Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Michel Cluizel Los Anconès 67%

Serenity can be difficult to find. It is fascinating how being in that state, free of stress and anxiety, everything can feel so surreal. You're the stillness amidst chaos

I have an intense interest and enjoyment for chocolate. I love it, but rarely do I come across something that just gets me. To this Los Anconès, it was a cry of: you're kidding me

The aroma was lychee, apricot, honey, a sense of tropical fruits, sweet black olive. There was something sophisticated about this one; it was the vanilla, leather, spice and touch of smoke. The use of "Bourbon" vanilla with single plantation (not just origin!) cacao seems degrading, I believe it to be, but here it smoothed and balanced the flavour
The taste was sweet, a tropical 'fruit salad' (mango etc. cubed) with lots of cherries, and blackcurrant squash. The Rizek family's Los Anconès plantation cacao is a myriad of fruit. Nearing the finish, a toasted flavour passes over to then let the fruit and chocolatey flavours linger 

I'll admit that sometimes it was too buttery in taste and sometimes in texture, but oh wow - how delicate, yet powerful, it was 

So yes, serenity, it can be difficult to find, but honestly, not for me. I seek it whenever I want. And it just so happens I always achieve such a state before, during and after I have chocolate 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Pacari 70% Piura Quemazón

Pacari are 100% organic, single-origin, bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Ecuador. The Piura Quemazón is Pacari's first chocolate made from cacao sourced from outside of Ecuador. This 50g bar was made from Nacional (Arriba) beans from the Peruvian region of Piura (north-west Peru), cane sugar, cocoa butter and sunflower lecithin
high sunlight exposure
I have had chocolate made from cacao from La Quemazón before, though it was specifically said to be the Porcelana bean. But checking the light, milk chocolate colour of this chocolate and its aroma ... it seems the geographical location of La Quemazón is vastly influential, as this Nacional and that Porcelana I once had are very similar

The aroma was green, very fresh, citrus, a little sherbet, leather, yellow plum and a faint catch of chocolate. The taste was initially cocoa, with then: greenery, tannin, toffee (yum) and toastiness, then slowly came out vinegar and lots of acidity! It was very creamy and so was the texture. There was dill and gherkin too, it reminded me of Madécasse's 80% (Madagascar). In the distant finish was a very fresh, lively coffee
Piura has wowed me yet again! Pacari's Piura Quemazón was super enjoyable. Although it is definitely the northernly-west Peruvian cacao I enjoy, as Pacari had executed it so well (roast, texture - these guys know how to work good beans) I would love to try more from them

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Doble & Bignall

The craft chocolate revolution is pretty much alive in the UK. It has excited and entertained myself and many others; it has inspired myself and few others - to do it themselves, from the bean! Doble & Bignall rode the wave (think: 'new wave chocolate' #boom) in the summer of 2013, after listening to a Radio 4 programme on making chocolate from the bean

Doble & Bignall craft their chocolate in micro-batches in Gloucestershire, mixing their beans with cane sugar and cocoa butter
Raven Johe, Nicaragua 72%
This cocoa had grown in the Jinotega region in the northern mountains of Nicaragua. The colour was a brighter, more chocolate brown than the Venezuela. Trying to get the aroma of this chocolate felt like I was behind double-glazed windows. It was always 'chocolate', but I occasionally captured  smoke, spice, leather, nutty, malted milk (Horlicks®); it was sweet and all delicate

Straight on the tongue there was ash and a super juicy acidity (mineral acidity - Jinotega has very rich soils!). There was a berry buzz - so fresh and tangy, greenery and a taste of burnt/blackened toast. This Raven was all 'silent but deadly': quiet aroma, loud taste!

