Author: Lori (Page 1 of 21)

Upchurch Chocolate Unboxing and Review

Alex Brito agreed to meet up with me at Lamplighter, a local coffee shop in Richmond, to chat about chocolate. My siblings joined me for the morning because they were eager to meet one of the names behind Upchurch Chocolate. Alex smoothly sailed up to my siblings and I on a longboard (I think that’s what it’s called) and handed me a simple yet elegant box emblazoned with the Upchurch hot air balloon logo and filled with several of his bars. This was the first time I had met up in person with a chocolate maker who was so generous to share the product of their hard work with me! Go here to watch my unboxing!

Alex and his friend Alexander Burlingame originally started Upchurch together after trying some high quality chocolate and getting hooked onto the flavor punch. Alex told me that he was working TWO JOBS on top of maintaining Upchurch with two other people helping him with the chocolate making process. His plan was to drop one of the jobs so he could put more focus on Upchurch. Alexander has had to leave Upchurch due to a geographical and career move (best wishes to him!), leaving Alex Brito solely in charge. Upchurch to this day remains as the first and only bean-to-bar chocolate maker in Richmond!

I highly recommend checking out this article to learn more about the backstory of Upchurch chocolate and how the Richmond community, including my alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University, helped rally around and support Upchurch!

When Alex chatted with us, he shared his thoughts on changing the packaging of his bars. They are bright and colorful to begin with, but the original design was quickly put together. This time he was able to put more thought into the design he wanted on his bars, putting his graphic design skills to great use. The new packaging will still maintain their bright, colorful appearance, but (if they continue with the design examples we were shown) the packaging will contain images that will portray the personality of each bar. You’ll have to see for yourself when the new look is launched!

I’m still blown away by Alex’s generosity in sharing so many of his bars with me, and I absolutely had to share them on Time To Eat Chocolate!

Every bar has the same mold which reflects the fabric pattern seen in the hot air balloon logo.

I’m starting with what I know is my favorite, The Sassy Bar! If you aren’t sure what flavors you could be tasting in this 72% Madagascar bar, Upchurch has helpful tips on the back of the bar saying they tasted raspberries, fruit punch and lemonade. The bar had a bright fruity and partially earthy scent. The flavor was tart with bright fruity flavor notes that definitely reminded me of lemonade and raspberries.

The Bouncy Bar contains goat milk. The flavor notes listed by Upchurch are frosted flakes, jam and vanilla. The bar had a sour scent that reminded me of cheese. Admittedly I’ve never had goat milk before, so I’m not sure what to expect. The goat milk flavor wasn’t as strong as the scent. To me the flavor reminded me very much of goat cheese. I can’t say I tasted any of the notes that were listed on the bar’s packaging, but the boyfriend liked the tangy flavor that the goat milk gave the chocolate. It reminded him of the goats on his grandmother’s farm ­čÖé

The Party Bar had a subtle woody and berry scent. The tasting notes are listed a birthday cake, peach and blueberry. Immediately once it was in my mouth, I tasted what reminded me of moist birthday cake, caramel and some tartness mixed with berry flavor. The flavors evolved into subtle but bright berry and fruity flavors. Then my bite ended with some astringency and caramel flavor. Now I’m going to want to eat some cake ­čÖé

The Hype Bar contains coffee and the tasting notes listed for it were s’mores, rocky road ice cream and Oreos. Earlier this week I ate the equivalent of a package of the new mocha Oreos (I have no shame), so I’m totally ready for this bar! The scent of the bar was strongly of coffee and what reminded me of bourbon or whiskey with some sweetness of mead. I tasted the coffee first followed by what reminded me of apples and honey. The fruity and sweet flavors drowned out the coffee midway through my bite. It wasn’t until toward the end that I tasted the coffee again with lingering fruitiness. I didn’t feel like I tasted Oreos, but its good to know that some people may experience that flavor in this bar ­čÖé

Alex told me that he wanted to grind down the nibs more to give the chocolate a smoother texture. The bars used to have a grittier texture, which I definitely did not mind at all! I could see that Alex successfully obtained the smooth texture he wanted ­čÖé I think The Sassy Bar remains as my top favorite bar out of the four followed by the Hype Bar since that was a very interesting flavor experience for me.

