Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: Valrhona Guanaja

Richard's Rating: 7.5
chocolate makerValrhona
barGuanaja
regionCaribbean
plantationblend
cacao treesCriollo, Trinitario
year2013
size70g ~ 2.5oz
cocoa solids70%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenersugar
emulsifiersoy lecithin
flavoringvanilla extract
other ingredients(none)
list price$7.49
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1314
Seal Brown
appearancescoring, imprints, smooth
aromaroast (smoke, tobacco, coffee), spice fruit, earth
snapmedium hard
tasteroast (coffee, cocoa, smoke, tobacco), fruit (blueberry, mango, citrus), nut (almond)
meltmore smooth
lengthmedium
finishsomewhat acidic, somewhat tannin, slightly bitter
Guanaja was named for the island where Christopher Columbus landed off the coast of Honduras in 1502. This chocolate was made from a blend of Criollo and Trinitario cacao.

Valrhona's recipe for this chocolate contained 70% cocoa solids: cacao beans plus added cocoa butter. Other ingredients were sugar, soy lecithin, and vanilla extract.

Unfortunately, I did not photograph this 70 gram bar. Inside a paper box, it was wrapped in brass colored foil. The bar was made on September 18, 2013, and had a best before date of January 2015.

The bar was scored into 20 uneven pieces and had imprints of the Valrhona logo and name. The surface looked great, as is typical for Valrhona quality.

Guanaja had a medium brown Seal Brown (PANTONE 19-1314) color. The snap was medium hard.

A strong smoky roast gave a vague unpleasantness to the aroma of this chocolate. The roast scent contained tobacco and coffee as well. Spice, fruit, and earth were also present.

The taste began with an initial roast of coffee, cocoa, smoke, and tobacco that had none of the unpleasantness of the aroma. Guanaja soon revealed interesting fruit flavors of blueberry, mango, and citrus, along with an almond nuttiness. The result was a delicious combination.

The melt was more smooth. The flavor after the chocolate was gone lasted about 35 to 40 seconds, giving a medium length. The final aftertaste was somewhat acidic, somewhat tannin, and slightly bitter.

You can purchase Guanaja online for $7.49 directly from Valrhona, for $6.95 from World Wide Chocolate, and for $6.99 from Caputo's.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Review: Valrhona El Pedregal

Richard's Rating: 8.0
chocolate makerValrhona
barEl Pedregal
regionVenezuela
plantationEl Pedregal
cacao treesCriollo
year2013
size70g ~ 2.5oz
cocoa solids64%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenerbrown sugar
emulsifiersoy lecithin
flavoringvanilla
other ingredients(none)
list price$9.99
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1431
Fudgesickle
appearancescoring, imprints, smooth
aromaspice (pepper, vanilla), nut, roast (coffee, cocoa), fruit (raisin)
snapmedium hard
tasteroast (cocoa), spice (pepper, vanilla, clove), fruit (berry), nut (almond), sweet (molasses), acidic
meltsmooth
lengthlong
finishtannin, somewhat acidic
Unfortunately, Valrhona no longer makes their very good Palmira plantation bar from Venezuela. In its place, Valrhona has another Venezuelan plantation: El Pedregal, which grows Porcelana Criollo cacao for this chocolate.

Cocoa solids made up 64% of El Pedregal, including added cocoa butter. The sweetener for this chocolate was a surprising brown sugar. Soy lecithin was added as an emulsifier. There was also a small amount of vanilla.

The 70 gram bar reviewed here was produced on July 9, 2013, with a best before date of December 2014.

Valrhona scored the bar into 20 uneven pieces. The bar had imprints of the Valrhona logo and name. The surface of the chocolate was impressive, with only minuscule bubbles in some corners.

The chocolate had a medium brown Fudgesickle (PANTONE 19-1431) color. The bar had a medium hard snap.

El Pedregal gave off a spicy roast aroma. Scents included pepper, nut, coffee, cocoa, raisin, and vanilla.

Beginning with a cocoa roast, the taste revealed that peppery spice and some clove. Other flavors included a berry fruit, almond nuttiness, and a molasses sweetness. I also tasted vanilla and a little acidity.

The melt was smooth. The length was long, with the chocolate flavor lasting 40 to 45 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The finish was tannin and somewhat acidic.

Overall, while not as marvelous as some other Porcelana chocolates and sweeter than I'd prefer, I found El Pedregal to be excellent, certainly among the best chocolates with this much sugar.

You can purchase El Pedregal online for $9.99 directly from Valrhona, for $8.95 from World Wide Chocolate, and for $8.99 from Caputo's.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sale: Free Shipping at World Wide Chocolate

World Wide Chocolate is offering free shipping through December 25th with no minimum purchase. This is a great opportunity if you want to send a few great chocolate bars as a gift (or just get some for yourself).

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.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review: Fresco 226 Peru

Richard's Rating: 6.5
chocolate makerFresco
bar226
regionPeru
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size45g ~ 1.6oz
cocoa solids70%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$8.00
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1317
Bitter Chocolate
appearancelined, scoring, smooth
aromaroast (coffee), fruit (blackberry), wood, sweet
snapmedium hard
tasteroast (coffee), earth, fruit (blackberry, lemon, cranberry), sweet, nut, acidic
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishtannin, somewhat acidic
Crafting different chocolates from the same beans using the same proportions of ingredients, Rob Anderson of Fresco demonstrates the remarkably different flavors that can be produced from even a single batch of beans.

