Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review: Fresco 223 Dominican Republic

Richard's Rating: 7.5
chocolate makerFresco
bar223
regionDominican Republic
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size45g ~ 1.6oz
cocoa solids72%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$8.00
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearancelined, scoring, smooth
aromaearth, roast (smoke, tea, malt), sweet (caramel), fruit (raisin, berry)
snapmedium hard
tasteearth, roast (tea, cocoa), fruit (plum, lime, berry), sweet (caramel), tannin
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishtannin, slightly acidic
One of the things I appreciate about chocolate from Fresco is tasting multiple formulations made not only from the same origin, but also from the same cacao beans (fermented and dried in the same harvest). Last year, Rob Anderson released two new formulations made from Dominican Republic cacao.

The recipes for 223 and 224 were nearly identical, both with 72% cocoa solids (with the same amount of added cocoa butter) and 28% cane sugar. The same Dominican Republic cacao beans for both were given a medium roast.

The process differed in conching: 223 experienced only a short, subtle conche, while 224 was conched for a medium duration. Without making chocolate, one rarely gets the opportunity to taste variations to experience the effects of different processing.

In any case, both chocolates were made in Fresco's nut-free facility. 223 came wrapped in gold foil-sided wax paper inside a paper box. This particular bar did not have a production or best before date.

The 45 gram bar was scored into 10 pieces, each of which was alternately lined either horizontally or vertically. The chocolate appeared smooth and only had a few tiny bubbles in the corners of some of the pieces.

223 had a medium brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012) color. The bar had a medium hard snap.

The chocolate gave off an aroma of earth, roast, sweetness, and fruit. The roast scent included smoke tea, and malt. The sweetness smelled of caramel. I noticed fruit scents of raisin and berry.

An initial earthy fruity taste soon revealed plum, lime, and berry flavors. Roast in the form of tea and cocoa as well as caramel sweetness joined shortly afterward. The taste was also tannin.

The melt was smooth, perhaps slightly less than average. The length lasted to the far end of medium, with the chocolate flavor dissipating only after about 35 to 40 seconds. The final aftertaste was tannin and slightly acidic.

You can purchase 223 Dominican Republic online for $8.00 directly from Fresco or for $7.00 from Chocolopolis.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

International Chocolate Awards 2014 Americas Semi-Final Winners

Last night the International Chocolate Awards published the 2014 winners of the Americas semi-finals. Here are the unflavored dark chocolate bar winners. There were many winners "due to the exceptionally high number of entries and overall standard". National awards were given "where there were a significant number of entries from one country within the category".

Americas
GOLD: Pacari Tangara 70%
SILVER: Pacari Piura 70%
SILVER: Pacari Raw 70%
SILVER: SOMA Peru Nacional
SILVER: Franceschi Rio Caribe 60% 2014 crop
SILVER: Cacaosuyo Lakuna
SILVER: It's Chocolate Venezuelan Chuao 70%
SILVER: Franceschi Ocumare 70% 2014 crop
SILVER: Pacari Lacumbia 70%
SILVER: Pacari Montubia 70%
SILVER: Madre Healani Orchards, Hawi, Hawaii, Criollo
SILVER: Pacari Nube 70%
BRONZE: Franceschi Sur Del Lago 60% 2014 crop
BRONZE: Amano Chuao
BRONZE: Hummingbird Hispaniola
BRONZE: Pacari Garua 70%
BRONZE: Chocolat Madagascar Fine Dark 65%
BRONZE: Amano Montanya
BRONZE: Potomac Upala, Costa Rica 70%

High Percentage
GOLD: Marou Tan Phu Dong 85% La Grande Epicerie de Paris
SILVER: Pacari Raw 85%
SILVER: Chocolat Madagascar Fine Dark 85%
BRONZE: Pacari Raw 100%
BRONZE: Cicada 99% Madagascan

Rough Ground
GOLD: Taza Cacao Puro
SILVER: SOMA Old School

National
CANADA GOLD: SOMA Peru Nacional
UNITED STATES GOLD: It's Chocolate Venezuelan Chuao 70%
VENEZUELA GOLD: Franceschi Rio Caribe 60% 2014 crop
UNITED STATES SILVER: Madre Healani Orchards, Hawi, Hawaii, Criollo
UNITED STATES SILVER: Amano Chuao
UNITED STATES SILVER: Amano Montanya
UNITED STATES SILVER: Potomac Upala, Costa Rica 70%
UNITED STATES SILVER: Dandelion Ambanja, Madagascar 70%

National Rough Ground
UNITED STATES GOLD: Taza Cacao Puro

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sale: Free Shipping at World Wide Chocolate

UPDATE October 19, 2014: free shipping using this offer was extended through the end of the month.

