Cru Chocolate

Thanks to Trish from the blog Eating the Chocolate Alphabet for sharing this Cru Chocolate bar with me! I love exchanging chocolate with fellow bloggers and chocoholics though I don’t get to do it often. Trish has been a chocolate swapper with many people not only in the States but across the world. I think she needs to make a wall map with pins showing which states and countries she’s shipping and received chocolate.

According to the note Trish left in the package Cru Chocolate is based out of northern California. Cru was started by Karla McNeil-Rueda and Eddie Houston. Their business runs out of their home thanks to a Class B permit for their “cottage food kitchen”. Originally the two wanted to open a coffee shop, but when someone beat them to it, even opening in the exact location they wanted, they decided to look towards Karla’s Honduran heritage for inspiration and instead make chocolate. I recommend reading this Q&A to learn more about their stories and their business.

The back of the packaging says why the Flor De Maiz bar is unique: “This Pinole inspired dark chocolate bar celebrates the union of fine cacao and heirloom corn. Roasted and stone ground with a touch of traditional spices resulting in a food that nourishes your body and lightens your soul”. Chocolate mixed with corn has been done before, but this seems different in that Cru seems to have ground the cacao with the corn whereas other bars I’ve tried use whole corn kernels as an inclusion. For every bar purchased, Cru gave $1 to Catracha Coffee to preserve and promote cultural Heritage in Central America. 

The ingredients on the packaging simply say “spices” rather than listing which specific spices they used, but the scent reminds me of cinnamon and/or cardamom. Though the bar had some blooming (most likely due to shipping) I was still able to taste the chocolate flavor just fine. The spice was the dominant flavor though not in your face and the chocolate itself seemed mellow with a touch of astringency. I couldn’t really taste the corn, but maybe it came through in the aftertaste, which reminded me of toast. This was like a very chill bar if you like spiciness but don’t want your mouth blasted or your taste buds to party too hard.

I ended up finishing this bar by melting it in some warm milk to create a hot chocolate drink for my husband and myself. We both enjoyed the subtle spiciness and it helped re-energize us during a busy day. I’d recommend this bar if you like chocolate with spice in it! 

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.

Raaka First Nibs Selection January 2019

When I saw pictures of Raaka’s Black and White Cookie bar, I basically flipped. It’s SO cool seeing a bar made up of more than one chocolate used in the same bar and split in half. I have not seen a bar like it and I’m curious how they did it. During moulding did they dispense only white chocolate on one half, dark chocolate on the other half and then ensured the chocolate only spread so much using a vibrating surface to ensure they kept that half-and-half look? I’d love to see an Instagram photo or video covering the process!

According to the description included, Raaka was replicating the black and white cookie that’s commonly seen in bakeries. Traditionally the black half is made up of chocolate and the white half with icing. Raaka’s description says, “In this bar we mimic the cookie by creating a half coconut white chocolate with ground vanilla bean and 66% dark chocolate with vanilla & lemon-infused cocoa butter.”

The scent of the white chocolate portion reminded me of Almond Joy candy bars. The chocolate practically melted in my mouth. It lasted for a split second! In that brief moment I was able to enjoy a myriad of coconut, vanilla and smooth creamy flavors. The dark chocolate half (made up of Zorzal cacao from Dominican Republic) was a little astringent with a mix of roasted and light fruity flavors. Then I took a piece from each half, ate them together and oooh my goodness! It tastes just like a cookie. My mind has been blown. I’m reminded of Map Chocolate’s Key Lime pie bar where one bar was the key lime portion and the second was the pie crust.

The Pretzels & Mustard bar is an out of this world combination. I’ve said it before but I’m always pleasantly surprised by the risks and unique flavors Raaka throws together in a bar. If you couldn’t already tell, Raaka is making their own twist of the classic soft pretzel with mustard. For this bar they infused 70% Oko Caribe chocolate with pretzel and mustard seed cocoa butter. Gluten free salted pretzels were added to the mix then topped off with mustard powder.

The scent of mustard was very light so I smelled mostly fruitiness from the 70% Oko Caribe base. Once the chocolate was on my tongue with mustard side down, the mustard flavor was strong but melted away to sea salt, some subtle raisin and roasted flavors. The mustard flavor was prominent throughout my bite and I could crunch on the sea salt and pretzel bits. The aftertaste was very much like a baked soft pretzel with lingering mustard.

