Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Review: Botticelli 70% Cacao

Richard's Rating: 5.0
chocolate makerunknown
bar70% Cacao
regionunknown
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
yearunknown
size85g ~ 3oz
cocoa solids70%
added fat(cocoa butter)
sweetenersugar
emulsifiersoy lecithin
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1015
Bracken
appearancesmooth, scoring, imprints, adhered bits, scuffing
aromaroast (smoke), sweet (molasses), earth
snaphard
tasteroast (burnt toast), sweet (molasses), nut, bitter, chalky
meltsmooth
lengthshort
finishbitter, acidic, somewhat tannin
My friend Phillip gave me this chocolate bar a few months ago. Botticelli is a brand made by Dynamic Chocolates at their facility in Delta, Canada (near Vancouver).

The ingredients of 70% Cacao were listed as unsweetened chocolate, sugar, and soy lecithin. Based on the labelled fat content, the "unsweetened chocolate" included added cocoa butter.

Inside a paper sleeve, the three ounce bar came wrapped in brass foil-sided wax paper. There was no listed production or best before date.

The bar was scored into 12 pieces, each imprinted with parallel lines. Underneath many adhered bits and scuffing, the surface looked smooth. The color of the chocolate was a medium-dark brown Bracken (PANTONE 19-1015).

Cacao 70% had a hard snap. The aroma contained scents of smoky roast, sweet molasses, and some earthiness.

The chocolate tasted of roast, sweet, and nut flavors. The roast reminded me of burnt toast. The sweetness was molasses. The taste was also bitter and a little chalky.

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

I didn't find Cacao 70% available for purchase online. However, Phillip told me he paid $2 for this bar, and at that price, it's a bargain for a decent chocolate (as you can see on our Best Chocolate Values page).

Monday, December 29, 2014

Review: Dandelion Camino Verde, Ecuador 100%

Richard's Rating: 7.0
chocolate makerDandelion
barCamino Verde 100%
regionEcuador
plantationCamino Verde
cacao treesunknown
year2014
size56g ~ 2oz
cocoa solids100%
added fat(none)
sweetener(none)
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$12.00
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearancesmooth, imprints, scoring
aromaroast (cocoa, coffee), earth (must), nut, dried fruit (raisin)
snapmedium hard
tasteearth, roast (cocoa, tea, malt), nut, dairy, tannin, sour, chalky
meltmore smooth, fudgy
lengthmedium
finishtannin, somewhat acidic, slight sour
In 2014, Dandelion released two chocolates made with cacao from a 2014 harvest at Vicente Norero's Camino Verde farm in Balao, Ecuador. In addition to a bar with 85% cocoa solids, they released this bar as their first 100% chocolate.

That Camino Verde cacao was the one and only ingredient in this chocolate. There was no added cocoa butter. This chocolate was made at Dandelion's nut-free facility in San Francisco.

Enclosed inside thick craft paper sealed with a sticker, the two ounce bar came wrapped in heavy gold-sided foil. The bar reviewed here was from batch 1, with a best before date of September 2015.

The bar was scored into 18 pieces, each with imprints of 5 parallel squiggles. The surface looked superb. The chocolate had a medium-dark brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012) color.

Camino Verde 100% had a medium hard snap. The aroma was primarily a cocoa and coffee roast combined with a musty earth scent. I also smelled nut and dried fruit close to raisin.

The taste began with earth and roast. The roast included cocoa, tea, and a hint of malt. Nuttiness and some dairy joined the roast flavors. The taste was also tannin, sour, and chalky.

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

Overall, Camino Verde 100% was a great addition to the growing number of artisan 100% chocolates.

You can purchase Camino Verde 100% online for $12.00 directly from Dandelion.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Review: Valrhona Andoa

Richard's Rating: 6.5
chocolate makerValrhona
barAndoa
regionunknown
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size70g ~ 2.5oz
cocoa solids70%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifiersoy lecithin
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$7.49
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearancescoring, imprints, smooth
aromaroast (smoke, cocoa), earth (mold), fruit, sweet (marshmallow)
snapmedium hard
tasteearth, roast (smoke, tobacco), fruit (berry, date), peanut, sweet
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishsomewhat acidic, somewhat bitter, slightly chalky
Valrhona blended a variety of their Grand Cru cacao to make Andoa. The bar reviewed here was made on 3 October 2013 with a best before date of February 2015.

The ingredients of Andoa were cacao beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, and soy lecithin. Cocoa solids made up 70%.

The 70 gram bar came wrapped in brass colored foil inside a paper box. It was scored into 20 uneven pieces and had imprints of Valrhona's logo and name. The surface was great other than some tiny bubbles in a few of the corners.

The chocolate was a medium brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012) color. The snap was medium hard.

