'm sure there is more work involved. Wearing multiple hats as cacao grower, fermenter/chemist and chocolate maker (and chocolate educator) is likely satisfying and, at times, exhausting.

Today's bar had balanced, pure "true" chocolate flavor (chocolate brownie, enhanced by crunchy, cocoa nibs) and light caramel, fermented and fruit notes.

Note: Made in a peanut-free environment; soy and gluten free. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Manoa Chocolate - Old Pali Road Whiskey 70% Dark Chocolate (bar) - Dec. 4, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Manoa Chocolate
Old Pali Road Whiskey 70% Dark Chocolate bar
Good ++
Weight: 1.05 oz. (30 g.) / 2.1 oz. (60 g.) in total bar
Calories: 180 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $15.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Manoa Chocolate, Kailua, HI

Welcome to Day #13 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

Today's Old Pali Road Whiskey 70% Dark Chocolate bar was from Manoa Chocolate (Kailua, HI). 

This dark chocolate was infused with a generous slug of Hawaiian-made whiskey.* The whiskey permeated both aroma and flavor. (It was strong enough that I wondered if I should drive after I finished.) There was no real need for concern here, though this fleeting thought illustrated the strength of this inclusion.

I liked these flavors. The whiskey did overpower more subtle notes from the chocolate. But the spirits and the dark chocolate harmonized well together. The melt and texture was creamy, almost a light whipped creamy--a perceived "lightness" that complemented the heavier whiskey and dark chocolate flavors.

Ingredients: Cacao, organic cane sugar, cocoa butter (Note: no whiskey listed was listed in this ingredients list, but I am guessing that this was left off the ingredients list accidentally. See below for additional information.)

*I found on the Manoa Chocolate website the following information about the whiskey source/distillery for a very similar (likely the same) bar: 

"In Kailua, O'ahu, minutes from our chocolate factory, Ko'olau Distillery makes Old Pali Road Whiskey (using water filtered through volcanic rock). (The distillery is now also making ethyl-alcohol based hand sanitizer for the Covid-19 pandemic.)

We then soak our Costa Esmeraldas (Ecuador) cacao nibs in their smooth and balanced whiskey and turn the flavored nibs into chocolate."

"Ingredients: whiskey soaked cacao, organic cane sugar, and cocoa butter."

Manoa Chocolate - Ko'olaupoko O'ahu Island Chocolate 70% Cacao (Winter Harvest) bar - Dec. 3, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Manoa Chocolate
Ko'olaupoko O'ahu Island Chocolate 70% Cacao (Winter Harvest) (bar)
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: 1.05 oz. (30 g.) /2.1 oz. (60 g.) in total bar
Calories: 180 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $24.00 for set of 2 bars ($12.00 for 1 bar)
Purchased from: Manoa Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #11 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

Today's Ko'olaupoko O'ahu Island Chocolate 70% Cacao (Spring Harvest) bar was manufactured in Hawaii by Grass Shack Industries LLC/Manoa Chocolate (Kailua, HI).

What a great opportunity to compare two 70% cacao bars, both made from Hawaiian-grown cacao growing at the same location (Ko'olaupopo*, O'ahu Island), but harvested at two different times of the year (spring and winter). 

Today I'm featuring the Winter Harvest version of this bar. (Yesterday, I featured the Spring Harvest version of this bar.) 

This bar's aroma was slightly less green-forward, and had a more sweet dark chocolate and faint spiced fruit notes (peach, red berry). The green (green banana, green floral) was very similar to yesterday's (Spring Harvest) version. The melt and texture seemed thicker and creamier (fudgier).

The flavor of this (Winter Harvest) Ko'olaupoko bar also had a slightly more "uniform" taste and additional true dark chocolate (fudgey) and fruitiness (red berry/fruit, peach jam) and less pronounced green notes (green banana, floral and a very fleeting green nut/seed note) than its Spring Harvest sibling from the same location.

Manoa provided a helpful, side-by-side tasting wheel chart for the taster/consumer to record their own observations for the two 70% O'ahu bars in this tasting kit. I'm surprised I haven't seen an insert/card like this more often with other craft chocolate bars.