If you are in Richmond or plan on stopping by there, go to For the Love of Chocolate or the Union Market to pick up and try some of Alex’s bars! If you can’t drop by, you can always place an order online.

Upchurch Chocolate: Made in Richmond, VA

 

Woodblock Chocolate

I’ve had Woodblock’s sesame bar before, but that was probably a few years ago and definitely way before I started writing Time To Eat Chocolate. I wish I had remembered how it tasted! These bars came into my hands when a friend visited Oregon, asked me what chocolate makers were based there (it’s a LIST!), and brought these two Woodblock bars back ­čÖé

Woodblock was started by Jessica and Charley Wheelock who dreamed about making chocolate and stood firm on making chocolate using only cacao and sugar. I’ve always loved their simple yet modern and eye catching wrapper designs, and it makes sense they’d look great since Jessica has a background in fine art (Charley’s background in industrial design keeps their machines running). The couple started in their home kitchen before moving into a larger space not far from their house. They were warmly welcomed by their Portland community and partner with local businesses such as the ice cream shop Salt and Straw.

Since I haven’t had Woodblock often, and it’s hard for me to find it in my local chocolate shops, I remembered them by their wrapper design and their simplicity but classiness. Again, I’m super excited that my friend was willing to bring these bars back for me so I get to try Woodblock again!

The Sea Salt bar smelled like mocha, nutty and bright fruity. With the salt side down, the sea salt was mild but noticeable. The flavor was immediately nutty and like mocha. As my bite melted, some astringency developed with bright fruity flavor that mingled with the nuttiness. The astringency didn’t stay for too long and it went back to nuttiness and mocha. According to Woodblock’s website, this bar is made up of cacao from two origins, but it doesn’t say on the wrapper nor on the website what those origins area.

The Madagascar Sambirano bar smelled like tropical fruit. I always think of mango when I think of and smell tropical fruit… The flavor was also like tropical fruit and astringency developed as my bite melted. I think it’s the “bright and cheerful” flavor that Woodblock described. Like the sea salt bar, the astringency did not stay for long and through the end it was just fruity bliss. Woodblock also listed dried fruit flavors for this bar.

I liked the sea salt bar more because after tasting and then setting aside the bars for a day, I kept thinking about that sea salt bar. I hope someday I can try their sesame bar again, and I’m intrigued by their floral bar to represent the city of roses (ie. Portland).

Woodblock: Made in Portland, Oregon

Amedei Part 2: Chuao and Number 9 Bars

If you want to read the first part where I tried Amedei’s Tocano Red and Tocano Blond bars, go here! Otherwise, let’s move on to a couple of bars that have more flavor depth to them.

Number 9, 75% bar
This bar smelled nutty and fruity. My bite started as a flavor combination of tartness, earthiness and a touch of sweetness. Then it turned into a earthy and nutty combo halfway through my bite with a hint of astringency. Toward the end, the earthiness melted away to just nuttiness. It had a very interesting flavor story and you can see why Amedei has pride in calling their chocolate “complex.”

Chuao, 70%:
This bar smelled nutty. (Why do all Amedei bars smell nutty to me? The boyfriend agrees with me on this too.) At first my bite tasted a little tart, berry-like and nutty. The tartness went away halfway through my bite, but the berry and nuttiness remained. My bite ended with just nuttiness. The boyfriend tasted hazelnut and blueberry.

I liked the Chuao bar better. The 9 bar had more tartness/astringency than I personally like. I just got an order containing Amedei’s hazelnut bar that I’ll be trying soon. I don’t think I’ll write a blog post about it, but I’ll be sharing it on Instagram. Click on the icon on the right side bar to see my Instagram page and keep an eye out for that hazelnut bar!

Amedei: Made in Tuscany, Italy

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.

Attempting to temper chocolate for the first time…

We all know that the summer months means taking a risk when ordering or mailing chocolate in hopes that it miraculously survives and doesn’t melt at any point of its journey. So many factors can affect the the chocolate from the time it leaves the seller to when it arrives at the doorstep of the customer. Unfortunately this late spring and summer have resulted in at least three of my packages of chocolate suffering due to the heat and due to USPS not placing my package at the doorstep but rather in the mailbox, which becomes an oven and a poor place to keep the chocolate until I can retrieve it.