World Wide Chocolate is offering free shipping through October 17th with no minimum purchase. This is a great opportunity if you only want a few chocolate bars.

Use coupon code FREESHIPPING during checkout.

World Wide Chocolate ships to U.S., APO (military), and FPO (diplomatic) addresses. Please see their shipping policies for additional information.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Northwest Chocolate Festival Awards

The awards were announced Friday night for the 2014 Northwest Chocolate Festival. There were three judged categories (Single Origin, Milk Chocolate and Inclusions) and three non-judged awards.

In the judged Single Origin category, the winners were:

In the judged Milk Chocolate category, the winner was:
  • GOLD: Fruition Marañón 68%

In the judged Inclusions (flavored chocolate) category, the winners were:
  • GOLD: Madre Coconut Milk and Carmelized Ginger 55%
  • SILVER: Manoa Breakfast Bar 60%
  • BRONZE: Chocolate Naive Tahini and Sesame

They also gave out non-judged awards:

You can still buy tickets at the door for this weekend ($30 for a day pass) at Pier 66 (the Bell Harbor Center) in Seattle.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Review: Escazú Guapiles, Costa Rica

Lindy's Rating: 8.0
Richard's Rating: 7.5
chocolate makerEscazú
barGuapiles, Costa Rica
regionCosta Rica
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size80g ~ 2.8oz
cocoa solids65%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenersugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoringvanilla
other ingredients(none)
list price$6.50
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1317
Bitter Chocolate
appearancesmooth, glossy, scoring, uneven sheen, bubbles
aromaearth (hay), roast (smoke), fruit (citrus, berry, dried fruit)
snaphard
tasteearth, roast (cocoa, coffee), coconut, sweet (caramel, butterscotch), spice (cinnamon)
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishslightly sweet, slightly acidic, slightly sour, slightly tannin
U.S. chocolate maker Hallot Parson crafts his bean to bar chocolate as Escazú in Raleigh, N.C. The cacao beans for his Guapiles chocolate come from the Caribbean region of Costa Rica.

Guapiles, Costa Rica contained 65% cocoa solids (cacao beans plus added cocoa butter). Sugar and vanilla bean made up the other ingredients. The beans were certified organic by Rainforest Alliance. Although all of the other ingredients were organic as well, the bar was not certified.

Escazú continues to make large 80 gram bars. Guapiles, Costa Rica came wrapped in brass-sided foil inside a paper sleeve. The batch number for this particular bar was 23080813, indicating a production date of August 8, 2013. There was no best before date.

The chocolate looked smooth and glossy. The sheen was uneven and there were bubbles in the corners of several pieces. The bar was scored into 24 pieces.

Guapiles, Costa Rica had a medium brown Bitter Chocolate (PANTONE 19-1317) color. The snap was hard.

The aroma contained earth, roast, and fruit. The earthy scent seemed to be hay and the roast was smoky. Lindy identified the fruit scent as a mix of citrus and berry. To me, it smelled more like dried fruit and berry.

Clear flavors quickly came forth in our tastings: earth, a cocoa roast, coconut, a very sweet mix of caramel and butterscotch, and a cinnamon spice. I also tasted a coffee flavor in the roast.

Lindy described the taste as "a complex roller-coaster of flavors" and likened it to Mexican hot chocolate with cinnamon.

The melt was smooth. The chocolate flavor lasted about 35 to 40 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a medium length that was nearly long. The finish remained slightly sweet, along with just a little acidity, sourness, and tannin.

Overall, this version of Guapiles, Costa Rica was even better than the one we liked in our 2012 review, and now ranks second on our list of Costa Rica chocolate bars. Guapiles, Costa Rica won one of the 2012 Good Food Awards.

You can purchase Guapiles, Costa Rica online for $6.50 directly from Escazú.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: Dandelion Papua New Guinea

Lindy's Rating: 7.5
Richard's Rating: 7.5
chocolate makerDandelion
barPapua New Guinea
regionPapua New Guinea
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size56g ~ 2.0oz
cocoa solids70%
added fat(none)
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$12.00
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1431
Fudgesickle
appearancesmooth, scoring, imprints
aromaearth, roast (cocoa, smoke), spice (cinnamon), fruit (blackberry)
snaphard
tastesweet (brown sugar), wine, fruit (blackberry, cranberry), roast (smoke), earth, tart
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishsomewhat sweet, somewhat acidic
The cacao beans for Dandelion's Papua New Guinea bar were fire-dried after fermentation, as it typical for that region. The beans for this chocolate came from a 2011 harvest.