Ingredients: Cacao, organic cane sugar, cocoa butter

*Ko'olaupoko refers to a relatively small, windward district in Honolulu County, on the "east" shore of O'ahu. This district has some lush green areas where cacao grows (that are also near where this chocolate is made in Kailua).


Thursday, December 3, 2020

Manoa Chocolate - Ko'olaupoko O'ahu Island Chocolate 70% Cacao (Spring Harvest) (bar) - Dec. 2, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Manoa Chocolate
Ko'olaupoko O'ahu Island Chocolate 70% Cacao (Spring Harvest) (bar)
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: 1.05 oz. (30 g.) /2.1 oz. (60 g.) in total bar
Calories: 180 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $24.00 for set of 2 bars ($12.00 for 1 bar)
Purchased from: Manoa Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #11 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

Today's Ko'olaupoko O'ahu Island Chocolate 70% Cacao (Spring Harvest) bar was manufactured in Hawaii by Grass Shack Industries LLC/Manoa Chocolate (Kailua, HI).

What a great opportunity to compare two 70% cacao bars, both made from Hawaiian-grown cacao growing at the same location (Ko'olaupopo* O'ahu Island), but harvested at two different times of the year (spring and winter). 

Today I'll be focused on the Spring Harvest version of this bar, and tomorrow I'll feature the Winter Harvest version of this bar. 

This bar had an aroma had green (green banana, green floral, green tea) and a very slightly bittersweet dark chocolate and faint spiced fruit (peach, red berry) notes. The melt and texture was smooth and creamy. The flavor also had green notes and additional (less faint) fruitiness. There were very fleeting earthy green (and green nut/seed) notes in one bite. Overall the flavor was complex and appealing. 

Ingredients: Cacao, organic cane sugar, cocoa butter

*Ko'olaupoko refers to a relatively small, windward district in Honolulu County, on the "east" shore of O'ahu. This district has some lush green areas where cacao grows (that are also near where this chocolate is made in Kailua).


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Manoa Chocolate - Flavors of Hawaii - Liliko'i 60% Dark Milk Chocolate (bar) - Dec. 1, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Manoa Chocolate
Flavors of Hawaii - Liliko'i 60% Dark Milk Chocolate (bar)
Good ++
Weight: 2.1 oz. (60 g.) in total bar
Calories: 360 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $9.50 for 1 bar (part of a 3-bar set)
Purchased from: Manoa Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #10 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

Today's 60% Dark Milk Liliko'i (passion fruit) chocolate from Manoa Chocolate (Kailua, Oahu, HI) was part of a 3-bar "Flavors of Hawaii"* set. 

Many fruits were brought to Hawaiian islands from either Southeast Asia/Pacific Islands or from South America. Many credit Eugene Delmar for bringing the passion fruit to Hawaii around 1880, from Australia, when it was planted on Maui (in the Liliko'i district). However, this fruit likely got its original start from South America (Brazil). Thankfully it is available in more places now so many of us can appreciate it, with or without chocolate. (Although it does pair very nicely with the latter.)

The passion fruit incorporated into this bar came from dehydrated passion fruit juice powder. Fruit powders offers tantalizing concentrated fruit inclusion possibilities for chocolate bars and confections.

Today's attractively patterned and packaged bar had an aroma with sweet tropical fruit (mango, passion fruit). It broke with a well-tempered snap and had a delightful creamy melt and texture.

The dark milk chocolate had a medium fruit acidity (mild tart-sweetness) that was tempered a bit by creamy caramel note from the milk powder. The passion fruit flavor lingered in the finish.

Manoa Chocolate beverage pairing suggestions included the following: 1.) wine - Oregon Pinot Noir; 2.) liquor - Tequila Blanco; and 3.) beer: lager.

Ingredients: Cacao, organic cane sugar, organic whole milk powder, cocoa butter, passion fruit juice powder

*The other two flavors included in this 3-bar Flavors of Hawaii set were banana (mai'a) and coconut (haupia). And these two bars will be featured later.  

Nine Fine Mynah Estates - Waillua, Oahu, HI / Madre Chocolate 70% (bar) - Nov. 30, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Nine Fine Mynah Estates
70% (bar) Made by Madre Chocolate
Good ++
Weight: 1.5 oz. (43 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 230 (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $15.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Missing information 

Welcome to Day #9 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

Today's 70% Nine Fine Mynah Estates bar was made by Madre Chocolate (Honolulu, HI).

