Akesson’s – Fazenda Sempre Firme

During a recent visit to Blüprint Chocolatiers in Alexandria, VA, I picked up the Fazenda Sempre Firme bar by Akesson’s. It was time for me to revisit Akesson’s chocolate and so far Blüprint has been my local source of getting them. Fazenda Sempre Firme is the name of the plantation Bertil Akesson purchased with his Brazilian parter Dr. Angelo Calmon de Sa. Since their purchase of the property in 2009, locals have been referring to it as paradise, or “paraiso”.

On Akesson’s website, their description says, “this chocolate has expressive notes that evoke wood, autumn scents, and the local pitanga fruit; a perfect match to the aromatic notes of honey, malt and maple syrup present in our Brazilian Bourbon coffee nibs.” I have no idea what pitanga fruit smells or tastes like, so I just have to trust them. Hearing the scent of coffee being sweet like honey and maple syrup is completely new to me. Usually I just smell roasted scents from coffee beans (I make French press coffee before going to work).

I could definitely smell coffee and light maple syrup from this bar. I first tasted coffee followed by fruitiness with honey. Partway through my bite I could taste what was similar to maple syrup. Some astringency developed with a burst of fruity flavor. Toward the end the astringency dissipated and I was left once again with coffee flavor with subtle fruity and woody notes.

Though I tasted mostly coffee throughout my bite, the subtle sweetness that was very much like maple syrup was a different experience for me. This is a great bar for coffee lovers!

Akesson’s: Made in France, Based out of London, UK

 

Fu Wan Chocolate

“Made in Taiwan?!” I stared at my screen to make sure I was reading it correctly. Yes, this bar is definitely made in Taiwan. Cocoa trees mainly grow 20 degrees and north and south of the equator, but just because a country falls within that band doesn’t mean we commonly see chocolate grown AND made there. (I say mainly because I’ve heard of a cocoa tree being grown in Chicago and Ben Rasmussen of Potomac Chocolate is currently monitoring the growth of his own little tree at home in Virginia.) Taiwan has very few bean to bar makers who make chocolate using their own cacao.

When I saw that Fu Wan was being sold by Cocoa Runners, I immediately placed an order since I saw another Instagramer share their bar and at that point you know it’s going to sell very quickly. By the time I got to Cocoa Runners’ website, only the Taiwan #1 62% bar was left in stock, though Fu Wan has other varieties. I’m even mailing half of my bar to a fellow chocoholic since they couldn’t get their hands on one in time.

Fu Wan started off as a resort but became Fu Wan Chocolate when the executive chef, Warren Hsu, met a cacao farmer while on a personal quest to find local ingredients. The Taiwanese government is encouraging cacao to be grown there to help repair the damage done by over farming betel nuts. Though farmers have been able to grow cacao there, the cocoa industry is still young in Taiwan. For a full story about Fu Wan, see Cocoa Runners’ description.

Beautiful packaging and unique in that the bar is hidden away rather than being the immediate focal point when opening the box.

Cocoa Runners describes this bar as having a subtle aroma with a warm spice and chocolatey flavor and a creamy texture. I smelled nutty and a touch of citrus from this bar. I tasted strong nuttiness with caramel and slight astringency. The nutty flavor was like hazelnuts and I experienced the creamy texture Cocoa Runners was talking about.

I really liked this bar! The creamy texture with the strong nutty notes made me think of hazelnut lattes, which sounds amazing at this moment since it’s chilly outside as I’m writing this. Hopefully Fu Wan will become more available in the future. One of their YouTube videos mentions seafood being used in their chocolate and I’m definitely curious about trying that the pink shrimp chocolate shown in the video!

Fu Wan Chocolate: Made in Taiwan

Raaka – November Selection

Usually I’m behind on sharing these Raaka selections and while I’m technically late on this one since it’s for November, I’m only late by a couple of days. There’s some improvement 🙂 The reason why I struggle to stay on top of these Raaka selections is that I have a large stash of chocolate I need to work my way through and that takes time and effort. I’m so glad for my coworkers being there to help finish off any bars I can’t demolish because it’s a LOT of chocolate for one person.

Anyways, what makes me super excited for trying November’s selection is that the Ginger Snap bar is included and it sounded amazing! In fact, all of the flavors sound delicious and perfect for the fall season and weather. Thank goodness it’s now getting cool enough to ship chocolate with no melting!

