Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Hungry Buddha - Coconut Clusters Cocoa Crisp - July 8, 2020

Chocolate of the Day:

Hungry Buddha 
(Distributed by Temple Lifestyle Inc.)
Coconut Clusters Cocoa Crisp
Good 
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total package
Calories: 260 calories in 1 serving (3/4 cup)
Cost: $5.99 (estimate) for 1 package
Purchased from: missing information

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

Today's Coconut Clusters Cocoa Crisp were from Hungry Buddha (Montreal, Quebec, Canada).

The clusters had a substantial crunch and light coconut and cocoa aroma and flavor. The additional inclusions of puffed rice and cranberries added accent flavors and textures; but this was a coco + cocoa show.

West Thomas Partners - GFB - Dark Chocolate Coconut Bar - July 7, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

West Thomas Partners LLC

GFB - Coconut Cashew Bar (mini bars)
Good
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.) / 8 oz. (227 g.) in total package
Calories: 120 calories in 1 mini bar
Cost: $4.99 for 1 package of individually wrapped mini bars (2 flavors)
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA 

GFB - Dark Chocolate Coconut  (mini bars)
Good - Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.) / 8 oz. (227 g.) in total package
Calories: 120 calories in 1 mini bar
Cost: $4.99 for 1 package of individually wrapped mini bars (2 flavors)
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA 

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

Today's two GFB* Coconut Cashew and Dark Chocolate Coconut mini bars from West Thomas Partners LLC (Grand Rapids, MI) were packaged together.

Both of the coconut mini bars were individually-wrapped, chewy protein bars. But only one contained chocolate.

The plant-based protein sources included cashews, brown rice protein and pea protein.

Protein ingredients tend to muffle, or balance out, sweet and acidic flavors. For this reason, the GFB Dark Chocolate Coconut mini bar didn't appear to taste too sweet--even though the bar contained organic dates (the first ingredient**) and three more sweeteners (brown rice syrup, agave nectar and cane sugar).
 
I could taste the dark chocolate in this bar, but it was in a supporting role; and I was unable to detect any cacao flavor nuances.

*GFB stands for Gluten Free Bar

**Ingredients for Dark Chocolate Coconut mini bar: Organic dates, Complete Protein Blend (organic brown rice protein, pea protein), organic brown rice syrup, organic dark chocolate (organic chocolate liquor, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter), organic agave nectar, toasted coconut, organic brown rice, organic sunflower seeds, cocoa powder, natural vanilla flavor, natural coconut flavor, flax seed, sea salt.



Monday, July 6, 2020

Oakdale Orchards - Milk Chocolate Coconut Cashews - July 6, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Oakdale Orchards
Milk Chocolate Coconut Cashews
Good 
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) / 9 oz. (255 g.) in total package
Calories: 150 calories in 1 serving (approx. 2 Tablespoons)
Cost: $2.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

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

Today's Milk Chocolate Coconut Cashews were manufactured for Oakdale Orchards (Oakdale, CA).

For chocolate and nut lovers with a sweet tooth, this snack had an appealing description: "roasted cashews caramelized with coconut and covered in milk chocolate.

These milk chocolate drenched pieces had a sweet coconut aroma. The outer chocolate shells (shiny with confectioners glaze) had a creamy melt and mouthfeel. The inner coating was crunchy, crystallized sugar(s) with a coconut flavor. And, at the heart of each piece was a cashew nut.

These cashew confections were a bit too sweet for me. I like to taste the subtle chocolate and the nut flavors; and sugars tend to overpower these flavors. But, those with a sweet tooth who appreciate chocolate and nut candy bars would likely enjoy these.

Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, chocolate liquor, non-fat dry milk, soy lecithin - an emulsifier, vanilla), cashews, sugar, coconut; tapioca dextrin, natural flavor, butter, salt, confectioners glaze.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Bare Foods - Chocolate Coconut Chips - July 5, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Bare Foods Inc.
Chocolate Coconut Chips
Good
Weight: 1.4 oz. (40 g.) / 2.8 oz. (79 g.) in total package
Calories: Approx. 200 calories in 1/2 package
Cost: $2.99 (estimate) for 1 package
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate and Coconut Theme Week.

Today's Chocolate Coconut Chips from Bare Foods Inc. (San Francisco, CA) pare down the combination of chocolate and coconut to the very basics. The company* makes preservative-free, Non-GMO fruit and veggie baked snacks.

This simple, baked snack had mild roasted coconut aroma with nutty, cocoa notes. The crunchy, cocoa-colored coconut shavings were sweetened with coconut nectar and were not too sweet (thank you)!

The cocoa was uniformly applied and the product was a balanced melding of cocoa and coconut.

At 19 carbs for one (1/2 cup) serving these were not a low carbohydrate snack (although 6 grams of that was fiber); but they were still relatively healthy, based on the following reasoning:

 1.) This snack had only three ingredients: coconuts, coconut nectar, and unsweetened cocoa. There were no additives, preservatives or refined white sugar(s) added. (Coconut nectar is lower on the glycemic index than beet or cane (white) sugar.)

2.) These were baked, not fried. There were no palm oils or other vegetable oils that had been heated or processed along with these three ingredients. Therefore, no worry about trans fats either.

3.) This product was not organic, but it was Non-GMO Project Verified, along with being gluten free.

4.) For those who are looking for roughage, there was 6 grams of dietary fiber in 1 serving (1/2 cup).

Note: I am assuming the cocoa powder is not alkalized cocoa--that is lower in health benefits (polyphenols/anti-oxidants) and still relatively high in phosphorus (for those with kidney issues watching their phosphorus-calcium balance).

*In 2018, PepsiCo announced it was acquiring Bare Foods.


Square Organics Inc. - Chocolate Coated Coconut Organic Protein Bar + 4th of July Sundae - July 4, 2020

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Square Organics Inc.
Chocolate Coated Coconut Organic Protein Bar
Good
Weight: 1.69 oz. (48 g.) / 20.3 oz. (576 g.) in total box of 12 bars
Calories: 230 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $7.99 for 1 box of 12 bars
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

So Delicious
Chocolate (Coconut) Frozen Dessert (No Sugar Added)
(with blueberries, red plum sauce, white coconut topping)
Good
Weight: 1/2 cup (85 g.) / 1 Pint (473 mL) in total container
Calories: 130 calories in 1 serving
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #1 of Chocolate and Coconut Theme Week. Today we celebrate the 4th of July Independence Day holiday in the U.S. I enjoyed two coconut and chocolate items. One was a red, white and blue sundae in honor of today's holiday.

Chocolate Covered Coconut Organic Protein Bar
The first of today's chocolate items was the Chocolate Coated Coconut Organic Protein Bar from Square Organics Inc. (Oakland, CA).

This individually-wrapped, chocolate covered protein bar was semi-sweet with oat-y and coconut palm sugar (think slightly caramelized, brown sugar) flavors. (It also contained other forms of coconut.) The slim, filled bar had a soft chew and was a relatively satisfying snack.

"So Delicious" Chocolate Coconutmilk Sundae - Happy 4th
Today's holiday sundae was made with So Delicious* Chocolate Coconutmilk Frozen Dessert (No Sugar Added). I topped this dairy free dessert with organic blueberries, homemade red plum sauce and (white) coconut cream.

The underlying non-dairy (also certified gluten-free and vegan, and Non-GMO Project Verified) chocolate frozen dessert was fairly creamy due to its coconut milk base.

This no sugar added dessert was sweetened with monk fruit and erythritol, and it wasn't too sweet. Nor did it taste like it was artificially sweetened (Thank you on both counts.)

Alkalized cocoa made the chocolate flavor less exciting (less acidic/strong); but this is not unusual with ice cream/frozen dessert and hot cocoa market offerings. Some prefer smoother, more predictable cocoa flavor.

*So Delicious Dairy Free (founded in Oregon in the 1980s) was acquired by The WhiteWave Foods Company (Denver, CO) in 2014. And in 2017, Danone S.A. (Paris, France) became the parent company of WhiteWave Foods.

**The company also offers versions of this dessert with sugar, which I have featured on Chocolate Banquet in past years.



Saturday, July 4, 2020

Lindt - Lindor Strawberry Dark Chocolate Truffles - July 3, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Lindt and Sprungli
Lindor - Strawberry Dark Chocolate Truffles (Limited Edition)
Good
Weight: 1.27 oz. (36 g.) / 6 oz. (168 g.) in total package of 14 truffles
Calories: 230 calories in 3 truffles (1 serving)
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and Red Fruits Theme Week. 

I'd be remiss if I left out strawberries in the the red fruit line-up. This red berry blends so effortlessly with chocolate, they seem made for each other. Both cacao and strawberries originated in the Americas; however, strawberries were found further from the Equator in North and South America.

Today's Limited Edition Lindor Strawberry Dark Chocolate Truffles were manufactured in the U.S. by Lindt and Sprungli (USA) Inc. (Stratham, MA). Lindt and Sprungli is a large chocolatier based in Switzerland in business since the mid-1800s.

Like other members of Lind't Lindor truffle family, today's strawberry truffles were individually-wrapped orbs swaddled in a decorative jacquard-patterned outer wrappers.

