Pump Street Bakery

All three of these Pump Street bars were courtesy of my mom, whose nearby Harmon’s store has an excellent stock of chocolate! She originally tried to send me the sourdough + sea salt and rye crumb, milk + sea salt bars during the summer, but they melted during transit and I attempted to re-temper one of the bars. My mom decided to send the same bars again, and later she mailed me the Honduras bread + butter bar, which I’m very excited to try!

What’s unique about Pump Street is that they make both bread and craft chocolate. I’ve said before that coffee, tea and berries make wonderful marriages with chocolate, and I hadn’t thought much about bread + chocolate until I had Potomac Chocolate’s toasted sourdough bread chocolate bar, which was amazing! With their strong bakery background, I strongly believe that they know exactly which breads to pair with single origin chocolate.

This bar is made using cacao from Ecuador, specifically the Hacienda Limon farm as listed on the packaging on the Pump Street website. You can read more about their description about the farm here, and I recommend it since it’s a good read, but what I find interesting is that this farm incorporated a pre-drying step to decrease acidity in the cocoa beans compared to when the beans were immediately fermented. The back of the packaging says that this bar is the second in their bakery series, and that the tasting notes are creamy chocolate with nuttiness and acidity from the rye bread. The bar smelled creamy and sour to me, like goat milk chocolate. I tasted sea salt with creaminess of the chocolate first. A slightly sour flavor developed as my bite melted and there was a pleasant crunchy texture from the rye crumbs. Toward the end I was able to taste nuttiness mixed with sea salt and that light sour flavor. I did not experience any astringency from this bar.

This bar uses the same cacao as the rye bar, though this time the back of the package listed malt flavor. The chocolate definitely had a malty scent. The flavor was also of malt, creaminess and with crunchy bits from the sourdough bread. As my bit melted, I experienced some bitterness with strong malt flavor. Toward the end I tasted only malt with some sea salt and nuttiness.

This bar is made with cacao from Honduras, specifically from the Finca Tres Mar├şas estate. The family that owns this property were the first to bring a cacao plantation to their local area. You can read more about their story here. The back of the packaging lists creamy and caramel notes for the chocolate and “malty, hot buttered toast,” which sounds delicious! This bar smelled malty and slightly buttery. The flavor was more buttery than malty, which I really enjoyed. I prefer malt as a light flavor than in-your-face. As my bite melted, the chocolate literally tasted like buttered toast. It was crazy! I could close my eyes and imagine myself eating it without the crunchy texture of toast.

Honestly hands down my favorite bar was the Honduras Bread & Butter bar because the flavor experience of the chocolate literally tasting like buttered toast was mind blowing. Even in the aftertaste I was thinking about it ­čÖé

Pump Street Bakery: Made in Orford, Suffolk, UK

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.

Russian Roulette with Raaka Chocolate Including July and August First Nibs Subscription Reviews

I’m crazy late on reviewing the July and August First Nibs Subscription bars from Raaka, but I think the timing wasn’t too bad because these bars managed to get involved in a game of Russian roulette. I’ll get more into that story later, but first let me show you what came in the mail from Raaka in July and August.

Unfortunately at the time of my tasting these bars I was getting over a cold. I relied on the descriptions from Raaka to help get me through. Also, Russian roulette was only a couple of days away and I had to taste them by myself before introducing my friends to these bars.

Starting with the July First Nibs selection, I’m starting off with their Peach Cobbler bar. This bar combines the natural fruity flavor of Dominican cacao with peach powder. Then brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla spiced oat crumble is sprinkled on top. The back of the package also listed sea salt as an ingredient. The bar smelled like a subtle spice medley. I immediately tasted peach, cinnamon and brown sugar flavors. The oats gave a temporary crunchy texture and the flavor of vanilla was more obvious at that point. This bar really did remind me of peach cobbler with a chocolatey twist. I think pairing these peach and spice flavors with fruity Dominican chocolate was a good choice. If this were, say, an earthy type of bar, it would be a stark flavor contrast and not enjoyable. The natural fruity flavor of the chocolate itself was easily detectable toward the end of my bite where it reminded me of strawberries.

Similar to their Cabernet Sauvignon bar (my most favorite wine infused chocolate bar!), Raaka steamed the cocoa nibs over simmering Merlot wine to create the Sangria bar. This helps the red fruit flavors of Merlot to seep into the nibs. Raaka steeped dried oranges and limes in the cocoa butter so it would take on citrusy flavors. They also “melanged” apples, raspberries and cherries with the cocoa (after infusion with Merlot) to add more fruity flavors. This whole process sounds like a ton of work yet absolutely delicious. And delicious it was! The bar had a deep, rich fruity scent which reminded me of the Cabernet Sauvignon bar but less “grapey.” My mouth was filled with fruitiness with hints of citrus. As my bite melted the fruity flavor increased in intensity. It was very much like enjoying a sangria and even though it’s now fall, the chocolate brought me mentally back to the summer months. I felt as though I could taste the bits of fruit floating around in a sangria. I really enjoyed this bar!

I’ve tasted the Maple and Nibs bar before, but I’m trying it here again. Congolese cacao is combined with Dominican cocoa nibs and maple sugar from Vermont to create what Raaka described as a fudge flavor and like a pecan brownie. They recommended trying this bar in a s’more. Too bad it’s too late for me to try that! I made s’mores with some of my coworkers a couple of weeks ago but I used Letterpress’ Peruvian bar at the time. The back of the package also recommended enjoying this bar with coffee. I could definitely smell and taste the maple sugar. With the season being fall now, this bar was perfect! It had a warm, brownie-like deep cocoa flavor that wasn’t too bitter because of the maple sugar.┬á The crunch of cocoa nibs reminded me of the chunks of chocolate sometimes found in brownies at bakeries. Toward the end of my bite a nutty flavor developed holding true to Raaka’s pecan brownie description.

