Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Theo Sea Salt Dark 70%

Theo are an American bean-to-bar company who source their cocoa beans from Congo, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Ecuador, and all of which are Organic, Fairtrade and Fair For Life. This Sea Salt bar was designed to help provide those in rural Africa with locally assembled WBR bicycles

This 70% dark chocolate was made from cocoa beans*+, sugar*+, cocoa butter*+, sea salt, and vanilla* (*organic, +Fairtrade). 

The surface was unexpected with light specks indicating the salt. Also, the salt was wet and quite sticky to touch, and had seeped onto the paper packaging leaving unattractive marks. This couldn't possibly have been Theo's intention. The salt had most likely absorbed moisture. Though I am no chemist, I do think that if I was to have another bar I wouldn't find this

The aroma was predominately vanilla with subtle cocoa and a nice roast. On the tongue the salt was initiated right away, making it taste all too sweet a little too quickly. I liked when physically touching the salt as it had a potent and clear flavour. The finish was a rich hot chocolate

The chocolate had a smooth, long melt; however, because it was heavily salted, it seemed like the melt was the means to endure that salty flavour. It's a shame when salt affects the whole chocolate taste like so, it really is "a little goes a long way". I never want salty chocolate, I want salt to burst in and disappear just as abruptly, without leaving a single trace. I think a nut with this chocolate would have cut through the sweetness and helped balance the flavour or, simply, less salt

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Idilio Origins Carenero Urratia Superior

Idilio Origins, a Swiss company, stand for "harmony with nature" and seeking out the rare cocoas to produce their premium chocolate (manufactured by Felchin). This 70% Venezuelan chocolate was of Carenero beans (named after the port they were once shipped from, otherwise a Trinitario), cane sugar, cocoa butter and studded with cacao nibs

The aroma was reminiscent of Porcelana, though more intense. It was leather, vanilla, creamy, exotic fruits, raspberry, spice and raisin. There was a sweetness like honey caramel. Sometimes when the nibs were exposed they'd subtly emit their usual scent - one that I'm not too keen on: earthy, alcoholic and almost chemically

This Swiss chocolate's melt was the creamiest, silkiest, smoothest I've yet experienced, naturally. The flavour was again similar to the Porcelana but stronger. The raspberry was significant and overlaid a chocolate body. There was a roasted element and with slight acidity. During my second tasting, I experienced a mild metallic/antiseptic/unripe banana/savoury note too (couldn't pinpoint precisely). The cacao nibs were not distinct in taste but they hinted a nuttiness and added to the acidity. When chewing, that nuttiness materialised and felt like praline: a rich chocolate and crushed hazelnut concoction. Surprisingly, I loved the texture of this chocolate. That was unusual because nibs in chocolate tend to ruin it for me, but I absolutely loved the crunches this bar offered

Fruity, sweet and chocolatey, this Carenero Urriata Superior was an extremely impressive chocolate and one that I really did love. It showed no signs of bitterness and was executed superbly. This was another great bar from Chocablog

Friday, 12 September 2014

Karmello Chocolatier

With the return home of my parents, they came bearing gifts. This year they stepped up their game and came back from Poland with excellent sweet treats! It all looked luxurious: from this slick box of chocolates to Karmello macarons (coffee, chilli, Madagascan & Ecuadorian), even the poppy-seed cake looked an upgrade from previous years. I think this just showed the growth in Poland's sweet culture: their highlighting of luxury through appearance, paying finer attention to quality etc. etc. They also have TWO small batch bean-to-bar chocolate companies which amazed me, though I'm yet to try them. It would be lovely if Poland could be thought of as having [and be compared to] French calibre. Well, for me, these chocolates were already half way there... all I needed to do was taste!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Fruition Rustic Crunch

Fruition are an American bean to bar company- located in the Catskill Mountains of New York- who've sourced their cocoa from a cooperative in San Martin, Peru 

The 70% Rustic Crunch was handcrafted from Peruvian cocoa and the "crunch" came [inevitably] from the cacao nibs studded on the bottom

Cinnamon and vanilla pranced around the nose. Behind those well defined yet delicate spices were light coconut and roasted notes. I quite enjoyed it. The nibs themselves had a subtle aroma: acidic with slight alcohol

On the tongue, right away, was cinnamon and, like a soldier, it persisted with great power too. A taste of cocoa gradually built up- making itself most clear when the nibs were nearly all what was left. I tasted apple, and I don't think that was my brain fooling me by pairing apple and cinnamon. When chewing, the Demerara sugar enhanced the sweetness, and boy was it sweet - I really liked it. The Demerara augmented the "crunch" sensation and made for a coarser melt. The flavours developed superbly when chewing, i.e. a 'chocolate' flavour kicked in and a rich, dark, caramel flavour came from the Demerara

