Friday, December 27, 2013

Review: Marou Tien Giang 70%

Richard's Rating: 6.5
chocolate makerMarou
barTien Giang
regionVietnam
plantation(blend)
cacao treesTrinitario
year(unknown)
size100g ~ 3.5oz
cocoa solids70%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearancesmooth, scoring, imprint, bubbles, adhered bits
aromaroast (coffee, smoke), sweet
snaphard
tasteroast (smoke), spice (pepper), fruit (prune), sweet (honey, toffee), earth
meltsmooth
lengthlong
finishsomewhat acidic, slightly tannin
Tien Giang is one of five regional bean to bar chocolates crafted by Marou locally in Vietnam. Each bar is made with cacao from a different growing region within the country. The other four bars are: Ba Ria, Ben Tre, Dong Nai, and Lam Dong.

The outer paper wrapper of Tien Giang was a beautiful deep blue (and slight purple hue) with silk-screened gold ink lines and drawings. Inside, the large 100 gram bar was wrapped in thin bronze foil-sided paper.

The ingredients of Tien Giang were cacao beans, cocoa butter, and cane sugar. The chocolate had 70% cocoa solids and 30% sugar. The bar was produced in Marou's nut-free factory in Ho Chi Minh City. The batch number was 306 and the best before date was January 27, 2014.

The bar was scored with diagonal lines, giving pieces of different sizes. The center had an imprint of the Marou logo. The surface was smooth with a slightly uneven sheen. The color was a medium brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012). There were some bubbles and adhered bits.

The snap was hard. The aroma was primarily roast, with scents of coffee and smoke. I also smelled some sweetness.

Tien Giang had a smoky roast flavor that tasted initially quite strong. Other flavors that soon came forth included a complex spice with pepper, a fruit flavor that contained prune, and a sweetness that seemed to be a cross between honey and toffee. Some earthiness was also present.

The chocolate had a smooth melt. The length was long, with the flavor lasting over 50 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The final aftertaste was somewhat acidic and slightly tannin.

Tien Giang won a silver at the Academy of Chocolate 2013 awards.

You can purchase Marou Tien Giang 70% online for $9.00 from Chocolopolis.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Review: Marou Ben Tre 78%

Richard's Rating: 7.0
chocolate makerMarou
barBen Tre
regionVietnam
plantation(blend)
cacao treesTrinitario
year(unknown)
size100g ~ 3.5oz
cocoa solids78%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1431
Fudgesickle
appearancesmooth, scoring, imprint, adhered bits, bubbles
aromaroast (cocoa, tobacco), earth (hay), spice
snaphard
tasteroast (cocoa), earth (hay), sweet (honey), nut
meltsmooth
lengthlong
finishsomewhat tannin, somewhat acidic
Marou, Faiseurs de Chocolat makes five single origin chocolate bars in Vietnam with cacao from different local regions in the country: Ba Ria, Ben Tre, Dong Nai, Lam Dong, and Tien Giang.

Ben Tre was made from 78% cocoa solids (cacao beans and cocoa butter) and 22% cane sugar in Marou's nut-free factory in Ho Chi Minh City.

The bright green outer paper wrapper had silk-screened gold ink and was held closed by double-sided adhesive. Inside, the 100 gram bar came hand-wrapped in bronze foil-sided paper closed with a sticker of their "M" logo.

The bar was scored with diagonal lines, giving pieces of different sizes. The center had an imprint of the Marou logo. The best before date of this was January 25, 2014, and the batch number was 303.

The chocolate had a medium brown Fudgesickle (PANTONE 19-1431) color. The surface was smooth and looked great, even with some adhered bits, lines from the wrapper, and a few bubbles.

Ben Tre had a hard snap. The rich aroma contained roast, earth, and spice. The roast was a mix of cocoa and tobacco. The earth scent seemed closest to hay.

The taste began with and maintained an underlying cocoa roast and earthy hay. Sweetness grew into a strong honey flavor, and some nuttiness developed in the latter half. There was also a hint of sourness.

The chocolate had a smooth melt. The flavor after the chocolate was gone lasted about 40 to 50 seconds, giving a long length. The final aftertaste was somewhat tannin and somewhat acidic.

Ben Tre won a bronze at the Academy of Chocolate 2013 awards.

You can purchase Marou Ben Tre 78% online for $9.00 from Chocolopolis.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sale: Taza 20% off sale

Taza is running their annual Cyber Monday sale today and tomorrow for 20% off everything at their online store.

Enter CYBER20 in the "Coupon or Promotional Code:" field during checkout and click the associated Apply button to receive the 20% discount.

This is the largest discount offered by Taza, so now is the time to take advantage of their best prices of the year. The sale ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, December 2nd.

Taza ships to the United States and Canada. Additional shipping information can be found here.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Review: Marou Lam Dong 74%

Richard's Rating: 6.0
chocolate makerMarou
barLam Dong
regionVietnam
plantation(blend)
cacao treesTrinitario
year(unknown)
size100g ~ 3.5oz
cocoa solids74%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1431
Fudgesickle
appearancesmooth, scoring, imprint, bubbles, adhered bits
aromaroast (coffee), earth, nut, sweet
snaphard
tasteroast (cocoa, smoke), spice (pepper), sweet, earth (soil)
meltsmooth
lengthlong
finishsomewhat tannin, somewhat bitter
Marou, Faiseurs de Chocolat crafts five single origin chocolates locally from different regions in Vietnam. In addition to Lam Dong reviewed here, they make chocolate from Ba Ria, Ben Tre, Dong Nai, and Tien Giang.

Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou make all of their chocolate in their nut-free factory in Ho Chi Minh City from three ingredients: cacao, cocoa butter, and cane sugar.

Lam Dong 74% came hand-wrapped in bronze foil-sided paper sealed closed by a sticker with their "M" logo. The outer peacock aqua paper wrapper was silk-screened with gold ink and closed with double-sided adhesive.

The 100 gram bar was scored with diagonal lines that provide pieces of different sizes. In the center was an imprint of the Marou logo. The chocolate was made with 74% cocoa solids and 26% cane sugar. The best before date of this particular bar was January 16, 2014, and the batch number was 288.

The color of the chocolate was a medium brown Fudgesickle (PANTONE 19-1431). The surface was smooth, but had several bubbles, lines from the wrapper, and a few adhered bits.