The theme to the August First Nibs selection seems to be roasted vs. unroasted. If you’re familiar with Raaka, you’d know that they tend to not roast their cacao beans. What’s even better is that this time they included the same type of bar, one that was unroasted like usual, and the second was roasted so you could experience an immediate comparison.

I’m starting with the unroasted Haiti bar. Every First Nibs batch comes with a card that is very helpful in giving little details about the making of each bar and the ideas behind it. The card mentioned that Raaka usually doesn’t roast their cacao to “highlight the wild, natural flavors found in each cacao bean.” These Haitian cacao beans came from farms near Cap Haitien. The consumer is to expect flavors akin to tannins like red wine with some Caribbean spice in this bar. Caribbean spice sounds very specific and I can’t say I’m familiar with what that tastes like, but the bar had a subtle spicy scent and immediate flavor. The tannins Raaka was talking about quickly developed. I also tasted subtle fruitiness as my bite melted, which returned to subtle spiciness at the end.

The roasted Haitian bar was listed as Raaka’s first roasted bar! I’m glad to be able to experience this! The card says that the cacao beans were roasted at 250 degrees for 25 minutes. We know that roasting changes the flavor of the beans in that it decreases their astringency/acidity, but I had no idea that it could help ease the winnowing process. The tasting notes were listed as fruity with a “tang,” malt and caramel. I could barely smell fruitiness and caramel from the bar. The card was right in that I first tasted fruitiness with a touch of astringency followed by a warm caramel and malty flavor. The description was spot on! It’s kind of mind blowing being able to taste and experience the same bar side by side with the only difference being whether the beans were roasted or not. I hope more chocolate makers do this because it’s a nice experiment and experience! It helps me appreciate the chocolate making process even more by not just knowing but now experiencing how the flavor of the chocolate is greatly changed by one step.

We’re finishing up the August selection with the Banana Foster bar. What’s neat about this bar is that the cacao was steamed over rum rather than roasted. The fruity Peruvian cacao was then combined with bananas, vanilla bean and caramelized cane sugar. I could smell banana and fruitiness from the bar with some sweetness. I actually first tasted earthiness from this bar followed by a sugary, caramel-like flavor. I tasted vanilla halfway through my bite. The texture of the chocolate was slightly sticky in my mouth like eating bananas. I couldn’t easily detect the flavor of bananas. It was in the aftertaste the I could finally experience it. For the majority of my bite I tasted the subtle fruitiness of the Peruvian cacao and caramelized sugar. I have to honest, I’m not a huge fan and my friends that played Russian roulette also weren’t in love.

 

I’ve already tried and shared the Cabernet Sauvignon bar here before, but I’m trying it again because as I mentioned earlier, it’s my most favorite wine infused bar. I breathed in the familiar sweet grape scent. Grape and wine flavors exploded in my mouth. I prefer sweeter wine over dry white and red wines, and this bar seemed to capture that sweet wine flavor very well. I’ve gifted this bar to people before and so far everyone who has tried it has greatly enjoyed it. During roulette, some people thought they tasted some spiciness in it. In the aftertaste I can see why they would say that. To me, what could be spiciness makes me think it’s tannins from the wine.

 

Now I’ll get back to Russian roulette. One of my friends had mentioned beforehand their curiosity of how ghost pepper would taste in chocolate. They were unaware that Raaka makes such a bar, so of course I had to order one and show them that such a magical item indeed exists. I hadn’t tried their ghost pepper bar before and I was just as curious. Once my friend saw this bar, they came up with the grand idea that we should play Russian roulette with it. Since I still had the July and August First Nibs bars, they were perfect to use for such a game and the molds look similar so it would be hard to tell the various bars apart.

The mess on the side while I prepared a plate of 8 pieces from each of the bars. Kept it simple with a plastic plate in case any accidents happened, like flailing from sudden surprise of consuming a piece of chocolate with ghost pepper.

Since my friends were nervous, I offered to taste the ghost pepper bar first. The chocolate smelled sweet, like sugar. But once it was in my mouth, there was a spicy kick that slowly increased in intensity and then plateaued. The fruity Dominican chocolate flavor I could barely taste in the background. In the aftertaste the spiciness lingered for a long time. Basically this bar gives you an even burn, but it’s actually not too bad! As someone who can tolerate spiciness but won’t jump for joy for it, I did not mind this bar at all!

During 3-4 rounds of roulette, the same two people kept getting the ghost pepper bar. Eventually everyone wanted to try it and we all agreed that the spiciness was tolerable. I would say it’s like a dark chocolate + chili bar but with a slight increase of intensity.┬áMy sights are now on the Carolina reaper bar by Geogria Ramon! Actually, I might spare my friends after a couple of them shared they were even more scared of Carolina reaper. Though the ghost pepper bar was exciting, I don’t want to scare them off from being adventurous with their chocolate palate, though I joked about having them try a chocolate bar with mushrooms in it. Come to think of it, Raaka also make such a bar recently and I think I ordered it…

Raaka Chocolate: Made in Brooklyn, NY

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 – Single Origin Bars

Just like my previous post on the Patric Chocolate bars, I had brought these Dick Taylor bars to a picnic event and later that same day to a NASCAR racing event to share with friends. Unfortunately the pictures and tasting were rushed since people were eagerly waiting to taste them, and this will be a quick and dirty review, but here goes…

(By the way, if you want to read more about Dick Taylor, I highly recommend reading Megan Giller’s story on them here.)