Inside, were relatively soft rounds--sweet and creamy hollow chocolate balls injected with creamy smooth pale pink strawberry flavored fillings. Each chocolate orb yielded a consistent sweet chocolate and strawberry aroma, and had a soft, creamy smooth melt and texture throughout the tasting experience.






Thursday, July 2, 2020

Culinary Tours - Cherry Belgian Dark Chocolate (bar) - July 2, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Culinary Tours Foods
(Product of Belgium, distributed by Topco Associates)
Cherry Belgian Dark Chocolate (bar)
Good
Weight: 1.75 oz. (50 g.) / 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 280 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $ missing information
Purchased from: missing information

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and Red Fruits Theme Week.

Happy July and summer to you all. Remember the aroma, flavor and creamy texture of cherry  chocolate chip ice cream?

Today's 57% cocoa Culinary Tours Cherry Belgian Dark Chocolate bar (made in Belgium and distributed by Topco Associates LLC in Elk Grove, IL) captured this summer frozen treat experience with its cherry ice cream aroma and flavor and a smooth, creamy* dark chocolate melt and mouthfeel.

The combination of dried sour cherries and cherry flavoring (cherry with a hint of almond extract) seemed to be the same combination that perfumed chilled cherry desserts from childhood. This bit of nostalgia and virtual time travel thrown in for free was a welcome thing, as health concerns related to the Corona virus (Covid-19) have made "real" chocolate and culinary travels difficult this 4th of July holiday weekend.

Ingredients: Chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, butterfat,* dried sour cherry pieces, soy lecithin, natural flavor.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Mindo Chocolate Makers - Special Edition Raspberry Chocolate Bar - July 1, 2020

Chocolate of the Day:

Mindo Chocolate Makers 
Special Edition Raspberry Chocolate Bar
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.325 oz. (37.5 g.) / 2.65 oz. (75 g.) in total bar
Calories: 193 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $11.75 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Mindo Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate and Red Fruits Theme Week.

Today's Limited Edition Raspberry Dark Chocolate bar was from Mindo Chocolate Makers (Dexter, MI). The cacao beans used to make this Mindo bar was grown in an Ecuadorian cloud forest, and the chocolate was crafted in Michigan. (Mindo Chocolate also has a small chocolate demonstration tasting/making facility in Ecuador.)

This rich, smooth 67% dark chocolate bar had very faint malt and earth notes and genuine, tart sweet red raspberry fruit flavor from bits of freeze-dried raspberries.

The challenge with concentrated, freeze-dried red fruit flavor inclusions? Their boldness dazzles and delights, but can overshadow possible fruit notes that were present in the cacao/base chocolate. In a balanced bar, this isn't really a problem; but if you want to ferret out chocolate notes at the micro-level, you may find it difficult.

This three-ingredient* bar had a lingering, faint tart sweet fruit finish (and a few lingering raspberry seeds between my teeth that provided proof of genuine fruit content). All in all a satisfying bar.

*Ingredients: cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, freeze-dried raspberries

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

SmashMallow - Dark Chocolate Dipped Raspberry - June 30, 2020

Chocolate of the Day:

SmashMallow, LLC
Smash Mallow Dark Chocolate Dipped Raspberry
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) / 4.5 oz. (128 g.) in total package
Calories: 120 calories in 1 serving (4 pieces)
Cost: $1.99 (estimate) for 1 package
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate and Red Fruits Theme Week.

Today's package of Dark Chocolate Dipped Raspberry (marshmallows) was produced for SmashMallow, LLC (Sonoma, CA).

If one is going to have a sugary snack, then make it a good one. This slightly healthier (gluten free, Organic/GMO-free cane sugar) version of a marshmallow was light and lofty, velvety and delicious. Having grown up tasting half-stale, hot cocoa-ready marshmallows, it's always a revelation to taste the fresh, home-made or artisan variety.*

As the package was opened, a natural raspberry aroma wafted out. The partial dark chocolate dip/coat added rich flavor and balanced nicely with the sweet marshmallows--that had an impossibly light, pillowy texture. These seemed to vanish in one's mouth after chewing, leaving a clean finish, with less sugary residue than I feared. 

They might make a tasty filling for a summer campfire s'more.

However, like many sugary sweets, these could invite over-indulgence that you'd regret. So beware. (The company's suggested 4-piece serving is plenty; and the package was resealable.)

Ingredients: Organic cane sugar, tapioca syrup, invert sugar, dark chocolate (chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla), (Kosher) gelatin, water, natural raspberry flavor, fruit and vegetable juice for color, sea salt, tapioca starch. (Made with Rainforest Alliance Certified Cocoa.)

*Marshmallows were once made with a flowering plant from the mallow family that grew near marshes, thus the name marshmallow. Mallows (used medicinally by many cultures) have a naturally occurring, slightly gooey (some would say slimy) texture, which can be whipped up with sugars. 

According to the Wikipedia page for marshmallow, this confection's history may date as far back in 2,000 B.C. with the Egyptians. Early recipes might have included boiled marshmallow root and honey.

Modern day marshmallows are created with sugar, syrup, gelatin and precision machinery. Not much left to offer in the medicinal/nutritional department, but they'll satisfy a sweet tooth.




Monday, June 29, 2020

Theo Chocolate - Peanut Butter and Jelly 55% dark chocolate cups - June 29, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Theo Chocolate
Peanut Butter and Jelly (raspberry) 55% dark chocolate cups
Good ++
Weight: 1.3 oz. (36 g.) in total package
Calories: 200 calories in 1 package of 2 cups
Cost: $2.39 for 1 package
Purchased from: Sprouts Farmers Markets, Mountain View, CA

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate and Red Fruits Theme Week.

Today's Organic Peanut Butter and Jelly (raspberry) 55% dark chocolate cups were from Theo Chocolate (Seattle, WA).

Theo Chocolate was one of the first chocolate makers to offer certified fair trade, organic chocolate bars and other chocolate offerings in North America. 

Today's heart-shaped, gluten and soy free, dark chocolate "cups" had a rich dark chocolate and home-ground roasted peanut butter aroma.

Inside, well-balanced strata of creamy peanut butter above, and bright red fruit raspberry jelly (with a seed or two, if I'm not mistaken, for authenticity) below. This was a perfect layering of high-quality flavors. All this without being ultra sweet (thank you!).

By looking at the Theo website, I was able to easily see that the Fair Trade for Life cocoa used to make this chocolate came from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and that the peanut butter came from the U.S.

Theo Origin Story -- meshes with growing desires for more product transparency
Founded in 2005, Theo Chocolate produced their first organic chocolate in early 2006--six months before I started Chocolate Banquet. There weren't that many high-quality, organic options back then in California or elsewhere then. And fair trade was a new concept that consumers were trying to understand. 

Improved vendor transparency though--about ingredients, source and supply chains--was quickly becoming a product differentiator. After all, to "sell" people on paying a premium for bean-to-bar, craft chocolate, you need to talk about and celebrate your great ingredients.

I remember being happy to find Theo chocolates at a few leading edge small chocolate shops.* Theo has also continued to offer new and tasty flavor combinations. Happily there are more organic and fair trade options today, and Theo is still among them!

*Sunita de Tourreil, founder of The Chocolate Garage (now closed) (Palo Alto, CA) and Elana Turchon, owner, SweetE Organics (Mill Valley, CA) were a few of the innovative retailers in the San Francisco Bay Area who helped introduce people to Theo and other organic and other craft chocolate options. (It's difficult to name them all, but Chocolate Covered, Fog City News, Bi-Rite Market, Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco and a few shops in the East Bay and South Bay that are no longer open, also were and/or continue to be instrumental.) High-end grocery stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts Farmers Markets, etc. joined in as well.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Oakland Chocolate Company - Raspberry Chocolate Truffle - June 28, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

The Oakland Chocolate Company
Raspberry Chocolate Truffle (vegan)
Good +
Weight: .49 oz. (13.8 g.) (estimate) in 1 truffle
Calories: 73 calories (estimate) in 1 truffle
Cost: $2.50 for 1 truffle
Purchased from: Oakland Chocolate Company, online order

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate and Red Fruit Theme Week.

Today's vegan Raspberry Chocolate Truffle was from The Oakland Chocolate Company (Oakland, CA).

This chocolate truffle had authentic, balanced natural raspberry flavor (and even a few tiny raspberry seeds) in a base of smooth dark chocolate. Very satisfying, and not too sweet (thank you chief chocolate maker and flavor meister Nancy Nadel).

Nadel has specialized in making chocolate bars and bonbons using Jamaica-grown cacao for many years.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Ranger Chocolate Company - Specialty Bar Cherry and Vanilla Sea Salt - June 27, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Ranger Chocolate Company
Specialty Bar - Cherry and Vanilla Sea Salt
Good ++
Weight: .49 oz. (13.8 g.) (estimate) in total square
Calories: 72 calories (estimate) in 1 square
Cost: $3.00 for 1 square
Purchased from: Ranger Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate and Red Fruits Theme Week.

Today's Specialty Bar - Cherry, Vanilla Sea Salt (a small, individually-wrapped square) was made by Ranger Chocolate Company (Portland, OR) was topped with a dried Hood River cherry and vanilla sea salt.

The cherry had multi-layered, naturally sweet, fruity and tart, aroma, flavor and texture; it was the star here. A beautiful example of tasty condensed (dried) red fruit flavor, atop a piece of high-end chocolate. Ranger chocolate makers could have stopped there. But, they added a sprinkle of coarse, flavored sea salt crystals, that played very nicely with the chocolate and cherry.

