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.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Review: Zotter Labooko High-End 96%

Lindy's Rating: 5.5
Richard's Rating: 6.0
chocolate makerZotter
barHigh End 96%
regionPeru
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size65g ~ 2.3oz
cocoa solids96%
added fat(none)
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredientssalt
list priceN/A
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearancerelief, imprints, textured top
aromaearth, roast (smoke), fruit (citrus, cherry), astringent
snaphard
tasteearth, sour, roast, nut, bitter
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishbitter, somewhat acidic, slightly sour
Austrian bean to bar chocolate maker Zotter crafts several lines of chocolate, including the Labooko line with several single origin bars. High-End 96% was made from organic cacao from Peru and 4% organic raw cane sugar. The complete ingredients included a tiny amount of salt.

High-End 96% was certified organic and fair trade. Zotter revealed on the packaging and on their website that the formulation for this particular chocolate included 34 hours of conching.

Labooko products each contain two 32.5 gram bars wrapped in gold foil-sided wax paper. Those wrapped bars are glued into the folds of a heavy outer paper. Because the glue must be strong enough to hold the bars in place, it is also so adhesive that it is often difficult to remove the bars from the packaging without tearing the foil and sometimes breaking the bars. The glue also complicates rewrapping a bar if you do not finish it. The packaging is far from ideal.

The best before date on the bars reviewed here was October 8, 2014. Zotter indicated that the bars have a 14-month shelf life, so they were produced in August, 2013.

Each bar had a "zotter" relief and imprints of "Labooko" and cacao pods. Their color was a medium brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012). The bars had a hard snap.

Scents of earth, roast, and fruit were present, along with an unusual astringency. The roast contained some smoke, and the fruit included citrus and a berry scent that Lindy identified as cherry.

High-End 96% tasted of earth, roast, nut, and bitterness. I also found it sour, but Lindy didn't experience that. For her, the roast and nut flavors were noticeably stronger than the earthiness.

The melt was nicely smooth (almost more smooth). The chocolate flavor lasted 30 to 35 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a medium length. The final after-taste was bitter, somewhat acidic, and slightly sour.

Overall, other than the astringent aroma, this was a good chocolate. However, I found their Labooko Peru 100% much better than this High-End 96% from the same origin.

You can purchase Labooko High-End 96% online for 3,35€ directly from Zotter or for $7.49 from NewLeaf.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sale: World Wide Chocolate 20% Off

UPDATE September 20, 2014: this sale was extended through the end of the month.

World Wide Chocolate is again having a nearly storewide sale for 20% off chocolate from all makers other than Amedei (multi-kilogram products by Valrhona are also excluded). No minimum purchase is required.

The current offer, using coupon code sept20, runs through September 19th 30th.

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.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: Dick Taylor Ecuador Camino Verde

Richard's Rating: 7.0
chocolate makerDick Taylor
barEcuador
Camino Verde
regionEcuador
plantationCamino Verde
cacao treesunknown
yearunknown
size57g ~ 2.0oz
cocoa solids76%
added fat(none)
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$8.00
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearanceimprint, smooth
aromaearth (hay, burlap), spice
snaphard
tasteroast (tea, cocoa), earth (hay), nut, fruit
meltmore smooth
lengthmedium
finishsour, somewhat tannin
Dick Taylor made this Ecuador chocolate with cacao beans from the Camino Verde farm. The chocolate was crafted from 76% cacao beans and 24% organic cane sugar.

Inside a paper envelope, the chocolate came wrapped in gold foil-sided wax paper. The best before date was September 2014 and the batch number was 13252.

The unscored two ounce bar had Dick Taylor's intricate imprint with only some insignificant, barely detectable bubbles. The color was a medium-dark brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012). The bar had a hard snap.

The aroma smelled strongly of hay. Secondary scents included an earthy burlap and some spice.

Camino Verde had flavors of roast, earth, nut, and fruit. The roast was mostly tea with a little cocoa. The earthy flavor was primarily the dominant hay of the aroma. Nuttiness and fruit developed, but remained in the background compared with the tea roast and hay earth flavors.

The chocolate had a more smooth melt. The length was medium, with the chocolate flavor lasting 30 to 35 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The finish was sour and somewhat tannin.

Overall, it's a great bar if you like the flavors found in this chocolate. The other chocolate we've reviewed made from the high-quality Camino Verde cacao, Rogue's Balao, is even better, but costs quite a lot more.

You can purchase Ecuador Camino Verde online for $8.00 directly from Dick Taylor or from Chocolopolis. I also found it for only $7.00 at The Chocolate Clinic.

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.