Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Marou Dong Nai 72%

Marou make their chocolate with only Vietnamese cocoa beans, cane sugar and cocoa butter, apart from their limited edition bar which had a cashew praline in the middle layer. This Dong Nai 72% was of cacao produced at Marou's own fermentation and drying station in Dong Nai, Marou say that this makes it "a very rare 'pod-to-bar' chocolate"
The aroma straight away had a roasted timbre to it, with grapefruit, clove and little metallic undertones

The taste was very roasted (thoughts of burning toast), bitterness transitioned into a lightness of creamy coconut, hazelnut, chilli, followed by Vietnamese characteristics I lovingly recognised (acidity and spice)

The melt wasn't as silky smooth as Marou often is, it felt more waxy. The butteriness in taste and texture gave a calming feel, however I am more about louder, more expressive chocolate. Overall a good chocolate, not my favourite of Marou's but still good

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The Beach Chocolate Factory 70% with Nibs

An unknown chocolate maker to most, including myself, I only happened to stumble across them when on The Beach Chocolate Factory are the first bean to bar maker in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

The cacao within comes from the Tenorio region of Costa Rica and the chocolate is made with simply cocoa beans and organic sugar (my favourite chocolate recipe). Due to how elusive and secretive this chocolate is, because of the small batches its made in, Chocolatiers call it "a connoisseur's chocolate" - so I had to have it
An aroma of candied orange peel and metallic rawness. A hard snap, smooth melt. The taste was candied orange peel and bittersweet marmalade on burnt toast with a coffee to go

The nibs were very crunchy and packed so much good flavour
I hoped for an authentic chocolate experience and I had not been disappointed. The unique mould makes for a difficult break, but the thickness distinguishes itself from American, British, European etc. craft chocolate, making it that little bit more authentic

It is always a wonderful experience trying chocolate crafted in cacao-growing countries 

Friday, 18 December 2015

Q Chocolate 60% and 65%

Q Chocolate is Brazilian chocolate of the Aquim family, made with cacao from a single Brazilian farm, Fazenda Leolinda. The cacao is said to be "personally selected" by the Aquim family 

I first heard of Q late October, when I met one of the founders, meaning I had to shamefully say that I had never heard of it before 

The 60% had a smoking rubber tyre aroma and taste, with the taste leading to some red berry acidity. The texture was slightly crumbly. Taste-wise I was completely surprised. I didn't so much like the rubber smokiness, but the fruity acidity later was a great counterbalance
The 65% tasted massively different, it was bubblegum. It reminded me of a Zotter Labooko bar I've had. The snap and bite was brittle and the melt and mouth texture was glossy like bubblegum

Overall, I didn't understand as to why and how these two chocolates were so different, and if there is a logical reason for it I would have loved to have known! (was it intentional? e.g different roasts, conches, then it should be specified on packaging - maybe in the form of flavour profiles)

However, the taste of the 60% had something quite compelling, much like Omnom's Papua New Guinea. At first I don't like it, but with its bright acidity - the contrasting flavours makes me enjoy it

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Askinosie Davao 52% Dark Milk Chocolate + Fleur de Sel

I've had the original Davao by Askinosie at a 77%, a good chocolate. This chocolate has the Philippine cacao, milk and salt. The milk within is goats', so I found it unusual that this was not mentioned on the front
The aroma was Askinosie, it had that distinct Askinosie feel to it: quite light and sweet. This Askinosie-ness was also in taste

The flavour started as McVitie's digestives, the dark chocolate and caramel ones. Nearing the finish came the salt, and boooooom soft, full fat GOATS CHEESE. Thankfully, the goats milk smoothed over to create a creamier taste ... and the 'Askinosie' flavour was restored

This chocolate reminds me of when I bought goats milk assuming great taste because it was more expensive than cows. It made it taste like I took a generous slice of goats cheese with my morning oats and coffees. Goats cheese can be really good, but as for a milk in chocolate, the acquired taste was lost on me

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Ara Chocolat Agua Fria 70%

A cool thing about the French chocolate-maker Ara is that they work in incredibly small batches, meaning that they can afford to have such a diverse range. When meeting Ara (they are a team of two), Sabrina gave me a little tasting of their chocolate range. I most favoured the Nicaragua, of which is only available in their 'limited edition' pack and within that pack comes other bars like India and Colombia

Interested in cacao? If so: Another cool thing is that Ara offer a Criollo Guasare and a Trinitario Guasare, of which had great distinction between them: the Criollo was more complex. Then in addition to this Criollo type of the Guasare, they offer an experience that gives you a 48 hour fermentation and a 72 hour fermentation. The 48h had more of an alcohol and metallic profile, but the 72h was just wonderful
OK. I digress, back to this Venezuelan Agua Fria. I bought this bar because Ara Chocolat are the only makers using these beans outside of Venezuela