Andoa gave off an aroma of roast, earth, fruit, and sweetness. The roast was a smoky cocoa. The earth scent was moldy. The fruit seemed to have a faint berry scent. I smelled a hint of marshmallow in the sweetness.

Initially, the taste was a combination of earth and a smoky roast. A berry fruit flavor grew and the roast added some tobacco flavor. I also tasted peanut and date, as well as sweetness.

The melt was smooth. The length was medium, with the flavor lasting about 25-30 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The finish was somewhat acidic, somewhat bitter, and slightly chalky.

You can purchase Andoa online for $7.49 directly from Valrhona. You can also buy Andoa online for $7.49 in the U.S. from Chocosphere and for £3.75 in the U.K. from Chocolate Trading Co.

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

UPDATE: free shipping using this offer was extended through December 31st.

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!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sale: 20% off at World Wide Chocolate

World Wide Chocolate is having a nearly storewide sale for 20% off chocolate from all makers other than Amedei (and Valrhona multi-kilogram products) through the end of November.

Use coupon code NOV20 during checkout. No minimum purchase is required.

World Wide Chocolate ships to United States, APO (military), and FPO (diplomatic) addresses. Please see their shipping policies for additional information.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Review: Fresco 224 Dominican Republic

Richard's Rating: 7.0
chocolate makerFresco
bar224
regionDominican Republic
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size45g ~ 1.6oz
cocoa solids72%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$8.00
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1015
Bracken
appearancelined, scoring, smooth
aromaearth, astringent, roast (smoke, toast), fruit (prune)
snapmedium hard
tasteroast (cocoa, malt), earth, fruit (plum, lime, berry)
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishslightly tannin, slightly acidic
Fresco 224 is the second of Rob Anderson's 2013 formulations made from an identical harvest of Dominican Republic cacao. The recipes were nearly identical, differing primarily in their conching time. 224 was conched for a medium duration while 223 was conched only a short time.

Both chocolates were crafted in Fresco's nut-free facility from 72% cocoa solids (cacao beans plus added cocoa butter) and 28% cane sugar.

224 came wrapped in silver foil-sided wax paper inside a paper box. The bar reviewed here was number 0158 from batch 224-13-061, and was created on June 10, 2013. The best before date was July 2015.

As you can see above, the 45 gram bar was scored into 10 pieces, each of which was alternately lined either vertically or horizontally. The chocolate had a smooth appearance with minute bubbles in some of the corners that I probably wouldn't notice if I wasn't looking for them.

The color of 224 was a medium brown Bracken (PANTONE 19-1015). The snap was medium hard.

The aroma contained earth, roast with smoke and toast, and a prune fruit scent. There was also an unexpected astringency in the aroma.

This chocolate tasted initially of roast cocoa and some earthiness. Fruit flavors similar to those in 223 developed, including plum, lime, and berry. Near the end, the roast flavor transitioned from primarily cocoa to primarily malt.

224 had a smooth melt. The length was medium, with the chocolate flavor lasting 25 to 30 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The finish was slightly tannin and slightly acidic.

Overall, I slightly preferred the sharper flavors of 223, even with its strong tea and tannin, but other palates may feel 224's more refined nature results in a better chocolate.

You can purchase 224 Dominican Republic online for $8.00 directly from Fresco or for $7.00 from Chocolopolis.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review: Fresco 223 Dominican Republic

Richard's Rating: 7.5
chocolate makerFresco
bar223
regionDominican Republic
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size45g ~ 1.6oz
cocoa solids72%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$8.00
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearancelined, scoring, smooth
aromaearth, roast (smoke, tea, malt), sweet (caramel), fruit (raisin, berry)
snapmedium hard
tasteearth, roast (tea, cocoa), fruit (plum, lime, berry), sweet (caramel), tannin
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishtannin, slightly acidic
One of the things I appreciate about chocolate from Fresco is tasting multiple formulations made not only from the same origin, but also from the same cacao beans (fermented and dried in the same harvest). Last year, Rob Anderson released two new formulations made from Dominican Republic cacao.

The recipes for 223 and 224 were nearly identical, both with 72% cocoa solids (with the same amount of added cocoa butter) and 28% cane sugar. The same Dominican Republic cacao beans for both were given a medium roast.

The process differed in conching: 223 experienced only a short, subtle conche, while 224 was conched for a medium duration. Without making chocolate, one rarely gets the opportunity to taste variations to experience the effects of different processing.

In any case, both chocolates were made in Fresco's nut-free facility. 223 came wrapped in gold foil-sided wax paper inside a paper box. This particular bar did not have a production or best before date.

The 45 gram bar was scored into 10 pieces, each of which was alternately lined either horizontally or vertically. The chocolate appeared smooth and only had a few tiny bubbles in the corners of some of the pieces.

