Thursday, August 6, 2020

Solstice Chocolate - Cacao Bean Sweet Nibs - Aug. 6, 2020

Chocolate of the Day: 

Solstice Chocolate 
Cacao Bean Sweet Nibs
Good + - Good ++
Weight: 1 oz. (28.3 g.) serving / 2.3 oz. (65 g.) total package
Calories: 165 calories in 1 oz. (28.3 g.) serving
Cost: $8.00 for 1 package 
Purchased from: Solstice Chocolate, online order

Welcome to Day #3 of Cocoa Nibs Theme Week.

Today's Cacao Bean Sweet Nibs were from bean-to-bar makers, Solstice Chocolate (Salt Lake City).

These sweetened bits of cacao bean had an aroma of sweet brownies, fresh out of the oven with a hint of sweet tobacco and vanilla, and a crunchy, nutty texture.

The nibs had an initial sweetness that gently faded into true chocolate, bolder, deeper flavor, then into a very mild, balanced bitter note. It was a nice progression, and a tasting curve I wouldn't expect with a more homogenized, finished bar. (Well executed layers of flavor are good.) Unlike finished chocolate, the sugar is located more on the outside surfaces of nib pieces, so you get to taste both sweetened and unsweetened parts of the bean when you chew on them.

There was no "off" taste to any of today's nibs--which spoke to the quality of the cacao beans, and to careful sorting and removal of any less desirable pieces in a shipment. Judging from the quality, these nibs likely would have been good either with or without sweetener. The lack of a mention of an origin also gave/gives the maker some flexibility to pick the best blend or batch of beans for this product over time.

Sugar and Nibs: To Sweeten or Not to Sweeten?
Occasionally, I'll get the question: "If cacao nibs are so great, why add sugar to them? The answer to this question often lies in a Goldilocks chocolate balance zone (not too much, and not too little), and/or is a matter of personal preference. It also depends on the quality of the cacao.

In a finished chocolate bar (where beans/nibs are ground into fine particles with sugar), too much sugar can mask or overpower certain cacao flavors. However, just the right amount of sugar can help brighten or even highlight certain fruit and other notes in a chocolate bar. 

The amount of sugar in today's sweetened nibs was akin to a high-quality 70% cacao bar made with just three ingredients.* (It must be remembered that finished chocolate bars may also contain added cocoa butter to make the chocolate smoother or creamier. Fat is part of flavor too. Cacao beans/nibs may naturally contain 45-50%, fat content, before any extra cocoa butter is added.) 

Unsweetened cacao nib flavor can be more like a 100% (unsweetened) chocolate bar, and is sometimes better, as quality for a "naked" item is demanded. There is no cocoa butter to hide behind. 

Today's high-quality nibs managed to land in the Goldilocks zone. This offering embodied some advantages of both unsweetened and sweetened. Now it's just up to you to decide whether you might prefer sweet or savory/nutty, as nibs can rock either way. 

*Ingredients: Organic cacao bean, cane sugar, vanilla.

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