The aroma was cherry swirled vanilla ice cream, slightly metallic and coffee

The taste was blackcurrant, toasted, hazelnut, very sautéed-mushroom, acidity came up quickly and then red fruits brightened up the overall flavour. Quite impressively, this flavour journey was consistent with every bite. The finish was tannic and with an astringent drying in the mouth. The melt of this chocolate was noticeably smoother than their other chocolates - I questioned Sabrina about this, however the grind time of this was similar to that of the others
Admittedly, when I bought this chocolate, compared to the others I had tried, it wasn't my favourite; it was bought more for the fact that nobody else makes chocolate with these beans as a single origin. However, Ara Chocolat is a wonderful chocolate maker - and I highly recommend their Nicaragua and Criollos (the Guasare and the Porcelana)

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Hotel Chocolat Rabot 1745 Vietnam 80%

This chocolate from Hotel Chocolat is a Vietnamese blend, with cacao from "Mekong Delta and Dong Nah" [sic] - It is Dong Nai, or Đồng Nai. I have Marou's 72% Dong Nai, which will be interesting to see how these two differ and resemble

The aroma was tobacco, sour cherry, leather. The taste begun toasty and cocoa, cue sour cherries in club soda (carbonated water). The finish was marmite

Texture wise, to my surprise, there was a notably short grind. This made the chocolate, along with the Rabot bark-like mould, feel very rustic 
This was not a bitter chocolate, because of that carbon dioxide (sour) and sweet acidity. The carbonated water taste was strange, but really quite fascinating

For an 80%, this chocolate was so easy to eat - which made me respect Hotel Chocolat, as they have evidently taken care over wonderful Vietnamese cocoa beans 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Damson 45% Buffalo Milk Chocolate

Interestingly, this chocolate was not made with the intention of creating an actual Damson bar. However, it was just TOO good not to. I tried it for the first time during its grinding process at Damson's launch party, and my enthusiastic expression of approval and inability to stop going back for more meant Damson was on to a winner!
The aroma was gherkin, Italian herbs - those unusual notes of Damson's buffalo milk chocolate again, but also with a warming creamy cocoa 

The taste started cocoa, with then gherkin rounding to buffalo milk (just think really good mozzarella!) with flowers, toffee and fudge! And dam-son, it was so creamy, the texture so creamy too
Laverstoke Farm's buffalo milk is so delicious, and this chocolate is so delicious. It reminds me of chocolate cake batter, and you know that's irresistible 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Black Gold Madagascan 72% dark & 55% milk

Black Gold craft chocolate. I feel privileged to be the first to write up on this chocolate - both these bars were "Batch 001"

This black and gold packaging seems to get a lot of attention: it must be the minimalism and handcraft aesthetic that does it
72% Dark
The aroma was smoky, earthen, coffee, the tiniest suggestion of acidity (red fruits and balsamic). It didn't seem so Madagascan, and as a casual chocolate maker myself, I was slightly envious about this, as my Madagascan chocolate is always crazy acidic. However, this chocolate may be very long aged and I think the beans were more towards a higher roasting temperature or time
The taste started and stayed roasted, with then the accompaniment of the anticipated Madagascan acidity: fruity! Amongst this was icing sugar, which unfortunately made it taste paper tainted. However, I found myself really admiring this chocolate's acidity, as from the experience of the aroma, I didn't expect such fruitiness

55% Milk
The aroma was very mellow, having smokiness and subtle dairy. The taste was that of the 70%, however up came such lovely creaminess! There was a toastiness within that reminded me of Casa Luker (Colombian) cacao liquor 

The texture was brittle. But that taste! The taste meant that this chocolate did not last long. I loved it!