The tasting notes were listed on the package as dried plum, tart cherry and jasmine. I could definitely smell cherry with hints of jasmine, and I tasted plum with subtle jasmine and tartness. Toward the end of my bite the tart cherry flavor was dominant. The boyfriend tried it and said he didn’t taste jasmine but he definitely tasted cherry. I ended up keeping this bar to myself the rest of the day and finishing it off ­čÖé

The tasting notes were listed on the packaging as plumeria (I can’t say I know how that tastes), blackberry peach cobbler (that’s super specific), and espresso. The bar had a light floral scent but it had a strong floral flavor that kind of drowned out any other flavors at first. Espresso slowly developed halfway through my bite along with light astringency. I don’t know how they got blackberry peach cobbler as a tasting note because I didn’t detect anything like it, but I shared this bar with people at the NASCAR race and it was quickly consumed amongst a group of 6 guys! Not once did it return to my hands and I simply received word that it was “very good!”┬á­čść

Dick Taylor: Made in Eureka, CA

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.

Patric Chocolate

I used to feel like Patric Chocolate bars were hard to get my hands on. I don’t make it to The Chocolate House as often as I’d like to, though I know they sell some bars there. I can’t order single bars through Patric’s website, either. I signed up for their newsletter so I could receive monthly updates from Alan McClure (the chocolate maker at Patric) about which bars he makes. At that point some bars can be purchased online but you have to buy at least 5 of them per order and you have to strike while the iron is hot, otherwise you can’t order anymore or it seems they’re out of stock. I decided if I wanted to try more of his chocolate, I needed to take the dive and place a 5 bar order.

Though I ordered these bars back in July or August (specifically for the browned butter bar), I didn’t get to open them up until September. My chocolate stash tends to grow more than shrink and it took some time before I finally got to sample them. Since 5 bars is a lot for one person to consume, I decided to bring them along to an event with friends where we all dressed up like the 1930s for a Gatsby themed garden picnic. The classy look of the Patric bars seemed appropriate.

The pictures and tasting of these bars isn’t as clean as I would like. I was feeling rushed at the time since friends were eager to try them and I didn’t want to keep them waiting. I also didn’t want to wait to take photos in case the chocolate would start melting (which it did) as the day went on. Overall, though, the experience was good since some people weren’t aware of craft chocolate and it opened the door for questions and curiosity.

I’m starting off with the bar I was most eager to try. One of my friends and I loved it so much that we ate the whole thing that afternoon! The scent was of salt and butter, just like popcorn. I tasted creaminess like milk chocolate and salty butter flavor with notes of deep caramel. It was sooooo good and easily addictive!

The package said there would be bursts of berry and jam flavor. The bar smelled and tasted just like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it was crazy! Of course there was no bready-ness but chocolatey goodness. This bar was also inhaled quickly by myself and the people I shared it with. I can see why other chocoholics have raved about this bar because how it possible that chocolate could taste like a sandwich?

This bar smelled chocolatey with sea salt (yeah, no brainer). I tasted the sea salt first followed by a slightly sour flavor like goat milk in chocolate but it was not off putting. I’m generally not a huge fan of goat milk chocolate due to that sour flavor. The chocolate itself was otherwise sweet and it melted quickly and easily.

The package listed citrus, berry, coffee and nuttiness as the flavor notes. I could smell citrus and coffee. The coffee flavor was stronger than the citrus. Nutty notes developed as my bite melted and increased in intensity halfway through my bite. Toward the end was where I detected the berry flavor. The aftertaste was nutty with hints of citrus.

The package listed citrus and wine flavor notes. The bar had citrus and a deep grape scent like wine. I immediately tasted the brightness of citrus followed by mild astringency and deep grape flavors similar to wine. The astringency dissipated and some mild earthiness developed halfway through my bite. Citrus lingered in the aftertaste.

Even though I’ve been consuming mostly higher percentage cocoa bars, I would definitely get the browned butter and PBJ bars again. They were SO good! The people I shared these bars with weren’t familiar with craft chocolate and though some weren’t initially impressed, a few hours later they came back to try more and started asking questions ­čÖé

Patric Chocolate: Made in Columbia, MO

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.

Chocotenango Bonbons – Apple Pie and Rosewater

When I first heard that Ismael came out with an apple pie flavored bonbon, I headed to the Old Town Alexandria farmer’s market the following Saturday. That morning while feeling sleep deprived and tired from a long work week, I listened fascinated to Ismael talk about tempering and how it affects the swirls and lines we see on the back of chocolate bars. He spoke about how he’s always striving to improve his chocolates and will make tweaks and changes without telling the customer. The customer may not be able to tell the differences made, but he can.

Every time I speak with Ismael I walk away feeling like I’ve learned something new. Most of the time it’s me listening to him speak, but I enjoy hearing from the chocolate makers themselves what they want to share with the consumer and other technical information that I otherwise would not be able to hear. The experience of learning from chocolate makers in person cannot beat Googling the same information online because you can hear and feel their passion and love for their products. It’s really neat!

After spending around 45 minutes with Ismael, I bought some apple pie and rosewater bonbons for myself and two other friends who couldn’t go to the market with me. I had arrived at the market that morning with a mocha in hand feeling crazy tired, but I walked away feeling re-energized.

Unfortunately I started coming down with a cold when I tasted these, so my scent and taste buds are a little off, but I tried my best! I tasted these mid-September.

Ismael said both the apple pie and rosewater bonbons were painted by hand. The others are spray painted and have a smooth, even coat of paint, but the hand painting would take more time and patience. The apple pie bonbon used four colors of paint while the rosewater used three. The colors used for the apple pie bonbon were red, white, green and yellow to represent the different stages of color an apple goes through. The colors used for the rosewater bonbon were red, yellow and green to represent the colors of roses (Ismael, please correct me if I’m wrong on this).

