Author: Lori (Page 1 of 23)

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

Ritual Chocolate – Madagascar Sambirano

My first experience trying Ritual Chocolate has stuck with me because I loved the style of their packaging. To me, the dark green color of their Novo Coffee bar was rustic looking and the minimalistic drawings of trees and mountains were unique and appealing. I also hadn’t tried many coffee + chocolate bars at the time and that bar reminded me of the great flavor marriage the two make when combined.

I’m revisiting Ritual again, this time trying their Madagascar Sambirano bar since the time I ordered from Cacao Review, the Novo Coffee bar was out of stock. The Madagascar bar caught my attention since the flavor notes were listed as raspberry, citrus and peanut. Raspberries themselves and raspberry notes in chocolate are one of my favorite combinations, but to see peanut also in the flavor mix was something I haven’t experienced before.

When I opened the inner wrapper, the bar subtly smelled like all three flavor notes listed on the packaging. The flavor I first experienced was a combination of sweet raspberry with the tartness of citrus. The peanut flavor developed as my bite melted, but it wasn’t upfront as much as the raspberry and citrus flavors were. I kind of had to look for it. Toward the end of my bite some light astringency developed. In the aftertaste the raspberry and citrus lingered. The chocolate melted easily and evenly and the texture was very smooth.

Experiencing berry with citrus flavors happens a lot in my chocolate journey, but to have peanut thrown in was a nice way to mix things up. Even though the peanut was subtle, I think it helped balance the tartness and astringency because many times when I taste a bar with citrus notes, it becomes too tart or astringent for my taste and I don’t enjoy the bar as much as I’d like. I would try this Madagascar bar again, but I definitely want to revisit Ritual’s Novo Coffee bar since it has remained on my mind.

Ritual Chocolate: Made in Park City, Utah

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.

 

Potomac Chocolate

Recently Ben Rasmussen, the chocolate maker behind Potomac Chocolate, released two new bars that I’m excited to share here! Thankfully I had the chance to stop by The Chocolate House (a great chocolate shop in D.C. if you’ve never been there) where Ben was holding a chocolate tasting. It’s awesome that The Chocolate House holds a tasting for Potomac Chocolate every time he releases new bars!

On the back of the bar you can see some texture from the sourdough bread crumbs mixed into the chocolate.

I was really excited to see that Ben had made a sourdough bread bar because bread in chocolate is not a common combination. Pump Street is the only chocolate maker I know of who has included sourdough bread in one of their bars. Theo made a bar with bread in it as well (you can read my experience trying that┬áhere). I could smell salt and “breadyness” from this bar. I first tasted the sea salt with a touch of fruitiness from the chocolate followed by the light crunchy texture of sourdough bread crumbs. The fruity flavor of the chocolate developed more as my bite melted. The bread crumbs were evenly distributed through the bar, which is great because it meant every bite contained the same textural experience. A touch of citrus developed toward the end of my bite and I was left with the aftertaste of sourdough bread. I really liked this bar because bread and chocolate are a great combination to begin with (think of those chocolate croissants) and the light texture of the crumbs is very pleasant.

It was also exciting to see Ben combine cinnamon with chili because I also feel like this combination is not as commonly found either. Chili in dark chocolate is popular, but I don’t often see cinnamon being used. Undone Chocolate and Olive and Sinclair are the only two chocolate makers I can think of from the top of my head whose bars I’ve tried with this kind of combination, and it’s nice to see another chocolate maker adding this flavor combination to their chocolate bar line. The scent of cinnamon was stronger in this bar than the chili. I also tasted the cinnamon first quickly followed by the chili as it warmed up while my bite melted. There seemed to be a combination of sweet and savoriness going on as the cinnamon, chili and fruity chocolate flavors swirled together. Though my mouth could feel the heat, it wasn’t like being punched in the face.

I definitely recommend these bars because both flavor combinations are not common and if you’re open to an adventure flavor-wise, you definitely need to give these a try! I also really enjoyed the textural experience of the sourdough bread bar. And with fall and winter coming up, I can also see the cinnamon + chili bar being appropriate for those seasons.

Potomac Chocolate: Made in Woodbridge, VA

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.