Flavored sea salts are not unusual; and the flavors usually lean toward the savory or smoky side. Vanilla infused sea salt was interesting and unusual; it integrated a traditionally "sweet" flavor with salt.

I saw and tasted the crystals of sea salt. but I might have been missed the fact that the subtle vanilla was part of the sea salt and not part of the chocolate or cherry. All harmonized well.

Several wonderful flavors were distilled down into a tiny block of real estate in today's square. The only trouble with this small size was that it was difficult to go back and re-taste this chocolate over a period of an hour or two (when flavors can shift and unfold).



Friday, June 26, 2020

Sprouts Farmers Market - Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola (with honey) - June 26, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Sprouts Farmers Market
Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola (with honey)
Good - Good +
Weight: 1 cup (60 g.) (2 servings) / 12 oz. (340 g.) in total package
Calories: 240 calories in 1 cup (2 servings)
Cost: $5.99 for 1 package
Purchased from: Sprouts Farmers Market, Mountain View, CA

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate, Bees and Trees Theme Week; and Day #1 of Chocolate and Red Fruit Theme Week. (The red fruits featured today were cherries and red plums.)

Today's Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola was made for Sprouts Farmers Market(s) (based in Phoenix, AZ).

This granola had a light, satisfying crunchy texture and was full of sweet chocolate and oat flavors, with spikes of dried cherry. This granola also was sweetened with honey. (Thank you bees.) 

I enjoyed 1 serving of this dark chocolate granola for breakfast. Later in the day I enjoyed a second serving, in the form of a tasty homemade ice cream parfait with this granola as one of three layers. 

The other two layers were: 1.) vanilla, hazelnut and chocolate fudge ice cream with a touch of whiskey, and 2.) red plums--freshly picked from a tree, washed and simmered with pine tree honey to make a red fruit sauce/topping. (Thanks Bill for sharing your plum harvest/windfall.) Bees seem to like these plum trees as well.* The fresh, cooked red plums with pine honey was a great complementary flavor and added some rich magenta red color.

Add a few blueberries and you might enjoy this red, white and blue (and chocolate) all-American dessert next week as part of the 4th of July Independence Day holiday here in the U.S.  

*Insects (including bees) and the wind pollinate many fruit trees, including cacao fruit trees and plum trees. Caca trees are primarily pollinated by midges--small insects that resemble tiny flies or mosquitos.




5,000 Different Chocolates and Counting - Thank you all!

5,000 Different Chocolates and Counting

Last month I sampled my 5,000th chocolate. Thank you to all who have made this possible.
To put the number 5,000 into perspective, I've included some thoughts below.

Many chocolates, many hands - The 5,000 different chocolates I've featured, were products from more than 1,500 different companies or suppliers--ranging from large corporations to small craft chocolate makers.

5,000 cocoa beans - It takes approximately 5,000 cocoa beans to produce 10 pounds of chocolate. The 5,000 chocolates I've sampled weighed more than 313 pounds (141 kg.), meaning I may have consumed more than 156,000 cocoa beans over this past 13+ years.

Busy Bees - Since I've been talking about bees and honey this week, here's an interesting statistic that puts this my milestone number in perspective: Bees can visit up to 5,000 flowers--in one day.* It's mind-opening to think these important pollinators work this hard. By comparison, I look like a slow-moving slug. It took me more than 13 years to track down and eat 5,000 different chocolates.

Chocolate exports - Shipments of chocolate have gone up and down across the globe in the last few centuries, mostly up, as the shift from drinking chocolate to finished chocolate bars and confections progressed. Exports of chocolate from Switzerland to France increased from less than 1,200 tons in 1913 to nearly 5,000 U.S. tons by 1917.

A century later, Switzerland's chocolate exports (to the world) are north of 132,000 U.S. tons; 2018 estimate). In 2019, France still had a healthy trading relationship with its chocolate neighbor...France imported $106.4 million (USD) worth of chocolate(s) from Switzerland, despite growing imports from other European countries in this area over time.

5,000 pound candy bar - Earlier this year (Jan. 2020), Hershey's Chocolate Co. announced a record-setting chocolate-nut (Reese's Take 5) bar that weighed 5,943 pounds (2,695 kilos). It was 2.74 meters long--or 9 feet x 5.5 feet in size. That's a lot of chocolate, any way you slice it. I'm sure another large chocolate producer is already working to break this chocolate-nut bar record, if they haven't already.

$5,000 bills - Trivia item - At one time the U.S. printed $5,000 dollar bills. They are now collector's items. I am hoping I find one. That would almost cover a year's worth of daily chocolates and chocolate-related expenses. (Craft chocolate bars range from $8.00 - $14.00 each.)

*Source for the up to 5,000 bee visits per day to flowers number: beehealth.bayer.us website - Bee Facts - Bee Health.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Square Organics, Inc. - Chocolate Coated Nuts and Sea Salt Organic Protein Bar - June 25, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Square Organics, Inc.
Chocolate Coated Nuts and Sea Salt Organic Protein Bar
Good 
Weight: 1.6 oz. (44 g.) / 18.6 oz. (528 g.) in total box of 12 bars
Calories: 210 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $7.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate, Bees and Trees Theme Week.

Today's Chocolate Coated Nuts and Sea Salt Organic Protein Bar was distributed by Square Organics, Inc. (Oakland, CA).

This individually-wrapped bar had a light mildly nutty, coconut caramel cookie aroma. The chocolate coating had a smooth, relatively rapid melt and relatively velvety mouthfeel. 

The sweet chocolate complemented a satisfying, sweet oat and nut cookie-like filling with a soft chew. Brown rice protein added some heft; and a hint of sea salt helped balance the sweetness. The bar had a relatively mild and clean finish.

Why feature this bar as part of a Chocolate, Bees and Trees Theme Week?

The number one ingredient* in this vegan protein bar was organic coconut nectar (the sweetener made from coconut blossom sap), gathered by farmers high up in the under-canopy of coconut trees.**

*Ingredients: Organic Coconut Nectar, Organic Whole Grain Brown Rice Protein, Organic Dark Chocolate (Organic Cocoa Liquor, Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Almond Butter, Organic Oats, Organic Cashews, Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Cocoa Liquor, Organic Almonds, Sunflower Lecithin, Sea Salt"

**Coconut Palm Tree Sugar
In Northeast North America, maple-leafed maple sugar candies are venerated confections. The impossibly sweet, amber brown-sugar colored candies, made from maple tree sap, had a velvety texture and melt. (Honeybees are also attracted to maple trees--to their tiny flowers and sap.) And maple sugar/syrup also provide a flavorful sweetener for certain chocolates.

In warmer climates, sugars are derived from different palm trees, including 1.) Sugar palms (Arenga pinnata, aka areng palm or black sugar palm); 2.) Coconut palm sugar/nectar trees (Cocos nucifera); and 3.) Date palm trees (Phoenix dactylifera)--where date sugar is extracted from the fruit (date) instead of the tree's sap or nectar. 

Today's featured sweetener, coconut palm sugar is made by heating , stirring, and reducing nectar down to a thick sweet syrup. The steps are similar to the maple syrup/sugar making process; although in Southeast Asia large woks are sometimes used instead of large pots to condense the liquid sap.

When I was traveling through Vietnam (where cacao also grows) and Cambodia, I noticed someone using a bamboo "ladder" to climb a very tall coconut tree near an old stone temple. This coconut nectar farmer worked with very minimal equipment (safety or otherwise) to harvest the sweet liquid. Farmers bring up and attach bamboo or plastic "pails," then bring down these containers containing liquid nectar from the flower bearing part of the tree which may be made into syrup or sugar or coconut candy.

Like many unprocessed sugars, coconut sugar can add a slight warmth or faint caramel flavor to chocolate, which worked nicely with today's protein bar. (It also scores lower on the glycemic index than white cane or beet sugars.)



Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Ranger Chocolate - 66% Cacao with Maple Sugar (bar) - June 24, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Ranger Chocolate
66% Cacao with Maple Sugar (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.125 oz. (32 g.)/ 2.25 oz. (64 g.) in total bar
Calories: 169 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $12.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Ranger Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate, Bees and Trees Theme Week.

Today's 66% Cacao with Maple Sugar (bar) was from Ranger Chocolate (Portland, OR)--a company that has a tree graphic as part of their logo.

The company has paired sweet maple sugar crystals (made from maple tree sap) with a "bold, fruit forward Trinitario cacao." 

This thick, aromatic bar smelled great. It had a rich chocolate and authentic maple sugar aroma and flavor with faint molasses, spice and fruit notes.

The melt was long and smooth and became more creamy in texture as you could get your mouth around each relatively thick bite. Patience was rewarded. And the finish was clean, fading with a light trace of maple and faint spice. Given the potentially cloying flavor of maple sugar, this was relatively well balanced in terms of flavors and the Trinitario cacao fruitiness was able to shine through a bit, enhanced by the maple.

Maker's tasting notes read: "strawberry and maple syrup."

Tree sugars
Most chocolate bars and confections in the U.S. are flavored with cane sugar and perhaps beet sugar.
Honey from beehives in trees, tree fruit and blossoms, and and tree sap(s) also have been time-honored sweeteners. Maple sugar (from tree sap) and palm coconut sugar (made from the sap of flower buds) are two examples of the latter. It's been a treat to feature chocolates with some of these "tree" related sweeteners this week.