The process of hand painting takes a long time since one color can be applied to the mold at a time. Say, red can be applied first, then Ismael has to wait for 5 minutes for it to dry before he can apply the next color. If the color(s) don’t dry within 5 minutes, then the paint is going on too thick or something else is wrong (the result would be a dull looking bonbon) and painting the molds would have to start over again. Once the painting is finished, that’s when the chocolate and filling can go into the molds. ┬áThe end product is beautiful, colorful, shiny looking bonbons.

From the apple pie bonbon I could smell subtle apple, caramel and spices like nutmeg. I first tasted sweetness from the caramel and some tartness from the apple. The spices were also delicious and gave a warm feeling to the bonbon. The sweetness of the caramel and apple filling brought out the fruity sweetness of the Dominican chocolate that Ismael uses. The subtle spices lingered in the aftertaste. It was very good!

From the rosewater bonbon, the scent of rosewater was subtle from the filling and I could smell sweetness as well. The flavor of rosewater exploded in my mouth as the filling quickly melted, but it was a light rosewater flavor. I could definitely taste the chocolate shell itself. Since the floral flavor of the rosewater was stronger than the natural fruity flavor usually found in Dominican chocolate, it brought out more of it’s nutty and chocolatey flavor. The fact that I tasted more of the nutty flavor in the chocolate with the rosewater filling was a pleasant surprise and very unique. I like the scent of rosewater and it was nice to experience it in a bonbon.

Both were delicious bonbons, and as apple pie is seasonally appropriate, and if I make it back to the Old Town Alexandria farmer’s market soon, I’ll be grabbing more of them! The two friends who I also bought bonbons for also raved about the apple pie bonbons. I didn’t hear much from them about the rosewater, so I will have to follow up with them.

Chocotenango: Made in Washington, D.C.

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.

What’s on my wall?

A while ago I posted on Instagram a picture of chocolate wrappers/boxes I had framed and hung on my wall. Several people asked me why I hung up the bars that I did, and that’s a very good question! Today I’m giving you a close up and my thoughts behind each picture frame.

Several of these bars I like because of personal experiences and you’ll get to know me more because several of these bars brought out memories. Not all of these bars blew me away with their flavor. I’ll give more details when I get to such bars. Remember, if everyone were to make their own chocolate wall, they would all be completely different because everyone has their own stories and experiences. The book “Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love” by Simran Sethi helped me understand that how we experience various foods is different based upon our personal stories and background.

We’re starting off with Beau Cacao’s 72% Serian Malaysia bar! What immediately attracted me was their appearance and eye for detail. Every inch of this bar, packaging and mold, screamed luxury and beauty. And it’s affordable at 8 British Pounds! If your friends aren’t blown away by other craft chocolate that you’ve been introducing them to, you can at least grab their attention with this bad boy. The reason why this bar is on my wall is for their unique appearance as well as the unique and exciting flavor combination. If you want to read more on my thoughts about this bar, go my post about Beau Cacao here.

One of my first coffee + chocolate bars by a craft chocolate maker was this Mocha bar by Hello Cocoa. I remember meeting one of the chocolate makers at the first D.C. Chocolate Festival and the guy was all smiles and so friendly. Since then, Hello Cocoa has generously allowed me to try all of their bars and I still hope to one day try their bonbons and truffles. This mocha bar has stayed on my mind even though I’ve tried it more than once and it showed me that I really like coffee/mocha in chocolate. If you want to read my previous posts on Hello Cocoa, go here.

The main reason why I’m partial to Glenmade is because they are based out of New Jersey, my home state where I was born and raised. They’re even based out of Hoboken, where I dreamed as a child I would one day live and work because I was attracted to the city life but understood NYC was crazy expensive (now I live in the metropolitan area of D.C.). As much flack as people give New Jersey, where I grew up played a large part of who I am today. I grew up in the western part of the state where there was a corn field behind my house and chickens running around in the backyard. I also really enjoyed the blackberry flavor I experienced with this Glenmade bar. You can read more of my thoughts and experience on Glenmade in my previous post on them here.

I had never experienced blueberries in chocolate until I tried Brasstown’s blueberry bar. I immediately fell in love and I’ve had this bar at least three times now! Brasstown has since changed their packaging, but I wish they had kept this old style. The texture of the box felt nice and the watercolor-looking picture of a blueberry bush reminded me of the countryside. My family used to grow blueberries when we lived in New Jersey. I wanted to preserve the old appearance of this bar. Gearharts and Kacau are the only other brands I’ve tried who have used blueberries in their chocolate, but none of them impressed me as much as Brasstown. If you want to read my first experience trying this bar, go here.

Upchurch is on my wall because they’re the only chocolate maker based out of Richmond, VA, the city of my alma mater. To be honest, I wasn’t in love with Richmond when I first started studying there. It took graduating, moving out of Virginia, revisiting Richmond multiple times and then learning that they had their own chocolate maker that helped me start to fall in love with it. Upchurch plans on changing their packaging, and even if the original wrapper was a quick design (learned through a conversation with Alex Brito), I like the simplicity of it. The parallel lines remind me of wallpaper in a southern home. If you want to learn more about the story behind Upchurch and my thoughts on their bars, check out my previous posts here.

Chocotenango is one of my local chocolate makers being one of the three based out of Washington, D.C. Ismael is friendly and approachable and I’ve enjoyed all of my conversations with him, whether in person or online. At the time of my writing this, I’ve been able to say hi to him at weekend farmer’s markets a few times where he has a table set up. Every time I speak with him, it’s more of my listening to him passionately talk about his craft and I love it! I always walk away feeling inspired and educated. I’m on a mission now to try all of his bars because I’ve enjoyed all of them! I was pleasantly surprised that my post on some of Ismael’s bonbons was helpful for a fellow chocoholic who couldn’t find much information on them otherwise. It’s so encouraging to hear my blog helping someone else! If you want to read more on Ismael and Chocotenango, check out my previous posts here.

