Monday, March 9, 2009

Original Beans - Cru Virunga

Holy crap, I just spent $15 on one chocolate bar. Actually....$30 on two bars but I am only going to discuss one of them now. I am only half way through the other and refuse to rush something so delightful. Yeah, it's good.

Original beans packages their chocolate in some of the most beautiful packaging in the chocolate industry and promises to plant a cocoa tree for each bar sold. You can go to and use the code from my bar to see my tree (2S30E.) I have always liked the idea of paying more money for chocolate (I'm not kidding) because economics dictates that if people pay more for something suppliers will likely produce more. This company does not let greedy capitalists decide on supply and demand....they just plant a tree which is good too. One of the worst parts about chocolate industry is the part about farmers not getting their fair share due to warlords and screwed up governments (especially in the Ivory Coast and Ghana.)

I was honestly worried about what I consider "charity chocolate." I was concerned that the makers may have been more concerned about their cause than excellent chocolate.

I was pleasently surprised. The bar was well done and left me wanting more. While the bean from the Congo were probably not the most exotic in the world it felt like they were treated with great care. The chocolate had a shiny finish with a clean break. A gentle bitterness and very slow, smooth melt endured the entire time the chocolate was in my mouth. Quick flashes of cooked red wine and mild citrus came and went but what was most interesting was an aftertaste that will sound worse than it actually was. About 20 minutes after eating a piece of this bar I found myself wondering if I had recently eaten Mexican cuisine. The aftertaste of cumin was slight but noticable. I love the complexity of chocolate.

Valrhona - Chuao 2002

My expectations were high as I opened up what might be my last Valrhona Chuao bar ever. I have tasted the bar on many different occasions and usually include it in a dark chocolate tasting because of its unique flavor profile.

Chuao cocoa beans come from a small village in Venezuela only accessible by river (or sea if you believe the back of the old Valrhona box.) I am tasting a bar from 2002 because the entire cocoa supply from Chuao has been cornered by Amedei, the Italian chocolate maker born from Valrhona's snootiness. The story goes that the founders of Amedei were originally in the baking supply business in Italy when they approached Valrhona. They wanted to bring the beauty of Valrhona chocolate into Italy for the first time....but were turned away having been told that Italians would not appreciate such fine chocolate. So the Italians returned home, set up a chocolate manufacturing facility, and out bid Valrhona for one of the most unique chocolates in the world, Chuao.

So this may be my last Valrhona Chuao bar ever, and I was disapointed. The spicy glory that made this bar one of the most unique I had ever tasted was gone. I am guessing that age is finally taking its toll on this bar. Though the bar was still in perfect temper and showed a shiny lustor, the intricacies were gone. A slight hint of orange cream was all that appeared for a moment only to fade quickly into general chocolate malase.

I used the word "malase" and so must end this post immediately.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rausch Plantagen Schokolade - Tembadoro 80%

If the bar from Tobago was entitled "Tobago" then why is this bar from Trinidad named "Tembadoro?" I'm so confused.

The last bar of my Rausch quartet had the highest cocoa content of all, 80%.

I must stop here for a brief side bar. Please do not let cocoa content sway your thoughts on a chocolate bar. Different beans processed by different people will yield different results. Cocoa content is only 1 of the many factors artisans must decide on when making chocolate. Above all, do not let yourself become one of those people who looks down on those who cannot handle extremely dark chocolate. Liking pure, 100% cocoa content chocolate is not a sign of toughness or refinement of palette, it simply means you like it.

Back to the chocolate. The last bar gave me something to hope for. The odor of the bar was distinctly different from its fallen brethren. There was a brightness that made me think their would be some sour, tangy angle to enjoy....alas....just another boring chocolate bar. It was not overly bitter for a bar with 80% cocoa content, but it was not special either.

Rausch Plantagen Schokolade - Tobago 75%

Bar #3: Tobago from....wait for it.....Tobago.

Let's skip all the fancy intro, this bar was just like the previous two from Rausch. It had a generic chocolate taste to it with a slight spark of coffee. By the end of the week I was as sick of these chocolates as I am now of writing about them.

Rausch Plantagen Schokolade - El Cuador 70%

Bar #2 from Rausch was of Ecuadorian descent. The 70% cocoa content was promising as I tend to enjoy chocolates most between 65% and 75%. The finish and texture of this bar was almost identical to the others from Rausch.

As for flavor, there was a hint of nuts as soon as the chocolate hit my tongue. As the chocolate melted any semblance of uniqueness disappeared. This was, again, a very common tasting chocolate. The bar had a very flat finish and left a slightly stale/sour aftertaste upon swallowing.

Rausch Plantagen Schokolade - Amacado 60%

I love family, especially family that buys me chocolate from around the world. My dear cousin and fellow food enthusiast Chloe sent me a few chocolate bars from her most recent trip to Europe. Four of the bars were from a chocolate company I had never heard of, Rausch. Each came as a 40 gram stick that was about 7-8 inches long, maybe 3/4 of an inch wide, and about 1/2 an inch tall. The sticks were segmented into 6 pieces and wrapped in colorful plastic.

The lowest cocoa content bar, the Amacado from Peru, had a very simple chocolate odor. The chocolate was thicker than most bars I have tried and was therefore more difficult to snap in half to get a sense of the texture. The piece broke cleanly as did all the other bars from Rausch.