Overall, as I've had Black Gold from its genesis - if you like -, I look forward to seeing how his (Brynny's) chocolate develops; only good things can come from this pastry chef

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Blanxart 77% Perú

White Criollo from Piura. Chocolate made from these beans have never disappointed me, and I have had several different bars! For this 77%, the cacao beans have been cultivated in plantations in the area of Quemazon and Chulucanas - and these are two names I like a lot
The aroma was vanilla, sweet 'n sour, bamboo leaves, pineapple. Snapping the chocolate, it looked smooth and 'well made', as there were no air bubbles. The taste started bitter then sour acidity, cherry blossom, toasted. The chocolate had a bitterness throughout

The texture was surprisingly grainy, I was literally crunching sugar. From previous experience with Blanxart, I do not remember their chocolate being this grainy

This was a difficult bar to finish. It wasn't bad chocolate, just not a chocolate for me. As 77% is a fairly high percentage, there was too much of a roasted profile dominating the ratio to sweetness 

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Rococo Chocolate

After talking to Rococo, I had successfully bagged myself some chocolate for potentially a Christmas review. Although, as I didn't receive their Christmas Pudding bar, which by the way sounds DELICIOUS, this post couldn't possibly be a Christmas one! Nonetheless, here I have a very nice selection ... I also noticed that Rococo chocolate bars now come in card and plastic packaging opposed to paper

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Chocolate Tree 60% Peru Marañón Milk

image from Chocolate Tree
The Chocolate Tree, since my last series of reviews, have changed their packaging. It now seems more reflectant upon the cacao, of which it is, as the tessellations are inspired by the cacao's country of origin, so their Madagascar, Peruvian and Venezuelan bars each have different patterns 
This is a dark milk chocolate, made from Nacional cacao grown in a remote canyon at the foothills of the Andes. I recently had another 60% dark milk, from Seaforth, however this Chocolate Tree bar feels more of a milk chocolate

Opening up the plastic packaging, it became a bag of toffee popcorn. The chocolate itself was more floral and milky, with some metallic blur
The taste, however, did have rich toffee, with then a blunt bitterness on the back of the tongue and again metallic. This chocolate is very enjoyable. It was less sweet than a 70%, I would have liked more sweetness, however the creaminess makes up for that

Monday, 23 November 2015

Damson Brazil 70% Fazenda Camboa

For Damson, this chocolate is currently limited edition, but, thinking from their perspective, it is too good not to make more! The cocoa beans are from the Fazenda Camboa farm in Bahia (Eastern Brazil). I was given this bar by Damson due to the ill-tempering, however, apart from a little surface scuff, the temper seems up to Damson-standard
Forest, prune, rich acidity nose, with depths of earth and coffee. It had a wildness to it ...
The taste was dark and dark chocolate, then opened a sweetness and came in mango and an apple's juiciness and lots of acidity

Oh man. From the unroasted bean, gifting me with Marmite brownie, to the actual chocolate, this Brazilian has utterly delighted me! 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Omnom Dark Cherries + Almonds

          'tis the season for festive chocolate   ?        
picture by Omnom 
Just like Omnom's 2014 limited edition, which was Dark Nibs + Raspberries, this chocolate was a 66% Madagascar

I love Omnom. Their brand is amazing and spot on with the packaging, their 45% Milk of Madagascar has to be illegal (it is that good), they make good chocolate and they just seem cool

Salt & vinegar crisps to the nose. The taste was very cherry and balsamic vinegar! The nuts added crunch and creaminess to taste and the cherries added chew. The cherry matched well with the fruity Madagascan chocolate, and I think salt with vibrant Madagascan always works really well
Overall, a good looking chocolate, a good tasting one too. There are four ingredients that aren't usually found in chocolate of this calibre nor style (sprinkling of fruit and nuts) which discredits Omnom for me. But hey, the 66% chocolate itself has excellent ingredients. And this would make for a cool gift

Friday, 20 November 2015

Duffy's Corazon del Ecuador 43% milk chocolate with nibs & oak smoked salt

This "heart of Ecuador" milk chocolate is made from Camino Verde cacao in Cleethorpes, UK. I was told, and this resonated with me when thinking and eating the chocolate, that the chocolate gets poured into the moulds halfway, for the cocoa nibs and salt to be sprinkled, and then the rest of the chocolate is poured

The aroma was Belgian milk chocolate, very caramel-like, and malted milk biscuits with the milk chocolate coating

It was a soft bite, leading to a biscuity taste, just like Duffy suggests! It was salted caramel and very creamy. To begin with there was a lemon grass edge to this chocolate and also the occasional taste of the paper wrapping. Once I was gifted with a real smokiness together with coffee. The studded nibs had a really chocolatey flavour, "woah"
To get the most out of this chocolate, one must chew. Chew to experience the crunches, to have the darkness of the nibs cut through that sweetness asap, and to crunch that salt (the salt enhances and adds to the great flavour)

This was a sweet milk chocolate, even in comparison to Willie's Milk of the Gods which is a 44%. It was refreshing to get the nibs throughout the taste (hence, chew!) And overall, this chocolate proves to a very popular one amongst those who try it!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Chocolate Makers Dominican Republic 75% & 40%