Will Marx is so down to earth. I was impressed with how approachable and open he was to talk about anything chocolate related. He’s also been very generous to send me some of his silk cocoa butter so I could try my hand at retempering chocolate! Will informed me that the labeling on this package is not entirely correct, but don’t fret because I will replace this with another of his bars when I next make an order from him. Will has also made some interesting combinations, like when I got to try for the first time dried corn in chocolate. I’m definitely keeping an eye on Wm. Chocolate for new and exciting flavor combinations. You can read my previous posts on trying Will’s chocolate here.

Harper Macaw is another chocolate maker that is local to me and based out of Washington, D.C. Besides their mocha bar, this Amazon Rainforest bar is my favorite by them. I’ve enjoyed it at least three times and it was the first bar I tried that truly tasted like raisins to me. Any time I get the chance to purchase Harper Macaw, I throw this bar into my order. I have yet to take their factory tour and I really need to someday. If you want to learn more about other Harper Macaw bars that I’ve tried, check out my older posts here.

This bar is on my wall because I really like its texture. Thanks to Cacao Review, I later learned that the sugar in Amano bars is not ground down all the way, leaving nice larger chunks to crunch on. After my parents moved to Utah and I started learning about chocolate makers based out there, I was excited to try bars that were made local to my parents. Cacao Review is also based out of Utah ­čśë My mom has generously shared a lot of her chocolate with her friends out there. Many of those friends also enjoyed the texture of this bar and didn’t even know that Amano was in their state. To read more about other Amano bars I’ve tried, go here.

My first exposure to Amedei was through Instagram. My first purchase of their Chuao bar was at the first D.C. Chocolate Festival and I remember feeling very little confidence approaching their table since at the time I was still getting my feet wet with trying craft chocolate and Time To Eat Chocolate was still relatively new. I didn’t know how to relate to chocolate makers. After experiencing an Amedei chocolate tasting at The Chocolate House, I gained some confidence in learning how to taste chocolate, confidence in learning more about how chocolate was made and I learned more about Amedei’s story. Though the Chuao bar has been one of the most expensive bars I’ve purchased, it still stands as one of my favorite brands because of their complex flavor stories. Their chocolate hazelnut spread is amazing too! Choosing only one Amedei bar to frame was hard, but I chose their white chocolate pistachio bar because I had this thought that white chocolate was not chocolate at all, until Marisol at The Chocolate House told me it technically is (made with cocoa butter). The flavor of this bar and Marisol’s tip helped forever change the way I see and experience white chocolate. I’m now a believer, at least of white chocolate by craft chocolate makers ­čśë To see what other Amedei bars I’ve tried, go here.

I used to shy away from trying chocolate bars with chili or other strong spices in them because I didn’t really have a palate that could tolerate spice well. As I learned more about craft chocolate makers and trying their bars, I knew that I would have to eventually accept and be able to appreciate chili in chocolate. Cacao Prieto left a lasting impression because they were one of the very few subtle spicy bars that helped me get used to experiencing a burning sensation when eating chocolate. I also just really liked the flavor of this bar overall. To see more of my thoughts on this bar, check out my post┬áhere.

This Steelgrass bar is special to me not only because it’s grown and made in Hawaii, the only North American state where cacao can be grown, but because of the farm’s mission to help restore the natural beauty and plant life of their land before they experienced damage from WWII. In a ways it feels like a long time and very little time has passed since that war ended, and to see it come up again and learn how it has left a lasting effect on the Hawaiian islands opened my eyes to see the harm that war literally takes on land. I think it’s amazing that Steelgrass is attempting to restore the biodiversity of their island,┬áKauai, and to educate and encourage locals to help them with their mission. To see more of my thoughts on this bar, go here.

Durci caught my attention through their packaging. I’ve always enjoyed space-related images and this packaging fed that interest. I remember picking up this Taino 70% bar at Jane’s J. Chocolatier shop. She said not many people were purchasing the Durci bars she had on display and thought it was a shame. If Jane liked Durci, then I needed to try them! Sure enough, I also liked this bar and it is my top favorite Durci bar out of the six I’ve tried. To see more of my thoughts and why I like specifically the Taino bar, go here!

When Jane of J. Chocolatier had her shop in Georgetown, D.C., I used to stop by very often. Like, every weekend if not throughout the week. If I wasn’t getting her truffles, I was trying out the Francois Pralus bars she had on display. Unfortunately all of those bars I tried long before I started recording what brands and bars I had tasted, but this Chuao bar I didn’t recall seeing at J. Chocolatier. The square packaging was different from the rectangular shape of the other Pralus bars. To be honest, I wasn’t head over heels for the flavor of this bar.

This bar is on my wall because it reminds of the days when I would visit Georgetown and therefore J. Chocolatier often after work. J. Chocolatier was the first chocolate shop I had ever gone to that made their own confections. Before that, I had only ever been to For the Love of Chocolate where they sell a variety of chocolate products but don’t create any. The fact that J. Chocolatier was in Georgetown, an area filled with shopping and restaurants, and in a city, I experienced that feeling of, “Wow, I’m finally doing this!” kind of moment. It felt fancy and I had never been able to experience a feeling like that growing up in New Jersey or while attending college in Richmond. Since then, J. Chocolatier has moved out of Georgetown and she’s set up a pop-up shop near the East Market metro station. For my thoughts on the Francois Pralus bars I’ve tried, go here.

Remember back at the Amedei white chocolate + pistachio bar I said I used to not like white chocolate at all until that bar changed my life and perception of white chocolate? This Fruition strawberries and cream did the same thing. It was SO delicious that I ate all of it within an hour and had a very hard time sharing any of it with my boyfriend. This bar has remained in my memory and… you know what, it’s still in stock on Fruition’s website. I might just order a second bar. You also can read why this bar has stuck with me here.