The flavor of the bar was simple chocolate. There was a moment of orange but it was immediately covered by the general taste of chocolate. While the bar was not outstanding, it was a very good, easy chocolate to eat. There were no off flavors, no hint of anything artificial, and the melt was rich and thick. The lower cocoa content made this bar more candy than chocolate.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Droste 75%

Hello, my name is Jake, and I am a chocoholic. If there is a 12 step program out there.....I don't want it! I was at a drug store and bought all the crappy chocolate I could find. Every now and then you need a reminder of how mass manufactured chocolate tastes. The first of my "remember what you used to like" picks comes from Holland. Ever heard of Dutch processed cocoa? That means they are chocolate masters.....right?


This chocolate comes in "Pastilles," or little, round hockey pucks of brown stuff. The chocolate has an extremely dark color and an almost gray shade. When sniffed....the bar smells like candy. That candy smell displays itself immediately in the mouth. Before the chocolate begins to melt you can taste only taste the vanillin (artificial flavor...much cheaper than real vanilla.)

Once the chocolate melts things get worse. The flavor is flat, showing no sign of tartness or life in general. Bitter, burnt, and scary like a snufalupagus on crack (I just made that up) are three ways to describe this chocolate. This is why people don't like dark chocolate. This is why people think 75% cocoa content is too much. Low quality beans roasted to the point of death. Maybe the gray hue was actually ash?

If you work for Droste and wish to call me to complain about this review....don't.....just make better chocolate.

Pralus Republique Dominicaine

I was so excited to see a new Pralus varietal available on (where I buy most of my chocolate.) While they are some of the most expensive bars around, usually around $10 a piece, each one is very distinct. Almost every bar from Pralus contains 75% cocoa but not one exhibits a strong bitter flavor most associate with high cocoa content.

While I personally feel Pralus makes some of the best chocolate in the world there are some who feel differently. A local chocolate does not carry any Pralus due to the chocolatier's inconsistency. I didn't fully appreciate their complaint until I tasted this bar.

Pralus Republique Dominicaine had a very light color, almost like milk chocolate. The bar broke without a sharp snap and I began to fear the worst. The bar smelled of caramel with a complexity that gave me hope the flavor of the bar would compensate for the lack of firmness.

Once I bit into the bar the weak texture was immediately evident. The bar did not snap, it crumbled. The soft, grainy texture was about as bad as I have ever encountered. While the texture was sad, the flavor was a thing of beauty. A gentle sourness guided me through movements of flavor. Beginning woody, the bar had hints of liquorice and end of mouth that reminded me of chinese plum sauce.

While the room temperature texture was poor, the bar melted like a dream.

I like this chocolate coming out France. If the bar were firmer it would be spectacular.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Scharffen Berger - Tome Acu

My past experience with Scharffen Berger chocolate has been less than stellar. I have found most of their bars to bitter or uninteresting while those around me praised them as some of the best they had ever tasted. I pushed my past experiences out of my mind as I tried to give this new bar a chance. I was encouraged by the following facts:

A. This is the first bar from Scharffen Berger that claims to be single origin
B. They list the batch size (might just be marketing....for all I know 120 cases is a normal run for Scharffen Berger)
C. A brown box that seems to say "Look at me....I'm artisan!"

Here are my thoughts....and a process you can follow to enjoy the nuance of chocolate for yourself.

1. Look at the chocolate - The bar was lighter than what I would expect for 68% cocoa content (That could be due to light roasting, high cocoa butter content, or something else)

2. Smell the chocolate - The bar had a gentle sweetness without any toasted or darker notes (My family laughed at me 2 years ago when I told them to smell their chocolate before eating. Bar after bar had the same "chocolaty" smell.....and then we smelled a bar made in Poland. The smoke smell was overpowering. Sorry chocolate awards for you this year.)

3. Break a piece off the chocolate - The bar broke clean and showed a slightly grainy texture (look for a nice clean break and a smooth edge)

4. Put a small piece in your mouth and either don't chew or only chew a few times - The immediate taste of vanilla appears and then disappears quickly as the chocolate first hit my mouth. As the bar melted a pleasant sourness with a cream cheese taste kept me thinking of chocolate cheesecake.

5. Swallow the chocolate and pay attention to how the flavor changes as you swallow - The bar left me with a nice burnt caramel.

I really enjoyed the latest offering from Scharffen Berger. I look forward to more from their "chocolate maker's series." I just had a thought.....why is this bar the "chocolate maker's series?" Are other chocolates from Sharffen Berger from the non-chocolate maker's series? The accountant's series? Is that why I didn't particularly like them? Who wants chocolate made by a sheep herder???

Since my birthday is coming up my wonderful wife bought me a bunch of chocolate from The first bar from the lot that I will try is a new offering from Pralus, one of the finest chocolatiers in the world.

Boo Yah Chocolate!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Askinosie's Soconusco bar

I started the new year at the beginning of the alphabet with Askinosie's Soconusco bar made from Mexican cocoa beans. This is the first bar I have ever tasted which is made from Mexican beans. The rich history of Mexican chocolate had me excited for something new.

This bar is extremely dark, even for a bar with 75% cocoa content. The bar was beautifully molded and tempered. The shine was beautiful as was the snap when a piece of chocolate was broken off. The flavor from the bar came slowly but powerfully when I first tasted it. I knew immediately that this would not join my list of favorites. The bitter and sour tastes were difficult to describe but a heavy taste of bread was noticeable each time I put the chocolate in my mouth. As struggled to find words to describe the sour, bitter, unpleasant flavor that your are left with once swallowing the chocolate I finally realized that it was similar to bile.

I had a thought that the off flavors may only exhibit themselves once the chocolate was swallowed and my hypothesis was confirmed when I let an entire piece of chocolate melt in my mouth without swallowing. I swirled the creamy chocolate around my mouth and tasted mild coffee notes and bread again.

Next week is a newer bar from Scharffen Berger. I am ready to give this local producer (who has been owned by Hershey since 2005) another chance.