Though this Selection included Raaka’s Pink Sea Salt bar, I’ve tried it before in the past so I don’t feel the need to share it here again. I ended up mailing it to a previous coworker who in turn used it to introduce their new coworkers to craft chocolate. I’m so proud of my old coworkers for moving on to new jobs and then spreading the love of craft chocolate!

That Black and White Cookie bar is amazing! I hope Raaka makes something like it again with having a half-and-half bar that blows your mind. Maybe for the summer they could do a piña colada bar with a white chocolate base with rum and coconut on one side and pineapple on the other. The Pretzels & Mustard bar was different! I love soft pretzels and it’s cool that Raaka managed to recreate a popular snack into a chocolate bar.

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.

Fjåk Chocolate

Chocolate makers are spread out all over the world and there are still many I haven’t heard of or tried. It seems ever year there’s a maker starting their business inspired by other craft chocolate, pursuing the creation of organic/healthy foods or even making bars out of the cacao grown on their own farm (such is the case with Islands Chocolate). Today I’m trying Fjåk, the first chocolate maker in Norway.

Fjåk is more specifically based out Hardanger started in 2017 by Agur and Siv. What’s unique about them is they have a special Nordic collection of bars using locally sourced inclusions. For example, they currently have a very interesting 70% Madagascar bar that has reindeer moss and lingonberries. It’s out of stock on their website otherwise I’d be placing an order!

According to Cocoa Runner’s website, the cacao for this 68% India bar was sourced through GoGround Cocoa, a supplier of beans from India. I didn’t read the tasting notes prior to tasting, so I got a fruity scent from this bar and I tasted caramel, fruity and some citrusy notes. As my bite melted the chocolate tasted more like butterscotch and then nutty. The melt was even and smooth.

The packaging says the tasting notes are floral and honey. Cocoa Runners says they tasted “toasted tea cake”, malt, raisin and “sultana-laden flavour”. They also felt the melt was smooth and creamy. I really enjoyed this bar and I would recommend trying Fjåk if you ever get the chance! I’d be happy to try more of their bars in the future. Maybe that reindeer moss + lingonberry bar will come back in stock.

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.

Tosier

I haven’t tried too many bars by chocolate makers based out of the UK but whenever I get the chance to, I grab the opportunity. What helps is that companies like Cocoa Runners are based out of the UK and offer a variety of chocolate bars and makers to choose from but I do have to pay a little more for shipping since my order would be crossing the Atlantic. This Tosier bar came in my last order from Cocoa Runners.

Tosier is a micro-batch chocolate making company started by Deanna Tilston who originally wanted to make her own chocolate focusing on the health benefits of dark chocolate. Micro-batch means that a chocolate maker creates a very limited amount of bars every time they make chocolate. This also means that every batch of bars created is a little different from the next. Even if the same beans are used, it could be a different harvest of those beans. The benefits of micro-batching is that the maker can truly focus on the nitty gritty of the chocolate making process whereas larger scale chocolate makers won’t have the time to be as detail oriented despite their best efforts.

According to Cocoa Runners, the name “‘Tosier’ dates back to the 18th century, where a man named Thomas Tosier had the privilege of being George I’s personal chocolate maker; Thomas, and his wife Grace Tosier, ran a very successful chocolate house on Chocolate Row in Greenwich in the 18th century.” For the time being, Tosier has been sourcing cacao from Belize and Haiti through Uncommon Cacao.

The tasting notes listed on the packaging include caramel, pineapple and “rainforest fruits”. The chocolate smelled fruity to me though I immediately thought of the candy Smarties when I was tasting. The chocolate is fruity with a zing to it, like the tartness in Smarties. I tried the chocolate on a separate day and at that time the chocolate tasted very nutty and citrusy. I’m not sure why the chocolate tasted completely different on the second day, but I’m just amused I thought of Smarties the first time I tried this chocolate because I haven’t had that candy in a very long time. If you’ve tried to bar before, let me know if you tasted all of the notes listed on the packaging or if you also were reminded of fruity children’s candy.

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.

Bahen & Co.

When I need to replenish my chocolate stash I prefer to order bars through a website such as Bar & Cocoa, Cocoa Runners, Cacao Review and The Chocolate Bar (they are in New Zealand if I can wait a while for my shipment) since they offer a variety of bars by different chocolate makers. I think I got this Bahen & Co. bar from The Chocolate Bar and I had not heard of this maker before so I figured I’d give them a try.