This award-winning Hawaiian chocolate had a unique and interesting aroma and flavor. 

The aroma included caramel with herbal spice; green, woodsy (freshly cut wood); maple syrup with butter, chocolate; and authentic forest-harvested, vanilla pod notes.

The chocolate had taste (flavor) that were similar to the notes in the aroma--and medium tropical fruit (mild pineapple, guava) acidity, and light seed notes.

This bar had a creamy smooth texture. 

Ingredients: Hawaiian cacao beans, organic sugar, organic cocoa butter, whole vanilla.

 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Manoa Chocolate - Hawaiian Sea Salt 72% Chocolate (bar) - Nov. 29, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Manoa Chocolate
Hawaiian Sea Salt 72% Chocolate (bar)
Good ++
Weight: .7 oz. (20 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 120 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $4.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: SweetE Organic,* Mill Valley, CA

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

Today's Hawaiian Sea Salt 72% Chocolate (bar) was from Manoa Chocolate (Kailua, HI).

This well-balanced chocolate contained a range of sophisticated and well-behaved flavors--that one might see on a chocolate tasting wheel. 

The aroma and flavor notes were very similar to each other: 1.) fruity (medium acidity red fruit/berry, sweet tangerine, peach jam), 2,) savory salt, 3,) true chocolate (flourless chocolate tart), and 4.) faint roasted coffee, nut and earth notes. A minute or two later a very light buckwheat pancake finish was the only thing that remained.

The melt and texture for his 72% dark bar was smooth and creamy. 

This vegan, gluten free, soy free, Non-GMO, Direct Trade Hawaiian sea salt bar was crafted from bean to bar in Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii, using Hawaiian salt (made from evaporating Pacific Ocean sea water until only salt and trace minerals are left).

Suggested beverage pairings from Manoa: Wines: Sparkling and Buttery Chardonnay; Liquor: Rum; Beer: Sours and Saisons.

Ingredients: Cacao, organic cane sugar, cocoa butter and sea salt. 


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Madre Chocolate - Kona Criollo Limited Edition 70% Dark Chocolate (Kololeka Hawaii) bar - Nov. 28, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Madre Chocolate
70% Kona Criollo Limited Edition Dark Chocolate (bar) 
Kokoleka Hawai'i*
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: 1.5 oz. (43 g.) in total bar
Calories: 227 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $11.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Madre Chocolate, online order 

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

Today's Limited Edition Kona Criollo 70% Dark Chocolate (bar) was crafted by Madre Chocolate (Honolulu, HI) and is one of a series of Kokoleka Hawai'i* bars made the company.

The aroma of this bar had notes of baked goods (freshly baked bread, arrowroot spice cookies, graham cracker), very mild fruit notes (light peach, goji berry) and a green (almost floral) note I couldn't quite put my finger on (lilies?). 

The chocolate had a creamy melt and mouthfeel. Flavors included sweet nutty (roasted, naturally sweet hazelnuts, almonds), green nutty seeds (Jaguar cacao?**) notes, and a very mildly green, aromatic woodsy/rootsy (parsnip green tea with woodland flower nymphs?) finish. Any bold bitter-sweetness normally associated with conventional dark chocolate was absent.

This bar was crafted from a unique Criollo variety of cacao, yielding a very soft, suave and special tasting experience. Thank you to Nat and all at Madre for offering this bar. 

The Covid-19 virus is permitting only virtual travel (via chocolate) this month. However, if I were in Hawaii, I'd stop by Madre Chocolate and thank them personally for their work with local farmers and for making great chocolate using Hawaiian-grown cacao and inclusions over the years. 

Today's Kona Criollo bar was a largely a result of a relationship between Madre Chocolate and farmer Virginia "Gini" Choobua of Kikao Kula Cacao Farm in Holualoa, south of Kailua-Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii--an area historically known for its rich, volcanic soil and Kona coffee.

Madre Chocolate tasting notes

Th Madre Chocolate maker's tasting notes read as follows: "We have selected the finest creamy sweet Criollo cacao beans grown to make this limited edition chocolate bar for you to enjoy. Criollo is a variety bred by the Maya and their predecessors for a mild nutty non-bitter flavor that lends this bar overtones of amaretto and hazelnut rarely seen in an unflavored chocolate bar."