The bar had a hard snap. The aroma was primarily a coffee roast. Some earthiness, a bit of nuttiness, and a sweetness were also present.

The chocolate tasted of roast, spice, and earth. The roast had both cocoa and smoke flavors. The spice included pepper. The earthiness seemed closest to soil. There was also some of the sweetness from the aroma.

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

You can purchase Marou Lam Dong 74% online for $9.00 from Chocolopolis.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sale: Free Shipping at Caputo's

Caputo's Deli is having a free shipping sale on chocolate through the end of the year with no minimum purchase requirement.

Caputo's has excellent prices on the many makers they carry, as well as several great chocolate bar collections. This is a perfect opportunity to get some amazing chocolate gifts for those you love, as well as for yourself.

Use coupon code CHOCOLATE during checkout for this free shipping offer. This code is valid through December 31st.

Note that this free shipping offer does NOT apply to their direct chocolate website (http://www.caputoschocolate.com), but they seem to have the same inventory and pricing on both sites.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Review: Rogue Sambirano

Richard's Rating: 9.0
chocolate makerRogue
barSambirano
regionMadagascar
plantationÅkesson
cacao treesCriollo
year(unknown)
size60g ~ 2.1oz
cocoa solids70%
added fat(none)
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$7.99

colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1317
Bitter Chocolate
appearancesmooth, glossy, uneven sheen, adhered bits
aromafruit (prune), roast (hint of coffee), earth, wood (cedar)
snaphard
tastefruit (citrus, orange, lime, raisin, cherry), roast
meltcreamy
lengthlong
finishacidic
Colin Gasko reformulated Sambirano since we last reviewed it over two years ago. It is now made without any added cocoa butter, and the remaining two ingredients (70% cacao beans and 30% cane sugar) are both organic. The bar was not certified.

The cacao beans for this chocolate came from Bertil Åkesson's plantation in the Sambirano Valley of Madagascar. The bar was hand-crafted in the United States at Rogue's nut-free facility in Three Rivers, Massachusetts.

The 60 gram bar came sealed in cellophane inside a paper envelope. The best before date was October 2013.

Rogue created an incredible surface sheen (apologies for not having a photo, but that top surface was simply too reflective :). The bar was unscored and without any imprints or bubbles. Except for an oval from the pour where the sheen was uneven and some tiny adhered bits of chocolate, the bar appeared nearly perfect.

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

The aroma contained fruit, roast, earth and wood scents. The fruit was mostly prune. The roast contained a hint of coffee. The wood seemed to be cedar.

Sambirano tasted fruity, with citrus flavors of orange and lime. Raisin and cherry came forth shortly thereafter. Roast was also present. The wrapper described the flavor profile as "citrus, rum raisin, toast".

The melt was creamy, with just a suggestion of fudge in the mouthfeel. The length was remarkably long, with the chocolate flavor lasting 50 to 60 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The finish was acidic.

Overall, this was a superb chocolate, and is now among my favorites.

You can purchase Sambirano online for $7.99 directly from Rogue or for $8.00 from Chocolopolis.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Review: Zotter Labooko Papua Neuguinea 75%

Richard's Rating: 6.5
chocolate makerZotter
barLabooko Papua Neuguinea 75%
regionPapua New Guinea
plantation(blend)
cacao trees(unknown)
year(unknown)
size70g ~ 2.5oz
cocoa solids75%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenersugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredientssalt
list price3,35€
colormedium brown
PANTONE 18-1312
Deep Taupe
appearancerelief, imprints, textured top, bloom, adhered bits, scuffing
aromaearth (must), roast (smoke), spice, vanilla
snaphard
tasteroast (coffee, smoke), fruit (blackberry), earth, spice, sweet (molasses), tannin
meltsmooth
lengthlong
finishtannin, somewhat bitter
Austrian chocolate maker Zotter makes several fair trade and organic bean to bar chocolates. They produce several unflavored single origin chocolates under their Labooko line as well as a huge variety of flavored chocolates.

Zotter sourced the cacao for Labooko Papua Neuguinea 75% from an organic and fair trade cooperative in Papua New Guinea. The ingredients of this chocolate were cocoa mass, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter, and salt. All of the ingredients other than salt were certified organic and fair trade. The salt content was 1% and cocoa solids (mass and butter) were 75%.

Papua Neuguinea 75% was sold in the standard Labooko packaging containing two 35 gram bars. Each bar was individually wrapped in gold foil-sided wax paper that was glued into the folds of a heavy outer paper wrapper (which was taped closed).

The bar itself had a relief of "zotter" on a small smooth upper portion of the bar and imprints of "Labooko" and stylized cacao pods (one of which was covered in writing) on a textured lower portion of the bar. The best before date was November 27, 2013.

Unfortunately, the chocolate appeared to have bloomed slightly and had a medium brown Deep Taupe (PANTONE 18-1312) color. There were some bits of adhered chocolate and the surface was scuffed.

The snap was hard, almost very hard. Papua Neuguinea's aroma included scents of musty earth, roast, smoke, spice, and vanilla.

The taste contained flavors of roast, fruit, earth, and spice. The strong roast was mostly coffee and smoke. The only distinctive fruit flavor I identified was blackberry. The taste was also sweet with a molasses flavor and tannin.

The chocolate had a smooth melt. The chocolate flavor lasted more than 45 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a long length. The finish was tannin and somewhat bitter.

You can purchase Labooko Papua Neuguinea 75% online for €3,35 directly from Zotter.

Friday, October 25, 2013

International Chocolate Awards 2013 World Final Results

The International Chocolate Awards have national and regional semi-final competitions throughout the year, followed by a world final in October in London. Below are the World Final winners in the unflavored dark chocolate bar category. You can also read results in all categories.