I asked on Instagram for input on whether there were ways to somehow resuscitate chocolate that had melted. I got responses to retemper the chocolate from two chocolatiers. But… I’m a blogger, not a chocolate maker nor a chocolatier and I wasn’t sure what I would need to perform such a task. What if I needed to invest in some kind of large equipment to do this? So I turned to William Marx of Wm. Chocolate, who has been very patient and knowledgeable whenever I’ve asked him my chocolate questions. He agreed that my chocolate would need to be retempered, but he mentioned a product I had never heard of before and never knew existed that I could easily use.

Silk.

What is silk? It’s tempered cocoa butter! What makes it different from untempered cocoa butter is its crystal structure. According to Chocolate Alchemy, the crystal structure is Type V, which is pure and aggressive. A quick Google search says Type V crystals are a form of cubic closest packed (ccp) (or cubic closed packed or cubic close packed) structures where the atoms are packed together as tightly as possible so there is very little space between them. For a visual of what a ccp structure looks like, go here.

Will was very generous in mailing me some of his own silk to try out for retempering bloomed bars! I followed the Chocolate Alchemist’s instructions and watched this video in preparation for what I had to do. I also had to order an infrared thermometer and chocolate molds ahead of time.

These were the items I used for retempering.

Pardon the not-so-neat handwriting. This was the equation and my calculations for determining how much of the silk to use.

Measuring out the silk. Even though I needed 0.7g of silk, apparently the scale I used isn’t the most sensitive. The smallest amount it could weigh was 1g, so… thank goodness silk is pretty forgiving material!

I melted the bloomed bar using a double boiler. I don’t have a melanger.

Using the infrared thermometer, I monitored the temperature of the melted chocolate and waited for it to get to around 94 degrees. Then I added the silk, waited 2 minutes, stirred it again, placed it into the mold and tapped out air bubbles.

I was advised to try putting the chocolate in the fridge for 25 minutes to let it set.

After 25 minutes, the chocolate was still a little soft and the chocolate hadn’t fully pulled away from the mold. So I let it sit for another 25 minutes while checking it a couple of times.

After the second set of 25 minutes, the chocolate had fully pulled away from the mold and the bar easily fell out. There was some marring on the face, however I now have more respect for chocolate makers that can somehow make their bars look shiny and perfect straight out of the mold.

So which bar did I retemper? My mom was very kind to mail me some Pump Street Bakery chocolate. The first shipment arrived fully melted and bloomed. The second shipment thankfully seems to have arrived intact. After retempering, the bar still had a “bready” scent to it. I was worried that it would have absorbed food odors while setting in my fridge. Right out of the fridge, the bar had a nice, sharp snap. Though after sitting at room temperature for a few minutes it became soft. I was able to taste the sea salt, milkiness and crunch on the rye bread bits. I’ll have to compare this experience to when I taste the un-retempered version of this Pump Street bar.

Though the process overall was simple and easy to perform, I did encounter some issues. Even though I have a picture above showing the chocolate reaching 94 degrees before I added the silk, the entire bowl of melted chocolate wasn’t actually 94 degrees. Depending on where I aimed the thermometer, I would get anywhere from 88 to 90 and then finally 94 degrees. It was definitely not consistent. I’m not sure if I needed to boost the heat for the water for my double boiler, but the Chocolate Alchemist was correct in that my chocolate was thicker in consistency when it came time for molding since it probably wasn’t fully at 91 degrees at that specific step.

I think I need a new scale to weigh out the silk. Despite taring the scale and measuring both with and without the small plate, the scale still only read 1g. When I attempted to remove some of the silk to obtain 0.7g, the scale actually started to read a higher weight. I may look into purchasing a new more accurate and sensitive scale for future tempering projects. Usually in the lab (my day job) we have plastic “boats” to weigh chemical powders in, and I don’t have such material in my kitchen, but I might try using parchment paper instead (which I’d also have to get).

I need to explore my options for setting the retempered chocolate. I don’t want it becoming soft after sitting in room temperature in case I wanted to store it in a cabinet and taste it later for the blog. Though Will had another bit of advice in that if tempering was not an option, he would melt down the bloomed bar and taste the melted chocolate. It’s not ideal for determining the original snap of the bar, but you could still technically detect the flavors of the chocolate.