223 had a medium brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012) color. The bar had a medium hard snap.

The chocolate gave off an aroma of earth, roast, sweetness, and fruit. The roast scent included smoke tea, and malt. The sweetness smelled of caramel. I noticed fruit scents of raisin and berry.

An initial earthy fruity taste soon revealed plum, lime, and berry flavors. Roast in the form of tea and cocoa as well as caramel sweetness joined shortly afterward. The taste was also tannin.

The melt was smooth, perhaps slightly less than average. The length lasted to the far end of medium, with the chocolate flavor dissipating only after about 35 to 40 seconds. The final aftertaste was tannin and slightly acidic.

You can purchase 223 Dominican Republic online for $8.00 directly from Fresco or for $7.00 from Chocolopolis.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

International Chocolate Awards 2014 Americas Semi-Final Winners

Last night the International Chocolate Awards published the 2014 winners of the Americas semi-finals. Here are the unflavored dark chocolate bar winners. There were many winners "due to the exceptionally high number of entries and overall standard". National awards were given "where there were a significant number of entries from one country within the category".

Americas
GOLD: Pacari Tangara 70%
SILVER: Pacari Piura 70%
SILVER: Pacari Raw 70%
SILVER: SOMA Peru Nacional
SILVER: Franceschi Rio Caribe 60% 2014 crop
SILVER: Cacaosuyo Lakuna
SILVER: It's Chocolate Venezuelan Chuao 70%
SILVER: Franceschi Ocumare 70% 2014 crop
SILVER: Pacari Lacumbia 70%
SILVER: Pacari Montubia 70%
SILVER: Madre Healani Orchards, Hawi, Hawaii, Criollo
SILVER: Pacari Nube 70%
BRONZE: Franceschi Sur Del Lago 60% 2014 crop
BRONZE: Amano Chuao
BRONZE: Hummingbird Hispaniola
BRONZE: Pacari Garua 70%
BRONZE: Chocolat Madagascar Fine Dark 65%
BRONZE: Amano Montanya
BRONZE: Potomac Upala, Costa Rica 70%

High Percentage
GOLD: Marou Tan Phu Dong 85% La Grande Epicerie de Paris
SILVER: Pacari Raw 85%
SILVER: Chocolat Madagascar Fine Dark 85%
BRONZE: Pacari Raw 100%
BRONZE: Cicada 99% Madagascan

Rough Ground
GOLD: Taza Cacao Puro
SILVER: SOMA Old School

National
CANADA GOLD: SOMA Peru Nacional
UNITED STATES GOLD: It's Chocolate Venezuelan Chuao 70%
VENEZUELA GOLD: Franceschi Rio Caribe 60% 2014 crop
UNITED STATES SILVER: Madre Healani Orchards, Hawi, Hawaii, Criollo
UNITED STATES SILVER: Amano Chuao
UNITED STATES SILVER: Amano Montanya
UNITED STATES SILVER: Potomac Upala, Costa Rica 70%
UNITED STATES SILVER: Dandelion Ambanja, Madagascar 70%

National Rough Ground
UNITED STATES GOLD: Taza Cacao Puro

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sale: Free Shipping at World Wide Chocolate

UPDATE October 19, 2014: free shipping using this offer was extended through the end of the month.

World Wide Chocolate is offering free shipping through October 17th with no minimum purchase. This is a great opportunity if you only want a few chocolate bars.

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.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Northwest Chocolate Festival Awards

The awards were announced Friday night for the 2014 Northwest Chocolate Festival. There were three judged categories (Single Origin, Milk Chocolate and Inclusions) and three non-judged awards.

In the judged Single Origin category, the winners were:

In the judged Milk Chocolate category, the winner was:
  • GOLD: Fruition Marañón 68%

In the judged Inclusions (flavored chocolate) category, the winners were:
  • GOLD: Madre Coconut Milk and Carmelized Ginger 55%
  • SILVER: Manoa Breakfast Bar 60%
  • BRONZE: Chocolate Naive Tahini and Sesame

They also gave out non-judged awards:

You can still buy tickets at the door for this weekend ($30 for a day pass) at Pier 66 (the Bell Harbor Center) in Seattle.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Review: Escazú Guapiles, Costa Rica

Lindy's Rating: 8.0
Richard's Rating: 7.5
chocolate makerEscazú
barGuapiles, Costa Rica
regionCosta Rica
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size80g ~ 2.8oz
cocoa solids65%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenersugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoringvanilla
other ingredients(none)
list price$6.50
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1317
Bitter Chocolate
appearancesmooth, glossy, scoring, uneven sheen, bubbles
aromaearth (hay), roast (smoke), fruit (citrus, berry, dried fruit)
snaphard
tasteearth, roast (cocoa, coffee), coconut, sweet (caramel, butterscotch), spice (cinnamon)
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishslightly sweet, slightly acidic, slightly sour, slightly tannin
U.S. chocolate maker Hallot Parson crafts his bean to bar chocolate as Escazú in Raleigh, N.C. The cacao beans for his Guapiles chocolate come from the Caribbean region of Costa Rica.