WORLD GOLD: Pacari Piura Quemazón 70%
WORLD SILVER: Patric Piura 67%
WORLD SILVER: Pacari Raw 70%
WORLD SILVER: Patric Madagascar 67%
WORLD SILVER: Bonnat Juliana
WORLD SILVER: Friis-Holm Nicaliso 70%

Pacari Piura Quemazón 70% was also recognized with special awards of Gold Chocolate Maker, Gold Growing Country, Gold Directly Traded, and Gold Organic.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review: Pascha Organic Dark 70% Cacao

Richard's Rating: 7.0
chocolate maker(unknown)
bar70% Cacao
regionPeru
plantation(blend)
cacao trees(unknown)
year(unknown)
size100g ~ 3.5oz
cocoa solids70%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenersugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoringvanilla
other ingredientscocoa powder
list price$5.00
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearancesmooth, imprints, scoring, scuffing, adhered bits
aromaroast (smoke), vanilla, earth, spice, sweet
snapmedium hard
tastesweet (butterscotch, honey), vanilla, fruit (citrus, grapefruit, berry), roast, nut, chalk
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishtannin, somewhat acidic, slightly chalky, slightly sour
As you probably read in our review of their 85% Cacao bar, Pascha began selling chocolate this year that is completely free of exposure to any of the eight food allergens recognized by the U.S. F.D.A.

70% Cacao was made in Peru from local cacao. The bar was certified organic, verified non-GMO, certified fair trade, and certified kosher.

The ingredients were cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and vanilla, all of which were organic. Cocoa solids totaled 70%.

The bar was the traditional size for chocolate bars: 100 grams. It came sealed in plastic inside a paper box. The bar was scored into 24 pieces, half imprinted with parallel lines and half imprinted with the image of someone carrying a basket of cacao pods. The best before date was May 21, 2014.

The color of the chocolate was a medium brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012). The surface was smooth, with a little scuffing and some adhered bits of chocolate.

70% Cacao had a medium hard snap. The aroma contained scents of smoky roast, vanilla, earth, spice, and sweetness.

The chocolate tasted sweet, with vanilla, fruit, roast, and nut flavors. The sweetness seemed to be a combination of butterscotch and honey. The vanilla flavor was strong. The fruit included citrus, grapefruit, and berry. I also tasted some chalkiness.

The melt was smooth. The length was medium, with the chocolate flavor lasting about 35 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The finish was tannin, somewhat acidic, slightly chalky, and slightly sour.

This chocolate bar surprised me. While not perfect, this was a very good chocolate, which would be an accomplishment for anyone, but is especially noteworthy for a new company.

You can purchase Organic Dark 70% Cacao online directly from Pascha in packs of 5 bars for $25, or from Chocosphere for $5.30 individually, $24.65 for five, or $46.60 for ten.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sale: Free Shipping at World Wide Chocolate

World Wide Chocolate has free UPS Ground shipping sale on all orders with no minimum purchase requirement. Even though their prices are typically a little higher than the least expensive online chocolate retailers, free shipping is a great deal for small orders.

This is also an excellent opportunity to pick up your favorite Amano, Amedei, Madécasse, Patric, and Potomac chocolate bars. World Wide Chocolate has competitive prices for these makers even without a sale, so free shipping makes them a bargain.

Use coupon code FREESHIPPING during checkout for this free shipping offer. This code is valid through Monday, October 14th has been extended through Monday, November 25th.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Review: Pascha Organic Dark 85% Cacao

Richard's Rating: 5.5
chocolate maker(unknown)
bar85% Cacao
regionPeru
plantation(blend)
cacao trees(unknown)
year(unknown)
size100g ~ 3.5oz
cocoa solids85%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenersugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoringvanilla
other ingredientscocoa powder
list price$5.00
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1015
Bracken
appearancesmooth, imprints, scoring, adhered bits, bubbles
aromaroast (malt, smoke), nut, vanilla, spice
snaphard
tasteroast (malt), nut, wood, fruit (citrus, grapefruit), bitter, chalky, sour
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishtannin, somewhat acidic, slightly sour
In March, Simon Lester officially launched Pascha Chocolate in Toronto, Canada, to provide "passionately pure" chocolate that is organic and avoids potential allergic reactions. Their facility has no exposure to peanuts, tree nuts, soy, dairy, wheat, gluten, or egg. Pascha makes two unflavored dark chocolate bars (85% Cacao and 70% Cacao), a chocolate bar (55% Cacao), and two flavored chocolate bars (55% with Goldenberries and 55% with Cocoa Nibs).

Pascha not only sources their cacao in Peru, but also works with a small independent factory there to make their chocolate bars locally. 85% Cacao was certified organic, non-GMO, fair trade, and kosher. The bar was also labeled vegan. While still caring about the societal aspects of cacao production, Simon focuses primarily on the consumer experience of Pascha chocolate.

85% Cacao included cocoa powder among its ingredients, which is extremely unusual. Simon explained that they press cacao at the factory and experimented with varying liquor, butter, and powder to get the result they wanted. All of the ingredients of 85% Cacao were organic: cocoa mass, cocoa powder, sugar, cocoa butter, and vanilla.

The large 100 gram bar came sealed in plastic inside a paper box. It was scored into 24 pieces, each imprinted with either parallel lines or an image of someone with a basket of cacao pods on their back. The best before date was May 20, 2014.

The chocolate had a medium brown Bracken (PANTONE 19-1015) color. The surface was smooth. There were some adhered bits of chocolate and several tiny bubbles in the corners. The bar had a hard snap.

Roast, nut, and vanilla were predominant in the aroma. The roast contained malt and smoke. I also smelled spice.

85% Cacao tasted initially of a malt roast, and then flavors of nut, wood, and fruit came forth. The fruit flavor was generally citrus and included grapefruit in particular. During two passes, the nuttiness was noticeably stronger than the other flavors. The taste was also bitter, chalky, and somewhat sour.

The melt was smooth. The chocolate flavor lasted about 30 to 35 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a medium length. The finish was tannin, somewhat acidic, and slightly sour.

The nutty flavor and nut-free production make this an especially interesting chocolate for someone allergic to nuts to taste.

You can purchase Organic Dark 85% Cacao online directly from Pascha in packs of 5 bars for $25, or from Chocosphere for $5.30 individually, $24.65 for five, or $46.60 for ten.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

International Chocolate Awards 2013 Americas Semi-Finalists

The International Chocolate Awards have national and regional semi-final competitions throughout the year, followed by a world final in October in London. The full results of the Americas semi-finals were just published, and here are the winners in the unflavored dark chocolate bar category.