I’m otherwise happy with my first attempt at retempering chocolate and I’m excited to give a try again! I might purposefully force some bars to bloom to practice on ­čÖé

A big thank you again to Will from Wm. Chocolate for providing the silk, for answering my questions and for being supportive in a blogger attempting to temper! He is based out of Madison, Wisconsin, and if you haven’t tried his chocolate before, I definitely recommend giving it a go. I’ve tried a couple of his bars before and hope to get my hands on more of them in the future when temperatures outside are cool again.

 

Harper Macaw – The Political Collection

I finally got the chance to get my hands on a couple of Harper Macaw’s Political Collection bars while attending The Emporiyum food event in Baltimore, MD, in April. I’ve wanted to try them for a while, and having them to celebrate Fourth of July is perfect with their red, white and blue colored packaging! With Harper Macaw based out of Washington, D.C., it’s just fitting that they would have a politically themed line of chocolate bars. They’re very popular since both online and when I visited their table at The Emporiyum several of the bars were out of stock. To view all of the available politically themed bars, go to their website here. I especially remember during the presidential election these bars seemed to be grabbed up quickly ­čÖé

The Red State bar looked pretty on the back with dried bits of strawberry and raspberry sprinkled on. The scent and flavor was of berries with some tartness. The chocolate itself was smooth in texture and had bright fruity notes. Since I enjoy berries in chocolate, I really liked this bar!

The Left Wing bar had a creative picture on the front depicting protesters. The bar had a nutty and savory scent from the hazelnuts. The flavor of hazelnuts was the dominant flavor throughout my bite while the chocolate was subtler and creamier being 67% cocoa.

The design of the Flip-Flopper bar reminded me of playing cards. I really like the creativity of the packaging for all of the political bars! The bar smelled like sweet toffee mingled with salt, altogether reminding me of butterscotch. The combination of sweet toffee and sea salt hit my taste buds first followed by the creamy 52% chocolate. The toffee was fine and crumbly in texture and didn’t get stuck to my teeth.

I tasted the inclusions in all of these bars more than the chocolate, which makes me think these are great for introducing people to craft chocolate who aren’t ready to dive into plain single origin and higher percentage bars. I can’t recall if other Harper Macaw bars I’ve tried earlier said this, but on the back of the packaging it asks that the packaging box be recycled and that the foil sleeve is also compostable since it’s made of wood pulp. I’d be curious to hear how wood pulp is turned into this kind of sleeve. The next time I get the chance to purchase some Harper Macaw, I want to try the rest of their Political Collection bars!

Harper Macaw: 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.

 

Amedei Part 1: Toscano Bars

I’ve been meaning to blog about these Amedei Toscano bars for a long time because up until now, I’ve probably consumed three or four of each of these ­čśë Once I get a bar in my hands, it’s gone the next moment. This time I had some self control to not inhale them right away so I could take some photos and notes of what I tasted. Keep an eye out for Amedei Part 2 where I try Amedei’s Chuao and Number 9 bars!

If you aren’t familiar with Amedei, you need to get your hands on some ASAP! They’re relatively pricey, but they don’t have a name for themselves for nothing. Before moving on to my thoughts on these bars, I recommend reading my post where I attended an Amedei tasting event at The Chocolate House in Washington, D.C., and got to hear from an Amedei representative about the companies’ story.

Toscano Red

This bar smelled like berries and slightly nutty. As my bite melted, the tartness and sweetness of the berries were the star of the show. Even though the berries were dried (strawberries, cherries and raspberries), they gave an addictive chewy texture. Toward the end of my bite, nutty flavors came through. The fruitiness and nuttiness lingered in the aftertaste. The texture of the dried fruit was what got me hooked onto this bar. I’m already eager to get try it again ­čÖé

Toscano Blond 

This bar had an earthy and nutty scent. Tartness and sweetness of apricot┬ámixing with nuttiness from the chocolate took over my taste buds. There’s an umami-like savory quality to the chocolate that I couldn’t describe but sets Amedei apart from others. The texture was slightly gritty from the apricot bits and the chocolate itself. The aftertaste still contained apricot and nutty flavors.