Guapiles, Costa Rica contained 65% cocoa solids (cacao beans plus added cocoa butter). Sugar and vanilla bean made up the other ingredients. The beans were certified organic by Rainforest Alliance. Although all of the other ingredients were organic as well, the bar was not certified.

Escazú continues to make large 80 gram bars. Guapiles, Costa Rica came wrapped in brass-sided foil inside a paper sleeve. The batch number for this particular bar was 23080813, indicating a production date of August 8, 2013. There was no best before date.

The chocolate looked smooth and glossy. The sheen was uneven and there were bubbles in the corners of several pieces. The bar was scored into 24 pieces.

Guapiles, Costa Rica had a medium brown Bitter Chocolate (PANTONE 19-1317) color. The snap was hard.

The aroma contained earth, roast, and fruit. The earthy scent seemed to be hay and the roast was smoky. Lindy identified the fruit scent as a mix of citrus and berry. To me, it smelled more like dried fruit and berry.

Clear flavors quickly came forth in our tastings: earth, a cocoa roast, coconut, a very sweet mix of caramel and butterscotch, and a cinnamon spice. I also tasted a coffee flavor in the roast.

Lindy described the taste as "a complex roller-coaster of flavors" and likened it to Mexican hot chocolate with cinnamon.

The melt was smooth. The chocolate flavor lasted about 35 to 40 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a medium length that was nearly long. The finish remained slightly sweet, along with just a little acidity, sourness, and tannin.

Overall, this version of Guapiles, Costa Rica was even better than the one we liked in our 2012 review, and now ranks second on our list of Costa Rica chocolate bars. Guapiles, Costa Rica won one of the 2012 Good Food Awards.

You can purchase Guapiles, Costa Rica online for $6.50 directly from Escazú.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: Dandelion Papua New Guinea

Lindy's Rating: 7.5
Richard's Rating: 7.5
chocolate makerDandelion
barPapua New Guinea
regionPapua New Guinea
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size56g ~ 2.0oz
cocoa solids70%
added fat(none)
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$12.00
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1431
Fudgesickle
appearancesmooth, scoring, imprints
aromaearth, roast (cocoa, smoke), spice (cinnamon), fruit (blackberry)
snaphard
tastesweet (brown sugar), wine, fruit (blackberry, cranberry), roast (smoke), earth, tart
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishsomewhat sweet, somewhat acidic
The cacao beans for Dandelion's Papua New Guinea bar were fire-dried after fermentation, as it typical for that region. The beans for this chocolate came from a 2011 harvest.

Dandelion never adds cocoa butter, lecithin, or vanilla. They crafted Papua New Guinea in their nut-free facility from only two ingredients: 70% cacao beans and 30% cane sugar.

The two ounce bar came wrapped in heavy gold-sided foil inside an outer wrapper of beautiful craft paper. The bar reviewed here was from batch 1, with a best before date of September, 2014.

Papua New Guinea looked great, with a smooth surface. The bar was scored into 18 pieces, each with imprints of 5 parallel squiggles.

The chocolate had a medium brown Fudgesickle (PANTONE 19-1431) color. Though the snap seemed medium hard on the thin scoring lines, breaking one of the pieces revealed a nice, hard snap.

The aroma contained scents of earth, a smoky and cocoa roast, a cinnamon spice, and blackberry fruit.

The taste of Papua New Guinea began with a sweet brown sugar flavor over a background of earth and smoky roast. Red wine and fruit flavors -- blackberry with some cranberry -- came next. Lindy described it as jammy and tasting of preserves. The taste grew tart and the earth and smoke flavors increased towards the end.

The label described the taste as "a bold Southeastern-style barbecue tang. Its fruity notes give way to an earthy, leathery finish."

The chocolate had a smooth melt. The length was medium, with the chocolate flavor lasting about 35 to 40 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The final aftertaste was somewhat acidic and surprisingly somewhat sweet.

In 2012, Fresco raised expectations for chocolates made of Papua New Guinea cacao, and this is another great chocolate from that region.

