Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review: Stirs the Soul Origins Ecuador

Richard's Rating: 6.0
chocolate makerStirs the Soul
barOrigins Ecuador
cacao treesCriollo
size47g ~ 1.65oz
cocoa solids88%
added fatcocoa butter
other ingredientssalt
list price$6.25
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1015
texturesmooth, image imprint, bubbles
aromafloral, earth (must), spice, cocoa, fruit (berry)
snapmedium hard
tasteearth, floral, citrus, coffee, acidic, hint of sour
finishsomewhat sour, slightly acidic
Oregon chocolate maker Daren Hayes has been hand-crafting stone-ground bean to bar raw chocolate as Stirs the Soul since 2006. With a motto of "conscious raw chocolate", Stirs the Soul ensures the temperature during processing never exceeds 111 degrees Fahrenheit (44°C).

Daren uses only organic or wild ingredients in his chocolate, and buys his cacao beans at fair trade or higher prices from those using sustainable practices. He avoids cane sugar, uses alternative low glycemic sweeteners (agave, date, honey, and coconut palm), and produces his chocolate in a nut, gluten, soy, and dairy free environment, which he finds helpful for those with food sensitivities. Stirs the Soul makes two single origin chocolates, three unflavored chocolates, many flavored chocolates, as well as chocolate confections and other cacao products. Origins Ecuador is one of the two single origin bars.

Origins Ecuador contained 88% cocoa solids and was made from Criollo cacao beans, cocoa butter, agave, and salt. The cacao beans were purchased from an individual farmer in Ecuador and the cocoa butter was made from those same beans. All of the ingredients were raw other than the salt. Although the bar was not certified, the ingredients were all organic. The 1.65 ounce bar was unscored, had raised areas, and was imprinted with a design of cacao pods. It came wrapped in two layers, wax paper under purple foil, inside a paper sleeve. The bar we reviewed was made on 20 October 2011, and had a best before date of 20 April 2012.

The chocolate had color similar to that of the other raw Ecuador chocolate we've reviewed: a medium-dark brown close to Bracken (PANTONE 19-1015), but with some added red. The surface of the bar was smooth, but had several bubbles. The snap was medium hard.

Origins Ecuador smelled of the familiar floral, musty earth, spice, and cocoa scents, but I also noticed a berry fruit in the aroma.

The taste, though, was somewhat different. The same earth and floral flavors were present, but I also tasted citrus and coffee. It was acidic, but had only a hint of sourness (much less than in Pacari's raw chocolates).

The chocolate had a smooth melt. The chocolate flavor lasted about 15 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving it a short length. The sourness grew a little in the aftertaste, giving a finish that was somewhat sour and slightly acidic.

This was another raw chocolate that breaks the stereotype of raw chocolate having poor taste. Origins Ecuador was as good as many roasted chocolates. Even compared against other single origin Ecuador chocolate we've reviewed, it ranked only a little below the median.

You can purchase Origins Ecuador bars in packs of two for $12.50 in the U.S. directly from Stirs the Soul, or internationally if you phone them at 503-774-4903.

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