Dandelion never adds cocoa butter, lecithin, or vanilla. They crafted Papua New Guinea in their nut-free facility from only two ingredients: 70% cacao beans and 30% cane sugar.

The two ounce bar came wrapped in heavy gold-sided foil inside an outer wrapper of beautiful craft paper. The bar reviewed here was from batch 1, with a best before date of September, 2014.

Papua New Guinea looked great, with a smooth surface. The bar was scored into 18 pieces, each with imprints of 5 parallel squiggles.

The chocolate had a medium brown Fudgesickle (PANTONE 19-1431) color. Though the snap seemed medium hard on the thin scoring lines, breaking one of the pieces revealed a nice, hard snap.

The aroma contained scents of earth, a smoky and cocoa roast, a cinnamon spice, and blackberry fruit.

The taste of Papua New Guinea began with a sweet brown sugar flavor over a background of earth and smoky roast. Red wine and fruit flavors -- blackberry with some cranberry -- came next. Lindy described it as jammy and tasting of preserves. The taste grew tart and the earth and smoke flavors increased towards the end.

The label described the taste as "a bold Southeastern-style barbecue tang. Its fruity notes give way to an earthy, leathery finish."

The chocolate had a smooth melt. The length was medium, with the chocolate flavor lasting about 35 to 40 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The final aftertaste was somewhat acidic and surprisingly somewhat sweet.

In 2012, Fresco raised expectations for chocolates made of Papua New Guinea cacao, and this is another great chocolate from that region.

You can purchase Papua New Guinea online in the U.S. for $12.00 directly from Dandelion and in the U.K. for £5.95 from Bean to Bar Chocolate.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review: Zotter Labooko Raw Chocolate 80%

Lindy's Rating: 8.5
Richard's Rating: 7.5
chocolate makerZotter
barRaw 80%
regionPeru?
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size70g ~ 2.5oz
cocoa solids80%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenercoconut blossom sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredientssalt
list priceN/A
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1314
Seal Brown
appearancerelief, imprints, textured top
aromafloral, spice (anise), sweet, earth
snaphard
tastenut, roast, floral, earth, acidic, dried fruit (date), spice (anise), tannin
meltmore smooth
lengthmedium
finishtannin, acidic, slightly bitter
Labooko Raw Chocolate 80% is Zotter's only unflavored raw dark chocolate bar. Although I haven't yet received confirmation, I believe they sourced the organic and fair trade cacao for this chocolate from Peru.

The chocolate was sweetened with organic coconut blossom sugar rather than cane sugar. The 80% cocoa solids included added organic and fair trade cocoa butter. A tiny amount of salt was among the ingredients.

I don't have information about the maximum temperature used in processing this chocolate, but a Zotter representative told me that their current flavored raw chocolate is kept below 69°C (156°F), which is well above the temperature limit of most raw food. Raw Chocolate 80% was crafted with a 12 hour conching time.

The two 35 gram bars came in Zotter's standard packaging for the Labooko line: separately wrapped in gold foil-sided wax paper that was glued into the folds of the heavy outer paper. The outer paper is printed with one of Andreas h. Gratze's dramatic drawings of a person.

Based on Zotter's recommended 14-month shelf life, the best before date of October 10, 2014, indicates these bars were produced in August 2013.

The color of the chocolate was a medium-dark brown Seal Brown (PANTONE 19-1314). Each bar had a "zotter" relief and imprints of "Labooko" and cacao pods. The snap was hard.

Raw Chocolate 80% had a wonderful aroma, with scents of floral, anise spice, and sweetness. To me, it also smelled a bit earthy and the floral scent seemed to include just a hint of jasmine.

The taste began with nut, roast, floral, and earth flavors. Dried fruit, and date in particular, developed, along with the anise from the aroma. The chocolate tasted acidic and tannin.

The melt was more smooth. The length was medium, with the chocolate flavor lasting 20 to 25 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The finish was tannin, acidic, and slightly bitter.

Lindy likes raw chocolate, and rates Raw Chocolate 80% as her current favorite. I was somewhat less impressed, but still ranked it among raw chocolates as second only to Pacari Raw 70% (and the best raw chocolate without cane sugar). You can see our raw chocolate rankings on the bottom of our Chocolate Rankings page and our unranked list of (cane) sugar-free chocolates on the bottom of our Chocolate Lists page.

It appears that Labooko Raw Chocolate 80% is no longer on Zotter's website. However, you can still purchase it online for $7.49 from NewLeaf Chocolates or from Chocolate Voyages.