Thursday, March 18, 2021

Firetree Chocolate - Madagscar Sambirano Valley 84% Cocoa (bar) - Mar. 18, 2021

Chocolate of the Day

Firetree Chocolate Limited
Single Estate Madagascar Sambirano Valley 84% Cacao (bar)
Good ++ - Good +++
Weight: .88 oz. (25 g.) in total bar
Calories: 147 calories in 1 bar
Cost: $4.00 for 1 bar
Purchased from: Bar and Cocoa, online order

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

Today's Madagascar Sambirano Valley 84% Cocoa (bar) was made by Firetree Chocolate Limited (Peterborough, U.K.). The company offers a line of single origin bars made with cacao directly traded (with farmers).

Volcanoes and chocolate?
Firetree describes their lineup as "rich volcanic chocolates." Several of their bars are crafted from cacao grown on South Pacific islands that are part of (or are close to) the "ring of fire," known for its volcanic and seismic activity. (This "ring" also extends over to the Americas bordering the Pacific and Nazca plates, and near the origins of cacao.)

How do volcanoes relate to chocolate? When absorbed over time into soils, volcanic lava, ash and debris can contribute key plant nutrients like potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron--needed to cultivate crops and trees, including cacao trees. (Some of the best cacao and coffee we enjoy are grown in volcanic soils.)

Historically, volcanic activity has existed on every continent. Madagascar, a large island nation off eastern Africa has volcano-related enriched soils, from activity 90 million years ago. 

Back to today's bar...

Many of the Madagascar chocolate bars featured this week have had delightfully complex aromas that shift and shimmer a bit as well--including today's Firetree bar.

The first whiff of today's bar had notes of aromatic red berry (musk* strawberry, raspberry) with a fleeting hint of tropical fruit (passion fruit). A few minutes later there was a tiny shift to fermented red berry (tart-sweet strawberry-raspberry fruit vinegar). And after a few more minutes, an earthy red fruit note, followed by true chocolate (raspberry + strawberry fudge brownie) notes. What a ride! Thank you.

Chocolate lovers' brains have learned to link the smell of chocolate with sugar. Ultra-dark bars (over 80% cacao and with "only" 20% sugar or less) often retain an aroma with implied sweetness, causing the brain to anticipate sugar in the first bite. Some chocolate customers suffer a disconnect when they taste darker chocolates for the first time. Some want their "missing" sugar back, especially if they're new to 80%+ bars.

So, with the above facts in mind, I am extra grateful to Firetree for making an 84% ultra-dark bar using this bright Madagascan cacao. The cacao's natural brightness and fruitiness made this a balanced treasure chest; the flavors were almost as fruity and fun as the aroma.

The flavors mirrored the layered aroma notes above, and included deep, rich and faintly earthy dark chocolate, and ripe, tart-sweet raspberry and faint strawberry. The finish lingered a bit, with the red fruit notes heading a bit more toward cherry. I highly recommend holding a piece of this chocolate in your mouth for awhile, to enjoy the warm, blooming bouquet of naturally tart-sweet fruit flavors.

Firetree's tasting notes read as follows: "Raspberry and rich red fruit tones create a zesty character. To enjoy fully, take time to let the flavours develop on the palate."

Ingredients: Cocoa mass, unrefined sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier: sunflower lecithin.
Allergen notes: "Dairy free. Nut free factory. Kosher. Halal. Suitable for vegans."

*The musk strawberry (Fragaria moschata) is native to Europe. It is also known as bubbleberry, hautbois strawberry (France), and fragola di bosco (Italy). This aromatic strawberry (rarely seen in the U.S.) has notes of strawberry, pineapple and raspberry. Its flavor has also been described as "naturally flavored bubble gum."

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