The Cranberry Orange bar is quintessential for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s made with Reserva Zorzal Dominican Republic cacao. The description for this bar mentions orange peel being steeped in the cocoa butter, which is then mixed with the Dominican Republic cacao and cranberry powder. Since Dominican cacao is usually naturally fruity, you know it will pair nicely with the orange and cranberry flavors. The navel orange piece on the back of the bar is a very nice touch!

There was a strong fruity and chocolatey scent from this bar. I made sure my first piece included part of the dried orange. Tartness and a strong mixture of citrus with cranberry flavors flooded over my tasted buds. It was like a punch in the face of fruitiness at first, but as my bite melted the cranberry flavor subsided and orange remained dominant. The flavor combination made me reminisce on how every night before Thanksgiving as we’re baking and cooking up dishes for the next day, we’d enjoy mulled wine prepared with cranberries and chunks of citrus. The end of my bite finished with a subtle chocolatey flavor.

I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of caramel and apple combinations. I’m reminded of when I was much younger and tried a caramel covered apple for the first time. I didn’t like how the caramel would get stuck all over my teeth and made it hard to eat the apple. But this combination of caramelized sugar with apple flavoring sounds delicious! The description for this bar mentions Peruvian cacao nibs being steamed over apple cider before being ground with caramelized sugar.

I could smell caramel and applee, but I first tasted apple followed by subtle caramel flavor. The texture was a little grittier than the smooth cranberry orange bar, but I didn’t mind that. Throughout my whole bite, apple was the dominant flavor while caramel quietly stayed in the background. Since I didn’t get to enjoy my own jug of apple cider this past fall, I think this bar made up for that loss 🙂

We finally come to the ginger snap bar, which I’ve been looking forward to the most! Ginger snaps were my dad’s favorite cookies for the longest time before he had to start watching his sugar intake, but I always think of him whenever I see them. The description for this bar mentions the Tanzanian cacao nibs being steamed over a house made ginger tea and steeping ginger in the cocoa butter. Spices like nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon with brown sugar are also in the chocolate, though the brown sugar is obviously layered on the back of the bar.

The bar smelled very much like a ginger snap cookie with a strong ginger scent. The flavor of ginger was very present, but not overwhelming. The brown sugar helped prevent the sharpness of ginger from being overpowering. As my bite melted, I was able to slowly taste the spice mixture. The texture was very smooth after the brown sugar crystals dissolved. One of my coworkers tried these bars as well and said they liked the ginger snap out of the three bars the best.

I personally would pick the cranberry orange though I also enjoyed the caramel apple and ginger snap bars. Even though the fruitiness of the cranberry and orange flavors was initially strong, I liked the middle part of savoring where I was reminded of mulled wine.

Raaka: Made in Brooklyn, NY

 

Chocolate Matching Game

Thanks to Trish of Eating the Chocolate Alphabet, I got to try a game of matching the chocolate sample with the chocolate name! I’ve seen some of my fellow chocolate bloggers share their results on Instagram and it looked fun. It really challenges your ability to taste flavors and distinguish between them, something that I’m still working on and definitely need improvement.

The empty sheet with the exception of Sample 6 being given.

The dark chocolate samples I struggled with. My messy notes probably show my confusion and conflict on what sample went with which chocolate name.

Out of the 10 samples, I got 3 of them wrong and they were the ones I was most unsure on. I guess I technically passed but it definitely shows that I need improvement on my tasting ability. This was a nice challenge and I enjoyed every moment! I definitely want to try this again a few months from now to see if I’ve improved at all 🙂

 

 

Elements Truffles – Ayurveda Inspired Artisan Chocolate

I was so sad and disappointed to miss the 2017 D.C. Chocolate Festival, but some of my coworkers were able to attend in my place. They happily sent me pictures of their loot and in person I got to sample some of their bars. Not only did I learn about La Naya this way, but I also got to try a piece of an Elements Truffles bar. It was exciting to learn about chocolate brands I hadn’t tried before through my coworkers and I knew some day I had to get my hands on Elements Truffles for myself. I managed to make an order when Chocolate Connoisseur temporarily had a sale.

If you LOVE chocolate and enjoy perusing magazines, I recommend subscribing for the Chocolate Connoisseur magazine. It doesn’t come to you in the mail (it’s their way of saving the trees), but you get email updates whenever a new issue comes out and you can read those issues after logging into their website. Thanks to the October issue, an article written by Eric Battersby (the lead writter and editor-in-chief of Chocolate Connoisseur) came out covering the story behind Elements Truffles. I believe you have to be subscribed to read the full article, so I’ll share some of the interesting points.

