Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: The Chocolate Conspiracy Dark Bar

Richard's Rating: 6.0
chocolate makerChocolate Conspiracy
barDark Bar
regionPeru
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size56g ~ 2.0oz
cocoa solids74%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenerwildflower honey
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$9.00
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearancesmooth, text imprints, uneven sheen, bubbles
aromaearth, spice, fruit, floral, cocoa, sweet
snapmedium hard
tasteearth, nut, spice (cinnamon), fruit, coffee, sweet (honey), acidic
meltless smooth
lengthshort
finishacidic, slightly sour
The Chocolate Conspiracy made several changes to their Dark Bar since we reviewed it in 2012. The cacao beans for this chocolate now come from Peru rather than Ecuador. Vanilla beans are no longer among the ingredients. The Chocolate Conspiracy has new wrappers and shapes their bars in new molds.

A.J. Wentworth still crafts his chocolate raw, with the temperature never exceeding 105°F (41°C). The 74% cocoa solids of Dark Bar were cacao beans and cocoa butter, both of which were certified organic. The 26% sweetener was unfiltered wildflower honey.

Inside an outer paper wrapper, the unscored two ounce bar came wrapped in copper-colored foil-sided wax paper. The best before date was September 12, 2014.

The bar had a smooth surface, but the sheen was uneven and there were several bubbles around the text imprints. The chocolate had a medium-dark brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012) color.

Dark Bar had a medium hard snap. The aroma contained scents of earth, spice, fruit, floral, cocoa, and sweet.

An initial earthy taste developed additional flavors of nut, cinnamon spice, fruit, coffee, and honey. The coffee flavor grew dominant. The taste was acidic.

The melt of this chocolate was less smooth, with a slightly grainy texture. The length was short, with the chocolate flavor lasting about 15-20 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The final aftertaste was acidic and slightly sour.

Overall, I preferred the prior incarnation of this chocolate, but Dark Bar remains a good choice among raw or sugar-free chocolate.

You can purchase Dark Bar for $9.00 directly from The Chocolate Conspiracy.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sale: 20% Off at World Wide Chocolate

Through the end of August, World Wide Chocolate is having a nearly storewide sale for 20% off all chocolate makers other than Amedei.  Multi-kilogram products by Valrhona are also excluded. No minimum purchase is required.

Use coupon code AUG20 during checkout.

Note that given the temperatures this time of year, you'll want to add warm weather packaging for $6.99 and ship via two-day or overnight air, which is relatively expensive. World Wide Chocolate ships to United States, APO (military), and FPO (diplomatic) addresses. Please see their shipping policies for additional information.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Northwest Chocolate Festival Living Social Deal

An amazing deal on tickets to the Northwest Chocolate Festival (NWCF) is now available on Living Social. This year the festival runs October 3rd through 5th and has moved to the Bell Harbor conference center on the Seattle waterfront (Pier 66, 2211 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98121).

Advance one day passes are regularly $25, but you can get them with this living social deal for only $15. Even better is that promocode 5off15 will bring the price down to $10!

$10 is almost certainly the lowest price you'll find to buy one-day tickets. The living social 5off15 discount code is valid through Sunday, August 24th. Regular advance price ($5 off "day of" price) full weekend and VIP passes are available on NWCF's site.

I haven't yet written about this year's event, but here's info about last year and you can read about this year on the Northwest Chocolate Festival website.

You can purchase a one-day pass for either Saturday or Sunday. Saturday tends to be more crowded. Unfortunately, the schedule of talks and workshops has not yet been posted to help you choose the day that most interests you.

Here's a direct link to the living social deal.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: Chocolove Strong Dark 70%

Richard's Rating: 6.0
chocolate maker(unknown)
barStrong Dark
region(blend)
plantation(blend)
cacao trees(unknown)
year2012
size90g ~ 3.2oz
cocoa solids70%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenersugar
emulsifiersoy lecithin
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1015
Bracken
appearancesmooth, glossy, scoring, adhered bits
aromaroast (smoke, coffee, cocoa), sweet (caramel), earth
snaphard
tasteroast (coffee, cocoa), nut, spice (anise, cinnamon), sweet (caramel), bitter, acidic
meltmore smooth
lengthmedium
finishbitter, somewhat acidic, somewhat astringent
Chocolove is not a bean to bar chocolate maker, and instead uses cocoa liquor from Belgium. Strong Dark was made "primarily from African cocoa beans and a small amount of Caribbean cocoa beans".

This chocolate contained 70% cocoa solids (included added cocoa butter). The other ingredients were sugar and soy lecithin.

As with all of Chocolove bars, a love poem was printed on the inside of the outer paper wrapper. In this case, that poem was an excerpt from John Donne's Elegy XVIII: Love's Progress.

Wrapped inside the inner gold foil-sided wax paper was the 90 gram bar. The lot number was 081012 and the best before date was August 2014.

The bar was scored into 18 pieces, each with the imprint of a stylized heart. The surface was smooth and glossy, with some adhered bits of chocolate. The chocolate had a medium-dark brown Bracken (PANTONE 19-1015) color.

Strong Dark had a hard snap. The aroma contained a complex roast, along with caramel sweetness and some earthiness. The roast was smoky, with scents of coffee and cocoa.

The taste began with those same roast flavors of coffee and cocoa. The middle added flavors of nut, anise, cinnamon, and the caramel sweetness from the aroma. Bitterness and some acidity were also present.

