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