Potomac Chocolate is another local chocolate maker to me, and even though Ben Rasmussen is planning on changing his packaging, I always enjoyed the minimal, clean appearance of his packaging and straightforward mold. The first bar I tried by him was the coconut one followed by the San Martin, Peru. I recently tried his sourdough bread and spice blend bars, which were also very good! I always enjoy supporting my local chocolate makers and I wish Ben the best as his business continues to grow. To see what other bars I’ve tried by Potomac Chocolate, go here.

Undone is another chocolate maker that is local to me and based out of Washington, D.C. Since I currently work in a research lab, I was really happy to learn that Adam came from a scientific background before diving into his own chocolate business. What makes this bar special to me was that I didn’t like chili or any hot spices in chocolate for a long time. As I mentioned for the Cacao Prieto Domincan Spice bar, I used to not enjoy spicy chocolate and this Undone bar was spicier than Dominican Spice. But this bar slowly grew on me and I’ve now bought it several times. I think because of the cinnamon and cardamom to add sweetness and other layers of spiciness, I started to learn to appreciate the slow burn of chili. I’m now more likely to try dark chocolate with various spices because of Undone. If you want to see what other Undone bars I’ve tried (and my favorite Bolivian Amazon that’s now discontinued ­čÖü ), go here.

Ritual’s Novo Coffee was another one of the first coffee + chocolate bars I had tried. Why is it on my wall? Simply because I like the minimalist depiction of tree and mountains. Also for some reason this bar has also just stuck with me as a bar I need to try again. I remember I wasn’t absolutely in love with it, but I want to give it a second chance now that my taste buds have had more time to mature. Seeing this on my wall reminds me that I need to try more Ritual bars at some point. To see what I originally thought about the Novo Coffee bar, go here.

Why is Amedei on my wall twice? Because I like them so much! I’ve definitely had their Toscano Red bar, like, probably five times or more. I think I’ve lost count! ­čÖé It’s addictive, delicious and one of my favorite combinations is berries in chocolate. I think out of every craft chocolate bar I’ve tried, this one is the most I’ve eaten. The packaging is also pretty, which doesn’t hurt. Seriously, you need to try this bar if you haven’t! To see why I rave over this bar, you can read my thoughts on it here.

When I first started my journey into trying craft chocolate, I kept seeing Dick Taylor all over Instagram. I had a hard time finding them sold in stores local to me, so I broke down and eventually made one of my first chocolate online orders around Christmas-time. I was curious about the maple and coconut combination. This was unique to me at the time, and I’m glad I tried it! I have purchased this bar least a couple of times now and I’ve enjoyed every bite. I was also intrigued by the story of the owners having been involved in the boat building business before making chocolate. I love it when I see chocolate makers allow previous career influences to be reflected in their bars or packaging. This is similar to Maverick, which is coming up soon. To see my thoughts on my this bar, go here.

Just like Amedei’s white chocolate + pistachio and Fruition’s strawberries and cream bars, La Naya’s white chocolate + pistachio + cocoa nibs bar also changed the way I had originally felt about white chocolate. This bar had something of a browned butter flavor to it that was addictive. One of my coworkers actually introduced me to La Naya through this bar when they purchased it during the second Washington D.C. Chocolate Festival (which I wasn’t able to attend). This bar left such a positive impression that I had to try the rest of the La Naya bars! La Naya was generous to share some of their products with me, which you can read about here.

These last three bars are hanging on another wall and I couldn’t fit them into my original photo at the very top of this post. The lighting was hitting the frames in a way that would cause a lot of glare (I was using natural light), so I had to take photos at an angle.

You know how I was mentioning that I love how chocolate makers allow other influences to be reflected in their chocolate or packaging? One of the Maverick chocolate maker’s background in aviation engineering is shown here and you can’t help but admire the vintage depictions of flight on each bar. The chocolate itself was also delicious. I actually recently revisited Bluprint Chocolatier where I first saw and purchased Maverick and I tried to convince my friends with me to try them as well ­čÖé To see my thoughts on this bar (it didn’t last long in my hands), go here.

I actually wanted to frame Solstice’s Wasatch bar because I fell in love with it, but that wrapper got destroyed after I shared it with others ­čÖü I had to use the Ecuador wrapper in its place. I’m planning on getting Wasatch again at some point in the future, though! I sent Solstice bars to my mother for Mother’s Day, and she also liked the Wasatch bar the most. Solstice was one of the first chocolate makers I tried who uses resealable wrappers and I really appreciated being able to ensure my chocolate stayed fresh in between bites. Potomac Chocolate is currently planning to make a change for resealable packaging and I fully support that effort! To see my thoughts on both the Wasatch and Ecuador bars, go here.

We end my wall tour with Akesson’s, which I couldn’t ignore. This bar I really liked and I remember I had a hard time sharing it. Yes, I could choose to keep a whole bar to myself, but I find more joy in sharing what makes me happy with others. After trying the 75% Criollo, I remember trying the 100% after hearing good reviews of it. My taste buds weren’t ready for 100% that day, but eventually I will revisit it and I hope I will appreciate it more! I recently picked up a completely different Akesson’s bar that I’ll be trying soon ­čśë To see why I liked the 75% Criollo, you can read my thoughts here.

And that’s it! If you’ve made it to this point, you have my gratitude for enduring the length of this tour ­čÖé Maybe you agree with some of the bars I hung up and maybe you don’t, but you can always make your own wall of bars and I would absolutely love to see what it looks like! I think a wall like this helps reflect personal tastes and stories that would otherwise not be shared.

 

 

Solkiki Chocolate

I had never heard of Solkiki before, and I saw them while browsing Bar & Cocoa’s website. According to Bar & Cocoa’s and Solkiki’s descriptions, this is a Fortunato Number 4. The cacao beans were bought through Mara├▒├│n Chocolate, an organization that works with Peruvian farmers. According to Mara├▒├│n Chocolate┬áthe name Fortunato Number 4 was created to honor the Peruvian farmer who grows and harvests the Nacional cacao beans used to create Fortunato Number 4 chocolate bars.