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Nordi - Juniper and Amber Caramel Dark Chocolate (bar) - June 23, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Fazer Confectionery
Nordi Juniper and Amber Caramel Naturally Flavored Dark Chocolate (bar)
Good 
Weight: 1.67 oz. (47.5 g.) / 3.35 oz. (95 g.) in total bar
Calories: 255 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $1.99 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, Palo Alto, CA

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate, Bees and Trees Theme Week.

Today's Nordi Juniper and Amber Caramel Naturally Flavored Dark Chocolate (bar) was from Fazer Confectionery (Vantaa, Finland).

Fazer is a large Finnish company that produces a range of baked goods (e.g. organic rye bread), confectionery items (e.g. chocolate sandwich and other cookies) and chocolate bars and confections.

The aroma of today's 70% cocoa, Non-GMO project verified dark chocolate bar was both simple and complex. Different intervals yielded different notes -- simple, smooth dark chocolate at one pass, then sweet, almost savory (salt) and vaguely herbal floral and fruit related aromas. Every third bite or so yielded a faint hint of natural juniper*/pine aroma/flavor.

The smooth dark chocolate base was punctuated with sweet sparkles of crunchy caramel (sugar, glucose).

The flavors were relatively subtle and well balanced. I wouldn't have minded tasting a version that had a bit more juniper and a pinch of sea salt. 

*Junipers are needle-leafed evergreens that range from large shrubs to tall trees up to 40 feet (13 meters) in temperate zones. They can be found spread throughout northern latitudes. Juniper berries (the female seed cones produced by many juniper species) are the most commonly eaten part of a juniper tree and these berries have been used by Europeans and Native Americans in food and medicines for centuries. 

For the epicurious: Juniper berries are used in meat and stew recipes, in marinades, syrups, and as a flavoring for gin and other beverages. 

Trees in general provide many edible items that can be paired with chocolate. Spruce, pine and birch (downy and silver) trees are commonly encountered trees in Finland (where this chocolate bar was made). In many countries pine nuts, pine needles and pine bark have been consumed; so juniper berries would not have been such a great leap from here. (Sahti beer in Finland includes a juniper flavoring.)







Monday, June 22, 2020

Vosges - Raw Honey Cacao Chocolate bar - June 22, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Vosges IP, LLC
Raw Honey Cacao Chocolate bar
Good 
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.) / 3 oz. (85 g.) in total bar
Calories: 140 calories in 1/3 bar
Cost: $8.00 (plus shipping) for 1 bar
Purchased from: VosgesChocolate.com online order

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate, Bees and Trees Theme Week.

Today's Raw Honey Cacao bar was from Vosges IP, LLC (Chicago, IL), a company founded by well-traveled chocolatier, Katrina Markoff. (Her first creation was the Naga truffle, inspired by the flavors of India.)

Vosges Chocolate (aka Vosges Haut Chocolat) is a successful brand, known for their innovative, beautiful packaging (with designs and images suitable for framing, and perhaps inspired by fashion, makeup, food stylists and photos); their lovely descriptions of natural and exotic flavor inclusions--and, unfortunately, not for their chocolate. (In fairness, the company have not represented themselves as a single origin, bean-to-bar craft chocolate company that is source-transparent either.)

Today's 100% cacao chocolate base was made with cacao that was alkalized--a process, often used by large, bulk chocolate manufacturers to cut acidity and create a much milder chocolate flavor. This process also hides flaws in lower grade cacao, by neutralizing strong or objectionable flavor elements. Unfortunately,  desirable fruit, floral and other cacao flavor notes are also lost. Think American-style powdered hot chocolate made with alkalized cocoa vs. thick, dark and flavorful South American drinking chocolate. Some prefer the former for its predictable, mild cocoa flavor, usually mixed with a healthy dose of sugar and a comforting hint of added vanillin or vanilla extract or marshmallows.

The chocolate used for Vosges and Wild Ophelia bars has a bulk, commercial taste to it, often with a slightly waxy melt. The focus seems to let the (quite wonderful) flavor inclusions shine. Less flavorful chocolate doesn't overwhelm the featured flavors. Or it could be that the Vosges customer base doesn't care for the stronger taste of bean-to-bar chocolate. Or, it could be that using bulk chocolate is just a lot more economical. (Financial risks tend to be higher for bean-to-bar chocolate makers.) There is very little information about where the cacao or chocolate comes from on the Vosges website.

Today's raw honey bar was described as being: "Divinely decadent, Midwestern raw honey wildflower nectar harmonizes the intensity of the 100% cacao experience." 

It was certainly the tamest "100% cacao" bar I'd ever tasted. It had a mild cocoa aroma with a faint coconut note. The honey* did sweeten this chocolate nicely, I'm not sure how it could be labeled "100% Cacao" with honey in it, but that is another topic. (Perhaps the 100% label could be legally allowable if the honey is only a tiny percent by weight.)

In keeping with the Bees and Trees theme this week, I will also mention that Vosges offers a Tree Mylk bar (made with hazelnuts), in addition to bars and truffles with honey. Again, the flavor combinations are always wonderful. I hope there might be a higher end chocolate one day to match Katrina's inspired blends of spices, flowers, fruits, and other lovelies.

*Ingredients: Unsweetened chocolate processed with alkali, raw honey, cocoa butter

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Bees and Beans - Honey Bar Jr. - June 21, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Bees and Beans
Honey Bar Jr.
Good
Weight: .7 oz. (20 g.) in 1 small bar
Calories: 100 calories in 1 small bar
Cost: $1.95 for 1 small bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate, Bees and Trees Theme Week.

Today's Honey Bar Jr. was from Bees and Beans (Portland, OR). Several years ago, this small outfit set out to re-invent the traditional candy bar, using local ingredients from Oregon. Great idea, given the access to honey, hazelnuts and possible craft chocolate partners in the Portland area. I think they've succeeded.

The Honey Bar Jr. had a core of sweet honey caramel and hazelnut nougat (real egg whites, flecks of real hazelnut) was dipped in dark chocolate, creating a flavorful high-end candy bar. No preservatives or anything artificial; it was a honey of a sugar bomb though.

This bar's small, "junior" size was just right. Any bigger and you might have a hard time dividing this with a friend or family member on a hot day, when the gooey-sticky factor increases. While this bar is securely sealed in the wrapper (thank you), be careful not to store this treat in a pocket or the bottom of a lunch bag as you may need a napkin when opening and consuming. 

Sea salt, butter and hazelnuts helped to balance the high level of sugar* in this caramel and nougat confection. 

*Ingredients: Sugar, honey, chocolate (cacao beans, sugar, cocoa butter, sunflower lecithin, vanilla beans), cream, hazelnuts, butter, egg whites, salt, vanilla extract (water, alcohol, sugar, vanilla bean).

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Nuance Chocolate - Honey and Lavender Truffle - June 20, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Nuance Chocolate
Honey and Lavender Truffle
Good+ - Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28 g.) for 1 truffle (per website)
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1 truffle
Cost: $3.80 for 1 truffle
Purchased from: Nuance Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate, Bees and Trees Theme Week.

Today's hand-rolled and enrobed Honey and Lavender Truffle was from Nuance Chocolate (Fort Collins, CO).

This generously sized, rich-tasting 70% dark chocolate truffle was filled with a creamy dark chocolate ganache. Using high-quality chocolate for confections like this does make a difference. A truffle does not have to be sugar-dominant (thank you Nuance!).

Each bite filled the senses with balanced and authentic lavender (essential oil) aroma and flavor. The sweetness was brought to you by...local wildflower honey. Thank you Colorado bees.




Friday, June 19, 2020

Dick Taylor - Bee Pollen and Fennel 70% Brazil Dark Chocolate (bar) - June 19, 2020

Chocolate of the Day:

Dick Taylor
Bee Pollen and Fennel 70% Brazil Dark Chocolate (bar)
Good +++
Weight: 2 oz. (57 g.) in total bar
Calories: 300 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $9.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate and Brazil Theme Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate, Bees and Trees Theme Week.

Today's Bee Pollen and Fennel 70% Brazil Dark Chocolate - Seasonal Release bar was made by Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate (Eureka, CA).

Fennel was a great choice for this seasonal bar. It has a naturally sweet, licorice-like aromatic scent and aroma. It's June and bees and other pollinators are feasting on spring flowers. These helpful insects rely on different plants later in the year, including fennel.*

The first whiff of this bar was all bold, deep dark (Forastero-like) cocoa, with a slight roasted coffee note. Returning to this bar 3-5 minutes later, the aroma was a more balanced blend of dark (more Trinitario-like) cocoa balanced with light herbal (fennel, caraway) and floral (pollen) notes. (Yes, another example of why one should eat a good chocolate slowly...and re-taste at intervals if you have patience. Flavors do un-fold.)

The back of this ebony-colored bar was a tapestry of gold and green. The base chocolate had a creamy melt and texture; and the smooth chocolate with light tart fruit notes was accented by slightly crunchy fennel* seeds and a healthy smattering of bee pollen. 

The tasting experience melded garden spice and aromatic and flavorful sweet fennel notes with buttery honey and floral pollen notes--all without being too sweet (thank you!).