Original Beans

I’ve seen Original Beans shared by fellow blogger Victoria Cooksey (she writes Dark Matters Chocolate Reviews) on several occassions and each time I see her sharing them, I keep telling myself I need to get my hands on a bar. This has been going on for at least a year, and now I have finally done it!

I’m kind of confused on where Original Beans comes from. The back of the bar says it’s made in Switzerland, but they’re based out of Amsterdam according to Google Maps. They began in 2008 combining their passion for chocolate and for nature conservation. Their One Bar : One Tree program means they plant a seedling for every bar that’s purchased resulting in more than 1 million trees being planted by them in an effort to continue the growth of cacao trees and of local flora and fauna.

The back of the packaging reminds me of movie trailers where there’s a compilation of positive reviews and facts in large bold print. Though I’m a little confused by this approach of sharing this information with customers, what I do like is their mission to support women in Congo who unfortunately endure abuse and being mistreated in ways that would otherwise not be considered normal. According to Original Beans, cacao is a way out for these women from this kind of life. “The Original Beans Femmes de Virunga project aims to improve daily life for women in North Kivu, Eastern Congo. Our goal is to establish a culturally supported economic position for women within the cacao sector.”

The flavor notes listed on the packaging include cappuccino and roasted nuts. The bar certainly had a scent that reminded me of cappuccino with creaminess. The flavor was like walnuts and creamy like cappuccino with coffee notes. The chocolate melted so smoothly and quickly in my mouth, I didn’t have much time to contemplate what I was tasting. The boyfriend also tried this bar and liked it so much (cappuccino was a strong flavor for him with a subtle almond butter flavor), that he said he would eat the whole bar in one sitting. Guess I’ll be sharing the rest of this bar with him ­čÖé

Original Beans: Made in Switzerland, Based out of Amsterdam

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 – It’s getting hot in here!

As summer is drawing to a close, I couldn’t help but try a couple more of Chocotenango’s chocolate bars. I’ve already been hooked from the first time I tried his El Puro bar (that bar remains in my taste bud memories). If you haven’t heard of Chocotenango before, they are one of the few amazingly talented Washington, D.C., based chocolate makers that are local to me. I just realized that the two bars I got both contain spicy elements in them, so we’re heating things up before fall and cooler temperatures arrive!

If you want to learn more about Chocotenango and Ismael’s story for starting his chocolate making business, refer to some of my earlier posts. Otherwise, let’s jump into potentially setting our mouths on fire ­čÖé

Apparently Arabian Nights has been a crazy popular bar. I’ve seen it show up on Instagram from various chocoholics and all of them are singing praises. Arabian Nights is simply dark chocolate with cardamom. Specifically Dominican cacao with cardamom since Ismael only uses Dominican cacao as the base for all of his bars and bonbons. How could such a simple bar blow people away? Well, the scent is pretty delicious. I got a good whiff of cardamom spiciness when I opened up the packaging. There was a punch of cardamom flavor followed by sweetness and creaminess of the dark chocolate. Dark chocolate being creamy? That’s the only way I can describe the feeling of this chocolate as it’s melting on my tongue. The cardamom was not overwhelmingly spicy, but it was present enough that it kept my taste buds intrigued. I wasn’t able to taste any natural fruity flavors I usually taste in Ismael’s Dominican-based chocolate, but the smooth texture, sweetness and creaminess partnered well with the spicy cardamom that made me want to try more of this bar. I think I can see why people like it so much! The boyfriend said this bar reminded him of chai tea and he enjoyed the texture.

Next we’re trying Zanzibar, which contains nutmeg, sea salt and chili. Since this is a milk chocolate, I’m hoping to get a similar experience as I did with Arabian Nights having the creaminess of the chocolate balance out the spices. The nutmeg scent was prominent and reminded me of pumpkin pie (I’m drooling now). I tasted sea salt with nutmeg first followed by the creaminess of the milk chocolate and finally the heat of the the chili began to develop. I don’t think I can explain why, but the sea salt seems to help tie the nutmeg and chili together and the creaminess of the chocolate keeps my mouth from burning too much from the heat. I liked this bar a lot! There was an interesting balance of flavors and an overall good flavor story that developed as my bite melted. I feel like it’s so rare for me to find a spicy milk chocolate, and this bar helped feed my sweet tooth as well as my savory tooth all at once. I wish more chocolate makers would combine milk chocolate with spices since dark chocolate sometimes makes the flavor experience of strong herbs and spices too bitter. The boyfriend also tried this bar and said it had some gritty texture, but what he considered as “optimal grit.”

