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 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 suggested less fat and quite brittle. 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. The chocolate wasn't particularly acidic and although very aromatic with an enjoyable taste, I think 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

Thursday, 21 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

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 and a marscapone 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

Zotter Labooko Milk Santo Domingo 40%

This Zotter chocolate had a healthy cocoa % for milk chocolate. It had a considerably high cocoa butter ratio, with the Santo Domingo cocoa being less than 21% which overall suggested a weaker cocoa/chocolate flavour one would expect from a 40%

The milk chocolate contained salt and vanilla. All ingredients, but salt, were organic and majority were Fairtrade. The Hispaniola beans were noted, by Zotter, to be "particularly mild" and had been mildly roasted with a short conche time

The chocolate smelt goood. It was incredibly creamy with a lime acidity. Cocoa and sweet caramel were also recognised. The flavour was similar. It was again immensely creamy, with a mild chocolate flavour which was then surpassed by a very distinctive milk, almost like sour milk (most likely the lime cutting through the heavy creaminess)

The chocolate had soft flavours, in particular a very soft chocolate flavour. The mild cocoa, mild roast and short conche are apparent. The texture in the mouth was smooth and had a clean chew (this is excellent with milk chocolate). The snap and texture was hard. The salt nor vanilla were tasted which simply showed that they were used to enhance the flavour of the chocolate, not to add flavour

Thank you Chocablog for this chocolate. For 70g (2x35g bars), this chocolate can be bought here for £3.95

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Chocolate Tree Ecuador 84%

84% Ecuadorian cocoa beans and the rest cane sugar. Without any extra cocoa butter, it simply meant the cocoa was purely Ecuadorian! I loved this, though it did suggest a slight hinderance of a potentially smoother texture

The Chocolate Tree, for their Ecuadorian bars, have sourced fine cacao from their partner Golden Bean. This single estate Sabor Arriba is rare and real. It's far from the imitating CCN-51 (a strain designed for yield opposed to flavour) of which often masquerades itself as "Arriba/Nacional" on single origin Ecuadorian chocolate - so don't be fooled. But like I said, this chocolate is truly Arriba. The Chocolate Tree work directly with organic farmers, paying them considerably higher than the going rate for cocoa, this encourages the growers to care for their heirloom cacao as well as sustaining biodiversity and fine flavour chocolate

A bold aroma. It initially had that alcoholic/urine tone, which I refined such description to Narcissus "paperwhite" flower. A flower with a concentrated aroma. The chocolate was heavy with prune and red wine, hints of date syrup, grape and earth. There was a delicate buzz of citrus orange which brought honey to the nose too

The snap gave a little *click* sound. The taste opened with cocoa, and then the prune/red wine/earthy notes from aroma could be tasted along with wood. I loved when a fruitiness/acidity could be tasted and felt on the tongue, though rare, it really refreshed the cocoa 'bitterness'. A deep roast was tasted too

The texture wasn't completely smooth, but considering there was no extra butter it was well refined and tempered. The long finish was cork, tannin, astringent, mildly sour with fragrant raisin being the very last note

I appreciate this fine chocolate for the extremely high quality it is. It had the characterises of true Nacional (Arriba) bean. Although there were a number of fruity notes, I personally would not consider it to be fruity. It was some great chocolate, but the flavour just wasn't the flavour I desire when it comes to cocoa. I had a preference for The Chocolate Tree's Madagascan bar

£5.95 for 90g can be purchased here 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Cachet Vanuatu 44% Milk Chocolate

When it comes to origin chocolate, Cachet isn't anything special. In my eyes, the fact that they do not make their chocolate from the bean reduces its appeal. I guess if it's good cocoa, it's good cocoa. But in chocolate making, it's said that every step is the most important step and for Cachet to work from cocoa liquor simply seems like an attempt to keep up with the fashion, to attract those uninitiated in fine cocoa chocolate, stick an origin on the packaging and make consumers believe they're having fine cocoa chocolate

The cocoa of Vanuatu thrives in the nutritious volcanic soil, so experiencing Vanuatuan chocolate sounded more than interesting. However, with sugar being the first ingredient, the vanilla flavouring, the 20% milk solids, the generic cocoa butter (sitting second on the list), and only <20% Vanuatuan cocoa mass... I didn't think I'd quite experience Vanuatu chocolate how I'd have liked to

The aroma was predominately chocolate with a nuttiness, distinctly coconut. The taste was chocolate with a caramel sweetness. Straight away there was a taste of salt, as if it was salted caramel - I found this in Cachet's Madagascar milk chocolate too. The sugar was felt on the back of the tongue which was slightly off-putting, but the smooth melt and salted touch made up for it

This was by all means no superior high cocoa milk chocolate, but it certainly was of a higher quality milk chocolate than what you can find in most shops and supermarkets. With a price of £1.49 (TK Maxx), if I was none the wiser, I would be far from disappointed. But, as a single origin chocolate, with less than 10% giving way to the flavour of the Vanuatuan cocoa...although it tasted nice, I am disappointed 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Valrhona Dulcey 32% Blond Chocolate

I bought Valrhona's Blond chocolate in Marseille, enjoying it after my al fresco dinner at sea which consisted of a fresh baguette from the boulangerie,  a blue-veined cheese and a pork terrine. I wouldn't usually have chocolate I'm to 'review' straight after a meal, especially a meal of such flavour! I usually taste my chocolate in the quiet darkness of nighttime, if not, several hours after having anything flavourful. I enjoyed my Valrhona blond chocolate and just wished I could have had more... I had to share it with my parents you see. I came to the conclusion that it was best and only fair I try the chocolate again but with a fresh and pure palate. So I bought the bar again the following morning and had it on the 11am train to Cannes, having only had fruit a few hours prior

my second bar
The flavour had a late start, but it was beautiful and very delicate. It was like a buttery toffee. Comparing to standard white chocolate, it wasn't really sweet but its relaxing, dark, soft sweetness made it just as rich. And unlike most white chocolate, "SUGAR" didn't spring to mind. It had a more buttery, caramelised and subtlety burnt flavour

The Dulcey Blond had a soft break, but snapped so intactly with my third bar (my third bar had the more interesting and defined scoring). My first bar had an immensely smooth mouthfeel but the second felt rather wet in the mouth, and with my third I felt more inclined to just chew. The unique tan colour was beautiful, it really reflects the flavour

my third bar
This chocolate, if I can call it chocolate by European standards, actually smelt better than it tasted. The aroma was like cooking and caramelising white chocolate on a stove whilst sitting on a cloud, watching the sun melt into the horizon and the red sky fade into darkness. (note to self: David Lebovitz' caramelized white chocolate recipe - I must try it!). Whereas the taste was, like I said, more delicate and seemed almost timid 

The short finish was buttery vanilla fudge, butterscotch and a salted feel and taste on the tongue. Valrhona note that their Dulcey tastes toasty and of shortbread. I very much agree. It certainly was toasty and I had a taste of shortbread biscuits dipping into a melting pot of white chocolate!