Saturday, January 2, 2021

Firetree Chocolate - Solomon Islands Makira Island 75% (bar) - Jan. 1, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Firetree Chocolate Limited
Solomon Islands Makira Island 75% Cacao (bar)
Good + - Good ++
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) in total bar
Calories: 138 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $4.00 for 1 (mini) bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order 

Welcome to Day #7 of Chocolate and South Pacific Islands, and Happy New Year!

Today's Single Estate Makira Island (Solomon Islands) 75% Cacao (bar) was from Firetree Chocolate Limited (Peterborough, U.K.).

The company's packaging depicts swirling, hot lava-like colors, captured on a stark, elegant black background, and color icons from this palette are used to depict flavor elements.

This bar had an aroma with chocolate with fruit acidity (citrus, red fruit) notes. The flavor was similar with more "detailed"acidic fruit flavors: pink/red grapefruit, tart berries (cranberries, blackberry), dried plum and a tasty, fleeting true, deep chocoatey note (baked brownies, chocolate confections). 

The true chocolate note became more accessible (as the initial fruit acidity mellowed a bit) in the latter half of the tasting curve; and this rich chocolate note lingered into the finish. There was also a very faint oxidized, fermented note blend in the second half, but it was not off-putting. I enjoyed the choice of 75% cacao (i.e. a bit more cacao and less sugar over a typical 70% chocolate*), that resulted a bit bolder flavor profile.

The maker's tasting notes read as follows: "Soft grapefruit and raisin tones married with rich caramel. To enjoy fully, take time to let the flavours develop on the palate."

Ingredients: Cocoa mass, unrefined sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier: sunflower lecithin. (This bar was dairy free, made in a nut free factory, Kosher, Halal, (and) suitable for vegans.)

*Is 70% the ideal percentage (of cacao) for dark chocolate?

Before the craft chocolate wave in the U.S. took hold in the 1990s with cacao content percentages prominently displayed on labels, chocolate lovers were not looking as carefully at the percentage of cacao in their chocolate. The choices for "dark chocolate" were often blends of different cacaos to create products with very smooth (or flattened) flavor curves. Most commercial/bulk dark chocolates did not reach the 70% cacao content mark, meaning they were more than 30% sugar. Chocolate was sweeter and less flavorful--in a word, candy. 

As chocolate makers began offering more dark chocolates with unique flavors linked with smaller batch cacao origins, chocolate lovers started to learn more about cacao content. The new default/ideal percent of cacao in a dark chocolate bar was now thought be 70% cacao (with "only" 30% sugar). 

And, much like what happened with craft beer, coffee and other foods and beverages, things evolved in "dark" chocolate. Chocolatiers and consumers appreciated how different cacao varieties, and their countries of origin, created unique and appealing flavors. This made boosting percentages of cacao beyond that 70% mark more viable. Makers found that 70% cacao was no longer the upper limit for many consumers, especially if they could gain access to truly great cacao beans. 

Consumers started to have many more single origin, high-end, small-batch chocolate choices from a growing number of artisan chocolate makers--allowing us consumers to experience more individual cacao flavor nuances and complexities that had not been possible with high-volume and/or highly processed chocolate blends (made from commodity cacao from hundreds of small, subsistence farmers located around the globe). In the high-volume world, consistency required some trade-offs with flavor. No wonder higher percentage, 70% cacao chocolate required some marketing initially.

Happily, today, 70% is just a starting point for experimentation now and not a blind requirement. And there is not as much discussion/confusion about percentages. We've made the leap to the new dark frontiers. Skilled makers are creating the optimum chocolate bar(s), which may or may not be 70% cacao, based on what will create the best results for a given batch of cacao, and what their customers will buy. Some cacao beans might make a great 80% bar, and others a 69% bar. Some 70% chocolates will taste too sweet, others too dark. And that is a wonderful thing.


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