The flavors lingered pleasantly in the finish. What a fun and enjoyable bar.

*Currently, towering stalks of fennel (trees almost) are covered with delicate green (edible) fronds; they will become a valuable food later in the year. Although sometimes considered an invasive plant here in California, every part of the fennel plant is edible, and beneficial insects and birds love fennel. 

When the fennel forest in my side yard puts out grains of sweet, delicious yellow pollen in summer, bees and other pollinators (along with a few human tasters) will be enjoying this yellow "candy.". By September, green fennel seeds can be harvested and eaten and used in cookies, cakes, digestives...and chocolate. Birds will nibble on the rest.





Thursday, June 18, 2020

Dick Taylor - Vanilla Milk Chocolate bar - June 18, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Dick Taylor
Microbatch Vanilla Milk Chocolate bar
Good +++ - Very Good
Weight: 2 oz. (57 g.) in total bar
Calories: 300 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $8.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Dick Taylor, online order

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

Today's Microbatch 55% Vanilla Milk Chocolate bar was made by Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate (Eureka, CA)--in early spring 2020 as news about Covid-19 virus related shutdowns and quarantines was spreading around the globe. This bar was described as a special treat, a comforting bar for uncertain times, in the makers' write-up.

Expectations run high with any chocolate from Dick Taylor founders Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor. Past reviews of chocolate from this duo include glowing adjectives and phrases like they "put the craft in craft chocolate." (True statement.) They consistently deliver great chocolate. And today's bar was no exception.

A similar milk chocolate bar in less capable hands might be smooth, uniformly ultra-sweet and over vanilla'ed and perhaps a little gummy. And any unique single origin chocolate aroma/flavor notes might be muted or undetectable.

When I gently tore open this brown paper wrapper, the first aroma was a pleasing dark chocolate and not vanilla. Then a very natural vanilla bean note appeared, then dark milk chocolate, and then another, slightly different vanilla whiff. Layered, high-quality flavors. The sign of a very capable maker. 

First contact revealed a texture that was beyond creamy. The ultra-satisfying melt and mouthfeel was partly due to the milk used -- Alexandre Family Farm "A2/A2" whole (possibly 6%) fat milk.*

Chocolate (with faint notes of tart fruit and balanced earth) and vanilla flavors washed over the palette in politely impeccable creamy, subtly flavored waves, that receded just as gracefully.

I am inspired by the hard work and skills of great makers who send love letters to us in the form of great products and special micro-batches. In this case inspiration was derived from a wonderfully flavored vanilla milk chocolate bar.

*Not all milk is the same. Modern dairy milk sold in your local grocery store contains at least some (or all) A1 beta-casein protein. Today's Dick Taylor bar was made with A2/A2 whole milk from Alexandre Family Farm in Crescent City in Northern California. (The company offers a 6% whole milk.) Why is A2 milk protein better? Short answer: the more traditional A2 milk protein can be easier to digest than modern cow milk containing A1 protein.

(Water) buffalo and certain dairy cow milk(s) contain A2 proteins. The buffalo milk I tasted locally also had a great, creamy texture and mild/clean flavor. (I reviewed a buffalo milk hot chocolate and another chocolate bar made with buffalo milk a few years ago.)

Ingredients: Organic cacao, organic cane sugar, organic A2/A2 whole milk powder, organic cocoa butter, organic vanilla bean

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Mission Chocolate - Three Theos - Cacao, Bicolor, Cupuacu bar - June 17, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Mission Chocolate
Three Theos - Cacao, Bicolor, Cupuacu (bar)
Good +
Weight: 2.12 oz. (60 g.) in total bar
Calories: 330 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $11.00 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocolate Covered, San Francisco, CA

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

Today's "Three Theos - Cacao, Bicolor, Cupuacu" dark chocolate bar was created by Mission Chocolate (Sao Paulo, Brazil).

This 70% dark chocolate bar was made with conventional cacao (Theobroma cacao solids and cocoa butter)--and with two related Theobroma* flavor inclusions: cupuacu fruit and candied bicolor seeds. The result was a unique Theobroma and Brazil immersion experience. (Virtual travel through food. Skip the jet lag, and enjoy the flavors.)

The chocolate bar aroma had notes of honey, fruit vinegar, chocolate, molasses and faint spice.
The first bite was enough to reveal an interesting melange of tastes and textures.
A generous constellation of sweet, tart squares of cupuacu fruit with sweet tangerine, light pineapple, candied papaya, and cacao fruit notes occupied the back side of this bar. Nestled among the fruit were
good-sized pieces of light-colored and lightly caramelized bicolor seeds--that added soft crunch and mild flavor. Echoes of fruit and seed lingered in the finish and aftertaste

*The name of this bar is based on botanical contributions from three members of the Theobroma genus: Theobroma cacao, Theobroma bicolor and Theobroma Cupuacu. The first of these three is the most well-known and its seeds/beans are used to make milk and dark chocolates.

Species in the Theobroma genus are part of the Malva or Mallow (Malvaceae) family of plants.


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Gallette Chocolates - 40% Milk Chocolate bar - June 16, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Gallette Chocolates
40% Milk Chocolate bar
Good +
Weight: 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 500 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $9.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

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

Today's 40% Milk Chocolate bar was from Gallette Chocolates (Sao Paolo, Brazil)--and it was the third Gallette chocolate bar made with Brazilian cacao that I've featured this week.

This 40% milk chocolate confection had a delightful caramel aroma. It was smooth and unapologetically sweet. Could I taste the chocolate underneath? No, not really. Maybe a tiny, slightly tart spark of Trinitario cacao (Bahia) fruit flavor with a micro-sliver of green fuel. At only 40 percent cacao solids....chocolate becomes more about the sugar. 

Earlier this week, I sampled a Gallette 70% robust Forastero bar from Bahia. And yesterday's Gallette 56% dark milk chocolate bar attempted a high dive into the middle of the Goldilocks zone* of the chocolate pool--running a risk of failing to satisfy tastes on either end. One could catch a glimmer of the cacao origins through the sweetness in the 56%-er where some cacao and milk/dairy flavors were still detectable.**

Today's 40% cacao honey-red toned beauty, dripping with caramel, lounged at the shallow end of the pool, shrugging its shoulders. It seemed to say: "What do you want? I am beautiful. I come from a good family, I engage in sustainable and fair trade practices. Take me or leave me; but your hankering for caramelized sugar, whole milk with a hint of cocoa will be satisfied." (Indeed it was.)***

*Goldilocks might have enjoyed tasting chocolates...

The Goldilocks zone reference dates back to a fairy tale,"Goldilocks and the Three Bears," from the 1800s. An early version was written by an Englishman, John Southey, and first was published as "The Story of the Three Bears" in the 1830s. A young Goldilocks (girl) character became more developed as the story grew more child-friendly in subsequent retellings.

In the story, Goldilocks visits a bears' home while the bears are away; and she searches for things that are not too hot or cold (bowls of porridge), not too big or small (chairs), and not too hard or soft (beds), ....until she finds things that are just right for her tastes.

More recently, the "Goldilocks zone" has come to mean an area around a star that might be habitable by life as we know it. A planet ripe for further study needs to be: not too hot (too close to a star, and not too cold (too far away from a star); and it needs to have the right amount of water; etc. 

The phrase "Goldilocks principle" has also been used in other contexts to refer to a balanced, middle ground (or something that is "just the right amount" as far as physical traits/parameters are concerned, and to quests for an impossible perfect middle, as in a search for the perfect mate.

**I look forward to trying higher percentage Gallette Chocolates bars made with Brazilian cacao (and other origins) in the future; and thank you to the family/founder(s) for helping to bring back great Brazilian cacao.

***Ingredients: cocoa beans, sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter and soy lecithin (emulsifier)




Monday, June 15, 2020

Gallette Chocolates - Para Parazinho (Brazil) 56% Dark Milk Chocolate bar - June 15, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Gallette Chocolates
Para Parazinho (Brazil) 56% Cacao Dark Milk Chocolate bar
Good 
Weight: 3.5 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 545 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $9.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

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

Today's Para Parazinho (Bahia, Brasil) 56% Cacao Dark Milk Chocolate bar was from Gallette Chocolates LTDA (Sao Paulo, Brazil). 

Like yesterday's 70% (Brazil) bar from Gallette, the cacao used to make this bar was grown in the Brazilian state of Bahia--the largest cacao-producing state in the country.

This chocolate had a dairy milk and sweet caramel aroma and flavor; and a creamy. slightly waxy melt and smooth texture. Hidden under the milk, sugar and cocoa butter was a faint earthy, bold chocolate note, and a clean finish.

Ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter and soy lecithin (emulsifier)


Sunday, June 14, 2020

Gallette Chocolates - Bahia (Brazil) Forastero 70% Chocolate bar - June 14, 2020

Chocolate of the Day:

Gallette Chocolates
Bahia Forastero 70% Chocolate bar
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.52 oz. (43 g.) / 3.53 oz. (100 g.) in total bar
Calories: 230 calories in 1 serving (9 squares) of bar
Cost: $9.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

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

Today's Bahia Forastero 70% Chocolate bar was from Gallette Chocolates LTDA (Sao Paolo, Brazil). 