You can purchase Papua New Guinea online in the U.S. for $12.00 directly from Dandelion and in the U.K. for £5.95 from Bean to Bar Chocolate.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review: Zotter Labooko Raw Chocolate 80%

Lindy's Rating: 8.5
Richard's Rating: 7.5
chocolate makerZotter
barRaw 80%
regionPeru?
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size70g ~ 2.5oz
cocoa solids80%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenercoconut blossom sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredientssalt
list priceN/A
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1314
Seal Brown
appearancerelief, imprints, textured top
aromafloral, spice (anise), sweet, earth
snaphard
tastenut, roast, floral, earth, acidic, dried fruit (date), spice (anise), tannin
meltmore smooth
lengthmedium
finishtannin, acidic, slightly bitter
Labooko Raw Chocolate 80% is Zotter's only unflavored raw dark chocolate bar. Although I haven't yet received confirmation, I believe they sourced the organic and fair trade cacao for this chocolate from Peru.

The chocolate was sweetened with organic coconut blossom sugar rather than cane sugar. The 80% cocoa solids included added organic and fair trade cocoa butter. A tiny amount of salt was among the ingredients.

I don't have information about the maximum temperature used in processing this chocolate, but a Zotter representative told me that their current flavored raw chocolate is kept below 69°C (156°F), which is well above the temperature limit of most raw food. Raw Chocolate 80% was crafted with a 12 hour conching time.

The two 35 gram bars came in Zotter's standard packaging for the Labooko line: separately wrapped in gold foil-sided wax paper that was glued into the folds of the heavy outer paper. The outer paper is printed with one of Andreas h. Gratze's dramatic drawings of a person.

Based on Zotter's recommended 14-month shelf life, the best before date of October 10, 2014, indicates these bars were produced in August 2013.

The color of the chocolate was a medium-dark brown Seal Brown (PANTONE 19-1314). Each bar had a "zotter" relief and imprints of "Labooko" and cacao pods. The snap was hard.

Raw Chocolate 80% had a wonderful aroma, with scents of floral, anise spice, and sweetness. To me, it also smelled a bit earthy and the floral scent seemed to include just a hint of jasmine.

The taste began with nut, roast, floral, and earth flavors. Dried fruit, and date in particular, developed, along with the anise from the aroma. The chocolate tasted acidic and tannin.

The melt was more smooth. The length was medium, with the chocolate flavor lasting 20 to 25 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The finish was tannin, acidic, and slightly bitter.

Lindy likes raw chocolate, and rates Raw Chocolate 80% as her current favorite. I was somewhat less impressed, but still ranked it among raw chocolates as second only to Pacari Raw 70% (and the best raw chocolate without cane sugar). You can see our raw chocolate rankings on the bottom of our Chocolate Rankings page and our unranked list of (cane) sugar-free chocolates on the bottom of our Chocolate Lists page.

It appears that Labooko Raw Chocolate 80% is no longer on Zotter's website. However, you can still purchase it online for $7.49 from NewLeaf Chocolates or from Chocolate Voyages.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Review: Zotter Labooko High-End 96%

Lindy's Rating: 5.5
Richard's Rating: 6.0
chocolate makerZotter
barHigh End 96%
regionPeru
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size65g ~ 2.3oz
cocoa solids96%
added fat(none)
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredientssalt
list priceN/A
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearancerelief, imprints, textured top
aromaearth, roast (smoke), fruit (citrus, cherry), astringent
snaphard
tasteearth, sour, roast, nut, bitter
meltsmooth
lengthmedium
finishbitter, somewhat acidic, slightly sour
Austrian bean to bar chocolate maker Zotter crafts several lines of chocolate, including the Labooko line with several single origin bars. High-End 96% was made from organic cacao from Peru and 4% organic raw cane sugar. The complete ingredients included a tiny amount of salt.

High-End 96% was certified organic and fair trade. Zotter revealed on the packaging and on their website that the formulation for this particular chocolate included 34 hours of conching.

Labooko products each contain two 32.5 gram bars wrapped in gold foil-sided wax paper. Those wrapped bars are glued into the folds of a heavy outer paper. Because the glue must be strong enough to hold the bars in place, it is also so adhesive that it is often difficult to remove the bars from the packaging without tearing the foil and sometimes breaking the bars. The glue also complicates rewrapping a bar if you do not finish it. The packaging is far from ideal.

The best before date on the bars reviewed here was October 8, 2014. Zotter indicated that the bars have a 14-month shelf life, so they were produced in August, 2013.

Each bar had a "zotter" relief and imprints of "Labooko" and cacao pods. Their color was a medium brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012). The bars had a hard snap.

Scents of earth, roast, and fruit were present, along with an unusual astringency. The roast contained some smoke, and the fruit included citrus and a berry scent that Lindy identified as cherry.

High-End 96% tasted of earth, roast, nut, and bitterness. I also found it sour, but Lindy didn't experience that. For her, the roast and nut flavors were noticeably stronger than the earthiness.

