REPÚBLICA DEL CACAO° was established four years ago to rescue one of the most valuable Ecuadorian agricultural treasures: Cacao Arriba.
The origin of the name “Arriba” given to the “Fine Aroma” Ecuadorian cacao comes from a XIX century legend that tells of a Swiss chocolatier who, while navigating along the Guayas river, perceived a strong cacao scent. He was so impressed by this special fragrance he asked some workers unloading cacao from their canoes, “Where does this aroma come from?” They said, “de río arriba,” which means “from up the river.” Since then, this variety of cacao is known “Arriba.”
If you want a little tour of Republica Del Cacao’s geography, more Ecuadorean chocolate history, some fascinating flavor profile charts, and a detailed explanation of their mission (including a sustainability program), check out: republicadelcacao.com. I found the tour quite mesmerizing.
Great, but how’s the chocolate? Let’s start with their 3.5 ounce 75% organic bar, Vinces. There are pronounced floral, fruity, and earthy notes, with very slight hints of leather: a complex, heady mix. As each sensuous second passes, a different flavor dominates. The clean cocoa taste is enhanced by the omission of vanilla. (I happen to love the addition of vanilla, but there’s a certain purity in bars that leave it out.) Well tempered, with a creaminess that nicely offsets the intensity, this bar delivers.
The next three renditions are smaller: 1.76 ounces, and tempered to a snappy gloss.
The first one I sampled was from the Manabi Province (75%). Along with the characteristic fruity profile of the Arriba bean, there was a subtle hint of licorice. I couldn’t detect much earthiness, which made it easy to eat, and the texture was a tad less creamy; but, it didn’t need that textural boost, as the floral/fruity flavors were milder than the Vinces bar.
My next choice was from the Los Rios Province (75%). On numerous occasions, I have read of a particular chocolate having floral notes and can’t for the life of me detect them. Here, however, there are definitely present along with a really well-balanced creamy texture, and some fruitiness. This is a delicious bar. It’s interesting, but not too interesting. Very well balanced, easy to scarf down, and satisfying. A great choice for someone who wants to investigate the higher cacao percentage offerings, but still feels a bit wary.
My last tasting was their El Oro province (67%). Again, the predominant flavor was fruity, though, a bit gentler and sweeter. Another winner.
After tasting these bars, I have a new theory: many chocolatiers claim their beans have a fruity flavor when in actuality they are bland, boring, or banal. Republica Del Cacao’s chocolate really is redolent of fruit, yet complex. It’s a captivating combination as it delivers depth without gustatory challenge. Often, the most appealing chocolate is multi-layered, aromatic, with a perfectly balanced creaminess. These bars are all a bit earthier than that, but still offer a high-end experience.
If you are looking for a truly haute chocolate, try Beschle’s Quizas, but if you want something that in one bodacious bite takes you on a mini-trip to Ecuadorean heaven, this is it.