On the back of the packaging the tasting notes for this specific bar are described as being floral and fruity. Solkiki says they did not roast the beans, slowly stone ground them, conched and matured the chocolate before molding. A quick Google search shows that floral is the most common flavor note for Fortunato Number 4 bars, along with potential nuttiness and coffee flavors.

The inside of the packaging contained a lot of information including a portion for writing down your own tasting notes. 

I could barely smell the subtle floral and fruity scent. The flavor was strong, though! My mouth was immediately filled with intense floral (you could say perfume-y) flavor with some astringency and brightness that back the packaging mentioned. Citrus flavors developed as my bite melted. Toward the end the citrus melted away leaving a subtle floral flavor with light astringency. The floral lingered in the aftertaste.

I’m not sure why Solkiki and Bar & Cocoa’s descriptions for this bar say that it could taste like milk chocolate, because it definitely did not taste smooth and creamy like milk chocolate, but that’s a personal experience.

Solkiki: Made in the United Kingdom

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.

Chocolate Tree

My 50 States project with Trish (who writes Eating the Chocolate Alphabet) was a great time to learn about and be proud of the chocolate makers we have in North America, but I do want to learn more about chocolate makers from other parts of the world. Scotland was definitely not at the top of my list, but after seeing fellow bloggers rave about Chocolate Tree, I had to try them myself. Their bright, colorful yet tasteful packaging is eye catching. I like how the background pictures on the packaging is made up of birds and llamas.

Each package contains two separately wrapped bars. Perfect for on-the-go or for enjoying bits of the chocolate at a time.

The mold holds a lot of detail with intricate floral carvings and an uneven surface.

The trinitario cacao for this 70% Colombia bar comes from the Huila region where even the farmer who grew the cacao is named on the back of the packaging (Aldemar Guzman). The tasting notes are listed as chocolatey, dark cherry and black currants. An additional tip on the packaging says to pair the bar with red wine or port, though I usually taste my chocolate with water. The bar smelled chocolatey and like cherries. The flavors were earthy, cherry, chocolatey and there was some other berry flavor that I’m guessing is black currant. I’m honestly not familiar with the flavor of black currant. The texture was a little gritty and the chocolate took a while to melt. I’m pleasantly surprised that I didn’t get any astringency in this bar, which helped me enjoy my tasting experience. The boyfriend also tried this bar and said it was bitter for him but otherwise pleasant. I brought this bar to work and after eating lunch, it tasted like deep, dark, chocolatey brownies and it was very nice ­čÖé

The 70% Peru bar was made with cacao from the village Chililique. The tasting notes were not listed on this bar. It smelled like oranges to me and started off with a  light citrus flavor that developed into a bread-y flavor. The bread flavor increased in strength such that the citrus was drowned out. A touch of tartness developed midway through my bite. Toward the end a blackberry-like flavor developed. A very slow and interesting flavor story unfolded for me while experiencing this bar. The boyfriend also tasted tartness but was not in love with this bar.

This bar is made up of cacao from South America, though the packaging doesn’t specify which country. The cacao is infused with the Scottish whiskey Islay (the boyfriend likes Islay, so he was excited to try this). I’ve had bars infused with wine and bourbon, but never whiskey. The tasting notes are listed as “delicious waves of dark chocolate” with peat and smoke from the whiskey. The bar definitely smelled like peat and the flavor stared off smokey with sweetness. Midway through my bite I tasted what reminded me of berries. There was a pleasant crunchy texture from cocoa nibs. Usually bourbon bars have this kind of harsh astringent “bite” to them that I don’t enjoy, but this one did not have that at all! It was subtle in scotch flavor. The boyfriend tasted nuttiness whereas I tasted berries in the chocolate.

The whiskey bar was one of the most pleasant alcohol infused bars I’ve tried so far, which is impressive since the closest I otherwise get to whiskey, bourbon or scotch is to smell them. I’m curious now if there are any other chocolate makers based out Scotland that I just haven’t heard of. I’m hoping to one day visit Scotland, so maybe I’ll find out more if I eventually make that trip!

Chocolate Tree: Made in Edinburgh, Scotland

 

 

 

Cacaosuyo

Once again, I learned about this bar through Instagram. Instagram has been a wealth of knowledge and I love the network of fellow chocoholics who share about what chocolate bars they are enjoying. I’ve seen Cacaosuyo shared on Instagram on a few occasions, but I didn’t really think about grabbing one for myself until I found them on Bar & Cocoa’s website (they used to be called Choco Rush).

The only Cacaosuyo bar available at the time was this Lakuna bar. The back of the bar mentions the tasting notes as being floral and fruity. The inner wrapper briefly talks about Cacaosuyo’s goal of providing memories of the Incan empire. Their name represents “the land of the four Suyos” in Peru where the cacao for this bar is produced.

One of coworkers, who is from Peru, said that Cacaosuyo meant the “region of cacao” or the “land of cacao.” He said they were based not far from where he lived when he was in Peru. He also said that apparently in the past the Incan language was not supposed to be spoken in Peru due to conflict going on within the country (I can’t remember his exact words), but lately there has been a resurgence in remembering them. His sister-in-law is studying their language.

I smelled nutty, blackberry and woody scents. On the other hand, I first tasted a light floral flavor which increased into what reminded me of lavender. The floral disappeared midway through my bite and a light nutty flavor developed. My bite ended with light cocoa and fruity flavors. Though the texture was very smooth, the chocolate took a long time to melt. Usually I let a piece of chocolate sit and slowly melt so I can see what flavor story unfolds. This time I just had to straight up eat it to taste any progress.