The nibs added acidity but overall their unique taste disrupted the chocolate, though more satisfying than those in Chocolate and Love's. As I didn't enjoy the "crunch" of the nibs either, I don't think I'll ever acquire appreciation for nibs in chocolate. However, per se it was real great chocolate. I absolutely loved the coarser texture, crunchiness and the deep flavour all from the Demerara sugar

3 reasons why this chocolate worked: 1) the Demerara sugar took it to another level 2) I have big love for cinnamon and 3) the quality of cacao used (so, why thank you Mr.Chocablog)

Monday, 1 September 2014

Madécasse 75% Dark Chocolate

This chocolate was made from Madagascan cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, lecithin and Madagascan vanilla. I found it unusual how this bar had an emulsifier and flavouring whereas Madécasse's 80% (which is sitting in my collection) doesn't, though I don't think this bar is made anymore. Madécasse manufacture their chocolate in Madagascar and the cocoa is seemingly traded exceptionally fairly

I liked the beauty of the rustic recycled paper packaging but the fact it was Madagascan more. Madagascan cocoa is known for its vibrant flavour and crisp acidity - I'm ALL about this in fine chocolate

The chocolate was from a batch of 07 Aug 12, and the best before was 30 Aug 14. As I was tasting it just a day after its 'best before', I thought either, like with wine, it could have aged/matured and developed further flavour compounds OR that it may just taste older and the 'best before' really meant it's best before

My bar had been slightly scuffed and looked dusty grey until I rubbed it with my thumb. It had a bold aroma with dried cranberry and cherry, delicate malt, spice (nutmeg), red wine, strawberry, rose and a subtle nut

The flavour was slow to begin. It opened with roasted cocoa and wood then surfaced the red fruit sweetness: cherry, red wine, dark fruity syrup. It had a very red aura. There was little acidity, favouring tannin more. There were also soft notes of banana, nut and malt. The melt was dusty and the chewing texture was quite brittle suggesting less fat (but really it had bloomed). The finish was distinctly cocoa and slightly bitter

If this chocolate was fresher I'm sure it would have had a different impact, certainly a better texture. Although the chocolate wasn't particularly acidic, it was very aromatic and had an enjoyable taste, so I think just because of the texture it didn't thrill

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Zotter Labooko Milk Brazil 35%

This Labooko Brazil was much lighter in colour compared to the Santo Domingo 40% I tried recently. In this chocolate there too was added salt and vanilla, but, unlike the 40%, there was also soya lecithin and cinnamon (though for some reason cinnamon was not enlisted on the packaging). All ingredients, but the salt, were organic and the Brazilian cocoa mass was Fair for Life certified, being purchased direct from two families in the Amazon. Like all of Zotter's chocolate bars, my two 35g bars came wrapped in gold paper and had a delicate hold

The colour was camel brown, surprising for a milk chocolate. It had a creamy aroma, similar to the Santo Domingo... must be that mountain milk Zotter uses! It was sweet, coconutty, floral with a hinting of spice. The chocolate had a firm snap with a soft touch and a moderately smooth melt

The flavour opened with caramel then up came a wave of cinnamon. It was sweet, creamy and the cinnamon was poetic-like, lingering to the very end of the chocolate. It was such a lovely taste, an Autumn chocolate for sure! I already had a love for cinnamon, having an excessive amount on my porridge daily, but this chocolate reminded me and made me appreciate just how beautiful cinnamon is

a card within every Zotter chocolate
This chocolate made me feel warm. Whilst tasting, I pictured a hot, creamy beverage with cinnamon dusted on top and a few cinnamon sticks to its side. If this chocolate was a drink, I wouldn't mind having a quick dip of a homemade gingerbread man

I really enjoyed this chocolate and thank Chocablog for it (expect several more thanks as I received quite a bit of chocolate from him!). It can be bought here for £3.95

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Original Beans Piura Porcelana

The Porcelana, considered the Holy Grail of cacao, is a pure Criollo species, possibly the purest, and is prized for its delicacy. It is amongst the rarest and most expensive of all beans around the world. The Porcelana pods are unique due to their white/light colouring (they lack the flavonoid anthocyanin which contributes to the purple colouring)