Bahen & Co. was started by Josh Bahen who has a background in winemaking. The company is based out of Margaret River, a town south of Perth and in an area known for their breweries and wineries. The back of the packaging mentions the use of “vintage machines” to create their chocolate. One of those machines is a Guitard Melangeur that dates back to 1910.

I’m trying the Madagascar 70%, which on the back of the bar’s wrapper says the beans are “green gold” in color and from the Sambirano Valley. The tasting notes listed for this bar include citrus, red berries and raisin. The chocolate smelled citrusy and fruity to me. My bite took a while to melt but eventually I tasted raisin and subtle earthy notes. The earthiness turned into smokiness. My bite melted slowly, unevenly and the texture was fudgy. The smokiness dissipated and went back into raisin for the rest of my bite.

I thought this was interesting in flavor because I can’t recall from the top of my head whether I’ve had a smoky tasting bar that also included raisin flavor notes. I’m personally not a huge fan of smokiness in my chocolate (I do like raisin though), but if you do like smoky flavors then you should definitely give this bar a try!

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.

Islands Chocolate

Since it’s chilly outside, looking at this packaging is making me dream of tropical getaways and I feel the longing for summer to come around again. I actually can’t complain since the D.C. area has been experiencing a mild winter but I spend a lot of time outdoors for my current job and it isn’t fun experiencing low temperatures coupled with wind.

If you’re familiar with craft chocolate then you’re familiar with the term “bean to bar”, meaning a chocolate maker orders cocoa/cacao beans from a farm, co-op or other distributor and after several production steps creates chocolate bars. I’m seeing the term “seed to bar” show up more frequently. Islands Chocolate is one of the companies that lives up to this.

Islands Chocolate is based out of the Caribbean and the company’s founder, Wilf Marriott, comes from a family who grows cacao in St. Vincent and sells them to other chocolate makers. Wilf decided one day that he had enough of simply selling the beans. He figured that as the farmers growing the beans and being the most familiar with the cacao, they should create their own chocolate bars. This was how Islands Chocolate was born.

The packaging for this bar mentions that Islands Chocolate teamed up with their sister company St. Vincent Cocoa to grow their own cacao. Islands Chocolate also supports and purchases from fellow Vincentian farmers. The interior of the packaging highlights a cacao farmer, Robert Jacobs, mentioning that Islands Chocolate has been purchasing cacao from Robert since 2011.

When I unwrapped this bar I expected to see nibs sprinkled on the back like most bars with nibs, but in this case they’re actually in the bar. It looked like the nibs were sprinkled on the back and then tapped until they had sunken into the chocolate and were barely covered. It’s a great idea to ensure none of the nibs are knocked off due to jostling, which can a problem when the nibs are simply sprinkled on.

To me this bar smelled chocolaty and tasted nibby at first with a slow melt. As my my bite melted the chocolate tasted more and more like brownies with walnuts in them. I was very hungry at the time of tasting so that might have had an effect on my taste buds 🙂 I definitely want to try more Islands Chocolate knowing some of the story behind the company and it was neat that this bar tasted so much like a dessert!

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.

Ocho – Beekeeper

My husband has been dreaming that one day he may help raise bees by having one of those manmade beehive structures. First we need to have a house and a proper yard, but in the meantime he’s been researching what kind of backyard hive he wants. My dear and longest friend’s father also has a passion for bees. I remember there were times long ago when I was visiting their family we’d be instructed to stay inside while her dad went out in his bee suit and smoked out the bees to gather the honey. That part I’m not looking forward to when it’s my husband’s turn to do that, yet I’ll be happy for him if he’s enjoying it!

This Beekeeper bar contains Manuka honey, bee pollen and puffed amaranth. I’ve tried chocolate bars sweetened with Manuka honey, a Naive Chocolate bar with bee pollen as an inclusion and a Letterpress bar with puffed amaranth in it. I was curious what the flavor and textural combination would be like with all three condensed in one bar.

The back of the packaging says that the cocoa beans used to make this bar are sourced from Papua New Guinea. I had heard of the chocolate maker Ocho before, but I had no idea that they were based out of New Zealand (Dunedin to be specific). They say they added all three of these interesting ingredients to this bar to “give the bar a flavour change”.

To me the bar had a subtle citrusy and roasted scent. I was surprised to taste the honey first since the ingredients list shows Manuka honey takes up 5% of the bar. As my bite melted a citrus flavor and astringency developed and pretty much stayed that way through the majority of my bite. The bee pollen and puffed amaranth were fun to munch on, though I felt like this bar had less puffed amaranth in it than Letterpress.

