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. 🙂
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 Marañón 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 Marañón 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