AMERICAS GOLD: Pacari Raw 70%
AMERICAS SILVER: Patric Madagascar 67%
AMERICAS SILVER: Pacari Piura Quemazón 70%
AMERICAS SILVER: Pacari Guayacán 70%
AMERICAS SILVER: Patric Piura 67%
AMERICAS SILVER: Grenada 60%
ECUADOR GOLD: Pacari Raw 70%
USA GOLD: Patric Madagascar 67%
USA SILVER: Patric Piura 67%
USA SILVER: Amano Chuao 70%
USA SILVER: Askinosie Cortés, Honduras 70%
USA SILVER: Tejas Capistrano
USA SILVER: Dandelion Papua New Guinea 70%
VENEZUELA GOLD: Franceschi Canoabo 2013
NOMINATION: Amazona Peru 73%

Friday, September 20, 2013

Northwest Chocolate Festival Awards

Tonight the awards were announced for the Northwest Chocolate Festival. There were two judged categories (Bean to Bar and Inclusions) and one non-judged category.

In the judged Bean to Bar category, the winners were:

In the judged Inclusions (flavored chocolate) category, the winners were:
  • GOLD: Patric 74% In-NIB-itable
  • SILVER: Madre Triple Cacao
  • BRONZE: Grenada Nib-A-Licious

They also gave out non-judged awards, including:

You can still buy tickets at the door for this weekend ($40 for a day pass or $65 for both days) at the Conference Center of the Washington State Convention Center.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Giveaway results: Northwest Chocolate Festival tickets

Congratulations to Melissa King, who won two free passes to the 2013 Northwest Chocolate Festival in our giveaway.

If you haven't yet purchased your tickets for NWCF, now is the time to do so. Buying them in advance should save you time getting in (and a little money). This fabulous chocolate event is this weekend, and you don't want to miss it. For more information, see my posting about it or the event website, nwchocolate.com.

You can purchase tickets directly at http://nwchocolate.strangertickets.com.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Review: Claudio Corallo 100% Puro Cacau

Richard's Rating: 5.0
chocolate makerClaudio Corallo
bar100% Puro Cacau
regionSão Tomé e Principe
plantationTerreiro Velho
cacao treesForastero
year(unknown)
size50g ~ 1.8oz
cocoa solids100%
added fat(none)
sweetener(none)
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1314
Seal Brown
texturesmooth, uneven shape and size, uneven grayish tone, adhered bits
aromaroast, acidic, spice, fruit, earth
snaphard
tastesour, chalky, spice, tannin, roast (malt, tea, cocoa), bitter
meltmore smooth
lengthmedium
finishastringent, tannin, acidic, somewhat sour
Claudio Corallo crafts his chocolate from tree to bar with cacao grown on his plantations in São Tomé e Principe. Corallo does not conche his chocolate, which tends to leave it with a less smooth melt and sharper flavor.

100% Puro Cacau was made only with cacao from the Terreiro Velho plantation on Principe, with no other added ingredients. Two bars totalling 50 grams came packaged in a single sealed plastic wrapper. The best before date was October 2014.

The two bars were individually uneven and completely different in size, with one less than half the thickness of the other. The color was a medium-dark brown Seal Brown (PANTONE 19-1314). The surface had a grayish tone and there were bits of adhered chocolate.

The aroma was acidic, and contained scents of roast, spice, fruit, and earth. On one occasion, I thought I smelled berry.

The taste of 100% Puro Cacau began gradually with sour and spice flavors along with chalkiness. Tannin grew quite strong with a complex roast of malt, black tea, and cocoa. A little bitterness was present as well.

This chocolate had a melt that was more smooth. The length was medium, with the chocolate flavor lasting 30 to 35 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The final aftertaste was astringent, tannin, acidic, and somewhat sour.

Claudio Corallo 100% Puro Cacau has no list price, and I could not find it available for purchase online anywhere. I purchased this one from Chocolopolis for $12.50, but they do not sell it online. QuintEssenz has it priced for €5.95 but they have none in stock, and only ship to Germany and Austria.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Review: Domori Il 100% Criollo

Richard's Rating: 8.5
chocolate makerDomori
barIl 100% Criollo
region(unknown)
plantation(blend)
cacao treesCriollo
year(unknown)
size25g ~ 0.9oz
cocoa solids100%
added fat(none)
sweetener(none)
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1015
Bracken
texturesmooth, scoring, imprints, scuffing, uneven sheen
aromaroast (cocoa), sweet, dried fruit (raisin), spice
snaphard
tasteroast (tobacco, coffee), sweet, nut, peanut
meltcreamy
lengthlong
finishnut, tannin
MORE RECENT REVIEW: Domori Il 100% Criollo

Italian bean to bar chocolate maker Domori makes two 100% chocolate bars, Il 100% and Il 100% Criollo. This is a review of the latter.

Il 100% Criollo was made from 100% cocoa mass and nothing else. The tiny 25 gram bar came enclosed in a sealed plastic wrapper inside a paper box. It was scored into four pieces, each with an imprint of the Domori name and symbol. The best before date was August 31, 2015.

This chocolate had a medium-dark brown Bracken (PANTONE 19-1015) color. The bar looked good, with a smooth surface, sharp imprints, and no sign of bubbles. There was some scuffing, an uneven sheen, and just a few adhered bits.

The bar had a hard snap. The aroma contained scents of a cocoa roast, sweetness, a dried fruit that seemed best described as raisin, and spice.

Il 100% Criollo initially tasted of roast, with both tobacco and coffee flavors. Sweetness and then a nutty flavor came forth, following by a strong taste of peanut.

The melt was remarkably creamy, one of the best I've experienced. The chocolate flavor lasted over 40 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a long length. The finish was nutty and tannin.

Even though I didn't personally love the flavor, this was an excellent 100% bar, succeeding in nearly every dimension. I place it at the top of our current ranking of 100% chocolates. Too bad it's so expensive.

You can purchase Domori Il 100% Criollo online for $6.25 from Chocosphere.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Review: Francois Pralus Le 100%

Richard's Rating: 6.5
chocolate makerPralus
barLe 100%
regionMadagascar
plantationPralus
cacao treesCriollo
year(unknown)
size100g ~ 3.5oz
cocoa solids100%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetener(none)
emulsifiersoy lecithin
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price€3,95
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1015
Bracken
texturesmooth, scoring, text imprint, uneven sheen, adhered bits
aromaroast (coffee, cocoa), fruit (berry), earth, spice
snapmedium hard
tasteroast (coffee, burnt, malt), wood, fruit (citrus)
meltmore smooth
lengthmedium
finishsomewhat tannin, slightly sour
Pralus sources the cacao for Le 100% from their own plantation on the island of Nosy Be, Madagascar. The bar was certified organic by Ecocert France.