Alak Vasa, the woman behind Elements Truffles, grew fond of chocolate through the treats her father would bring back on his trips to Europe. Her favorite combination was chocolate with fruity flavors, like those chocolate oranges. Like many chocolate makers and chocolatiers, Alak started her career in a completely different field but had her own chocolate drawer at work to help her get through stressful times.

What also helped her get through tough times was yoga and meditation, which eventually led her to Ayurveda, a form of food science and nutrition. “Ayurveda is based on the philosophy that the universe is made up of 5 elements — fire, water, earth, space and air — and that these five elements also exist in our physical body.” Depending on a person’s personality and preferences, one or two of these elements can dominate. Meditation and Ayurveda helps the body maintain balance. As Alak created recipes to make her chocolate, she looked for balance and to help consumers experience happiness and an uplifted feeling.

Alak’s chocolate is made using Peruvian Criollo beans and sweetened with raw honey from New Jersey. What sets her apart from other chocolatiers is she uses Ayurvedic “super foods” such as beet and turmeric (which you’ll see soon). The top selling bar is the sea salt + turmeric apparently because “people are very intrigued by the infusion of healthy turmeric.”

On the back of every bar there’s a description of what Ayurveda means, as well as the specific super food in the chocolate.

I could smell both the peppermint and the lavender, though the peppermint was slightly stronger in scent and it was refreshing. I’ve usually foundd lavender to be very strong to the point of overwhelming my senses in dark chocolate, but in this experience, the peppermint was more intense yet surprisingly not overwhelming. The lavender remained relatively subtle throughout my bite.

The rose scent was amazing! It reminded me of this rose perfume my Oma (German for “grandma”) had gifted my sister and I when we were very young. The cardamom scent was subtle, as was the flavor in comparison to the rose. The dried rose bits on the back of the bar gave a touch of salty flavor, but only in fleeting moments. The overall flavor of the strong rose with subtle cardamom was intense but unique.

I could barely smell turmeric, but otherwise the bar smelled chocolatey. I tasted the salt first since I put my bite salt-side down. The sea salt was only sprinkled on the back of the bar, so it lasted for a very short time. The turmeric was subtle throughout the rest of the chocolate. I wish I could have experienced more of the sea salt, but otherwise the subtle turmeric was very nice. I can see how this bar would be the most popular. I wonder if the other bar combinations can seem daunting to consumers not adjusted to more adventurous flavors.

The scent of raspberry was amazing from this bar! It reminded me of fruit smoothies. The flavor was immediately sweet and slightly tart from the dried raspberries on the back of the bar. The beet flavor was subtle, which was a relief since I’m not a huge fan of beet. I tend to stay away from those cold pressed drinks with beet in them, but I wouldn’t mind consuming beet in this bar. Raspberries in chocolate is one of my favorite combinations and this bar fed that preference 🙂

Usually I don’t like orange + dark chocolate since it’s a common combination (you see it a lot in grocery store bars), but orange + pistachio + turmeric is new and unique. The orange scent was very present with subtle turmeric. With the pistachio-side down on my tongue, I first tasted orange followed by subtle turmeric. The pistachios gave a pleasant crunch to the bar though I didn’t really taste them. Like the peppermint in the peppermint lavender bar, the orange essential oil in this bar was refreshing.

My fiancé tried these bars with me and he liked the peppermint lavender and orange pistachio turmeric bars, but his top favorite was raspberry beetroot. My favorites were the peppermint lavender and sea salt turmeric, but my top favorite was also the raspberry beetroot.

Rather than experience an unfolding flavor story, each of the bars’ flavor profile plateaued and didn’t change from the beginning to the end of my bite. Every bar was also similar in that one flavor was dominant while the other was subtle. There was a nice balance between the two dominant flavors with no competition. The texture of the chocolate itself was smooth and it melted quickly.

My fiancé and I came to the conclusion that while these bars offered a very interesting experience, the flavors are quite intense and we’d only be able to savor one bite per day. Despite this, I’m glad to have finally tried Elements Truffles and I was able to try some unique combinations!

Elements Truffles: Made in Kearny, NJ

Wm. Chocolate – I finally try a bar made with cacao from India!