Ingredients: Criollo cacao, organic sugar, organic cocoa butter, whole vanilla.

* Kokoleka Hawai'i translates to Hawaiian Chocolate. Kokoleka is the Hawaiian word for chocolate.

**What is Jaguar cacao? When we eat chocolate, we are eating the seeds/beans from Theobroma cacao trees, the rock star of the Theobroma family. Much rarer is the Jaguar cacao tree (Theobroma bicolor--also known as mocambo, balamte, pataxte and white cacao). Theobroma bicolor fruit's large, slightly wrinkled white seeds are also edible, but are much milder than the seeds/beans from Theobroma cacao used to make chocolate.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Somerville Chocolate - Hawaii 70% Cacao from Papaikou, HI (bar) - Nov. 27, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Somerville Chocolate
Hawaii 70% Cacao from Papaikou, Hawaii (bar)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 2.5 oz. (70.75 g.) in total bar
Calories: 378 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $13.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Missing information

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

Today's Hawaii 70% Cacao from Papaikou, Hawaii (bar) was hand-crafted from bean to bar by Eric Parkes at Somerville Chocolate (Somerville, MA). The company is co-located with a brewery and wraps their bars using papers printed with attractive images of antique maps.

The aroma for this bar had a shape-shifting quality to it. First, I experienced a bold dark chocolate with a roasted (very faint charcoal smoke) note. However, two minutes later, the aroma grew much milder, taking on a green (green forest, green nut) scent with a very faint waxy nut note. A magic trick of sorts.

The flavor of this bar was quite sweet (high-end, dark chocolate frosting). It's likely there were bright fruity notes from the cacao that amped up the cane sugar sweetness; but it was hard to tell. (Think of bright sunshine blasting you on a black sand beach on the Big Island* of Hawaii. Beautiful. But, sometimes too much of a good thing.) 

Some cacao has a naturally bright sweet flavor, and making a 70% cacao version (with 70% cacao and 30% cane sugar), which is generally considered an "optimal" percentage in chocolate-making circles, much sweeter than another 70% bar. Today's bar may be a good example of just that.

I'd be curious to taste a 73% or even 75% version of this bar (i.e. one with less sugar) to see if I could taste more of the chocolate's nuances/fruitiness. However, those with a sweet tooth should be quite happy with this well-made bar.

The finish had a very faint, balanced astringency, and it shifted from a lingering sweet, fruit acidity to something a bit of mellow, green nut flavor at the very end.

Ingredients: Cacao, cane sugar

*The cacao used to make this dark bar was from Papaikou, which is located on the east shore of the Big Island of Hawaii (south of the Tropical Botanical Garden and bioreserve) and about 5 miles (8 km) from Hilo. The area is described as a "tropical paradise on the Hamakua coast." And, happily for us, at a few hundred feet above sea level and at approx. 19 + degrees N. Latitude, it's also well-suited for growing cacao.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Christopher Elbow Chocolates - Macadamia Hawaiian Sea Salt Dark bar - Nov. 26, 2020

Chocolate of the Day 

Christopher Elbow Chocolates
Macadamia Hawaiian Sea Salt Dark Chocolate bar
Good +
Weight: 2.65 oz. (75 g.) in total bar
Calories: 410 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $7.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Christopher Elbow Chocolates, online order

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

Today's Macadamia Hawaiian Sea Salt Dark 63% Dark chocolate bar was from Christopher Elbow Chocolates (Kansas City, MO).

This gluten free and vegan chocolate bar was speckled with toasted macadamia nut bits and infused with Hawaiian red/pink sea salt. 

The aroma reminded me of butter cookies with cashew nuts from childhood.

The flavors were a melding of smooth, sweet, rich dark chocolate, salty sparkles from the sea salt crystals and tiny, soft nutty bits. (There was also a fleeting, very faint mineral and even fainter menthol notes.*)

Ingredients: Dark chocolate (cacao mass, cocoa butter, sugar, soy lecithin, vanilla), macadamia nuts, Hawaiian Red sea salt 

*I wondered whether the fleeting mineral note might have been from the Hawaiian Red sea salt. The red color in this salt is due to red colored clay, earth. Some think this salt has a faint nutty flavor. Impurities, including small quantities of minerals can impart color and taste in sea salt. And the larger the salt grains or crystals, the more detectable flavor it might have.