In addition to added cocoa butter, this chocolate included soy lecithin (unlike the previous formulation of Le 100% that we reviewed in 2010). The best before date for this bar was May 11, 2015.

Pralus still sells their chocolate in large 100 gram bars from the same nice molds they have used for many years. Wrapped in gold-sided foil, Le 100% came enclosed inside a paper wrapper. The bar was scored into 24 small pieces and one large piece containing the Pralus imprint.

The color was a little different than earlier version of this chocolate, a medium-dark brown Bracken (PANTONE 19-1015. The bar had an overall good appearance and a smooth surface, but the sheen was uneven and there were a few bits of adhered chocolate.

Le 100% had a roast aroma of coffee and cocoa. There were additional scents of a berry fruit, earthiness, and spices. The bar had a somewhat softer than typical medium-hard snap

The taste was a heavy roast, with flavors of coffee, burnt, and malt. Other flavors included wood and fruit, the latter of which contained some citrus.

The melt was almost creamy, but still in the more smooth category. The length was medium, with the chocolate flavor lasting 35 to 40 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The finish was somewhat tannin and slightly sour.

Until recently, Le 100% had been my favorite 100% bar. Unfortunately, Pralus changed the recipe and used a roast that tastes excessive to me. It is still a good chocolate, but no longer near the top of our ranking of 100% chocolate bars (which you can see in the second list from the bottom on the Chocolate Rankings page).

Pralus Le 100% is available for purchase online for $8.35 from Chocosphere or for $8.50 from Chocolopolis. You can also purchase it for £4.85 from Chocolate Trading Co.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review: SOMA Arcana 100%

Richard's Rating: 7.5
chocolate makerSOMA
barArcana 100%
regionDominican Republic, Haiti, Hawaii, Madagascar
plantation(blend)
cacao trees(unknown)
year(unknown)
size45g ~ 1.6oz
cocoa solids100%
added fat(none)
sweetener(none)
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceCA$5.50
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1015
Bracken
texturesmooth, image imprint, bubbles, adhered bits
aromaroast (cocoa, tobacco), dairy, earth (grass), fruit
snaphard
tasteroast (cocoa), fruit (melon), earth, hint of sour
meltmore smooth
lengthmedium
finishsomewhat tannin
Canadian bean to bar chocolate maker SOMA makes several artisan chocolate bars and many chocolate products. Based in Toronto, they have two retail stores and accept orders via email, but do not yet have an online store.

Arcana 100% was made from only cacao beans. The pre-printed text indicated it was made with three types of cacao, but there were four different origin listed on the label: Dominican Republic, Madagascar, Haiti, and Hawaii. The chocolate reviewed here was from batch A24, and there was no production or best before date.

The 45 gram bar came sealed inside a silver plastic wrapper. It was unscored with a deep-set image imprint of cacao pods, using the same mold that Stirs the Soul uses with their Origins line.

The color of Arcana 100% was a medium-dark brown Bracken (PANTONE 19-1015). The bar had several bubbles and adhered bits of chocolate, but otherwise had a smooth surface.

Opening the package revealed a rich roast aroma, mostly cocoa with some tobacco. Other scents in the aroma included dairy, a grassy earth, and some fruit. The bar had a hard snap.

The taste contained flavors of roast, fruit, and earth. The roast was mostly that rich cocoa, and the only fruit flavor I identified more specifically was melon. There was a hint of sourness as well.

The melt was more smooth, almost creamy, and yet also slightly excessive (perhaps the particle size was too small?). The chocolate flavor lasted 30 to 40 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a medium length. The finish was somewhat tannin.

With the seeming random blend of origins, I suspected that Arcana 100% might be made from leftover beans, and that less care might be used in crafting this chocolate. If that was the case, however, the result was impressive. This 100% chocolate was superior to most of its competitors.

You can purchase SOMA Arcana 100% online for $9.50 from Chocolopolis.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Raising the Bar

Over the last decade, dozens of new artisan chocolate makers have introduced hundreds of chocolate bars. You might think that most of those chocolates would not be very good. However, not only are these chocolate bars usually good, but a surprising number are great.

The rating threshold for our Best Chocolates Overall page was set at 7.0, which is the point at which we consider a chocolate excellent. With an increasing number of great chocolate bars being made, the list has become too long for a "Best" page, so we're raising that threshold to 8.0.

We still believe that chocolate bars rated 7.0 and higher are excellent, but we'll only be including those with ratings 8.0 or higher as Best Chocolates Overall.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Giveaway: FREE Tickets to the Northwest Chocolate Festival!

The Northwest Chocolate Festival has generously provided us with two tickets to give away to this year's event. The free passes are for Saturday, September 21st, and allow you and a friend to experience a full day of the 2013 Northwest Chocolate Festival. The event is held at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. For more information, please see my posting about it or the event website.

To enter this giveaway, send us an email at onegoldenticket@outlook.com with "NWCF Tickets" as the subject line and in the text of the message include your full name.

Entry email must be received by midnight PT, Monday, September 16, 2012. One entry per person. Winner will be selected at random. Tickets are valid for admission to the 2013 Northwest Chocolate Festival on Saturday, September 21st.

Good luck!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Event: Northwest Chocolate Festival

The transition to autumn is my favorite time of year, and with it comes my favorite chocolate event: The Northwest Chocolate Festival!

NWCF will be held in Seattle over the weekend of September 20th through 22nd at the Washington State Convention Center (800 Convention Place, Seattle, WA 98101). The main festival will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday, there will be a separate VIP Awards party from 7 to 11 p.m.

Here's a list of chocolate makers currently participating in the festival, most of which will have a booth at which to taste and purchase chocolate bars: Caribeans, Chocolate Conspiracy, Dandelion, Dick Taylor, Divine, Fearless, French Broad, Fresco, Grenada, Kallari, Lillie Belle Farms, Lonohana, Madre, Olive and Sinclair, Organic Fair, Pacari, Raaka, Rogue, Scharffen Berger, Taza, Theo, and Zotter. More than two dozen chocolatiers and chefs will also be present.

