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. 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.
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. My 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.