Both bars are equally addictive! If you like fruit in your chocolate, definitely give these guys a try. If you can’t find them in a store near you, check their website or order through Chococurb, which I’ve been using lately to obtain these fruity addictions.

Amedei: Made in Tuscany, Italy

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 Subscription – June

I’ve tried a few Raaka bars before, but I hadn’t ever signed up for their First Nibs Subscription. What’s the deal with First Nibs? People who have signed up to this subscription get to try experimental bars, or get first dibs on limited edition bars. It’s also a great way to try new inclusions and flavor combinations that aren’t popular or readily available in chocolate. What pushed me into signing up for First Nibs was that two out of the three bars in June contained green tea. If you’ve been following my blog for a few months, you’ll know that green tea + chocolate is one of my top favorite combinations ­čÖé

Normally I take photos and then describe my thoughts on chocolate. I’m experimenting and thinking of changing things up a bit. Before I started blogging, I had considered starting a YouTube channel to review chocolate products, but I didn’t have the courage since putting yourself in front of a camera is daunting if you’re more reserved like myself. But video is an easy way to in one shot show and talk about a chocolate bar. Depending on my schedule and how things go, I might continue making videos. Another benefit from making videos is that I’m horrible at verbally communicating my ideas and thoughts to groups of people and from some of the YouTubers I watch, a few have claimed that making videos improved this skill for them.

In my video (here), I was going to review all three bars, but then I lost a lot of my footage, so… I’m just going to be revealing this First Nibs batch there. Also, I learned after making the video that I mispronounced “genmaicha”… can’t say I’m proud of that since I have Japanese blood in me and I should have known better. (Sorry, mom!) Lesson learned for future potential videos, ensure the pronunciation is correct!

If you’re done watching the reveal, we can move on to the best part… tasting them!

Hibiscus Cinnamon

This bar smelled floral and subtly spicy. I tasted a combination of sweet, fruity, floral and spice. The spice was subtle at first, increased mid-way through my bite, then turned subtle through the end. Hibiscus was the dominant flavor throughout my bite. I really liked the floral, fruity combo here! The boyfriend also tasted these bars with me and he described this bar as bright and vibrant.

Genmaicha Crunch

This bar smelled nutty from the genmaicha and quinoa. The strong nutty and subtle earthy flavors of the tea and quinoa seemed to bring out the sweetness of the chocolate. There was a light, crunchy texture from the quinoa. The flavor of genmaicha was more detectable halfway through my bite. The boyfriend didn’t taste it until toward the end. There was a very, very subtle bit of astringency in this bar.

Hojicha & Bitter Orange 

The boyfriend informed me that hojicha is green tea that is smoked. I could barely detect the scent of orange from this bar. But flavor-wise, orange was the dominant flavor of this bar. I couldn’t taste anything that was reminiscent of hojicha, but the boyfriend was able to detect it, though subtly. I will say, usually I don’t like dark chocolate and orange. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem to create this spark of, “This is delicious.” But this bar did it for me!

I liked all three of these bars, but I kept returning to Genmaicha Crunch because the crunchy texture was addictive for me. The boyfriend also like all three bars, but had a preference for the Hojicha & Bitter Orange bar. He liked the subtle back-of-the-throat smokiness.

If you’re interested in trying something new that’s outside of your chocolate flavor comfort zone, or you just want to keep the ball rolling on trying new flavor combinations, I recommend signing up for First Nibs.

I also want to mention that part of my inspiration for making videos is due to Estelle Tracy, who was also nervous about making video reviews, but was brave to go forward with them anyway! Inspiration also comes from Victoria Cooksey, who always appears confident and knowledgeable in her videos. Check out both of these ladies and show some love and support for them in their chocolate journeys!

Victoria Cooksey

Estelle Tracy

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.