Bahia is a state in northeastern Brazil (bigger than California, but smaller than Texas), is currently the largest producer/exporter of cacao in Brazil (a country about 86.6% the size of the U.S.).

Brazil, the world's sixth largest cacao producer once occupied the number two spot. However, a fungal disease decimated cacao trees and caused a decades-long steep decline in Brazil's cacao market from starting around 1989. The Forastero variety/strains of cacao, known to be more robust and disease-resistant (than more delicate heritage varieties), have played a large part in the country's rebounding cacao industry in recent years.

Today's Forastero 70% dark bar had an aroma with deep cocoa (dark drinking chocolate), light umami* and very faint, almost tart, processed green/green fuel notes. The melt was smooth with a very slight astringency/roughness in the texture--that was not really objectionable and almost vanished after the first bite or two. 

In fact the overall flavor of this chocolate seemed to improve as the tasting progressed. 

Iniitally all I tasted was deep and dark with a slightly roasted cocoa flavor and a mellow, almost marshmallow sweet overtone I associate with Forastero cacao-based chocolate. It had a nicely balanced bitterness to it.

After four tastings over as many hours I was tasting a bit of fruit (cherry notes) and a hint of nuts (walnut). Always re-taste chocolate over the course of the day if you can hold back that long. Flavors do evolve.

Forastero flights of fancy

You flavor fanciers may have enjoyed wine, beer and whiskey tasting flights, no? Well, this works with fine flavored chocolates as well.

This Gallette 70% chocolate made me want to pair this bar with other makers' Forastero-based 70% (or thereabouts) chocolate bars. Side-by-side tastings make it easier to detect subtle flavor nuances. Forastero cacao beans are known for their bold and "dense" flavor. So, rather than compare a Forastero-based chocolate with, e.g., a delicate complex rose of a Criollo heritage bar where the two might obliterate or depreciate each other, a flight of Forastero bars might be more edifying.

Umami

*Umami, or slightly savory, flavor(s) in chocolate are thought to be undesirable, a flaw if you will, by some chocolate tasters. I've always appreciated these flavor notes myself when they are well-behaved. Certain flavors arrive as unwanted dinner guests at some dinner tables. As long as they're relatively well-behaved and not too loud (and keep one foot on the floor at all times), I consider umami aroma/flavor notes to be interesting company. Otherwise we'd all be forced to eat the same dark chocolate pudding day after day. And wouldn't that be dull? 

BTW, I see on the Gallette website a box of small wedge-shaped chocolate confections that look like a cheese box filled with "cheese" wedges...If I can ever find this Gallette offering in the U.S., I will include these in my next Chocolate and Umami Theme Week.



Saturday, June 13, 2020

Crow & Moss - Brazilian Santos Coffee 67% Chocolate bar - June 13, 2020

Chocolate of the Day:

Crow and Moss
Brazilian Santos Coffee 67% Chocolate bar
Good +++ - Very Good
Weight: 1.23 oz. (35 g.) / 2.47 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 185 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $8.75 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate and Brazil Theme Week.

Today's Brazilian Santos Coffee* 67% Chocolate bar was from Crow and Moss (Petoskey, MI).

This bar had a rich, roasted coffee aroma, with notes of roasted nut, chocolate and a very faint wisp of umami/savory/hickory smoke. There was a wonderful, naturally sweet aroma to the coffee that I've not found in cacao. (Sweetness in chocolate can be perceived via "fruit" flavor notes from cacao, but often comes from sugar or added sweetener.)

The Honduras-grown cacao Crow and Moss used to make this bar complemented the Brazilian coffee very well, offering a bit of tart, fruit or berry flavor, a faint green note, and a bit of the nut and roasted notes.

The texture was a blend of smooth and crunchy with each bite triggering a cascade of rich, lovely flavor(s). The grind was uniformly perfect (not too gritty, fresh-tasting--thank you!). This was a truly great bean-to-breakfast-bar.

And yes, 67% cocoa chocolate does have a fair amount of sugar, but the coffee helped reduce and balance the sweetness. The bitterness/bitter acidity level of this three-ingredient** coffee bar was relatively low allowing subtle flavors to be savored.

Coffee History, Parallels with Cacao
Brazil is currently the largest producer and exporter of coffee (more than 2.6 million metric tonnes per year in 2019). Coffee originated in Ethiopia, and made its way to Europe.

The Dutch and the French brought coffee to the Caribbean/Americas in the late 1600s and early 1700s and by the early 1700s, the first coffee plants were growing in Brazil. For cacao/chocolate fans, coffee's origin story will sound familiar. Sadly, slave labor was part of the spread of coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea and other crops to European colonies in the Caribbean/the Americas as well as to African, Asian and other island nations close to the Equator.

In 2020, (West) Africa is the largest producer/exporter of cacao--a crop that originated in Central and South America. And Brazil is the largest producer/exporter of coffee, a crop that had its start in (Northern) Africa.

*Santos Coffee from Brazil is said to be a descendant of Bourbon coffee (Coffea arabica) originally grown on the Isle of Bourbon (Reunion), east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Santos is also the name of a port city in Brazil, through which a high volume of coffee exports have moved.

**Ingredients: Honduran cacao beans, organic cane sugar, Brazilian Santos Coffee.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Harper Macaw - Winter's Cheer 70% Dark Chocolate, Candied Orange Peel, Dried Cranberry bar - June 12, 2020

Chocolate of the Day:

Harper Macaw
Winter's Cheer
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 2.5 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 375 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $11.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Harper Macaw, online order

Welcome to Day #9 of Chocolate, Ginger and Citrus Theme Week, and Day #1 of Chocolate and Brazil Theme Week.

Today's Winter's Cheer 70% Dark Chocolate, Candied Orange Peel, and Dried Cranberry bar was from Harper Macaw (Washington, D.C.). The bean-to-bar chocolate makers hope that customers will savor the rainforest-grown, fine flavored cacao they use; and they help support threatened land and reforestation efforts near their cacao sources in Brazil.

Flavorful Brazil-grown cacao in today's bar complemented bright, citrus, tangy and tart sweet fruit flavors,* in an offering originally designed for fall and winter--when a Winter's Cheer bar would light up a gray day. But, this chocolate would be enjoyable any time of year.

"Ingredients: cocoa beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, candied orange peel, and dried cranberry."

Atypic Artiste Chocolatier - 50% Milk Chocolate Lemon Myrtle (bar) - June 11, 2020

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Atypic Artiste Chocolatier
50% Milk Chocolate Lemon Myrtle (bar)
Good - Good +
Weight: 1.23 oz. (35 g.) / 2.46 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 183 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $10.75 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

Welcome to Day #8 of Chocolate, Ginger and Citrus Theme Week. 

This 50% Milk Chocolate Lemon Myrtle bar was from Atypic Artiste Chocolatier (South Melbourne Market, Victoria, Australia).

It had a green herbal/citrus (lemon verbena-like/myrtle) aroma with very faint, fleeting roasted, light plant latex, coconut and dairy notes. The melt was very creamy; and the flavor was all milk chocolate sweetness, but there were a few glimmers or authentic lemon myrtle flavor that were quite nice, and complemented the chocolate very nicely as botanical inclusions go.

*Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) is a flowering plant native to Queensland, Australia, used in teas, liqueurs, and other beverages, breads, cookies and other confections. 



Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Divine Chocolate - Rich Dark Chocolate with Refreshing Lemon 85% Cocoa Sao Tome (bar) - June 10, 2020

Chocolate(s) of the Day: 

Divine Chocolate
Rich Dark Chocolate with Refreshing Lemon 85% Cocoa Sao Tome (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) / 2.8 oz. (80 g.) in total bar
Calories: 180 calories in 1 serving (9 squares) of bar
Cost: $4.75 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Easy Market, Mountain View, CA

Rich Dark Chocolate with Turmeric and Ginger 85% Cocoa Sao Tome (bar)
Good ++
Weight: 1.06 oz. (30 g.) / 2.8 oz. (80 g.) in total bar
Calories: 170 calories in 1 serving (9 squares) of bar
Cost: $4.75 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Easy Market, Mountain View, CA

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate, Ginger and Citrus Theme Week.

Today's pair of Organic Rich Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa (Sao Tome) bars with flavor inclusions were from Divine Chocolate.*

Divine's "Rich Dark Chocolate with Refreshing Lemon 85% Cocoa Sao Tome" (bar) had a dark chocolate and citrus aroma with notes of lemon and lime peel(s). This smooth chocolate had a faint bitter citrus flavor note and finish.

The Turmeric and Ginger bar was previously featured and was re-tasted today as a pairing with its lemon sibling. This Turmeric an Ginger chocolate had a lovely, authentic ginger spice (ginger cookie) aroma and tangy, spice flavor, giving the illusion of sweetness beyond its ultra-dark 85 percent but smooth chocolate base. Satisfying and flavorful without being too sweet.

*Divine Chocolate is a Fairtrade cocoa farmers co-operative in Ghana. Divine Chocolate USA is based in Washington, D.C.






Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Nuance Chocolate - Crystallized Orange 70% Dark (bar) - June 9, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Nuance Chocolate Company
Flavored Series - Crystallized Orange 70% Dark (bar)
Good ++
Weight: .97 oz. (27.5 g.) / 1.94 oz. (55 g.) in total bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $9.50 for 1 bar + any applicable shipping
Purchased from: Nuance Chocolate, Fort Collins, CO

Welcome to Day #6 of Chocolate, Ginger and Orange Theme Week.