This is the third time I’m trying chocolate by Wm. Chocolate and I’m glad to say I’ve been a returning customer! Will has made some pretty unique products since I’ve started trying his chocolate, like his Papua New Guinea sweet corn and ancho chile bar, which is exciting if you have an adventurous palate. If you want to learn more about Will, you can read my Q&A with him here. Fellow chocoholic and blogger Estelle Tracey also held a Q&A with Will, which I definitely recommend and you can find that here.

Social media is a great source to see what’s going on in the world and it’s my way of learning about new chocolate products. One trend I’ve been seeing more often is cacao from India being used by chocolate makers. When Will released his 74% Anamalai bar, I placed an order and excitedly waited for it to arrive in the mail. Trish of Eating the Chocolate Alphabet also had this bar in her possession and we decided to have an across-country tasting. Made sure to head over to blog for her thoughts!

Will had a vision for a bar that would provide strong flavor notes that would unfold and develop while savored. Apparently it’s difficult for chocolate makers to find cacao that can provide this type of flavor story, but he found a Venezuelan varietal called Guasare that provided the experience he was looking for. As exciting as the flavors sounded, there was no way to obtain more of it, which led to him to trying multiple origins, suppliers and test batches before the decision to use cacao from the Anamalai farm.

In the summer of 2017 Will was able to get his hands on the first batch of cacao beans from Anamalai that reached the U.S. I recommend reading his 3 part blog post on how he managed to get his hands on it because the story provides a lot of insight into what chocolate makers have to go through to obtain, make and sell their chocolate. As a consumer, it’s opened my eyes to some of the many struggles our favorite chocolate makers experience.

The Anamalai farm in India experiences damage from elephants tromping through their land. Since the farm grows coconut trees, sits at the base of the Ghats mountain range and is situated within an animal preserve, the elephants will come down to the farm and help themselves to the palm fronds to whack mosquitoes around them. Cacao has been grown in India for 50 years, though most of the production goes toward Mondelez, which owns Cadbury. Though Cadbury products were originally brought from the U.K. to be distributed and sold in India, Cadbury realized the climate was ideal for growing cacao. They set up production and training programs in southern India for this purpose.

The owners of the Anamalai farm, Harish Manoj and Karthi Palaniswamy, are on a mission to increase the production of cacao in India because despite the country’s size, India represents only 0.3% of the world’s cacao production. They are focusing on improving their cultivation, harvest, and post harvest steps to increase their cacao production and take advantage of their micro-climate. You can read more on their story here.

The tasting notes for this bar are listed on Wm. Chocolate’s website as grape jelly, tahini, toasted peanut with tangy fruit notes that lead to a “deep, nutty finish.” I could definitely smell grape jelly and nuttiness, but also a scent that reminded me of sunflower seeds. The flavor was like a peanut butter sandwich, including what made me think of whole wheat bread, except with the tangy fruitiness mentioned in the flavor description. Halfway through my bite the tanginess dissipated and the flavor of a peanut butter sandwich with full strength whole wheat bread came back. The flavor brought memories back of when my mom made such sandwiches for me when I was in elementary school and I could remember the specific brand of whole wheat bread she used back then. The end and aftertaste of my bite was definitely nutty.

The cacao for this 80% Haiti, Kafupbo bar came through the Singing Rooster non-profit organization. It’s mission is to purchase directly from coffee and cacao farmers and support artists in Haiti so they can grow and one day hopefully become self-sustaining. Kafupbo is a cooperative in northern Haiti.

On Wm. Chocolate’s website, the flavor notes are listed as oolong tea, molasses, biscuit, “rich, herbal chocolate with layers of earth and spice.” The scent was totally like oolong tea, and earthy with a hint of spice. Immediately the flavor reminded me of oolong tea with it’s deep earthiness and there was that subtle spiciness in the background. The earthiness was really strong at first but as my taste buds got used to it, I was able to taste that molasses flavor. Toward the end of my bite the chocolate tasted what was like those biscuits you find in most grocery stores that have a slab of dark chocolate on them, but this chocolate would be better on those biscuits.

I’m impressed at how the flavor descriptions for both bars were on point! Very impressed! And on how the Anamalai bar brought up childhood memories. I honestly didn’t like the peanut butter sandwiches my mom made at the time because most kids in my class were eating white bread, but what was I thinking? My mom was ahead of the other local mothers using whole wheat bread for its health benefits. And now I get to savor a bar that reminds me of how that sandwich tasted. I’ve blown away by these bars and I’m super glad that I finally got to try a bar made with cacao from India. I’m excited to see what Will comes up with next!