 

 

 

Christopher Elbow

Thank you to Chocolate Stars USA for recommending and sending me these Christopher Elbow bars! These bars are new and will be introduced during the Summer Fancy Food Show, though you can also view them on their website. Since I will not be able to attend the Summer Fancy Food Show this year, I am very grateful for the opportunity to experience a tiny part of it through these bars ­čÖé

Christopher Elbow is an artisan chocolatier based out of Kansas City, MO, and though this is my first time trying his chocolate, he is well known and his chocolates are sold in a variety of stores across the country including my local Chocolate House in D.C. He uses his signature chocolate blend as the base for most of his products and you can see some behind the scenes pictures of the chocolate being prepared on this tour of his factory. To learn more about what brought Christopher into the world of chocolate, I recommend watching this YouTube video.

For some Q&A with Christopher, you can also watch this video where he mentioned his shop starting out at the size of 400 square feet and selling 21 flavors, which remain popular to this day. In the video they mention the minimalistic design of the shop, which translates into the packaging as well. I couldn’t help but admire the simplicity of the packaging. When I shared these bars with coworkers, one of them said it look fancy because of the packaging.

The bars below are part of Christopher’s Signature Artisan Gourmet Chocolate Bar Collection. Besides the ones I’ll be sharing below, there are six other bars that will be introduced during the Fancy Food Show.

We’re starting off with the simple but ever popular 70% Dark Chocolate bar. It had a deep chocolatey scent. The texture was very smooth as my bite melted on my tongue and the chocolate had a combination of nutty, slightly floral and fruity notes. The nuttiness lingered in the aftertaste.

The Dark Rocks bar was voted the best bar by the Food and Wine Magazine!┬áThis bar I sampled with coworkers before I even started writing this post. My coworkers and I had previously been addicted to the Fireworks Oreos, which contained pop rocks. Because we could no longer find Fireworks Oreos, this bar helped make up for the loss. The chocolate seemed creamier in flavor compared to the 70% Dark Chocolate, and the light popping sensation filled my mouth almost immediately. This is a very fun bar, and if you let the chocolate melt on your tongue, the popping goes on for a long time! One of my coworkers said the sensation was “airy.”

The scent of lemon and ginger was very faint from this bar, but once a piece of chocolate was in my mouth, I immediately tasted tartness of lemon and that sharp bite of ginger. From the outside of the bar you can’t see the candied ginger pieces, but once the chocolate melted in my mouth a bit, I could munch on the crystalized ginger bits. As someone who is still getting used to ginger in their chocolate, this bar was not bad at all! The light texture of the ginger was pleasant as opposed to bars with chewy or hard ginger pieces. For the majority of my bite, the lemon and ginger became subtle flavors while the chocolate took the spotlight.

The spicy scent of cardamom was very obvious and upfront from the Coffee Cardamom bar. My bite started off with strong cardamom and subtle coffee and chocolatey flavors. There were very subtle crunchy bits from the ground coffee and cardamom. Halfway through my bite, the cardamom grew subtler but the back of my throat got some of that spicy kick. This chocolate melted quicker on my tongue than the others and the coffee and cardamom lingered in the aftertaste.

The Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter and Toasted Corn was a bit softer due to the warmer temperatures. The bar definitely smelled like peanut butter and I could see corn bits on the back. Once I bit into the bar, I immediately tasted the flavor of popcorn, salt, butter, and peanut butter. The texture was a mixture of smooth and crunchy from the milk chocolate and corn bits. Sometimes I get a craving for milk chocolate and peanut butter. This bar hit the spot for that craving ­čÖé This reminded me of a Salazon bar I’ve tried before┬áthat contained peanuts and popcorn.

Any leftovers from sampling these bars will definitely be shared with coworkers so they can experience these flavor combinations, especially since the Dark Rocks bar was popular! There’s a Blueberry Lavender Dark Chocolate bar by Christopher Elbow that I definitely would be interested in trying if I get the chance. Best of luck ┬áfor the Christopher Elbow chocolates at the Summer Fancy Food Show! Definitely give them a try if you are able to attend the event, when you next visit Kansas City, or make an online order.

Christopher Elbow: Made in Kansas City, MO

Chocolate Stars USA

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. 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.

50 States: Vermont – Blue Bandana/Lake Champlain

Exploring chocolate makers from as many of the 50 states as possible has been quite a journey! I’m grateful to have fellow blogger, Trish, by my side because tackling a project like this would have taken forever and it’s more fun experiencing a shared adventure ­čÖé Thank you so much, Trish, for helping me, lending your time and ideas and for making this possible!