The menthol note could have been from an accidental flavor inclusion or might even date back to post-harvest cacao fermentation. 


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate - Wailua Single Estate 70% Dark Palm Blossom Honey (bar) - Nov. 25, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate
Wailua Single Estate 70% Dark Palm Blossom Honey (bar)
Good ++ - +++
Weight: 2.2 oz. (62 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 330 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $15.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

Today's Wailua Single Estate 70% Dark with Palm Blossom Honey (bar) was from Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate (Kapa'a, HI), an 8-acre cacao farm (that also produces vanilla, palm blossom honey and fruits).

The geographic coordinates of this farm in Kauai are: 22.0792 degrees North (Latitude) by 159.3595 degrees West (Longitude). Above 22 degrees Latitude is a bit outside of cacao's normal growing range. (Cacao grows up to 20 degrees above or below the Equator.) But the mild, tropical climate of this lush, green northern Hawaiian island works. 

The Big Island of Hawaii further south is at 19 to 20 degrees North. The benefit: cacao growing this far north typically contains 10-15 percent more cocoa butter (fat). (Think polar bears with nice thick coats to keep them warm.)

Today's 70% Wailua dark chocolate with palm blossom honey had a complex, pleasing parfait of flavors. It started with the aroma: dark, rich chocolate with notes of ripe date and fig cookie/bar. Each bite yielded a creamy smooth melt and mouthfeel. 

The unique and well-executed bar had a dark chocolate taste with a rich, layered sweetness (sugar and honey with depth), a round, faint green (fruit tree) note, and almost buttery rich honey flavors in the middle and finish. At the end of the finish there was a faint roasted nuts note (almond, walnut, peanut). This latter nutty note lingered long enough to evoke childhood memories of peanut butter, butter and honey on toast. 

Lydgate Farms tasting notes for this bar read as follows: "The additional honey added to this bar creates a paradox: while the honey makes the chocolate taste sweeter overall, it brings out deeper tones in the dark chocolate making it feel heavier. There are darker dried fruit tones than its plain dark chocolate counterpart from the same vintage. Hints of fig, raisins and spices show in the middle, while the sweet underbelly of the honey-tones present candied walnuts on the finish. Think baklava."

Lydgate Farms suggested beverage pairing notes were thus: "Pair With: Pedro Ximénez. Why? -- This would be a "like" pairing. The honey tones of the wine would match the honey tones in the chocolate. Both the chocolate and this Spanish dessert grape have heavy mouthfeels that can stand and sing together without overpowering one over the other."

Ingredients: Lydgate Farms cacao beans, organic sugar, organic cocoa butter. Lydgate Farms palm blossom honey


Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate - Wailua Single Estate 70% Dark (bar) - Nov. 24, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate
Wailua Single Estate 70% Dark (bar)
Good ++ 
Weight: 2.2 oz. (62 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 330 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $15.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

Cacao farms have become more common in recent decades in Hawaii. Today's Wailua Single Estate 70% (bar) was from Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate (Kapa'a, HI), and 8-acre cacao farm (that also produces vanilla, palm blossom honey and fruits).

This farm produces single origin chocolate bars made using cacao grown, harvested, fermented, dried and made into chocolate on the island of Kauai, in Hawaii. (This is rare. Virtually all cacao used to make chocolate in the U.S. is grown outside the U.S.)

Today's 70% Wailua dark chocolate had a complex tasting arc--not unlike tasting a fine wine. It had an identifiable beginning, middle and finish. 

The bar had an appealing dark chocolate aroma and flavor. It had a bright fruity start, with balanced citrus (sweet, pink grapefruit), true chocolate, berry and stone fruit (tart-sweet red berry (wild strawberry) and dried mango and plum)--and fainter green banana and almond butter--notes. 

The melt and texture was relatively smooth with a faint hint of mild, balanced berry astringency/dryness and rounded wood (oak?) toward the finish. 

Lydgate Farms tasting notes for this bar read as follows: "Fleeting, light, bright fruity tones with a tinge of apricot on the start. The middle expands to a fuller, buttery orange cream, and moves to an off-dry nut butter on the finish. Taste young to enjoy the fruit tones. Aging more than 3 months will cause the chocolate to become nuttier as it off-gases acidity."