The melt was nicely smooth (almost more smooth). The chocolate flavor lasted 30 to 35 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a medium length. The final after-taste was bitter, somewhat acidic, and slightly sour.

Overall, other than the astringent aroma, this was a good chocolate. However, I found their Labooko Peru 100% much better than this High-End 96% from the same origin.

You can purchase Labooko High-End 96% online for 3,35€ directly from Zotter or for $7.49 from NewLeaf.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sale: World Wide Chocolate 20% Off

UPDATE September 20, 2014: this sale was extended through the end of the month.

World Wide Chocolate is again having a nearly storewide sale for 20% off chocolate from all makers other than Amedei (multi-kilogram products by Valrhona are also excluded). No minimum purchase is required.

The current offer, using coupon code sept20, runs through September 19th 30th.

Note that given the temperatures this time of year, you'll want to add warm weather packaging for $6.99 and ship via two-day or overnight air, which is relatively expensive. World Wide Chocolate ships to United States, APO (military), and FPO (diplomatic) addresses. Please see their shipping policies for additional information.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: Dick Taylor Ecuador Camino Verde

Richard's Rating: 7.0
chocolate makerDick Taylor
barEcuador
Camino Verde
regionEcuador
plantationCamino Verde
cacao treesunknown
yearunknown
size57g ~ 2.0oz
cocoa solids76%
added fat(none)
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$8.00
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearanceimprint, smooth
aromaearth (hay, burlap), spice
snaphard
tasteroast (tea, cocoa), earth (hay), nut, fruit
meltmore smooth
lengthmedium
finishsour, somewhat tannin
Dick Taylor made this Ecuador chocolate with cacao beans from the Camino Verde farm. The chocolate was crafted from 76% cacao beans and 24% organic cane sugar.

Inside a paper envelope, the chocolate came wrapped in gold foil-sided wax paper. The best before date was September 2014 and the batch number was 13252.

The unscored two ounce bar had Dick Taylor's intricate imprint with only some insignificant, barely detectable bubbles. The color was a medium-dark brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012). The bar had a hard snap.

The aroma smelled strongly of hay. Secondary scents included an earthy burlap and some spice.

Camino Verde had flavors of roast, earth, nut, and fruit. The roast was mostly tea with a little cocoa. The earthy flavor was primarily the dominant hay of the aroma. Nuttiness and fruit developed, but remained in the background compared with the tea roast and hay earth flavors.

The chocolate had a more smooth melt. The length was medium, with the chocolate flavor lasting 30 to 35 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The finish was sour and somewhat tannin.

Overall, it's a great bar if you like the flavors found in this chocolate. The other chocolate we've reviewed made from the high-quality Camino Verde cacao, Rogue's Balao, is even better, but costs quite a lot more.

You can purchase Ecuador Camino Verde online for $8.00 directly from Dick Taylor or from Chocolopolis. I also found it for only $7.00 at The Chocolate Clinic.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: The Chocolate Conspiracy Dark Bar

Richard's Rating: 6.0
chocolate makerChocolate Conspiracy
barDark Bar
regionPeru
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size56g ~ 2.0oz
cocoa solids74%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenerwildflower honey
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$9.00
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearancesmooth, text imprints, uneven sheen, bubbles
aromaearth, spice, fruit, floral, cocoa, sweet
snapmedium hard
tasteearth, nut, spice (cinnamon), fruit, coffee, sweet (honey), acidic
meltless smooth
lengthshort
finishacidic, slightly sour
The Chocolate Conspiracy made several changes to their Dark Bar since we reviewed it in 2012. The cacao beans for this chocolate now come from Peru rather than Ecuador. Vanilla beans are no longer among the ingredients. The Chocolate Conspiracy has new wrappers and shapes their bars in new molds.

A.J. Wentworth still crafts his chocolate raw, with the temperature never exceeding 105°F (41°C). The 74% cocoa solids of Dark Bar were cacao beans and cocoa butter, both of which were certified organic. The 26% sweetener was unfiltered wildflower honey.

Inside an outer paper wrapper, the unscored two ounce bar came wrapped in copper-colored foil-sided wax paper. The best before date was September 12, 2014.

The bar had a smooth surface, but the sheen was uneven and there were several bubbles around the text imprints. The chocolate had a medium-dark brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012) color.

Dark Bar had a medium hard snap. The aroma contained scents of earth, spice, fruit, floral, cocoa, and sweet.

An initial earthy taste developed additional flavors of nut, cinnamon spice, fruit, coffee, and honey. The coffee flavor grew dominant. The taste was acidic.

The melt of this chocolate was less smooth, with a slightly grainy texture. The length was short, with the chocolate flavor lasting about 15-20 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The final aftertaste was acidic and slightly sour.