Overall this bar offered a unique flavor and fun textural experience. It’s not common that I see bee pollen and amaranth in chocolate. What’s nice is that since amaranth is naturally gluten free, consider trying this for a similar texture compared to bread in chocolate if you can’t consume gluten. I’ll have my husband try this and see if it makes him more excited to one day have a backyard beehive.

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.

Goodnow Farms – Asochivite Bars

I love comparing two bars by the same chocolate maker that differ in cocoa percentage. When one bar is, say, 70% and the other is 80% you can taste different flavor notes due to the difference in sugar content sweetening the chocolate and helping your taste buds taste different flavors in general. Today things are a little different in that I am trying a 70% Asochivite bar by Goodnow Farms, but the 70% bar contains maple sugar and I’m comparing it to the 88% plain Asochivite.

Who is Goodnow Farms? If you aren’t familiar with this chocolate maker and you want to learn more about them, head to their website! I’ve also shared a bit about their story in a previous tasting of their bars here. I enjoyed my first tasting experience and I knew I wanted to try more of Goodnow’s bars.

If you’re now asking, “What does Asochivite mean?” it’s the city in Guatemala where the cocoa beans originated. Raaka Chocolate a while back made a limited batch of 75% bars using the same type of cocoa beans. The description on the back of the plain 77% Asochivite Goodnow Farms bar says, “The Q’eqehi Maya farmers of Chivite, Guatemala harvest cacao from the wild trees surrounding their village.”

The flavor notes listed for the 77% Asochivite bar include fruit, green banana and mango. Knowing this I could smell subtle fruitiness and a hint of banana from the chocolate. I first tasted tangy, light fruity with chocolaty flavors. As the chocolate melted, it tasted mostly the same except at the very end where some bitterness developed like what I’ve experienced with green bananas.

The back of the 70% Asochivite Maple Sugar bar says that the maple sugar is sourced from Severance Maple based out of Northfield, MA. The flavor notes listed are fruit and “sweep maple”. I could definitely smell maple from this bar! The maple flavor developed as my bite of chocolate melted and it mingled with that subtle fruitiness I tasted in the 77% Asochivite. As the description said, this bar was pretty sweet for a 70% cocoa bar.

Since my sweet tooth has been dictating what my body craves, I naturally leaned more toward enjoying the 70% Asochivite Maple Sugar bar. I felt the descriptions on the back of both bars were accurate in that fruit was the stronger flavor and the banana and mango were more subtle until the very end of the 77% Asochivite. Though the 77% Asochivite was great to experience, I won’t be returning to it since I’m not a fan of green banana though I appreciate the fruity notes and I prefer that flavor in my dark chocolate. If you like higher cocoa percentages, give the 77% Asochivite a try and definitely get more than one bar by Goodnow Farms as they make quality chocolate.

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.

Raaka November First Nibs Selection

Raaka always blows my mind with what they come up with next. Chocolate makers nowadays are so creative with what inclusions they throw into their bars that craft chocolate consumers barely blink when something that would otherwise be unique shows up in their next bar. I feel like Raaka is a special exception in that whoever plans and designs these First Nibs Selections is always thinking outside of the outside box, if that makes any sense. For November, Raaka played with the warm, comforting flavors of sweet potato and carrot. These aren’t off the wall ingredients, but we normally wouldn’t expect to see them combined with chocolate.

Though the Maple & Nibs bar was included with the November First Nibs Selection, I’m not going to include it in today’s post since I’ve tried it before.

We’re past Thanksgiving at the time that I’m writing this, but sweet potatoes are an ingredient I’ve started seeing on the table ever since I’ve lived in Virginia. Growing up in New Jersey I was not exposed to sweet potatoes and I don’t recall my mother ever cooking with it. It wasn’t until I attended a southern-style church potluck and a Thanksgiving with my sister’s in-laws that I was introduced to mashed up sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows. To some people this kind of dish brings up fond childhood memories. Personally I was very confused (and I didn’t touch the dish). But since Raaka uses candied sweet potatoes with their 70% Dominican Republic chocolate, they may be thinking on the same page as those sweet potatoes with marshmallows.

