Art Pollard, the owner of Amano Artisan Chocolate (amanochocolate.com), is a chocolate maker with a mission: produce the ultimate chocolate in small batches using the very best quality beans. To insure that the beans Amano uses are the creme de la creme he pays farmers and co-ops more for their product than is set by “fair trade” organizations.
Art sent me three of his bars to try. Let’s start with my favorite, the Ocumare which, incidentally, was one of the finalists for outstanding new chocolate product at the 2007 Summer Fancy Food Show. I heartily agree with their choice. The chocolate, from Venezuelan beans, has a rounded flavor that leans towards the fruity spectrum. The texture is smooth and it melts perfectly in the mouth. What I especially liked about this bar was the lingering taste. It somehow managed to be earthy and refined at the same time–quite an accomplishment. It’s rare to get a chocolate of this quality from an American manufacturer.
Next, I tried the Madagascar. Its texture is snappier, it has a shorter fruity finish, and I found it a bit less creamy than the Ocumare. I like beans from Madagascar, but I love Venezuelan cacao so there was no contest for me between the two.
Their Cuyagua limited edition bar is made of beans from the remote valley of Cuyagua, near Caracas. Apparently, it is home to some of Venezuela’s oldest cocoa plantations. The bar combined the wonderful texture of the Ocumare with a slightly more complex bevy of flavors, including some spiciness, but only enough to make things interesting. This bar may be the most balanced of the three, but because it’s also more complex than the Ocumare I would enjoy it in small portions. That’s easy to do because Art’s bars are all two ounces.