Overall, I preferred the prior incarnation of this chocolate, but Dark Bar remains a good choice among raw or sugar-free chocolate.

You can purchase Dark Bar for $9.00 directly from The Chocolate Conspiracy.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sale: 20% Off at World Wide Chocolate

Through the end of August, World Wide Chocolate is having a nearly storewide sale for 20% off all chocolate makers other than Amedei.  Multi-kilogram products by Valrhona are also excluded. No minimum purchase is required.

Use coupon code AUG20 during checkout.

Note that given the temperatures this time of year, you'll want to add warm weather packaging for $6.99 and ship via two-day or overnight air, which is relatively expensive. World Wide Chocolate ships to United States, APO (military), and FPO (diplomatic) addresses. Please see their shipping policies for additional information.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Northwest Chocolate Festival Living Social Deal

An amazing deal on tickets to the Northwest Chocolate Festival (NWCF) is now available on Living Social. This year the festival runs October 3rd through 5th and has moved to the Bell Harbor conference center on the Seattle waterfront (Pier 66, 2211 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98121).

Advance one day passes are regularly $25, but you can get them with this living social deal for only $15. Even better is that promocode 5off15 will bring the price down to $10!

$10 is almost certainly the lowest price you'll find to buy one-day tickets. The living social 5off15 discount code is valid through Sunday, August 24th. Regular advance price ($5 off "day of" price) full weekend and VIP passes are available on NWCF's site.

I haven't yet written about this year's event, but here's info about last year 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. Saturday tends to be more crowded. Unfortunately, the schedule of talks and workshops has not yet been posted to help you choose the day that most interests you.

Here's a direct link to the living social deal.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: Chocolove Strong Dark 70%

Richard's Rating: 6.0
chocolate maker(unknown)
barStrong Dark
region(blend)
plantation(blend)
cacao trees(unknown)
year2012
size90g ~ 3.2oz
cocoa solids70%
added fatcocoa butter
sweetenersugar
emulsifiersoy lecithin
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list priceN/A
colormedium-dark brown
PANTONE 19-1015
Bracken
appearancesmooth, glossy, scoring, adhered bits
aromaroast (smoke, coffee, cocoa), sweet (caramel), earth
snaphard
tasteroast (coffee, cocoa), nut, spice (anise, cinnamon), sweet (caramel), bitter, acidic
meltmore smooth
lengthmedium
finishbitter, somewhat acidic, somewhat astringent
Chocolove is not a bean to bar chocolate maker, and instead uses cocoa liquor from Belgium. Strong Dark was made "primarily from African cocoa beans and a small amount of Caribbean cocoa beans".

This chocolate contained 70% cocoa solids (included added cocoa butter). The other ingredients were sugar and soy lecithin.

As with all of Chocolove bars, a love poem was printed on the inside of the outer paper wrapper. In this case, that poem was an excerpt from John Donne's Elegy XVIII: Love's Progress.

Wrapped inside the inner gold foil-sided wax paper was the 90 gram bar. The lot number was 081012 and the best before date was August 2014.

The bar was scored into 18 pieces, each with the imprint of a stylized heart. The surface was smooth and glossy, with some adhered bits of chocolate. The chocolate had a medium-dark brown Bracken (PANTONE 19-1015) color.

Strong Dark had a hard snap. The aroma contained a complex roast, along with caramel sweetness and some earthiness. The roast was smoky, with scents of coffee and cocoa.

The taste began with those same roast flavors of coffee and cocoa. The middle added flavors of nut, anise, cinnamon, and the caramel sweetness from the aroma. Bitterness and some acidity were also present.

The melt was more smooth. The chocolate flavor lasted 30 to 35 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a medium length. The finish was bitter, somewhat acidic, and somewhat astringent.

At roughly $1.00 per ounce, Strong Dark is a bargain for a good, albeit bitter, chocolate bar. You can find it near the top of our Best Chocolate Values page.

You can purchase Chocolove Strong Dark 70% online for only $2.95 at Chocosphere.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Review: Dick Taylor Dominican Finca Elvesia

Richard's Rating: 7.0
chocolate makerDick Taylor
barDominican
Finca Elvesia
regionDominican Republic
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size57g ~ 2.0oz
cocoa solids74%
added fat(none)
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$8.00
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearanceimprint, smooth, uneven sheen
aromaearth (must), roast (tobacco), dried fruit (prune)
snaphard
tasteearth, roast (tea), fruit (plum, grapefruit, lime, raisin), sour, tannin
meltmore smooth
lengthmedium
finishtannin, acidic, somewhat sour
U.S. bean to bar chocolate makers Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor craft chocolate in their factory in Arcata, California. Dick Taylor makes all of their unflavored chocolate from only two ingredients: cacao beans and cane sugar.