In Peru, this "forgotten" cacao was discovered and, after near extinction, was brought back into production by Original Beans who worked with the local farmers. Original Beans' sustainable proposition of "one bar plants one tree" has meant they've planted over 1 million trees in the rainforest. Porcelana cocoa has not been found anywhere else in Peru other than La Quemazón (a village in the Piura Region). The cocoa farmers of La Quemazón are proud of their white cacao and ensure quality control to maintain their cacao in the fine chocolate market

Original Beans Piura Porcelana was of 75% cocoa solids made with direct trade Porcelana beans (from La Quemazón), organic and Fairtrade cocoa butter and organic cane sugar. The chocolate had outsourced its manufacture by chocolate maker Felchlin (Swiss company). My 70g bar had broken up in the packaging and was a little scuffed. It was of the lighter brown spectrum and had a medium snap

I breathed in a perfume of potent vanilla, yellow plum, leather and cream. The flavour opened with a bitter cocoa and sweetened up with a low acidity. There was such an authentic raspberry note, it was really quite unbelievable. The raspberry flavour wasn't always there, and when it wasn't I would [unsuccessfully] try to find it. It did always make itself present in the finish though. The chocolate overall was soft in flavours with a creaminess. There were hints of lightly toasted pecan, and along with the raspberry, a marscapone and cacao flavour it created a dessert-like finish. The texture in the mouth was exceptionally smooth

This delicate Porcelana cacao truly is white gold, and La Quemazón is the goldmine that domesticates it. I did enjoy and appreciate this chocolate but I didn't quite feel it on a spiritual level like I have done in the past with other fine cocoas. I have a thing for acidity in chocolate and this chocolate was a little too gentle and balanced. I really did love the authenticity of that raspberry though, it was tart though creamy and quite sensational. That trait alone made this Piura Porcelana the James Dean of chocolate. Initially shy, gives an unpredictable yet talented and inspirational performance (the raspberry = "you're tearing me apart"). But the chocolate as a whole, as I didn't emotionally feel it, sadly wasn't the Jimmy Dean of chocolate (i'm a big fan of James Dean by the way!)

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Trader Joe's Dark 70 Chocolate Bars

This is my very first American chocolate post! I was brought back these chocolates from Trader Joe's, a speciality grocery store, by my sister who travelled across the US. The artistic, vibrant water colouring packaging looked extremely attractive, and on the back it introduced each flavour, i.e "It's a little taste of tropical paradise" and  "Exotic Hawaiian Black Sea Salt hails from the Pacific seawater"

Each chocolate bar consisted of 70% cacao, sugar, vanilla, emulsifier, and then the eponymous extras. I liked the idea of each bar having caramel/toffee as that's a flavour I love

Coconut Caramel
A nice sheen. I snapped the chocolate and oh my, it was soft caramel! I've waited so long for a soft, runny caramel in my chocolate bar. The top layer of chocolate was thin and very delicate which was perfect, though made it rather messy and it wouldn't snap along the scoring. It tasted of coconut and lightly floral, creating an exotic taste, and within the caramel was desiccated coconut to add for a nice texture. Apparently there were cocoa nibs in the bar but I did not notice, oops!

Toffee with walnuts and pecans
You'd think, this being American, it would have been maple syrup paired with the pecan. But I was cool with it being toffee. At one end of my chocolate bar I could see that it had melted and reshaped with signs of bloom, though the taste was not impaired, it didn't look so good. The texture had a soft bite which was interesting, with its little crunches too making it feel like a biscuit. I couldn't quite taste walnut and pecan but there was something savoury along with a nice salted touch, tasting similiar to a nutty cereal bar. This chocolate's flavour wasn't as bold as the Coconut, but it was cool with its calm manner and the dark toffee coming in subtly but suavely. I think I enjoyed this bar the most 

Caramel with black sea salt
I thought: save the best 'til last! And had I? Although it was good, it wasn't my favourite out of the three. The salt would sometimes really overpower the caramel flavour. However, when the rich caramel sweetness would dominate it was magnificent. Again, I loved the delicacy of the bite, how easily the surface would snap and the viscous caramel to free flow

Although salt and chocolate is very popular, I think it's a difficult combination to pull off. I don't like it unless the salt is ever so delicate, and that to actually taste the salt you need just one granule on the tongue. The salt flakes on this bar seemed as if they would do just that - burst flavour - but salt was in the caramel too... seeming the likely culprit of the salted overkill. Though I much preferred the chocolate when I hadn't captured a flake in my bite...therefore just having the salt in the caramel would have been suffice