In addition to meeting the people who make your chocolate and tasting their wonderful creations, you'll have the opportunity to attend some of the more than 40 workshops and classes. While I love trying new chocolate (which varies with every harvest and formulation), I highly recommend attending several classes. They are a wonderful introduction to many aspects of chocolate: cacao farming, trade equity, sustainability, genetics, origins, history, crafting, evaluating, etc. You can read more about the entire weekend on their website: http://www.nwchocolate.com/.

This year, there is also a separate new professional series (that includes admission to the festival), with three full days of classes. Friday is training on how to evaluate cacao. Saturday's classes are about crafting bean to bar chocolate. Sunday is for chocolatiers and tasters.

If you can only attend one day, don't worry -- you will still get nearly the full experience. The classes are all different, so you may want to choose which day based on the classes you'd like to attend. Saturday will be more crowded, and by Sunday afternoon there may be some chocolate that is no longer available.

You can purchase any of the following tickets in advance and print or pick up your non-transferable ticket at Will Call with photo identification:
  • $62.22 full weekend pass [$65 at the door]
  • $34.35 one day pass (age 13+) [$35 at the door]
  • $73.37 one day family pass (2 people 13+ plus 2 children 5-12) [$75 at the door]
  • $73.37 Friday Awards party [$75 at the door]
  • $140.28 VIP full weekend pass (includes Friday party, Aphrodisiac Room tastings, priority workshop seating) [$145 at the door]
  • $279.67 Pro-Series pass
As you've probably already read on this blog, there have been some roughly 50% discount offers on Groupon and LivingSocial. Unfortunately, the Groupon deals have expired, but the LivingSocial deal is still available! UPDATE: The LivingSocial deal has expired as well.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Review: Fruition 100% Dark

Richard's Rating: 6.0
chocolate makerFruition
bar100% Dark
regionPeru
plantation(blend)
cacao trees(unknown)
year(unknown)
size60g ~ 2.1oz
cocoa solids100%
added fat(none)
sweetener(none)
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1317
Bitter Chocolate
texturesmooth, relief, tiny bubbles
aromaroast, fruit, earth, sweet
snaphard
tasteroast, sour, earth, fruit, bitter
meltmore smooth
lengthshort
finishbitter, somewhat sour
U.S. chocolate maker Bryan Graham created Fruition in 2011 to craft bean to bar chocolate and confections. Beginning with Costa Rica cacao, Fruition now makes bars with cacao from Peru.

100% Dark was made only from cacao beans from Peru, and no other ingredients. The unscored 60 gram bar had a repeated relief of the Fruition pattern, along with an off-center "F". It came sealed in cellophane inside a paper envelope.

The bar reviewed here was from batch 083 and had a best before date of March 2014.

The chocolate had a medium brown Bitter Chocolate color (PANTONE 19-1317). The bar looked impressive, with only very small bubbles in the relief and a slight unevenness in the sheen.

The aroma contained a strong roast scent, along with some fruit, earthiness, and sweetness.

100% Dark tasted initially of that roast, but then sourness took over and dominated the taste. Other flavors of earth and fruitiness were present. I also tasted some bitterness.

The melt was better than average and more smooth. The length was short, with the chocolate flavor lasting 15 to 20 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The final aftertaste was bitter and somewhat sour.

Many qualities of this chocolate were better than its overall rating. The overwhelming sour flavor pulled down the result to good rather than great.

You can purchase Fruition 100% Dark online for $10.99 from Chocolopolis.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Review: Zotter Labooko Peru 100%

Richard's Rating: 8.0
chocolate makerZotter
barLabooko Peru 100%
regionPeru
plantation(blend)
cacao trees(unknown)
year2013
size70g ~ 2.5oz
cocoa solids100%
added fat(none)
sweetener(none)
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price3,35€
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1015
Bracken
texturesmooth, relief, imprints, textured top, adhered bits
aromaearth, roast (smoke), floral, spice
snaphard
tasteroast (smoke, cocoa), earth, fruit, sour
meltsmooth
lengthlong
finishtannin, slightly sour
Josef Zotter is the vision behind Austrian chocolate maker Zotter. They opened their own chocolate factory in 2006, and craft fair trade and organic chocolate from bean to bar. Zotter produces several single origin chocolates as well as a huge variety of flavored chocolates. Labooko is their line of chocolate bars that includes single origin and pure dark chocolates.

Labooko Peru 100% is their only chocolate made from 100% cocoa mass (with no added cocoa butter). As with all of the Labooko line, this chocolate was sold as a package of two 35 gram bars. Each bar was wrapped in gold foil-sided wax paper that was glued into the folds of a heavy outer paper wrapper (which was taped closed).

The bar itself had a relief of "zotter" on a small smooth upper portion of the bar and imprints of "Labooko" and stylized cacao pods (one of which was covered in writing) on a textured lower portion of the bar. The best before date was April 19, 2014. Based on the described shelf life of 14 months, the bar was likely produced in February.

The color of the chocolate was a medium brown Bracken (PANTONE 19-1015). The overall appearance was great, with some tiny bits of adhered chocolate on the surface.

A hard snap revealed its nice aroma of earth, roast, floral, and spice. The roast scent was somewhat smoky.

The taste of Peru 100% contained roast, earth, and fruit flavors. The roast included smoke and cocoa. I also tasted some sourness.

The chocolate had a smooth melt, not far from more smooth. The length was long, with the chocolate flavor lasting 40 to 45 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The finish was tannin and slightly sour, without any bitterness.

Overall, this was a wonderfully pleasant surprise and a great 100% bar. Even though the taste was not especially interesting, it was good, and the appearance, length, and finish were all excellent.

You can purchase Labooko Peru 100% online for €3,35 directly from Zotter or for $7.99 from Chocolopolis.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Northwest Chocolate Festival Living Social Deal

Living Social now has a deal running for passes to the 2013 Northwest Chocolate Festival on September 21 and 22. I haven't yet written a posting about this year's event, but here's info about the 2012 event and you can read about this year on the Northwest Chocolate Festival website.

With this deal for more than 50% off, you can purchase a one-day pass for either Saturday or Sunday for only $17 (vs. $35), a weekend pass for $32 (vs. $65), or a family pass for two adults and two children for one day for $36 (vs. $75).

