Original Beans

I thought I had laid down a vast highway of neuronal pathways in my brain for all the chocolate I had tasted but Original Beans bars requires four new ones. Each is in a class by itself. Before I tempt you with a rundown of their charms, let us delve into the company’s history and mission, which can be summed up by their motto: “The planet: replant it.” For each bar they sell they plant a tree. You can even look up the number of your bar and track its tree’s progress.

The company was formed in 2006 when a German conservation entrepreneur, a Dutch fair trade pioneer, and an American organic food marketer got together and formed Original Beans.

Quoting from their website,
“For every bar you buy, local community farmers plant a tree that will support the forest; not just rare cacao trees, but a mix of trees necessary for lively biodiversity. Each Original Beans bar contains a lot number, which designates the location of a new tree so that you can track your contribution.
Active replanting is the best buffer to protect old, primary rainforests. As we plant tens of thousands of trees, we curb the farmers’ need to slash and burn the forest for fuel and food. Together we measure the effect of our replanting on wildlife, vegetation, and soils. New cacao trees generate immediate revenue for the farmers, and diverse plantings (teak, for instance) are an investment for future income.”

Each organic bean and resulting bar is as different as its provenance, though they have some similarities. None contain vanilla to adulterate the bean’s natural flavor profile, each is conched (stirred and ground) to a varying degree that in all cases produces a silky texture (the hours of conching is listed on the wrapper), each is unique and presented in thinnish rectangular bars that snap with excellent temper. All are packaged attractively.

Beni Wild Harvest sounded most unusual, so I began my tasting with that. The beans (66%) are sourced during the wet season from a remote group of islands in the Amazon’s Itenez River Basin in the Amazon. The resulting bar (conched for 24 hours) is full of tropical fruit notes mixed with hints of earthy, tobacco flavors ending in a long, smooth finish.

Piura Porcelana (75%) was discovered in the foothills of the Andes by Original Beans. This ultra-rare variety was previously thought to only grow in Venezuela and Mexico. Its fabulous Criollo flavors are redolent with honey, nut, and sweet fruits, like apricot. A very balanced bar that’s easy to scarf down.

Cru Virunga’s beans (70%) hail from the war torn Eastern Congo, in the buffer zone of Virunga National Park. Original Beans works with Wheels for Life to deliver bikes for cacao transport over challenging terrain. The bar is conched for 20 hours resulting in that now characteristic velvety texture that lures you into a reverie of dark red fruit, a hint of forest soil, and a lingering slightly dry finish.

Esmeraldas Milk with Fleur de Sel (42%) goes through a 50 hour conch and comes out tasting slightly of lavender and salted caramel. It is not overly sweet and has a lush finish. The beans are Ecuador’s Arriba variety, also known as Nacional.

If you really love chocolate, and want to help the planet through reforestation, you owe it to yourself to try these bars. You may not like them equally, but each will challenge and seduce you in its own unique way. The thought, love, and care that went into producing this chocolate is obvious from the packaging to the contents.

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