Today's Crystallized Orange 70% Dark (bar) was made by Nuance Chocolate (Fort Collins, CO).

The company specializes in small batch, bean to bar chocolates (single origin bars, bars with inclusions and confections/truffles). Today's bar was part of the company's Flavored Series. The candied orange peel* was sourced from Provence, France, and "sprinkled onto a bar of forastero cacao from the Republic of Ghana..." The maker's tasting notes read as follows: "...with "deep and sustained classic chocolate flavors throughout...with subtle layers of cherries and honey."

The aroma of this bar had dark chocolate, sweet malt, citrus notes and a very faint hint of mint/menthol. (The mint was not evident in the taste.) The smooth dark chocolate complemented chewy bits of orange peel, which contributed a balanced but acidic, sweet tangy citrus flavor.

I enjoyed re-sampling this bar later with a glass of ginger tea.

*"Ingredients: cacao, cane sugar, candied orange peel (orange peel, glucose-fructose syrup, sucrose, dextrose and citric acid), cocoa butter."

Moka Origins - Lemon Ginger Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao (Uganda) bar - June 8, 2020

Chocolate of the Day:

Moka Origins
Lemon Ginger Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao (Uganda) bar
Good ++
Weight: 1.2 oz. (34 g.) / 2.4 oz. (68 g.) in total bar
Calories; 180 calories in 1/2 bar
Cost: $8.95 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Moka Origins, online order

Welcome to Day #5 of Chocolate, Ginger and Citrus Theme Week.

Today's Lemon Ginger Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao (Uganda) bar was from Moka Origins (Honesdale, PA). Moka Origins works with cacao and coffee farmers in Africa and the Dominican Republic to source beans for their chocolate and coffee  offerings. 

This ginger-forward bar had robust natural-tasting sweet spicy flavor from a generous helping of candied ginger pieces/shreds on the back of the bar, and lemon citrus flavor notes. The base dark chocolate (made with Ugandan cacao) was smooth and flavorful and complemented the flavor inclusions. And the touch of lemon was just right. (I enjoy a touch of lemon peel in coffee and/or chocolate now and then.) 

If you adore ginger and dark chocolate, this would be a great bar to sample. Some may like their chocolate with slightly less ginger and lemon to better taste the nuances of the cacao. Others will find this bracing blend of quality flavors very satisfying. 




Sunday, June 7, 2020

Mindo Chocolate Makers - 77% Chocolate with Tropical Fruits & Nuts (bar) - June 7 ,2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Mindo Chocolate Makers
Pure 77% Chocolate with Tropical Fruits and Nuts (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.76 oz. (50 g.) in total bar
Calories: 268 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $8.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Mindo Chocolate Makers, online order

Welcome to Day #4 of Chocolate, Ginger and Citrus Theme Week.

Today's Pure 77% Chocolate with Tropical Fruits and Nuts (bar) was made in Ecuador with cacao grown in Ecuador, and distributed by Mindo Chocolate Makers (Dexter, MI).*

The organic, shade-grown Nacional cacao used formed a uniformly smooth dark chocolate, allowing the fruit, nut and spice inclusion items to shine. High-quality pieces of bright, fresh-tasting fruits (pineapple, mango, dried orange peel) were incorporated into the bar. One could still taste the subtle flavor of the fresh macadamia nuts (thank you). And bits of candied ginger added a balanced sparkle to this blend.

The choice of a 77% smooth dark chocolate meant this bar was not overly sweet and that it lacked bold or bitter notes that would have overpowered the other flavors.

"Ingredients: Cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, macadamia, dried pineapple, dried mango, dried candied ginger, dried orange peel."

*Founders Jose Meza and Barbara Wilson of Mindo Chocolate Makers have facilities in both Mindo, Ecuador and in Michigan. (Mindo is a small town in a subtropical cloud forest area on the western slope of the Andes Mountains, about 2 hours from Quito, Ecuador.) 

The founders work with farmers in Ecuador to source fine flavor Nacional cacao. They have fermentation, drying and other facilities on-site in Ecuador, and this facility (as well as their Michigan location) can accommodate small groups for tasting and tours). And because of their presence in a cacao-growing region, they can offer jars of miel de cacao, cacao nibs, Ecuadorian vanilla beans and other interesting cacao-related products on their website.




Saturday, June 6, 2020

Volo Chocolate - 73% Dark Chocolate + Candied Orange Peel bar - June 6, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Volo Chocolate
73% Chocolate Orange - Dark Chocolate + Candied Orange Peel (Guatemala) (bar)
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: 1.25 oz. (36 g.) / 2.5 oz. (72 g.) in total bar
Calories: 190 calories (estimate) in 1/2 bar
Cost: $8.00 for 1 bar (+ shipping)
Purchased from: Volo Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #3 of Chocolate, Citrus and Ginger Theme Week.

Today's 73% Chocolate Orange Dark + Chocolate Orange Peel (bar) was made by Volo Chocolate* (Windsor, CA).

Today's flavorful dark chocolate base (made from cacao grown in Lachua, Guatemala) blended very well with bits of crunchy candied orange peel. The chocolate had an appealing, bold, roasted aroma and flavor with citrus-fruit notes and a slight nutty-fudge chocolate note and smooth texture. The sweetness and citrus-acid levels were balanced with a hint of sea salt, and warmed with a trace of cinnamon. 

Nicely done by (married chefs and chocolate makers) Jeff and Susan Mall--who deepened their interest in chocolate when they lived and worked in Mexico.

"Ingredients: Cocoa Beans, Unrefined Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Candied Orange Peel (orange peel, sugar), Baja Sea Salt, Cinnamon."

*Volo Chocolate makes bean to bar chocolate in Sonoma County, CA, an area of northern California known for wine and food. In addition to bars, the company recently made a 62% dark chocolate "Masked 2020 bean-to-bunny" rabbit with a white chocolate face mask (a reflection of Covid-19 social distancing/sequestrations in 2020). This masked rabbit sold out, but was still visible on Volo's website this week. Volo wins my award for most clever use of chocolate and leftover Easter chocolate bunnies in 2020.







Friday, June 5, 2020

Nuance Chocolate - Ginger (vegan) truffle, Grand Marnier truffle - June 5, 2020

Chocolate(s) of the Day:

Nuance Chocolate
Candied Ginger (vegan) truffle
Good +++
Weight: .44 oz. (12.45 g.) (estimate) in 1 truffle
Calories: 66 calories (estimate) in 1 truffle
Cost: $3.80 for 1 truffle
Purchased from: Nuance Chocolate, online order

Grand Marnier Orange Truffle
Good +++
Weight: .44 oz. (12.45 g.) (estimate) in 1 truffle
Calories: 66 calories (estimate) in 1 truffle
Cost: $3.80 for 1 truffle
Purchased from: Nuance Chocolate, online order

Toasted Almond and Apricot Truffle
Good +++
Weight: .44 oz. (12.45 g.) (estimate) in 1 truffle
Calories: 66 calories (estimate) in 1 truffle
Cost: $3.80 for 1 truffle

Welcome to Day #2 of Chocolate, Ginger and Citrus Theme Week.

Today's truffle trio: Candied Ginger (vegan/dairy free), Grand Marnier Orange, and Toasted Almond and Apricot truffles were all made by Nuance Chocolate (Fort Collins, CO).

Candied Ginger (dairy free) Truffle
Ginger and dark chocolate pair well together. Both are strong flavors and balance is key to be able to enjoy both. Truffles are often too sweet, with sugar squashing any flavor nuances of chocolate and inclusion items.

These concerns were put at ease when I bit into today's plump Candied Ginger (vegan/dairy free) truffle with rich dark chocolate truffle flavor depth and texture I could sink my teeth into. Nutty, roasted coffee and true chocolate notes were followed by just the right amount of natural ginger flavor. Balanced rich flavors that lingered into the finish. 

Nuance Chocolate makes bean to bar chocolate and also offers single origin truffles (currently, Ghana and Nigeria truffles). And this comes through in the flavor depth of their confections. No bland mass-produced chocolate here.

Grand Marnier Orange Truffle
I found the same rich, deep chocolate flavor profile (rich, well balanced with slightly tart orange Grand Marnier liqueur) when I tasted Nuance Chocolate's Grand Marnier truffle. Again, it was a confection, but it wasn't too sweet; thank you!). Its strength was in the powerful and perfectly balanced flavors. 

Toasted Almond and Apricot Truffle
Last, but not least, I also enjoyed a flavorful Toasted Almond and Apricot truffle with visible bits of bright orange fruit. (I grew up in California surrounded by apricot orchards, ate chocolate covered apricots as a child, and I appreciate this sassy, tart fruit.) An apricot may have more fruit pulp pectin,* but it's only one small flavor jump away from a tangerine; and it may be the closest a stone fruit gets to being citrus. (Both apricots and citrus fruit originated in Asia/China, and it's thought that apricots were brought to Persia later. They arrived even later in California via Spanish missionaries.) 

* Pectin is a naturally-occurring gel-like substance and form of soluble fiber, that is found in some fruits (apples, apricots and some others) and citrus peels. Harnessed properly it puts the "gel" in jelly and jam. Fruits high in pectin also tend to make great fruit leathers.


Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Oakland Chocolate Company - Sorrel Ginger Tea Truffle, Orange Truffle - June 4, 2020

Chocolate of the Day:

The Oakland Chocolate Company
Sorrel Ginger Tea Truffle
Good +++
Weight: .4 oz. (11.3 g.) (estimate) for 1 piece/truffle
Calories: 60 calories (estimate) in 1 piece
Cost: $2.50 for 1 piece
Purchased from: The Oakland Chocolate Company (online order)

Orange Truffle (Vegan)
Good +++
Weight: .4 oz. (11.3 g.) (estimate) for 1 piece/truffle
Calories: 60 calories (estimate) in 1 piece
Cost: $2.50 for 1 piece
Purchased from: The Oakland Chocolate Company (online order)

Welcome to the first day of Chocolate, Ginger and Citrus Theme Week.

Today's Sorrel Ginger Tea Truffle and Orange Truffle were made from bean-to-bonbon (with Jamaican cacao) by Nancy Nadel at The Oakland Chocolate Company, LLC (Oakland, CA).

The Sorrel* Ginger Tea Truffle was covered in smooth dark chocolate and filled with a light, soft, creamy and mild filling (with no chocolate solids). I enjoyed the layers of great, natural flavor. A small piece of candied ginger gave this chocolate some pizazz. Unless you were told what mild leafy vegetable might have been infused into this mix, you'd probably never guess. The sorrel added a very subtle, almost sweet, very light lemon-green/lettuce flavor.

The second chocolate, an Orange Truffle, had a very creamy, satisfying melt and texture. It was also vegan; so the smooth tasting dark chocolate ganache (filling) was not made with traditional cream. It may leave you wondering how was this texture achieved without cream? This dark confection had a natural chocolate and orange aroma and smooth chocolate flavor. A small shred of candied orange peel on top added orange accent flavor. And, this chocolate was not too sweet (thank you!). 

These are my kind of truffles. Hats off to chocolate maker Nancy Nadel for her chocolate making skills and novel, balanced flavor inclusions in her bars and bonbons year after year. (Sorry I missed the Loquat Ginger Jam truffle when I was ordering these truffles online. That would have fit nicely in this week's ginger and citrus line up as well. I am a huge loquat fan.) One can see how living in California, having neighbors with fruit trees and selling chocolates at a Farmer's Market or two over the years can light up a number of fruit and botanical possibilities. But, not every maker would take the next step and actually pursue so many successful flavor blends.

*Sorrel is a leafy vegetable often eaten in salads and used as a cooking herb. Its taste has been likened to green spinach with a hint of lemony, kiwi or wild strawberry tang. The plant's light, sour grass-like tartness is largely from oxalic acid.




Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Bisou Chocolate - Silk Verapaz (Guatemala) 78% (bar) - June 3, 2020

Chocolate of the Day:

Bisou Chocolate
Silk Verapaz (Guatemala) 78% (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) in 1 bar
Calories: 150 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $6.00 (estimate) for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bisou, online order

Welcome to Day #13 of Chocolate and Maya Empire Theme Week.

Today's Silk Verapaz (Vera Paz) (Guatemala) 78% (bar) was made by Bisou Chocolate (Oakland, CA). 

Bisou has been making single origin bars and chocolate truffles in Oakland for several years. The company's current offerings are made from cacao beans grown in Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua.

This four-ingredient dark chocolate bar was smooth in aroma, flavor and texture. It had hot chocolate, true chocolate, tart fresh fruit (mild nectarine, berry) and very faint earth and natural vanilla notes with a pleasant lingering dark chocolate finish.

Ingredients: cocoa beans, organic whole cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic vanilla

Crow & Moss Chocolate - Honduras Wampusirpi 70% bar - June 2, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Crow and Moss Chocolate
Honduras Wampusirpi 70% bar
Good +++
Weight: 2.47 oz. (70 g.) in total bar
Calories: 300 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $8.75 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Chocosphere.com, online order

Welcome to Day #12 of Chocolate and Maya Empire Theme Week.

Today's Honduras Wampusirpi 70% bar was made from bean-to-bar by Crow and Moss (Petoskey, MI). The Spanish word "Honduras," translated into English means "depths." 

This two-ingredient chocolate (cacao beans, organic cane sugar) had flavor depth, and evoked a romantic sense of place,* tempered with respect. The cacao used was grown in a relatively remote area of Honduras, and while likely carefully sourced, I'm guessing these beans (like almost all new cacao batches) required a few test roasts/batches at Crow and Moss.

The resulting bar was rich and satisfying. The maker's tasting notes read as follows: honey, banana, toasted walnut. 

The chocolate had a mild green jungle nut/seed aroma (found in some "white" Theobroma cacao relatives) and faint green banana with very subtle earth, smoked almond and light leather notes. 

Yes, to my delight, this chocolate was borderline savory, without any salt or potentially intrusive, actual umami** flavor inclusions. I loved that these flavors were showcased in a balanced and elegant way.

The flavor profile was similar to the aroma, with sweet, dark chocolate with toasted walnut banana bread notes. And the finish was pleasing. It lingered with a trace of honey, and very tiny sparklets of balanced not-quite-fruit (subdued, dark dried cherry/banana/coffee fruit) tartness and green tea.

*Cacao bean flavors are often associated with cacao variety, fermentation choices and even soil and other local characteristics. Honduras exports coffee, bananas, tropical fruit and sugar cane--primarily crops brought to the new world by Spanish colonizers centuries ago. Prior to their arrival, the Maya and other indigenous peoples cultivated beans, squash, maize, cacao and other native fruit trees. Wampusirpi is a small town in remote northeastern Honduras, in the department of Gracias a Dios (Thanks to God), where cacao might be one of the few cash crops. Fortunately, many bean-to-bar makers are experimenting with beans from this area, largely from native Trinitario cacao varieties. 

**Umami flavors are most commonly those found in savory, high-glutamate (glutamic acid/amino acid) foods such as cheeses, certain meats (think bacon, smoked meats), dried tomatoes, mushrooms, seaweed, fermented soy and other foods. Admission: I like savory flavors very much.

Nuance Chocolate - Honduras Wampusirpi 2016 70% (bar) - June 1, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Nuance Chocolate
Honduras Wampusirpi 2016 70% (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.94 oz. (55 g.) in total bar
Calories: 291 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $8.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Nuance Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #11 of Chocolate and Maya Empire Theme Week.

Today's Honduras Wampusirpi 2016 70% (bar) was from Nuance Chocolate (Fort Collins, CO).

This three-ingredient* chocolate had a sweet dark chocolate aroma with earthy/"dirt" notes. The bar was smooth with a few tiny bits of cacao bean. The flavor was sweet and earthy, with faint deep, dried fermented fruit, faint green/latex notes. 

Maker's tasting notes from Nuance read as follows:

Trinitario cacao from the remote Wampusirpi region of Honduras, which is only accessible by a two-day canoe trip. A luxuriously-smooth chocolate, with notes of graham crackers, oatmeal cookies, sage and soft leather. Virtually no acidity or bitterness.

*Ingredients: cacao, cane sugar, cocoa butter

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Nuance Chocolate - Guatemala Lachua 2015 70% (bar) - May 31, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Nuance Chocolate
Guatemala Lachua 2015 70% (bar)
Good +
Weight: 1.94 oz. (55 g.) in total bar
Calories: 300 calories (estimate) in 1 bar
Cost: $8.50 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Nuance Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #10 of Chocolate and Maya Empire Theme Week.

Today's Guatemala Lachua 2015 70% (bar) was from Nuance Chocolate (Fort Collins, CO).

The bar was made using "Trinitario cacao from the Alta Verapaz mountains in Coban, Guatemala."*

Made only with cacao, cane sugar and cocoa butter, this three-ingredient chocolate still conjured up its own unique impression.

It had a relatively uniform sweet grape aroma and flavor with sweet fruit (red grapes, melon, very sweet tangerine, sweet tea) acidity, a fleeting faint nuttiness and relatively low bitterness. Re-tasting multiple times revealed slightly more flavor complexity; however, I kept thinking of sangria (sweet wine and fruit beverage).

A sweet lingering finish and a slight astringency tickled the back of the throat for a short while. After re-tasting a very subtle, fleeting herbal (caraway and coriander) note appeared in the finish as well. 

This 70% cacao bar (presumably with 30% percent sugar) tasted more like a 60% cacao offering (with 40% sugar)--serving as a good example of why 70% cacao (and 30% sugar) may be a fine blend for many artisan dark bars, but some cacao beans can do with less sugar. It would have been interesting to have a side-by-side tasting with a 75% or 77% cacao version (i.e. with only 25-23% sugar) using the same Guatemala cacao. It's hard to know which would have been judged "best"--a subjective term in any case. 

The Nuance chocolate maker's tasting notes read as follows:

"A complex chocolate with juicy layers of rum, wine, raisins, and papaya. Magical things happen right at the melting point. A slightly dry finish, with moderate acidity."

*Coban is also the name of the capital city of the Department of Alta Verapaz in central Guatemala in the Chama Mountains. It was founded about 1538 near Mayan ruins and was named for the Indian chieftain Cobaou. Agricultural exports have included: coffee, tea, cacao, vanilla, orchids, livestock, lumber/hardwoods.

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