I’m kind of sad to wrap up this project but I’m also glad because my “side stash” of chocolate that I want to share on here has continued to pile up. The increase in temperatures has also discouraged me from making more online orders, which is a good thing because once I get through that stash I want to shift my focus back to what’s local to the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., area again.

Not only am I celebrating finishing up the 50 States project with Trish, but I’m also celebrating 200 blog posts on Time To Eat Chocolate! Thank you so much to those who have been reading and following my blog, who have been encouraging me on my journey and to the chocolate makers who I’ve had to chance to connect with. Time To Eat Chocolate is very much a personal journal of the chocolates I’ve tried, but it’s also been a wonderful way to connect with fellow chocolate lovers, bloggers and chocolate makers.

Let’s move on to the last chocolate maker I’ll be covering! To represent Vermont, I am trying Blue Bandana. I was surprised to find out that Blue Bandana is basically Lake Champlain! I’ve shared a few Lake Champlain bars on Time To Eat Chocolate before, and I had no idea at the time that they had another line of chocolate bars under the name Blue Bandana.

Blue Bandana was started in 2012 by Eric Lampman, the head of R&D at Lake Champlain and son of the original founder of Lake Champlain Chocolates, Jim Lampman. Blue Bandana was created out of the┬á“desire to go deeper into the chocolate-making process.” Even though Eric grew up being very familiar with chocolate, he hadn’t gone to where his cacao originated from and at the time, he didn’t thoroughly understand the process that it went through before it came into his hands. He took a trip to the Dominican Republic to visit small farms and he came back with a greater appreciation for the work that went into preparing cacao.┬áThe name Blue Bandana came about because Eric would wrap a bandana around his face to protect himself from the dust created when he was winnowing the beans. The wrappers used for these bars also have a bandana-like pattern. I like the simple and clean look!

All of the bars have the same mold and appearance.

The back of the bar has the same faded square pattern as the original Lake Champlain bars.

This bar smelled fruity, sweet and like toasted coconut. The flavor was definitely reminiscent of brownies but also astringent. Halfway through my bite I tasted toasted coconut and in the aftertaste I got some nutty notes. The astringency stayed throughout my entire bite from the beginning into the aftertaste.

It’s cool seeing a bar using cacao from the Akesson farm. Ever since I tried a couple of Akesson’s bars, I’ve been more aware of other chocolate makers who obtain their cacao from them. This bar smelled like cranberries, apple and basically like the fall season. It tasted a little earthy and tart, but just like cranberry and lemon. The tartness of lemon and cranberry stayed throughout the rest of my bite.

This is the first time I’ve seen “roasted cherry” as a flavor note. The bar smelled and tasted like cherry. Throughout my bite it tasted like cherries and chocolatey. Because this bar wasn’t as tart or astringent as the others, and the cherry flavor was smooth and pleasant, I liked this bar the best out of the three that I tried.

When I attended a Lake Champlain factory tour a couple of years ago, they said that Whole Foods was their largest customer. Even though Lake Champlain seems quite large compared to other bean-to-bar companies, all of their bars you see at Whole Foods come from their single factory in Burlington, VT. I’m glad to hear that Lake Champlain has ventured into bean-to-bar! I hope that in the future Blue Bandana will be available at Whole Foods along with the original Lake Champlain line. They could help introduce everyday consumers to craft chocolate.

Blue Bandana/Lake Champlain: Made in Burlington, VT

Make sure to head over to Eating the Chocolate Alphabet to see which state Trish will be closing this project with on her end!

Other chocolate makers in Vermont are:
Kerchner Artisan Chocolate
Middlebury Chocolates
Pinnacle 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.

 

 

 

Hello Cocoa

Preston from Hello Cocoa took on the challenge of sending me these chocolates during the first heat wave that hit the mid-Atlantic area, and though he did an excellent job with packing everything, USPS decided to leave the perishable package in the sun. Sadly the truffles did not do so well. I did not want to sample the truffles because while I let them sit around room temperature to re-solidify, I’m guessing some condensation stayed in the packaging and caused the truffles to grow mold. Preston, please don’t worry because I definitely want to try your truffles but I will wait until fall rolls around again! In the meantime, you can find Hello Cocoa’s truffles here and here.

