Sunday, 28 September 2014

COCOA RUNNERS Award Winners & discount code

Cocoa Runners is a celebration of the bean-to-bar movement, and an idea I only wish I came up with. The Telegraph described Cocoa Runners' activity as "chocolate's equivalent of The Wine Society" as with a membership, you have access to the finest chocolate from around the world. When I received my box, I knew I was getting the good stuff. My box was the 'Award Winners' box which meant that each of the four bars had won stars in this years Great Taste Awards. Nonetheless, if it wasn't the Award Winners box, I'd still know I was getting the good stuff. Cocoa Runners choose few bars to feature in their boxes and 'library' amongst the many hundreds that they taste. It's that kind of quality assurance that makes you know you're getting good, real chocolate

The box once open, with the antique world map, creates a feeling of exploration, like Christopher Columbus discovering the Americas. And it was just that, and then some... as before me I had origins of Tobago, Madagascar and Vietnam

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Willie's Cacao Venezuelan Gold Rio Caribe 72

Willie's Cacao truley is my favourite brand. To justify: it runs on a passion, it promises and delivers an experience, the design is aesthetically captivating, the product is sensational. My list could go on, but what's most interesting is that I perceive the identity behind the name *Willie's Cacao*, and this, to me, is what makes it a brand. Willie Harcourt-Cooze is fantastic, not that I know him personally but from Twitter, his documentary, and with some communication with him, it's crystal clear how passionate he is

In terms of chocolate, the Venezuelan Rio Caribe is the subject of discussion. I noticed right away the darker shade of brown it was. The aroma was earthy, coffee, very malty with a little mango, prune and coconut sweetness, and tomato (which I'm questioning, but I did definitely get tomato)
Like in aroma, the flavour too had a heavy roast. There was a distinct bitterness and rich cocoa. I didn't get the "complex nut" but I did get the coffee notes suggested by Willie. There was a sweetness and a berry fruitiness that would sieve its way through the strong cocoa taste. Overall it tasted like a red wine with a cocoa finish. The high cocoa quotient, along with the deep roast, brought real darkness to the chocolate. There was a feel of tannin on the tongue and I was hit with whiskey which, exploiting the surprise, was quite nice...

*Update 17.5.15- moments prior to the finish is a really lovely flavour amongst what has been said above* 

OK, so this Rio Caribe didn't enthuse me like Willie's Cacao has done in the past. It was enjoyable, but the shortfall in acidity (though a noticeable acidity), the mighty deep roast and predominant cocoa flavour, however, just did not tantalise my taste-buds

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Cocoa Raw 70% with Pecans

Cocoa Raw are a Poland based bean to bar company, sourcing direct from farmers. The aroma was distinctly Peruvian yet, admittedly, more so Polish. Bear in mind that my definition of what smells Peruvian and what smells Polish is purely subjective. Despite the hindering metallic note, it was rich with cherry liqueur, fruity syrup, blackberry, coffee and coconut. The nuts gave their natural scent, and there was also a prominent savoury scent

The flavour was difficult to decipher. I knew I liked it, but no words were coming to mind. Now this wasn't because I was mesmerised, but simply because I didn't have a clue what I could taste. This would be down to the fact that the chocolate was 'raw', meaning roast was kept to a minimum, therefore flavours hadn't fully developed, and rather they remained soft and balanced. Eventually words of the tongue surfaced: red wine, quite acidic, hammy (slightly smokey), mustard, brown bread, seeds, red berries, dark chocolate and the Bourbon vanilla

The pecans and hazelnuts had their nutty flavours, but did not affect the chocolate. The pecans were very buttery, with a walnut-like taste and slightly sweet

The texture was grainy but with that 'raw' title you couldn't possibly expect it to be silky smooth. There was a sweetness in taste, but not like other chocolate so it could be that coconut blossom sugar isn't as sweet as cane sugar. The flavours being so in equilibrium made the chocolate taste calming and I strangely enjoyed it, it was like a glass of red wine (not the sweet kind). I say 'strangely' because of the more savoury flavours it had... quite bizarre, I did not enjoy the metal smell/taste but the fruity aspect of it was my favourite

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Theo Sea Salt Dark 70%

Theo are an American bean-to-bar company, based in Seattle, who source their cocoa beans from Congo, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Ecuador, and all of which are Organic, Fairtrade and Fair For Life. This Sea Salt bar was designed to help provide those in rural Africa with locally assembled WBR bicycles

This 70% dark chocolate was made from cocoa beans*+, sugar*+, cocoa butter*+, sea salt, and vanilla* (*organic, +Fairtrade). 

The surface was unexpected with light specks indicating the salt. Also, the salt was wet and quite sticky to touch, and had seeped onto the paper packaging leaving unattractive marks. This couldn't possibly have been Theo's intention. Though I am no chemist, the salt had most likely absorbed moisture and I think if I was to have another bar it wouldn't be like this

The aroma was predominately vanilla with subtle cocoa and a nice roast. On the tongue the salt was initiated right away, making it taste all too sweet a little too quickly. I liked when physically touching the salt as it had a potent and clear flavour. The finish was a rich hot chocolate

The chocolate had a smooth, long melt; however, because it was heavily salted, it seemed like the melt was the means to endure that salty flavour. It's a shame when salt affects the whole chocolate taste like so, it really is "a little goes a long way". I never want salty chocolate, I want salt to burst in and disappear just as abruptly, without leaving a single trace. I think a nut with this chocolate would have cut through the sweetness and helped balance the flavour or, simply, less salt