Wm. Chocolate: Made in Madison, WI

Dormouse Chocolate

A huge thank you to Victoria Cooksey, fellow chocoholic and blogger of Dark Matters Chocolate Reviews, for these Dormouse bars! It was a pleasant surprise to receive this package in the mail, and I had never tried this brand before. I couldn’t wait to try them and besides, the tiny bars are absolutely adorable 🙂

I was aware of Dormouse chocolates, but I hadn’t gone out of my way to get any for myself, which was why these bars were an awesome gift. I didn’t even realize that Dormouse was based out of England. They’ve been the first bean to bar chocolate maker in Manchester since 2015 and were started by Isobel who learned about bean to bar while working for a luxury chocolate brand.

Starting with the Venezuela Patanemo bar, the chocolate had a strong floral scent that kind of reminded me of lavender with a nutty undertone. The flavor was immediately a mixture of floral and nuttiness. Astringency developed that reminded me of tannins in wine, but rather than grape, I could taste the subtle flavor of apricot. The chocolate melted slowly, smoothly and evenly.

I’m confused that this bar is labeled as 37% white chocolate, but it’s milk chocolate. I’m assuming it’s a packaging oops. The chocolate smelled like creamy and like goat milk. The flavor was very similar to those browned butter bars I’ve had before (like Patric’s browned butter bar). Toward the end the chocolate tasted like caramel. This bar was smooth, sweet, creamy and addictive!

Added Note: Dormouse reached out to me and said the bar actually is white chocolate but looks like milk chocolate because the milk powder if caramelized before being added. Now the “toasted milk powder” on the wrapper makes sense! Thank you for the information, Dormouse!

The back of the 75.6% Madagascar bar lists the tasting flavors as having a “roasted start,” some spice and a finish of cherry and raspberry. The chocolate smelled woody to me, as though I were sniffing a finished wood table. My tasted buds were immediately hit by astringency and that roasted flavor that was mentioned. The astringency decreased to a flavor like tannins in wine. I didn’t taste anything that obviously reminded me of spice, but if I were to search for it, I could say that with the combination of the tannin flavors I’d think of mulled wine. The berry flavors were very subtle at the end since the astringency still lingered and was strong enough to mask all other flavors for me.

I’m intrigued when chocolate makers include details such as the conche time. The 75.6% Madagascar bar had a conche time of 25 hours. The wrapper listing the 38% white chocolate bar had a conche time of 28 hours. The Venezuelan bar had the longest conche time of 72 hours. I know that conching helps aerate the chocolate which leads to flavor reduction (learned from Ben Rasmussen), and this is shown in the level of astringency being less intense in the 72 hour conched chocolate compared to the 25 hour conched chocolate. It’s neat to try bars with different conching times side by side and taste the difference!

I rarely get to sample a chocolate that combines floral and nutty flavors together, like the tiny Venezuelan bar. I really enjoyed experiencing the taste of chocolate that reminded me of browned butter again. And I have never used the description of a bar smelling like a finished wood table, and that’s not bad since I genuinely like that scent! Overall, the bars Victoria picked for me provided a unique experience and one that I will definitely and fondly remember. Thank you again, Victoria! 🙂 If you want to read her reviews on other Dormouse bars and her interview with Isobel, go here!

Dormouse Chocolate: Made in Manchester, England

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. I did not receive pay or any compensation for reviewing any products. Website links to articles, companies and other sources of information directly related to the topic written within the posts were included during the time of writing and the writer will not be held responsible for future changes on such website links. All images are original and the property of Time To Eat Chocolate unless specifically stated otherwise.

Cacao Review Collection #1

A while ago my first Collection from Cacao Review came in the mail. I knew it was coming for a long time and I was so excited to finally see what was inside! Hints were leaked out at times as to what the package would contain, but I was still very surprised on the outcome. I thought the chocolate makers and brands Cacao Review was working with were just letting a bar they already made be included in the bag, but nope. Cacao Review had something completely unexpected and new up their sleeves. Every product included in these bags can’t be found anywhere else in the world without purchasing the Collection. And there are only 200 of these bags available. It’s a really neat concept and it truly creates a special club that only you and the other 199 customers get to experience. To read more on Collection #1, go here.

The bag of Collection #1 goodies came packed with a second order I made through Cacao Review.