Lydgate Farms suggested beverage pairing notes: "Pair With: Buttery Chardonnay, California...Why? -- This would be a "like" pairing. The light, floral fruity tones of the chocolate would be overpowered by a red. The buttery mouthfeel of a Chardonnay would match the creamy mouthful of the smooth, mild, dark chocolate and highlight the fruit in the chocolate, which is what makes this bar unique." 

Ingredients: Lydgate Farms cacao beans, organic sugar, organic cocoa butter.


Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate - Wailua Single Estate 70% Dark Sea Salt (bar) - Nov. 23, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate
Wailua Single Estate 70% Dark Sea Salt (bar)
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: 2.2 oz. (62 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 330 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $15.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

Today's Wailua Single Estate 70% Dark Sea Salt (bar) was from Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate (Kapa'a, HI). The farm belongs to a family with a history in Hawaii that stretches back five generations.

Small-batch, artisan chocolate is made from the cacao grown on this sustainable farm off Olohena Rd., in Kapa'a, Kaui, Hawaii. (And, at least pre-Covid, the Farm also offered tours.)

This bar had an appealing dark chocolate aroma and flavor and a bright fruity start, with balanced citrus (sweet lemon peel), true chocolate, salt, berry and stone fruit (tart-sweet red berry and dried mango and plum)--and fainter green banana and almond butter--notes. 

The melt and texture was relatively smooth with a faint hint of mild, balanced berry astringency/dryness and rounded wood (oak?) toward the finish. 

This well-executed bar had complexity and the right balance of everything to make it shine--including salt and sugar (not too much, not too little).

Lydgate Farms tasting notes for this bar read as follows: "This refreshing bar hits you with salt on the tip of the tongue. The salt accentuates the fruity tones of the dark chocolate making it seem more sharp. The result is a bright burst of flavor in the beginning with a pleasant, dry, staccato finish."

Lydgate suggested beverage pairings: "Sparkling's; sweet or dry. Ciders, Saisons, Sours, and Farmhouse Ales."

Ingredients: Lydgate Farms cacao beans, organic sugar, organic cocoa butter, Hawaiian sea salt.


Sunday, November 22, 2020

Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate - Wailua Single Estate 50% Milk (bar) - Nov. 22, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate
Wailua Single Estate 50% Milk (bar)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 2.2 oz. (62 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 330 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $15.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA

Aloha and Welcome to Chocolate and Hawaii Theme Week.

Today's Wailua Single Estate 50% Milk (bar) was from Lydgate Farms Kauai Chocolate (Kapa'a, HI). The company, founded by members of a family, the fifth generation to live in Hawaii.

The company emphasizes stewardship of land and local culture, via small-scale sustainable farming and educational farm tours. (A card insert in the package illustrated the story of their farm using Kapa, a traditional Hawaiian art form with symbols on bark cloth.)

This bar had an earthy, dark chocolate aroma with a faint hint of green (Genmai-cha tea with roasted rice or barley), tempered by milk and sugar. The melt and texture were smooth and substantial; and the flavor was one of rich, dark milk chocolate. There was a faint fresh green, sweet note that lingered lightly in the finish.

Lydgate Tasting Notes: "This heavy dark milk chocolate is reminiscent of sweetened condensed milk and browned butter meets toasted cashew nuts. It has a savory, cheesy character with a velvety, intense, mouthfeel that is richer than your typical flat, sweet milk chocolate."

Lydgate's suggested beverage pairing: "Pair With: Cava Brut and other dry Sparkling's like Prosecco and Champagne...Why? -- This would be an "opposite" pairing. The heavy mouthfeel of the rich dark milk chocolate is balanced by effervescent dry bubbles, lightening the load off the tip of the tongue."

Ingredients: Lydgate cacao beans, organic whole milk powder, organic sugar, organic cocoa butter.

*Wailua is a Hawaiian word that means "two waters" or two bodies of water. It's located on the east side of Kauai. And Kapa'a (aka Kapaa) means "solid" in Hawaiian. The word "chocolate" (cacao made "solid") can be traced back to the Aztec/Nahuatl word "xocolatl" meaning bitter water--from the cacao beverage that dates back thousands of years in Central and South America. The Spaniards brought cacao to Europe and the name for the solid bars and confections they developed evolved into the word "chocolate." 