Bar & Cocoa’s website describes a honey flavor that I didn’t catch. But my Peruvian coworker and another coworker tried this bar. One of them could taste all three floral, fruity and honey flavors (he described the floral as being in a bed of lavender). The other said they tasted only the floral and fruity flavors.

The flavors were very subtle for this bar, which isn’t a bad thing since I tend to like subtle. Though I can’t say I was head over heels for this bar, my two coworkers kept coming back for more. If I see recommendations for another type of Cacaosuyo bar, I’d definitely be willing to give them another try.

Cacaosuyo: Made in Peru

Letterpress Chocolate

Thanks to a couple of fellow chocoholics, word spread a couple of months ago about a magazine called Chocolate Connoisseur where they were selling this special package of Letterpress Chocolate bars, including their new Ucayali bar. This Ucayali bar was all over Instagram when this offer came out and I saw many bloggers and chocoholics sharing their experiences with this bar. And this past week I’ve been seeing it show up again! Though I received my package of these bars a couple of months ago, it wasn’t until now that I’ve been able to finally try them.

Let’s start with tasting the Ucayali bar since that’s what I’m most eager to try. The design of the packaging both inside and outside is very pretty. The back of the packaging gives a brief description as to why Ucayali cacao was used:

“Late one night in the summer of 2015, we roasted a test batch from the first-ever harvest of Ucayali River Cacao. These beans came from a region of Peru not normally associated with great cacao. But here we knew we had something special, thanks to the exacting standards of award-winning cacao expert Daniel O’Doherty. Ucayali River CAcao pays farmers a premium for their best work, and the level of dedication and care in the processing has been unlike any we have ever seen. We have strived to bring the same level of care to this bar. We’re proud to bring back this most unique and interesting chocolate; one that must be savored and enjoyed with quiet contemplation.”

The inside of the bar addresses the pattern of the packaging:

“The pattern on this package was inspired by the textiles of the indiginous Shipibo-Conibo peoples of Ucayali. Their way of life was threatened by climate change, deforestation, oil exploration and drug trafficking. By working with projects such as Ucayali River Cacao by purchasing premium cacao and donating to projects like Conservation International, we aim to preserve not only the rainforest, but the people whose survival depends on it.”

The tasting notes are listed as star anise, mocha, pepper and cedar. What a combination! I definitely smelled what reminded me of mocha and pepper from the bar, but I first tasted star anise and pepper. I did detect something of a “woody” flavor as well. The mocha developed as my bit melted. In a ways the combination of these flavors, though subtle, seemed to meld together in what could seem like astringency. The chocolate slowly melted and the pepper with star anise seemed to be dominant flavors. In the aftertaste I experienced mocha and sweetness.

Estelle Tracey, fellow chocolate blogger and chocoholic (she writes 37 Chocolates), described this bar as similar to a Crunch candy bar. On the back of the bar I could easily see all the little bits of puffed amaranth. According to the back of the packaging it said that amaranth is a gluten-free grain and it was consumed by the Aztecs and Mayans. Letterpress’ 70% La Red Domincan Republic chocolate serves as the base of this bar with a touch of salt.

The tasting notes are listed as berries and “toasty crunch.” The chocolate smelled very sweet and like a combination of raspberries and strawberries. My taste buds immediately experienced a wave of berry flavor. As my bite melted, that toasty flavor started to develop that reminded of bars I’ve tried in the past that contained rice. I tasted the fleur de sel salt halfway through my bite and then I got to enjoy the crunchiness of amaranth. The aftertaste consisted of toasted bread with lingering berry flavors. I can see how Estelle would describe this as a Crunch bar but better. ­čÖé

Kokoa Kimili sounds like a co-op or some type of organization that works between the farmers and chocolate makers. They help pay high prices for the cacao grown in Tanzania to encourage the farmers to keep growing cacao with a focus on quality versus quantity. I found it fun and interesting to see on their website some of the chocolate makers who have used cacao purchased through Kokoa Kimili, like Omnom, Dandelion and Dulcinea. According to the back of the package, Kokoa Kimili is in a village with a name that means “heaven” in Kiswahili (Mbingu).

The tasting notes are listed as green banana and “peppery mocha.” I’ve never tasted either of these food items before so I’m not sure what I’m getting myself into. I could smell pepper (like spicy pepper) and mocha from the chocolate. Did they just combine the two flavors into “peppery mocha”? I’ve never had a spicy mocha before, which is why I’m confused. Anyway, I also tasted spiciness with mocha though both flavors were subtle. There was a touch of brightness and citrus that developed as my bite melted. The rest of my bite stayed pretty much the same flavor-wise. I liked the combination of spicy with mocha! But green banana… does this mean I need to go to grocery store and buy green bananas just to experience how they taste?

We end our Letterpress journey with their Peruvian bar. According to the back of the packaging, this bar is made up of Nacional cacao that grows in the Mara├▒├│n Canyon in northern Peru. The chocolate is considered “lighter” since this type of cacao pod contains 40% white beans. Because of Letterpress (and I imagine other chocolate makers) purchasing these beans at a higher price, more people growing up in the Mara├▒├│n Canyon are staying and becoming cacao farmers due to fairer wages.

The tasting notes are listed as citrus and mocha. The chocolate smelled nutty and citrusy. I first tasted a strong citrus flavor that quickly followed by a strong mocha flavor. My bite remained pretty much the same except at the end the citrus dominated the mocha flavor. I actually tried this bar before and apparently I tasted some caramel notes during my first experience.

Out of the four bars, the Tanzania one was my favorite. I’m still very confused why spicy + mocha = peppery mocha and I have no idea what green bananas taste like, but that flavor combo was nice.

Letterpress Chocolate: Made in Los Angeles, CA

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