Sunday, August 4, 2013

Review: Rogue Balao 75%

Richard's Rating: 8.0
chocolate makerRogue
plantationCamino Verde
cacao trees(unknown)
size60g ~ 2.1oz
cocoa solids75%
added fat(none)
sweetenercane sugar
other ingredients(none)
list price$13.00
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1015
texturesmooth, glossy, spot of uneven sheen, adhered bits
aromaearth (must), wood (cedar), spice, floral
tasteearth, spice, fruit (papaya), sweet, wood, floral
meltmore smooth
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!

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