Raaka’s description for the candied sweet potato bar says, “We create a cinnamon-infused cocoa butter and mix it with house-caramelized cane sugar, maple sugar from Bascom Maple Farms in New Hampshire, sweet potato powder, and fruity Dominican cacao to create a bar reminiscent of the classic Thanksgiving side dish. To top it off? Jackson’s Honest sweet potato chips for crisp and crunch.” At the time I’m trying these bars I admit I’m fighting a cold and my sense of smell and taste isn’t that great, but I did detect the scent of nuttiness and sweet potato. The chips added great crunch, nutty flavors exploded in my mouth followed by a hint of salt and sweetness of maple and then fruitiness from the Dominican cacao. It was like bam, bam, bam of all those flavors hitting one after another.

The carrot cake bar was created to replicate the “natural sugars found in fall’s abundant root vegetables”. Raaka combined carrot powder, ground vanilla bean, ginger, nutmeg, allspice infused cocoa butter, organic cane and coconut sugar with earthy Congolese cacao to create this delicious sounding chocolate. Now the included description says ESCO Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo cacao was used, but the chocolate wrapper itself it says “earthy and nutty Dominican cacao”. I’m just going to go right ahead and enjoy tasting it! Since my sense of smell is terrible from being sick, the chocolate smelled chocolaty (I’m sure it’s more interesting if I weren’t congested). I tasted a lovely medley of warm spices that made me think of the last time I took a bite of carrot cake, which was a long time ago. The carrot flavor grew in intensity as my bite melted and it was delicious! It was just like eating carrot cake but with chocolate on top of it instead of that white-ish icing.

I have to say, out of the two bars, I am so blown away by the carrot cake bar! It literally tastes like carrot cake and despite my being sick, chances are high I’m going to consume the entire bar after writing this post. I’m still a little wary of those sweet potato and marshmallow dishes I see around Thanksgiving, but I give props to Raaka for creating a fun and interesting textural and flavorful experience with their candied sweet potato bar.

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.

Nola Cacao

I’m so grateful for social media! Even though apps such as Instagram can be a large distraction from the reality of life, it’s served as my sole tool for networking with fellow chocoholics and chocolate makers. Richard and Tiffany, the makers behind NOLA Cacao, reached out to me through Instagram and generously offered to send me some of their bars. They’re an up and coming company now based out of Denver, Colorado.

Tiffany is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, and their kids were raised just north of New Orleans (also called NOLA). The Brown Pelican on the packaging pays homage to their home state. The family wanted to look for cleaner food and understand where their food came from. This quest introduced them to chocolate making, which led them to creating NOLA. For the time being their bars are primarily created using cacao sourced from Guatemala, but they have experimented with beans from Dominican Republic, Belize and Bolivia. The only two ingredients used to create NOLA bars are Guatemalan cacao and organic coconut sugar.

NOLA is a family business not only due to the Tiffany and Richard heavily involved in the chocolate making process, but their three kids have some understanding on roasting and grinding beans. Since all of their kids are still relatively young, they may become more involved in the business as they grow older. It’s not uncommon for couples to start a chocolate making business, but if the kids also help out, that’s special and promises that the business can continue to grow for many years to come. For more information about NOLA Cacao, you can refer to their About Us section on their website.

When I first received the bars, I appreciated the simple packaging. Though the three bars are different colors, they are the exact same chocolate being Guatemala 78%. While several chocolate makers have changed their packaging from being simple to very colorful, I like the minimalistic look. Transparent information about the cacao used in the chocolate is available and there’s no muss or fuss. The chocolate mold is simple and pleasing to look at. The chocolate itself smelled fruity, earthy and citrusy. Once it started melting, the chocolate tasted earthy and citrusy with some astringency. It reminded me of the Madagascar Francois Pralus bar I’ve had in the past. The melt and texture was even and very smooth. In the aftertaste I experienced nuttiness like toasted walnut. I took a second bite several hours later and this time the chocolate tasted very nutty with some astringency and brightness.

This chocolate reminded me of several drinking chocolates I had recently tried that also tasted nutty and had some astringency. If you wish to try these bars for yourself, they can be ordered online through Nola Cacao’s website here. And if you want to gift them for family and friends now that the holidays are coming up, a 3-bar pack is available!

Before closing, I’m also giving a quick update. Not long ago I shared that I was working for a chocolate maker so I could gain hands-on experience with the chocolate making process. I decided to leave that position a couple of months ago for a completely different career path and who knows, I may return to science and working in the lab someday. While I loved my team, the company and working in chocolate is in general amazing, it didn’t fit into my husband’s and my future plans. I’ll fondly recall my times walking into the factory and being surrounded by the lovely scent of freshly winnowed nibs and tempered chocolate.

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. I did not receive pay 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.