Note that a similar deal on Groupon is still available as well. UPDATE: the Groupon deal is no longer available.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Review: Marou Dong Nai 72%

Richard's Rating: 7.0
chocolate makerMarou
barDong Nai
regionVietnam
plantation(blend)
cacao treesTrinitario
year(unknown)
size100g ~ 3.5oz
cocoa solids72%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1317
Bitter Chocolate
texturesmooth, scoring, imprint, uneven sheen, bubbles, adhered bits
aromaearth, wood, roast (malt)
snaphard
tastesweet (honey), roast (smoke), spice (pepper, anise), earth
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishsomewhat bitter, slightly sour
Marou, Faiseurs de Chocolat, is the first artisan bean to bar maker to craft chocolate in Vietnam made from Vietnamese cacao. Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou released their first bars in December 2011 from their small nut-free factory in Ho Chi Minh City.

All of their chocolate is made from only cacao, cocoa butter, and cane sugar. They also make the cocoa butter they use from their own cacao. Marou currently produces five bars, each made with Trinitario cacao from a different region within Vietnam: Ba Ria, Ben Tre, Dong Nai, Lam Dong, and Tien Giang.

Dong Nai So Co La Den was hand-wrapped in bronze foil-sided paper and sealed using a sticker of the Marou logo ("M"). It was then enclosed in an ochre yellow paper wrapper with silk-screened gold ink and closed with double-sided adhesive. Each regional bar has a different colored wrapper. Here's an article about the design of Marou's outer wrappers.

This chocolate contained 72% cocoa solids (cacao plus added cocoa butter) and 28% cane sugar. It came in a large 100 gram bar. I prefer these traditional full-sized bars that have often been replaced by smaller sizes in an effort to lower the price per bar. The Dong Nai bar had the Marou logo imprinted in the center and surrounded by diagonal scoring that gave pieces of different sizes. The best before date was October 25, 2013.

The color of Dong Nai was a medium brown Bitter Chocolate (PANTONE 19-1317). The surface was smooth with an uneven sheen. There were some bubbles and bits of adhered chocolate.

The bar had a hard snap. The aroma of the chocolate contained earth, wood, and roast scents. The roast included malt.

Dong Nai tasted sweet, with roast, spice, and earth flavors. The sweetness came in the form of honey. The roast was smoky. I tried to identify individual spice flavors, and the two closest seemed to be pepper and anise.

The chocolate had a smooth melt. The flavor lasted 25 to 30 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving it a medium length. The final aftertaste was somewhat bitter and slightly sour.

You can purchase Marou Dong Nai 72% online for $9.00 from Chocolopolis.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Northwest Chocolate Festival Groupon

There's another Groupon running with some of the same terrific one-day deals to the 2013 Northwest Chocolate Festival on September 21 and 22. I haven't yet written a posting about this year's event, but here's info about the 2012 event 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 for only $18 (vs. $35) or a one day pass for two people for only $34 (vs. $70). Unfortunately, the full weekend passes sold out in the prior Groupon. This is my favorite chocolate event of the year, and this offer is likely to be the best price you'll find to the event.

Here's a direct link to the Groupon. It is scheduled to run through Sunday, August 18th, but may end sooner.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Review: Åkesson's Brazil Fazenda Sempre Firme 75%

Richard's Rating: 6.0
chocolate maker(unknown)
barBrazil
regionBrazil
plantationSempre Firme
cacao treesForastero
year2011
size60g ~ 2.1oz
cocoa solids75%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifiersoy lecithin
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1317
Bitter Chocolate
texturerelief, scoring, smooth, uneven sheen, scuffing
aromaearth (hay), roast (tobacco)
snaphard
tasteearth (hay), roast (tobacco), bitter, fruit (berry, raisin), sweet
meltsmooth
lengthshort
finishsomewhat bitter, slightly sour, slightly acidic
Åkesson's sells three single origin plantation bars: Madagascar Ambolikapiky and Bali Sukrama Farms that we've previously reviewed, and this one: Brazil Fazenda Sempre Firme. Åkesson purchased this plantation in Bahia in 2009.

The cacao grown at Fazenda Sempre Firme is a Forestero variety called Parazinho. Åkesson's Brazil chocolate was made with 75% cocoa solids (cacao beans from this plantation and added cocoa butter). The other 25% were cane sugar and soy lecithin.

Åkesson's chocolate is made by an unnamed French company (presumed to be Pralus). Even though they did not make the chocolate themselves, Åkesson's was actively involved in production decisions.

The bar came sealed in a clear cellophane inside a black paper box. It weighed 60 grams and had a large "Å" relief in the center. The bar was scored into symmetrically, but unevenly, into 9 pieces. The best before date for this particular bar was December 16, 2013.

Brazil Fazenda Sempre Firme had a medium dark brown Bitter Chocolate (PANTONE 19-1317) color. The chocolate was not in perfect condition (probably from improper transportation or storage at some point), yet the surface was smooth with an uneven sheen and a little scuffing. The picture above over-emphasized the contrast -- the bar looked better in person.

The aroma was primarily a strong earthy scent that reminded me of wet hay. There was also a tobacco roast. The combination smelled slightly unpleasant to me. The snap was hard.

The initial taste of this chocolate was similar its aroma: a powerful earthy hay with tobacco roast undertones. Bitterness and sweetness were present as fruit flavors developed. I tasted berry and raisin in particular.

The melt was smooth. The chocolate flavor lasted 15 to 20 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a short length. The finish was somewhat bitter, slightly sour, and slightly acidic.

Åkesson's previous Brazil bar, made with cacao from a neighboring farm (Fazenda Monte Alegre), won a gold in 2011 from the Academy of Chocolate.

You can purchase Åkesson's Brazil Fazenda Sempre Firme 75% online from The Meadow for $7.95.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chocolopolis kickstarter needs a little help

If you're willing to help out a fantastic independent Seattle chocolate store with an amazing selection (that ships anywhere in the U.S.), please consider contributing to their kickstarter project.

The project is more than 80% funded, but with only 5 days left, they need your help for this project to succeed (and you get some nice perks). Please note that I am not affiliated with Chocolopolis in any way. I am simply a happy customer whose life is a little better with them here.

If you're at all considering contributing, please pledge even a small amount.