At the time of writing this post, Cacao Review is holding another Kickstarter to fund Collection #2. If you’re familiar with the average cost of a craft chocolate bar, you know that a lot of money is going into this project. I’m glad that Cacao Review is getting a boost of income from customers and fans such as myself because as a small company, this is a large and expensive feat they are taking on. I contributed for the second collection. If this post inspires you and these unique products seem equally exciting, please consider supporting them as well. If you are interested, you can go here to send a donation.

Let’s move on to the exciting products in Collection #1!

The Map Chocolate bar smelled like butterscotch despite being salted caramel. I first tasted the sea salt followed by a flavor like burnt caramel. The burnt flavor increased as my bite melted, but soon dissipated. Throughout my bite the burnt caramel flavor remained. I’ve seen people raving about this bar on Instagram and it’s definitely unique! I haven’t tried a bar with this kind of flavor and I’m very intrigued. The fiancé said this bar tasted buttery and a friend (who normally doesn’t like chocolate) enjoyed it!

I actually won’t go into detail on tasting Raaka’s first ever roasted Haitian bar because I had already tried it! For my thoughts, go to my post where this bar was involved in playing Russian Roulette using chocolate.

The Durci bar included a description that they had been looking for 5 years to make a bar using white cacao. In Piura, Peru, they were able to connect with a farmer who had mostly white cacao, and this bar was the result. The flavor notes are listed as apricot and lemon. Just by opening the packaging my senses were flooded with a strong fruity scent. My taste buds were washed over with lemon and fruity flavors. My first thought was, “this is delicious!” The tartness of lemon with the tang of fruitiness helped wake me up. I really liked this bar!!!

The Dick Taylor Vanilla Raspberry bar included freeze dried raspberries and vanilla coconut palm sugar. The back of the bar was very pretty with tiny bits of raspberries. I could smell raspberries and coconut. I tasted the tart flavor of raspberry first followed by savory coconut. The chocolate itself also tasted fruity. This bar was also delicious and I immediately savored a second bite 🙂

I hadn’t eaten a chocolate bar with giant inclusions in it like the s’mores bar by Solstice in a very long time. The piece I broke off had a huge chunk of graham cracker. It was very sweet and it’s the kind of bar I could just consume in one sitting due it its sweetness. In fact, that’s what ended up happening. My friend who normally doesn’t like chocolate said it tasted like camping trips 🙂

I won’t be sharing the Solstice drinking chocolate or the Eat Chic hazelnut butter cups since I shared the Solstice drinking chocolate with my fiancé immediately after receiving the package and I forget what my experience was. The Eat Chic hazelnut butter cups had melted by the time I opened them and I’m not sure why I found them in that state since the rest of the chocolate bars were in great condition 🙁

Overall Collection #1 provided a nice medley of flavors and I really enjoyed trying unique products by different chocolate makers. I’m looking forward to Collection #2 already! Again, if you are interested in getting your hands on a limited amount of chocolate like this, support Cacao Review in their Kickstarter. If you can’t wait to get your hands on some delicious chocolate, you can order a variety of craft chocolate bars from Cacao Review’s online shop here. I’m wishing the best of luck to Emily and her team at Cacao Review as they take the next steps in their growing business and continuing their project of creating a unique experience for consumers.

Cacao Review: Based out of Utah, USA

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. I did not receive pay or any compensation for reviewing any products. Website links to articles, companies and other sources of information directly related to the topic written within the posts were included during the time of writing and the writer will not be held responsible for future changes on such website links. All images are original and the property of Time To Eat Chocolate unless specifically stated otherwise.

Valrhona

I used to shop at Trader Joe’s for my groceries and I’d see these mini bars of chocolate that were covered in black paper with either a purple or blue stripe on them for the different cocoa percentages. Though I was loading up at the time on Trader Joe’s brand chocolate covered caramels and other sweets, one day I finally grabbed up one of those mini bars and it made me rethink for a moment about why it tasted different than the usual grocery store chocolates I was consuming. That was the first time I tried Valrhona.

My conversion to liking craft chocolate didn’t happen right away. It still took one or two more years to even fine out that craft chocolate even existed. I also didn’t learn right away that Valrhona is a popular chocolate that chocolatiers and confectioners use for the base of their creations, like Artisan Confections in Arlington, VA, and J. Chocolatier in Washington, D.C.

