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,

You can purchase tickets directly at

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
size50g ~ 1.8oz
cocoa solids100%
added fat(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
tastesour, chalky, spice, tannin, roast (malt, tea, cocoa), bitter
meltmore smooth
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
cacao treesCriollo
size25g ~ 0.9oz
cocoa solids100%
added fat(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1015
texturesmooth, scoring, imprints, scuffing, uneven sheen
aromaroast (cocoa), sweet, dried fruit (raisin), spice
tasteroast (tobacco, coffee), sweet, nut, peanut
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%
cacao treesCriollo
size100g ~ 3.5oz
cocoa solids100%
added fatcocoa butter
emulsifiersoy lecithin
other ingredients(none)
list price€3,95
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1015
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
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
cacao trees(unknown)
size45g ~ 1.6oz
cocoa solids100%
added fat(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceCA$5.50
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1015
texturesmooth, image imprint, bubbles, adhered bits
aromaroast (cocoa, tobacco), dairy, earth (grass), fruit
tasteroast (cocoa), fruit (melon), earth, hint of sour
meltmore smooth
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 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:

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
cacao trees(unknown)
size60g ~ 2.1oz
cocoa solids100%
added fat(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1317
Bitter Chocolate
texturesmooth, relief, tiny bubbles
aromaroast, fruit, earth, sweet
tasteroast, sour, earth, fruit, bitter
meltmore smooth
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.