And this name eventually made its way back to the us via ships bound for America. Yes, this is a long story to link a few terms like water and chocolate, but I'm willing to go the extra nautical mile to link coastal communities and cacao.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Chatfield's - Organic Bittersweet Chocolate 70% Cacao - Premium Baking Bar - Nov. 21, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Chatfield's 
Organic Bittersweet Chocolate 70% Cacao - Premium Baking Bar
Good +
Weight: 1.17 oz. (33.3 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 200 calories in 1/3 bar
Cost: $0.99 (sale) for 1 bar 
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA 

Welcome to Day #14 of Chocolate and Peru Theme Week. 

Today's Chatfield's Organic Bittersweet Chocolate 70% Cacao bar was manufactured for Panos Brands (Rochelle Park, NJ)), in Peru.

The chocolate, designed for baking or eating, satisfied a number of dietary and consumer concerns/preferences. This vegan, fair trade certified chocolate was organic, and certified free of common allergens: "wheat, dairy, peanut, tree nut, egg, soy, fish, shellfish."

The aroma had true chocolate (fudge brownie) notes with hints of earth, green and faint smoke/umami. The melt and texture were smooth, lighter (almost fluffier) in texture than many hand-crafted dark chocolate bars. The finish was fairly balanced, chocolate brownie, without being overly sweet.

Looking at the ingredients list, the bar did have some cocoa powder added. (Sometimes added cocoa powder simply enhances "true" chocolate flavor, or it can be dutched/alkalized to create a milder, smoother chocolate flavor. It was not clear if the cocoa powder in this case was dutched or not.)

This 70% bar seemed like a reasonably priced choice for baking--that could also be eaten, or cut into pieces and enjoyed as an addition to oatmeal or trail mix.

Ingredients: Organic bittersweet chocolate (organic unsweetened chocolate, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic cocoa powder). 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Cacao Crudo - Dark Organic Cacao Paste, Unroasted Criollo Cacao, 100% (bar) - Nov. 20, 2020

Chocolate of the Day

Cacao Crudo S.r.l.
Dark Organic Chocolate Fondente 100% Peru (bar)
(Cioccolato Fondente Bio Criollo Non Tostato 100% Peru)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) / 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 180 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $ missing information 
Purchased from: Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco, CA

Welcome to Day #13 of Chocolate and Peru Theme Week. 

Today's "Organic Cacao Paste" 100% Peru bar was crafted by Cacao Crudo S.r.l. (Roma (Rome), Italy), using cacao beans grown in Peru.

The chocolate was made using high-quality, un-roasted Criollo cacao (beans). Cacao beans are generally roasted. Roasting can develop certain flavors, but can also lead to a loss of other--often more delicate or volatile--flavors (e.g. green and floral notes). 

Today's 100% Criollo cacao with bright, clean green and faint floral sweetness is a great example of what "stays in" when cacao is not roasted. This bar (and others in the Cacao Crudo line-up) exemplify what raw chocolate can be. 

This unsweetened chocolate had an aroma that evoked fresh, alive, vibrant green (plants, green coconut) with faint floral and herbal notes. It had a creamy melt and smooth texture with the occasional crunchy cacao nib particle.

The flavors included bright green cacao nibs, green coconut with light herbal/spice notes; a medium acidity (faint sour-sweet) in the second half; and a relatively low bitterness for a 100% cacao chocolate--making it potentially a potentially interesting choice for a good swathe of ultra-dark chocolate lovers who might be health conscious as well. (I plan to add pieces of this bar, if there are any leftover, to my homemade nut, seed and fruit trail mix.)

I would recommend doing a side-by-side tasting with Cacao Crudo's 90% cacao bar and today's 100% bar (or as part of a tasting flight of 100% bars). Truthfully, I prefer the company's 90% version a hair more. 

That little bit of added coconut sugar (concentrated coconut flower sap) opened up another flavor facet. Either way, so nice to be sampling chocolates with flavors un-bowed by too much roasting or sugar was fantastic. (Big thank you for that.)

Ingredients: Organic, unroasted cacao beans ("Criollo beans paste")

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