Despite the outcome of the truffles, the bars miraculously survived! Only the Mocha bar showed some blooming, but I’ve tried and enjoyed this bar before. Some blooming will not prevent me from demolishing this bar ­čśë I’m going to taste the rest of the bars before I finish with my favorite Mocha bar.┬á┬áMy boyfriend joined me in sampling these chocolates and I’ll include his thoughts. We usually taste different flavors in chocolate, which is great for getting two different views and feedback.

If you want to read a bit about Hello Cocoa’s story, you can find more about them here┬áfrom when I first tried a couple of their bars!

74% Venezuala

This bar smelled bright and fruity. I tasted citrus and with a touch of astringency. Midway through my bite the chocolate tasted floral along with the citrus flavor. These two flavors lasted through the aftertaste. The boyfriend tasted cherries and tartness. The Hello Cocoa website lists the tasting notes as gardenia, light apple, strawberries and cream.

70% Dominican Republic

This bar had a strong fruity scent that reminded me of mangos. Throughout my bite I enjoyed the tropical fruitiness that I’ve usually experienced when tasting chocolate made with cacao from the Dominican Republic. The boyfriend said this bar tasted “milkier and brighter,” and like raspberries and pear. The flavor description Hello Cocoa uses is “bold, fruity flavor.”

Ooh La Lavender – 64% Dominican Republic + Lavender + Honey + Vanilla

The back of the packaging says that each lavender bar purchase helps support the I’Mindful Gives Back Foundation, which in turn teaches veterans, firefighters, police officers and other non-profit organizations about “awareness, compassion, non-judgment and emotional intelligence through the practice of mindfulness.”

The scent of lavender was strong from this bar. I first tasted the sweetness of honey followed by the lavender. Every once in a while there was a crunch from the cocoa nibs. I didn’t taste the vanilla until the end of my bite. What’s nice is that though lavender was the dominant flavor, it wasn’t overpowering my taste buds. The boyfriend tasted lavender, honey and vanilla. Honey and vanilla were very subtle for him. He liked the lavender being the dominant flavor.

57% Uganda

This bar had a cocoa-ey and earthy scent. I was pleasantly surprised that it tasted like coffee and cream! At the end of my bite it tasted a little nutty as well. The boyfriend said it tasted like a cappuccino to him. Coffee + chocolate are one of my favorite combinations, so this will be a contender with the Mocha bar as my favorite by Hello Cocoa. I won’t be surprised if after the tasting we finish the rest of this bar! Hello Cocoa’s tasting notes for this bar are coffee, toasted coconut and blackberry.

Spring Fever – 57% Ugandan Cocoa + Dried Apricots + Basil

I remember the first time I tried this bar was when we went to the first D.C. Chocolate Festival. My boyfriend and I sampled this bar and we were both amazed by the combination. The scent of basil was light.  I first tasted coffee (due to the Ugandan cocoa) before I detected basil. The basil started off subtle but increased in strength as my bite melted. It never overwhelmed my taste buds. The dried apricots gave a nice chewy texture and bits of fruity flavor. The boyfriend also liked the combination of apricot with basil.

Mocha – 52% Dark Milk Chocolate + Mama Carmen’s Black Apple Espresso

I’m finishing with what I usually refer to as my favorite bar by Hello Cocoa! It had an apple and deep espresso scent. The chocolate had creamy, strong espresso and subtle apple flavors. According to Hello Cocoa’s website, Mama Carmen’s is a local coffee shop and the chocolate is from the Dominican Republic. The boyfriend also liked this bar and said, “It tastes like real coffee rather than imaginary coffee” (referring to the Ugandan bar) ­čÖé

Will the Mocha bar remain as my favorite Hello Cocoa bar? I’m kind of torn now between the 57% Uganda, Spring Fever and Mocha bar. If I absolutely had to choose just one bar, though, I’m staying with the Mocha bar. I liked that it combined fruity, coffee and creamy flavors.

Thank you again, Preston, for the chance to try all of the Hello Cocoa bars! I will return for the truffles later in the year!

Hello Cocoa: Made in Fayetteville, AR

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. 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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