These two bars came from my fiancé’s martial arts teacher, who brought them back from visiting France. It was a pleasant surprise because since I learned Valrhona was used for bonbons and other confections, I don’t know, it kind of lost it’s luster in my mind. I remember walking past their table at the D.C. Chocolate Festival without giving them a second thought.

But before I dive into sampling these bars, if you want to purchase them for yourself, you can find them under the “Tasting Bars” section of Valrhona’s website. I guess I was so used to hearing about chocolatiers using a blend of Valrhona’s chocolate that I forgot they made single origin bars as well.

The Manjari 64% with candied orange peel bar is made with Madagascar cacao and its flavor is described as “fresh and tangy.” The bar had a strong citrusy and sweet, chocolatey scent. Citrus flavor exploded in my mouth with chocolatey sweetness as my bite melted. The flavor combo reminded me of Terry’s chocolate oranges, but with some more intensity on the citrus flavor and the light, sugar crystal texture of the candied oranges. I don’t get Terry’s oranges anymore and this bar would be the perfect replacement!

The Andoa 70% bar is made with Peruvian cacao and its flavor description is listed as “fresh and bittersweet.” The bar smelled fruity, almost like tropical fruit. “Fresh” isn’t the way I’d describe the flavor of this bar, but slightly astringent, bright citrus, fruity and chocolatey. Strong nutty flavors developed at the end of my bite.

I’m glad I had the chance to try Valrhona again! I think it helped that I got to try two flavors that I have not been able to find in store. I’m grateful for the generous and thoughtful gift from my fiancé’s martial arts teacher and his wife and now I look forward to trying more of Valrhona’s bars!

Valrhona: Made in France

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. I did not receive pay or any compensation for reviewing any products. Website links to articles, companies and other sources of information directly related to the topic written within the posts were included during the time of writing and the writer will not be held responsible for future changes on such website links. All images are original and the property of Time To Eat Chocolate unless specifically stated otherwise.

Dick Taylor Solomon Islands and Cacao Hunters

These bars arrived on my doorstep from Bar and Cocoa. I hadn’t tried them before and I figured, why not? I had no idea that the Dick Taylor Solomon Island bar would be a favorite among multiple fellow chocoholics, so I’m very excited to try it.

The cacao for the Dick Taylor Solomon Islands bar is single origin but also single estate from a man named Kenny Patovaki on the island of Paspaskato. Dick Taylor had already gone to the Solomon Islands in hopes of finding that cacao could grow there and then to ensure it consistently grew year after year. Kenny sent Dick Taylor some samples of the cacao he had grown and they fell in love with it. It’s because of Kenny’s ability to produce great tasting cacao that Dick Taylor used his beans to make this bar. You can read more of the story here.

Adam Dick of Dick Taylor described the flavor of cocoa from the Solomon Islands as bright and fruity. The description of this specific bar on Dick Taylor’s website includes cherry, almond butter and apricot as the aroma, flavor and finish respectively.

The bar smelled more citrusy to me, but the flavor of cherry first hit my tongue. Some astringency developed as my bite melted as well as a citrus and walnut-like flavors. The texture was chewy and chalky at the same time since the bar had bloomed in transit. My bite ended with nuttiness, citrus and lingering astringency. If you want to hear another person’s thoughts, Victoria Cooksey, fellow blogger and chocoholic, also tried this bar.

Dick Taylor: Made in Eureka, California

The Cacao Hunters only use cacao from Colombia (you can see a map here showing the various parts they source from) and this bar is made with cacao from the Eastern Plains of Colombia along the Arauca river (listed as #5 on the map). Carlos Velasco founded the company with the goal of working with local farmers to identify and protect the different types of native cocoa in their country.

The flavor notes are listed as honey, cashew and mandarin. The scent was amazing from this bar. It was just like sniffing a mandarin orange! The flavor of honey developed as my bite melted as well as blackberry. I ended up having to chomp on this chocolate since it was taking a very long time to melt and the flavor started to remind me of Tootsie Rolls. Astringency developed at the end with nuttiness.

Even though both bars had badly bloomed, but they were still worth trying! Normally I would share the leftovers with my coworkers, but these bars are small and I’m going to do my best to finish them on my own.

Cacao Hunters: Made in Colombia

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. I did not receive pay or any compensation for reviewing any products. Website links to articles, companies and other sources of information directly related to the topic written within the posts were included during the time of writing and the writer will not be held responsible for future changes on such website links. All images are original and the property of Time To Eat Chocolate unless specifically stated otherwise.

 

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