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Idilio Origins Carenero Urratia Superior

Idilio Origins, a Swiss company, stand for "harmony with nature" and seeking out the rare cocoas to produce their premium chocolate (manufactured by Felchin). This 70% Venezuelan chocolate was of Carenero beans (named after the port they were once shipped from, otherwise a Trinitario), cane sugar, cocoa butter and studded with cacao nibs

The aroma was reminiscent of Porcelana, though more intense. It was leather, vanilla, creamy, exotic fruits, raspberry, spice and raisin. There was a sweetness like honey caramel. Sometimes when the nibs were exposed they'd subtly emit their usual scent - one that I'm not too keen on: earthy, alcoholic and almost chemically

This Swiss chocolate's melt was the creamiest, silkiest, smoothest I've yet experienced, naturally. The flavour was again similar to the Porcelana but stronger. The raspberry was significant and overlaid a chocolate body. There was a roasted element and with slight acidity. During my second tasting, I experienced a mild metallic/antiseptic/unripe banana/savoury note too (couldn't pinpoint precisely). The cacao nibs were not distinct in taste but they hinted a nuttiness and added to the acidity. When chewing, that nuttiness materialised and felt like praline: a rich chocolate and crushed hazelnut concoction. Surprisingly, I loved the texture of this chocolate. That was unusual because nibs in chocolate tend to ruin it for me, but I absolutely loved the crunches this bar offered

Fruity, sweet and chocolatey, this Carenero Urriata Superior was an extremely impressive chocolate and one that I really did love. It showed no signs of bitterness and was executed superbly. This was another great bar from Chocablog

Friday, 12 September 2014

Karmello Chocolatier

With the return home of my parents, they came bearing gifts. This year they stepped up their game and came back from Poland with excellent sweet treats! It all looked luxurious: from this slick box of chocolates to Karmello macarons (coffee, chilli, Madagascan & Ecuadorian), even the poppy-seed cake looked an upgrade from previous years. I think this just showed the growth in Poland's sweet culture: their highlighting of luxury through appearance, paying finer attention to quality etc. etc. They also have TWO small batch bean-to-bar chocolate companies which amazed me, though I'm yet to try them. It would be lovely if Poland could be thought of as having [and be compared to] French calibre. Well, for me, these chocolates were already half way there... all I needed to do was taste!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Fruition Rustic Crunch

Fruition are an American bean to bar company- located in the Catskill Mountains of New York- who've sourced their cocoa from a cooperative in San Martin, Peru 

The 70% Rustic Crunch was handcrafted from Peruvian cocoa and the "crunch" came [inevitably] from the cacao nibs studded on the bottom

Cinnamon and vanilla pranced around the nose. Behind those well defined yet delicate spices were light coconut and roasted notes. I quite enjoyed it. The nibs themselves had a subtle aroma: acidic and slightly alcoholic

On the tongue, right away, was cinnamon and, like a soldier, it persisted with great power too. A taste of cocoa gradually built up- making itself most clear when the nibs were nearly all what was left. I tasted apple, and I don't think that was my brain fooling me by pairing apple and cinnamon. When chewing, the Demerara sugar enhanced the sweetness, and boy was it sweet - I really liked it. The Demerara augmented the "crunch" sensation and made for a coarser melt. The flavours developed superbly when chewing, i.e. a 'chocolate' flavour kicked in and a rich, dark, caramel flavour came from the Demerara

The nibs added acidity but overall their unique taste disrupted the chocolate, though more satisfying than those in Chocolate and Love's. As I didn't enjoy the "crunch" of the nibs either, I don't think I'll ever acquire appreciation for nibs on chocolate. However, per se it was real great chocolate. I absolutely loved the coarser texture, crunchiness and the deep flavour all from the Demerara sugar

3 reasons why this chocolate worked: 1) the Demerara sugar took it to another level 2) I have big love for cinnamon and 3) the quality of cacao used (so, why thank you Mr.Chocablog)

Monday, 1 September 2014

Madécasse 75%

This chocolate was made from Madagascan cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, lecithin and Madagascan vanilla. I found it unusual how this bar had an emulsifier and flavouring whereas Madécasse's 80% (which is sitting in my collection) doesn't. Madécasse have their chocolate manufactured in Madagascar and the cocoa is seemingly traded exceptionally fairly

I liked the beauty of the rustic recycled paper packaging but the fact it was Madagascan more. Madagascan cocoa is known for its vibrant flavour and crisp acidity - I'm ALL about this in fine chocolate

My bar had been slightly scuffed and looked dusty grey until I rubbed it with my thumb. It had a bold aroma with dried cranberry and cherry, malt, spice (nutmeg), red wine, strawberry, rose and a subtle nut

The flavour was slow to begin. It opened with roasted cocoa and wood then surfaced the red fruit sweetness: cherry, red wine, dark fruity syrup. It had a very red aura. There was little acidity, favouring tannin more. There were also soft notes of banana, nut and malt. The melt was dusty and the chewing texture was quite brittle suggesting less fat (but really because it had bloomed). The finish was distinctly cocoa and slightly bitter

If this chocolate was fresher I'm sure it would have had a different impact, certainly a better texture. Although the chocolate wasn't particularly acidic, it was very aromatic and had an enjoyable taste, so I think just because of the texture it didn't thrill