Ismael, once again I greatly enjoyed your chocolate! I hope to see him again in person when I can finally get myself to the Alexandria, VA, farmer’s market that takes place on Saturday mornings. I hope to eventually try the rest of his chocolate bars and see if any new bonbon flavors have come out.

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.

 

The Smooth Chocolator

Though the summer months are usually when business is slow for chocolate makers, chocolatiers and shops, it’s still a busy time for chocoholics and bloggers like myself as we continue to buy bars to fulfill our cravings and have material to share. I’m grateful for the 10%-20% off discounts offered by various online suppliers despite the risk of chocolate meltage. Cacao Review has become one of my favorite suppliers since my first time shopping with them helped introduce me to brand new bars that I had never tried before. The Smooth Chocolator was one of them.

Their website was practically sold out on all of The Smooth Chocolator bars with the exception of this 70% Vietnam Tien Giang bar. I’m actually glad I get to try this bar because I’ve become fascinated with chocolate made with Vietnamese cacao. I’m also not familiar at all with chocolate makers based out of Australia since my focus this past year has been mainly on chocolate makers based out of North America. I hope that in the future I can learn more about and try more bars made in Australia.

The Smooth Chocolator was started in 2015 by Kim Yoon. Kim started off as a chocolatier, but after tasting bean to bar chocolate during a course on the topic and being exposed to their depth in flavor, she was inspired to start her own line of such bars. To learn more about the story behind The Smooth Chocolator, you can read a Q&A between Cocoa Runners and Kim.

The tasting notes listed on the packaging include honey and “brown dried fruits.” I’m guessing this could mean fruits like dates and raisins. In fact, when I first opened the resealable envelope, the scent of raisins punched me in the face. Though the bar arrived broken due to transit, it was still a beautiful mold to look at. I first tasted the sweetness of honey mingled with the strong grape and almost dry, tar flavor of raisins. As my bite melted the chocolate tasted tart while the raisin flavor increased in intensity. The texture was so smooth and the chocolate melted easily.

This was delicious!!! Usually when I’ve tried bars that list raisin as a flavor note, it’s minimal raisin flavor. This was definitely raisin all the way. The smooth, subtle honey helped balance out the tart raisin flavor. The aftertaste lingered with the light flavor of figs. I’m going to have a hard time sharing this bar because I might just eat all of it today and keep it to myself ­čśë

When I hear stories of chocolate makers who were inspired to start their businesses after being exposed to bean to bar chocolate and experiencing a myriad of deep flavors, I think about what has prevented me from returning to “grocery store” chocolate. My journey in chocolate started in the grocery store and as someone with a huge sweet tooth, getting hooked onto bean to bar chocolate took some time and training my taste buds to appreciate the depth of flavor. I used to prefer rich and creamy chocolates that would feed my sweet tooth. Bean to bar chocolate was more bitter, forcing me to slowly savor and appreciate it. I had a mental road block that first prevented me from truly enjoying bean to bar in that I had to get over the fact that chocolate is originally quite bitter and astringent. I know now that grinding down and using a melanger is used as a “flavor reducer” to decrease some of that astringency, courtesy of Ben Rasmussen. At this time, grocery store chocolate is usually too sweet or waxy for my palate.

I currently look to gelato and various other desserts to satisfy my sweet tooth. Chocolate has become a savory and sometimes still sweet treat, but I don’t use it anymore to gorge myself when I’m stressed out like I used to. In the past I would inhale my chocolate and not ever think about what subtle flavors or notes were in them. Now whenever I try any new chocolate, I automatically as if by habit smell the chocolate, take a moment to think about the scent, then let it melt in my mouth while enjoying the flavor story that unfolds. It personally amazes me to see the changes in my behavior toward chocolate when I compare my consumption of it from around the time when I first started writing Time To Eat Chocolate to today.

The Smooth Chocolator: Made in Australia

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.

 

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