These Tres Hombres bars get their name from the sailing ship the Dominican Republic cacao within is transported on. Chocolate Makers is a Dutch bean to bar chocolate maker
40% milk
The aroma was green and wheat. First thing I found in taste was that the paper affected it. The chocolate was wholewheat crackers, red berry, with the salt sweetening up the flavour tremendously; the chocolate became very acidic. The finish was a bakery's brown paper bag

Now this aroma was more earthen and leather; the taste still lingered with paper, however the earthiness, leather and a deep roast dominated. The nibs, of which added great dimension, didn't seem like they were the same as the chocolate, as they were very bright and fruity! Occasionally the chocolate along with the nibs possessed a banana skin taste

Paper wrapping often has a detrimental effect on chocolate. The Chocolate Tree have recently gotten rid of their paper wrapping due to this problem

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Mast Brothers Olive Oil Chocolate

Dark chocolate and cold pressed olive oil. If you're in the craft chocolate circle, you'll either be shocked that Mast Brothers have ditched single origin from their range, or you just won't care (in pretence)

To the nose: woody, smoky, slow to get the olive oil, but olive oil was most definitely there, red fruits surface. The bite was soft, reminiscent of gianduja, the melt was smooth and cool. An olive oil flavour poured out, with peppery and very acidic chocolate
The goodness hits just before the chocolate is gone! But that goodness was awesome. The finish was a little bitter and astringent, so it was a shame that the chocolate ends poorly, but I really liked when the cacao shone through: cacao = fruity, jammy. Mast Brothers work with blended chocolate now, but I *think* this has definitley got Madagascar in it

Friday, 6 November 2015

Blanxart Dominican Republic 72

The aroma was vanilla, leather, cocoa, slightly smoked, roasted. For a Dominican Republic bar it's not something I quite expected, as I've known its cacao to be so fruity. HOWEVER, Hispaniola cacao was once known to be more earthy and robust with tobacco etc.! 

The flavour was as I can only describe as Bruce Bogtrotter's chocolate cake (from Roald Dahl's 'Matilda'). The taste came in layers: a fine cocoa dusting, followed by an intensely rich, dark chocolate creamy ganache, then finally a slightly sweeter moist sponge. Surprisingly the chocolate yielded a clean finish

I know many who are in love with this bar, and it's extremely popular at Cocoa Runners ...

It is interesting how such a pure chocolate flavour comes from this Dominican cacao, especially with such specifics of being grown in "Medina, Provincia de San Cristobal"
There are times when small-scale chocolate makers working with fine cacao wish for solely a *chocolate* flavour, not "raspberry, peaches and leather" - in this case the Chocolate Alchemist will advise you to blend your cocoa beans, as a *chocolate* flavour is not one single molecule, but an amalgamation of many!

However, this 72% Blaxart is not a blend... So, if you're working with one origin and just want that chocolate flavour, could you simply find cacao beans with a *chocolate* flavour? It's possible. But you'd be better off higher-roasting to eliminate those fancy nuanced tasting notes (e.g raspberry, pineapple, hazelnut), aerate to further diminish those nuances and add vanilla. It seems likely that this is how Blanxart achieved such chocolatiness

Overall, this chocolate gifts a warm, rich experience 

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Seaforth Cow's Milk 60% Cacao

Seaforth is an interesting British chocolate maker. The cocoa beans they use to make chocolate are shipped from the Caribbean (the Dominican Republic and Grenada) on a brigantine, meaning no engine, solely the wind brings them ashore 

The aroma was lime, so beautiful. It smelt like Grenadian cacao. The taste started with bitterness and tannins, but the lime and acidity came in quickly, with panforte (particularly almond & hazelnut) and creaminess. The panforte and dairy with such powerful acidity at first was somewhat unsettling... but this was a really good chocolate

Overall, it's fruity, creamy and just amazing. I cannot quite remember what Seaforth's dark chocolate tasted like (I tried them at the London Chocolate Show), however I know I fell heavily more towards this dark milk chocolate

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Olive & Sinclair 67% Cacao Nib

Handcrafted in Tennessee, Olive and Sinclair is a chocolate maker I visually recognised but hadn't seen nor heard much about, especially compared to other American craft chocolate makers

Buttery and subtle gherkin aroma, lead into a light gherkin, buttery taste. Pretty nice, a smooth flavour. The nibs had a metallic nibby taste and added crunch against the smooth textured chocolate. Then began to pour in a pure dark chocolate taste

This Southern artisan chocolate was enjoyable, it was nothing inspiring just an easy, smooth chocolate. Ghanaian cacao beans, brown sugar and cocoa butter. The use of brown sugar stands out