If you have already pledged, thank you! Consider increasing your pledge, as I did recently.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: Spartak Bitter Elite Aerated 72%

Richard's Rating: 4.0
chocolate maker(unknown)
barBitter Elite
regionCôte d'Ivoire
plantation(blend)
cacao trees(unknown)
year2012
size75g ~ 2.6oz
cocoa solids72%
added fat(none)
sweetenersugar
emulsifiersoy lecithin
flavoringvanillin
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1431
Fudgesickle
texturerough, scoring, aerated, adhered bits, scuffing
aromavanilla, sweet, roast, fruit (prune, coconut)
snapmedium
tasteroast, sweet, vanilla, fruit (prune), hint of almond
meltaerated, less smooth
lengthshort
finishsomewhat bitter, somewhat tannin
Spartak is a company from Belarus. I do not know whether they make their own chocolate or have someone else produce it. I did find out that they source their cacao from Côte d'Ivoire.

Aerated chocolate is made by foaming the chocolate with a gas (typically nitrogen). The result is chocolate filled with bubbles, increasing both volume and surface area. Spartak sells both normal and aerated chocolate bars.

The ingredients of Bitter Elite Aerated were cocoa mass, sugar powder, soy lecithin, and "natural vanilla flavor" (which is the artificial ingredient vanillin fermented from edible inputs). A friend of mine gave me this chocolate bar to review (thanks Edward!) Normally, I would not consider reviewing any chocolate containing vanillin. However, since this bar was also aerated, I thought it would be interesting to make an exception.

Bitter Elite Aerated came sealed in a plastic wrapper, but was otherwise unprotected. The 75 gram bar contained 72% cocoa solids and was scored into 24 pieces. The production date was December 3, 2012. Unfortunately, as you can see in the photo above, the bar experienced some terrible conditions on its way to me.

The chocolate had a medium brown Fudgesickle (PANTONE 19-1431) color. The surface was rough, with some sheen, bubbles, and lots of superficial damage and adhered bits. The snap was medium, partially due to the aeration.

The aroma of Bitter Elite was a strong vanilla, with sweetness and scents of roast and fruit. The fruit scent included prune and coconut.

I tasted some roast, sweet, and prune flavors in the chocolate, but the dominant flavor was clearly vanilla. There was also just a hint of almond in the taste.

The melt was interesting due to the aeration. There was a sensation similar to carbonation as the chocolate melted and collapsed. Due to the low density, seemingly substantial pieces of chocolate were consumed surprisingly quickly. The melt seemed less smooth to me, though the aeration made it more difficult to compare.

The chocolate flavor lasted about 10 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a short length. The final aftertaste was somewhat bitter and somewhat tannin.

I definitely prefer the melt of traditional non-aerated chocolate. As for this particular chocolate, while its strong aroma was pleasant, the flavor was overwhelmed by the vanillin.

It appears that you can purchase Spartak Bitter Elite Aerated online from Russian Products for $2.64, though I've never shopped there.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Review: Rogue Balao 75%

Richard's Rating: 8.0
chocolate makerRogue
barBalao
regionEcuador
plantationCamino Verde
cacao trees(unknown)
year2012
size60g ~ 2.1oz
cocoa solids75%
added fat(none)
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$13.00
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1015
Bracken
texturesmooth, glossy, spot of uneven sheen, adhered bits
aromaearth (must), wood (cedar), spice, floral
snaphard
tasteearth, spice, fruit (papaya), sweet, wood, floral
meltmore smooth
lengthlong
finishtannin, slightly sour
U.S. chocolate maker Colin Gasko hand-crafts single origin bean to bar chocolate as Rogue Chocolatier. As you've probably read in our enthusiastic reviews of his other bars (Hispaniola, Piura, Rio Caribe, Sambirano, and Silvestre), Colin seeks out excellent cacao, works with farmers to help improve fermentation and drying, pays 2-4 times fair-trade prices, and maintains his focus on quality during every step as he produces each chocolate bar.

All of Rogue's chocolate is absolutely pure: made from only cacao beans and cane sugar. The factory in Three Rivers, Massachusetts, is soy-free, nut-free, wheat-free, and dairy-free. The ingredients of Balao were 75% cacao beans from Ecuador and 25% cane sugar.

Rogue provided an insert with extensive information about the cacao of this bar:
Vicente Norero of Camino Verde in Balao, Ecuador, is obsessive about quality. He has painstakingly renovated 500 hectares of traditional Ecuadorian varieties of cacao on his farm and in the process is raising the bar for Ecuadorian beans. He carefully controls fermentation and drying following the latest science and then tastes the liquor to determine profile. Vicente even goes so far as to sort cacao pods by phenotype (shape) and process them differently! For the Balao bar, we worked with Vicente to process two special lots. We blended two phenotype-optimized fermentations to create the world's first single-farm blend. One fermentation is more floral, green, and herbal and the other more spicy, woody, and fruity. The combination produces a remarkable chocolate that highlights Vicente's passion.

The 60 gram bar came sealed in a plastic pouch inside a heavy white paper envelope. It arrived with the top corner broken. The bar reviewed here was from batch 1 of Balao chocolate and was produced in December 2012.

Balao had a medium-dark brown Bracken (PANTONE 19-1015) color. The bar was a single unscored slab. It was smooth and had a lovely glossy sheen. There was a spot of unevenness in the sheen, and some adhered bits of chocolate. The bar had a hard snap.

The aroma contained earth, wood, spice, and floral scents. The earthiness was musty, and the woody aspect smelled distinctly of cedar.

The chocolate tasted much like it smelled, but without the cedar. An initial earthiness was soon joined by spice and fruit. As the taste became sweet, it seemed to me that the fruit included papaya. Woodiness and floral flavors were also present.

I categorized the melt as more smooth, though it was nearly creamy. The length was also remarkably long, with the chocolate flavor lasting 45 to 50 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The finish was tannin and slightly sour.

The superb sheen, wonderful melt (with no added cocoa butter), and enduring length were evidence of the production quality of this chocolate. Overall, this was the best Ecuador bar I've tasted in a long time.

You can purchase Balao 75% online for $13.00 directly from Rogue or for $11.99 from Chocolopolis. I've never purchased chocolate from them before, but I also found it available from Bar & Bean for only $8.00!