The 74% cocoa solids were entirely cacao beans. Although Dominican Finca Elvesia was not certified, both ingredients were organic.

The unscored two ounce bar came wrapped in gold foil-sided wax paper inside a paper envelope. The best before date was August 2014 and the batch number was 13246.

Even with its extremely detailed imprint, this chocolate had a smooth surface and was remarkably nearly free of bubbles. The sheen was uneven in a few spots. The chocolate had a medium brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012) color. The snap was hard.

The aroma of Dominican Finca Elvesia contained scents of musty earth, tobacco roast, and dried fruit. The dried fruit scent smelled primarily of prune.

This chocolate tasted of earth, roast, and fruit. It began primarily as earth, but the flavor of tea with strong tannin came forth fairly quickly. The fruit flavors developed more slowly, and revealed themselves as plum, raisin, and a sour citrus that seemed to be a combination of grapefruit and lime.

The melt was more smooth. The chocolate flavor lasted 35 to 40 seconds after the chocolate was gone, giving a medium length that was nearly long. The final aftertaste was tannin, acidic, and somewhat sour.

You can purchase Dominican Finca Elvesia online for $8.00 directly from Dick Taylor or for $7.49 from Caputo's.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review: Dandelion Mantuano, Venezuela 70%

Richard's Rating: 6.0
chocolate makerDandelion
barMantuano
regionVenezuela
plantationblend
cacao treesunknown
year2013
size56g ~ 2.0oz
cocoa solids70%
added fat(none)
sweetenercane sugar
emulsifier(none)
flavoring(none)
other ingredients(none)
list price$8.00
colormedium brown
PANTONE 19-1012
Dark Brown
appearancesmooth, scoring, imprints
aromaroast (smoke), earth (mold), dairy
snaphard
tasteroast (malt, smoke, coffee), earth, spice (cinnamon), fruit
meltmore smooth
lengthmedium
finishtannin, somewhat acidic, slightly sour
Dandelion sourced the cacao beans for Mantuano "from a female-run co-op nestled in the tropical hills of the Caribbean coast of Venezuela." This particular bar was made from batch 1 of the beans from the 2012 harvest.

The ingredients of this chocolate were only 70% cacao beans and 30% organic cane sugar. The bar was not certified organic.

This particular batch was roasted using higher temperature for a shorter time. Mantuano was made in their nut-free facility.

Inside the outer lovely craft paper wrapper, the two ounce bar was enclosed in heavy gold-sided foil. The best before date was August, 2014.

The bar was scored into 18 pieces, each with imprints of 5 parallel squiggles. Its appearance was excellent, with a clean, smooth surface.

Mantuano had a medium brown Dark Brown (PANTONE 19-1012) color. The snap was hard. The aroma contained smoky roast, moldy earth, and dairy scents.

The taste contained roast, earth, cinnamon spice, and fruit flavors. After the initial earth, spice, and fruit flavors, the roast quickly developed. I tasted smoke and coffee before malt completely dominated the remaining time.

I found the malt flavor overwhelming and not enjoyable. However, if you love that flavor, you might find this bar especially appealing.

On the label, the taste of this chocolate was described as "notes of fudge brownie and espresso with a lovely cinnamon finish."

The melt crossed the boundary into more smooth. The length was medium, with the chocolate flavor lasting about 25 to 30 seconds after the chocolate was gone. The final aftertaste was tannin, somewhat acidic, and slightly sour.

You can purchase Dandelion Mantuano, Venezuela online in the U.S. for $8.95 from The Meadow or for $8.99 from Chocolopolis, and in the U.K. for £5.50 from Bean to Bar Chocolate. It is not currently available directly for $8.00 from Dandelion.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Northwest Chocolate Festival Groupon

Even though it's still two months away, you can score a one-day pass to my favorite event of the year, the Northwest Chocolate Festival (NWCF), at a 40% discount. This year the festival runs October 3rd through 5th and has moved to the Bell Harbor conference center on the Seattle waterfront (Pier 66, 2211 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98121).

As a result of the larger venue, ticket prices have dropped from last year. Advance one day passes are regularly $25, but you can get them with this groupon deal for only $15. Regular price advance ($5 off "day of" price) full weekend and VIP passes are available on NWCF's site.

I haven't yet written about this year's event, but here's info about last year and you can read about this year on the Northwest Chocolate Festival website.

You can purchase a $15 one-day pass for either Saturday or Sunday. Saturday tends to be more crowded. Unfortunately, the schedule of talks and workshops has not yet been posted to help you choose the day that most interests you.

Here's a direct link to the Groupon.

UPDATE: Use coupon code LOCAL10 through August 12th for an additional 10% off.