Raven Puerto Cabello, 72% Venezuela
Made from Cabello cocoa beans from the Mantuano region of Venezuela. The aroma was piss, spice, excrement, floral - it actually smelt of a Mr Bean rub-and-sniff sticker collection I had years ago

The taste was coffee, coconut water, heavy roast, something fruity and then the bitter coffee finished. My third and final attempt at this chocolate was actually very pleasant (it wasn't distinctly coffee nor coconut like before), though I still wasn't hot on the roast 

Tawny Owl Tierra Oscura, 50% Panama (milk)
An aroma so buttered fruit scone (made with 50/50 flour), quite creamy/milky. The taste was a less satisfying wheat taste, and a sudden tight bitterness (very astringent) but then after awhile dried fruits, some lactic acidity and pure butter came out

Tawny Owl Puerto Cabello, 50% Venezuela (milk)
Made from the same beans as the Venezuelan Raven. The aroma was very creamy, quite like a white chocolate. The taste was delicate, there was a flicker of liquorice and toasted oats and vanilla cheesecake. A very easy to eat chocolate, quite delicious!

Smelling its wrapper after the chocolate had gone, it was so cheesy and kinda like puke, but 12 hours later it was caramelised white chocolate

Out of these 4 chocolates Doble & Bignall craft, my favourites were the Venezuelan milk Puerto Cabello and the Nicaragua 72! This Nicaraguan Raven had that kind of kickin' acidity that I just LOVE in chocolate

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Menakao 63% Combava & Pink Pepper

Cacao took a long journey before landing on Madagascan grounds. From the origin (South America) it was brought to the Philippines, en route to Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Réunion and then finally the red island of Madagascar (estimated journey)

Menakao use cocoa beans that are organic (though not certified) from the Millot plantation of the Sambirano Valley. Archival documents from this plantation say that the first cacao trees Millot planted (near to 100 years ago) were grafts from Java, specifically the city of Bogor

Menakao use cane sugar from the Menabe region, grown southwards 1.5km from the cocoa! And they are one of two Madagascan bean-to-bar companies (the other being Madécasse)
The aroma was strikingly Turkish delight, ever so floral, peppery, basil (it reminded me of Rococo's basil & lime dark chocolate), lemongrass and something sweet & acetic like balsamic vinegar

On the tongue the floral rose was the drone with the spiced pepper as the high note. The Madagascan chocolate was exceptionally red, very bright - though it was only perceptible when it would overcome the pink pepper. I had a taste of Thai green curry few times (lemongrass)
The depth of this chocolate (as in the mould's thickness) was probably the best I've had. I really loved it. The chocolate itself was nice. The way the Madagascan fruitiness would come out was superb. Some may think the aroma/flavour to be a little too 1950s Hollywood dressing-room glamour (perfumed), but I love Turkish delight so I fared well. Though, I'm not one for pepper in chocolate ...

Friday, 27 March 2015

Pralus Papouasie 75

An interesting fact: Papua New Guinea (the eastern half of the island New Guinea) is independent from Indonesia

Pralus has a dark reputation for roasting. Heavy roasting isn't something I am a fan of (Willie's Cacao comes to mind) - so I wondered how I would fare with Pralus, who is considered the deepest chocolate roaster

Heavy roasting, to me, seems like the action one takes when one has a cacao, what T.S Eliot had said in regards to Hamlet, "full of some stuff that the writer could not drag to light, contemplate, or manipulate into art.” But I guess the proof of good chocolate is in the pudding tasting. Pralus, unlike many chocolate makers, are knowledgeable (they too have a cocoa plantation in Madagascar), so maybe in their roasts is an art, opposed to just a signature (think Mast Bros, they could not possibly smoothen their texture now - brittle/roughness is their signature)
The aroma was a bbq picnic in the woods: smoked (first thoughts: pork, and Polish Oscypek cheese, but probably more a smoked Gouda), blackberry, chilli roasted nuts, dark chocolate, wood shavings and somewhat floral. It was buttery and deep fruited sweetness

The flavour was smokey, cocoa, blackberry, spice (sweet), forest fruits, and an overall sweetness. This was a very easy-to-eat chocolate, surprising, when considering the influences (Pralus' roast, PNG volcanic soils, PNG drying techniques) 
many bubbles
I am fond of Willie's Indonesian (Java 69), and I know I cannot compare the two chocolates (too many variables) but I did anyway. The Papouasie was less smoky, more nuanced, softer on the palate