226 was made from the same cacao from Peru as 225. The beans used in 226 were given a much heavier roast. Both were conched moderately.

Cocoa solids (cacao beans plus added cocoa butter) were 70% of the ingredients (same as in 225). The remaining 30% was cane sugar. The chocolate was produced in Fresco's nut-free facility.

Inside a paper box, the 45 gram bar came wrapped in silver foil-sided wax paper. The bar reviewed here was number 0121 from batch 226-13-060, and was created on May 29, 2013 with a best before date of June 2015.

The bar was scored into 10 pieces, each of which was alternately lined either vertically or horizontally. The chocolate had a smooth surface and no bubbles, even in the corners.

The color was a medium brown Bitter Chocolate (PANTONE 19-1317). The snap was medium-hard.

226 had a strong roast coffee aroma. Other scents included blackberry, wood, and sweetness.

That same strong roast coffee from the aroma came forth in the taste. Fruit flavors of blackberry, lemon and cranberry were present, along with earth, nut, and sweetness. The taste was slightly acidic.

The melt was smooth. The chocolate flavor lasted 30 to 40 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a medium length. The final aftertaste was tannin and somewhat acidic.

You can purchase 226 Peru online for $8.00 directly from Fresco or for $7.00 from Chocolopolis.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: Fresco 225 Peru

Richard's Rating: 7.0
chocolate makerFresco
bar225
regionPeru
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size45g ~ 1.6oz
cocoa solids70%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$8.00
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1431
Fudgesickle
appearancelined, scoring, smooth, bubbles
aromaearth, fruit (citrus, banana), dairy (cheese), spice
snapmedium hard
tasteearth, fruit (citrus, banana, berry, fig), wood, roast, sour, sweet (butterscotch)
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishacidic, tannin
Fresco 225 is the first of two recipes from an identical harvest of cacao from Peru. The primary difference between the two recipes was that the beans were given a light roast in 225 and a heavy roast in 226.

All of Fresco's chocolate is made in their nut-free facility. Rob Anderson uses only three ingredients: cacao beans, cocoa butter, and cane sugar. 225 had 70% cocoa solids and 30% cane sugar.

The bar came wrapped in gold foil-sided wax paper inside a paper box. The bar number we reviewed was 0143 from batch 225-13-065, and was created on August 5, 2013. The best before date was September 2015.

The 45 gram bar was scored into 10 pieces, each of which was alternately lined either vertically or horizontally. The chocolate had a smooth surface, but there were bubbles in some of the corners.

225 had a medium brown Fudgesickle (PANTONE 19-1431) color and a medium-hard snap.

The chocolate gave off an aroma of earth, fruit, dairy, and spice. The fruit scent contained both citrus and banana. The dairy smell was reminiscent of an aromatic cheese.

An initial earthy flavor soon expanded into citrus and banana. The taste also included wood, roast, and sour flavors, and additional fruit flavors of berry and fig. A butterscotch sweetness was present in the background much of time.

Although the melt reached the smooth range, it leaned toward less smooth. The length was at the short end of medium, with the chocolate flavor lasting 20 to 25 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The finish was acidic and tannin.

You can purchase 225 Peru online for $8.00 directly from Fresco or for $7.00 from Chocolopolis.

Monday, December 1, 2014

International Chocolate Awards 2014 World Winners

The International Chocolate Awards finally published the 2014 world winners and here are the results for the unflavored dark and high percentage bars:

Dark
GOLD: Pacari Montubia 70%
SILVER: Pacari Raw 70%
SILVER: Bonnat Kaori
SILVER: Pacari Piura Quemazon 70%
SILVER: Cacaosuyo Lakuna
SILVER: Pacari La Cumbia 70%
SILVER: Pacari Tangara 70%
BRONZE: SOMA Peru Nacional
BRONZE: Friis-Holm Johe 70% (Bonnat)
BRONZE: Friis-Holm Nicaliso 70% (Bonnat)
BRONZE: Omnom Madgascar 66%

High Percentage
GOLD: Marou Tan Phu Dong 85% La Grande Epicerie de Paris
SILVER: Pacari Raw 85%
SILVER: Pacari Raw 100%

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales for Chocolate

Several individual chocolate makers and online stores are having Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Here are a few of the interesting ones I found:

Chocosphere has 20% off Domori, Guido Gobino, Kah Kow, Santander, Valrhona, and Venchi. Valid Thursday through midnight Monday, December 1st (PT).

Fresco has 20% off orders of $50 using discount code FRESCOGOODDEAL or 30% off orders of $100 using discount code FRESCOBESTDEAL. Free shipping is automatic on orders of $50 or more. Valid through midnight December 1st (PT).

Caputo's has free shipping in the U.S. with coupon code GIVETHANKS on all orders through December 4th (MT).

The Meadow has free shipping in the U.S. on all orders through the end of November.

World Wide Chocolate has 20% off chocolate from all makers other than Amedei using coupon code NOV20 OR free shipping using coupon code FREESHIPPING. Both are valid through the end of November (ET).

Chocolopolis has free shipping in the U.S. for orders over $50 through December 1st (PT).

Please add comments with any other good deals you find. Thank you!