The melt was more smooth. The chocolate flavor lasted 30 to 35 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a medium length. The finish was bitter, somewhat acidic, and somewhat astringent.

At roughly $1.00 per ounce, Strong Dark is a bargain for a good, albeit bitter, chocolate bar. You can find it near the top of our Best Chocolate Values page.

You can purchase Chocolove Strong Dark 70% online for only $2.95 at Chocosphere.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Review: Dick Taylor Dominican Finca Elvesia

Richard's Rating: 7.0
chocolate makerDick Taylor
barDominican
Finca Elvesia
regionDominican Republic
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size57g ~ 2.0oz
cocoa solids74%
added fat(none)
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$8.00
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearanceimprint, smooth, uneven sheen
aromaearth (must), roast (tobacco), dried fruit (prune)
snaphard
tasteearth, roast (tea), fruit (plum, grapefruit, lime, raisin), sour, tannin
meltmore smooth
lengthmedium
finishtannin, acidic, somewhat sour
U.S. bean to bar chocolate makers Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor craft chocolate in their factory in Arcata, California. Dick Taylor makes all of their unflavored chocolate from only two ingredients: cacao beans and cane sugar.

The 74% cocoa solids were entirely cacao beans. Although Dominican Finca Elvesia was not certified, both ingredients were organic.

The unscored two ounce bar came wrapped in gold foil-sided wax paper inside a paper envelope. The best before date was August 2014 and the batch number was 13246.

Even with its extremely detailed imprint, this chocolate had a smooth surface and was remarkably nearly free of bubbles. The sheen was uneven in a few spots. The chocolate had a medium brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012) color. The snap was hard.

The aroma of Dominican Finca Elvesia contained scents of musty earth, tobacco roast, and dried fruit. The dried fruit scent smelled primarily of prune.

This chocolate tasted of earth, roast, and fruit. It began primarily as earth, but the flavor of tea with strong tannin came forth fairly quickly. The fruit flavors developed more slowly, and revealed themselves as plum, raisin, and a sour citrus that seemed to be a combination of grapefruit and lime.

The melt was more smooth. The chocolate flavor lasted 35 to 40 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a medium length that was nearly long. The final aftertaste was tannin, acidic, and somewhat sour.

You can purchase Dominican Finca Elvesia online for $8.00 directly from Dick Taylor or for $7.49 from Caputo's.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review: Dandelion Mantuano, Venezuela 70%

Richard's Rating: 6.0
chocolate makerDandelion
barMantuano
regionVenezuela
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size56g ~ 2.0oz
cocoa solids70%
added fat(none)
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$8.00
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearancesmooth, scoring, imprints
aromaroast (smoke), earth (mold), dairy
snaphard
tasteroast (malt, smoke, coffee), earth, spice (cinnamon), fruit
meltmore smooth
lengthmedium
finishtannin, somewhat acidic, slightly sour
Dandelion sourced the cacao beans for Mantuano "from a female-run co-op nestled in the tropical hills of the Caribbean coast of Venezuela." This particular bar was made from batch 1 of the beans from the 2012 harvest.

The ingredients of this chocolate were only 70% cacao beans and 30% organic cane sugar. The bar was not certified organic.

This particular batch was roasted using higher temperature for a shorter time. Mantuano was made in their nut-free facility.

Inside the outer lovely craft paper wrapper, the two ounce bar was enclosed in heavy gold-sided foil. The best before date was August, 2014.

The bar was scored into 18 pieces, each with imprints of 5 parallel squiggles. Its appearance was excellent, with a clean, smooth surface.

Mantuano had a medium brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012) color. The snap was hard. The aroma contained smoky roast, moldy earth, and dairy scents.

The taste contained roast, earth, cinnamon spice, and fruit flavors. After the initial earth, spice, and fruit flavors, the roast quickly developed. I tasted smoke and coffee before malt completely dominated the remaining time.

I found the malt flavor overwhelming and not enjoyable. However, if you love that flavor, you might find this bar especially appealing.

On the label, the taste of this chocolate was described as "notes of fudge brownie and espresso with a lovely cinnamon finish."

The melt crossed the boundary into more smooth. The length was medium, with the chocolate flavor lasting about 25 to 30 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The final aftertaste was tannin, somewhat acidic, and slightly sour.

You can purchase Dandelion Mantuano, Venezuela online in the U.S. for $8.95 from The Meadow or for $8.99 from Chocolopolis, and in the U.K. for £5.50 from Bean to Bar Chocolate. It is not currently available directly for $8.00 from Dandelion.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Northwest Chocolate Festival Groupon

Even though it's still two months away, you can score a one-day pass to my favorite event of the year, the Northwest Chocolate Festival (NWCF), at a 40% discount. This year the festival runs October 3rd through 5th and has moved to the Bell Harbor conference center on the Seattle waterfront (Pier 66, 2211 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98121).

As a result of the larger venue, ticket prices have dropped from last year. Advance one day passes are regularly $25, but you can get them with this groupon deal for only $15. Regular price advance ($5 off "day of" price) full weekend and VIP passes are available on NWCF's site.

I haven't yet written about this year's event, but here's info about last year and you can read about this year on the Northwest Chocolate Festival website.

You can purchase a $15 one-day pass for either Saturday or Sunday. Saturday tends to be more crowded. Unfortunately, the schedule of talks and workshops has not yet been posted to help you choose the day that most interests you.

Here's a direct link to the Groupon.

UPDATE: Use coupon code LOCAL10 through August 12th for an additional 10% off.