People’s creativity knows no bounds. In recent weeks I have been emailed invitations to chocolate tastings where either essential oils or fragrances were paired with chocolates. Some say essential oils and chocolate are plant-based, go through various incarnations to be fully enjoyed, and, therefore, marry well. Perhaps. Since I have not tried chocolate while inhaling lavender, mint, or bergamot oil, I don’t know. It may ratchet up the experience into gustatory heights I can hardly imagine. Then again, it may adulterate the zen reverie I have come to associate with really excellent chocolate.
Years ago Calvin Trillin, a foodie if there ever was one, ranted against what he called “stuffed stuff with heavy,” referring to over-adulterated meals served at very posh restaurants. I was reminded of that phrase when contemplating these pairings, since it seems as if the essence of chocolate tasting is to taste the chocolate. One day, in my dotage, I may open a shop called Chocolate Qua Chocolate (chocolate just for itself). That’s a little tongue in cheek, since I review all types of chocolate products; however, there is a special spot in my personal heaven for purveyors of single origin bars. These people put their hearts and souls into every aspect of sourcing and production in the hope of achieving chocolate nirvana. Luckily for chocophiles, they often achieve that lofty goal.
Mindo Chocolate Makers are the new kids on the block, but you would never guess it from their wares. Exceptionally luscious bars in 67% and 77%. Their organic Nacional beans come from farmers and co-ops in the Pinchicha province. They ferment, roast, sun dry the beans, and conch them for 36-48 hours in a stone grinder to achieve a rounded smoothness. Naturally, each batch is slightly different, reflecting that season’s growing conditions. Once the nibs are flown to Michigan, the bars are made with only three ingredients: cocoa beans, cocoa butter (sourced from the same beans) and organic evaporated cane juice.
It is this incredible purity and attention to detail that puts them in a class with DeVries, Amano, Askinosie, and others with atypically high standards, who are reshaping American’s taste for quality chocolate.
Both bars were well-tempered, and emitted a dark chocolate scent that could only be enhanced by actually tasting them. The texture is superb, thick, almost chewy, and satisfying in a food-like way. One bite and you know this is the real thing. Their richness, depth of flavor and fruity aroma made me an instant fan, though I must confess to a special fondness for Criollo beans.
I could talk to you about the dark plummy notes of the 67% or the slightly leathery aftertaste of the 77% but, frankly, parsing out my perceived flavors seems a bit useless. You will taste what you taste, and that will depend on many factors, the weather, what you ate earlier in the day, your mood, whether you’re giving the chocolate your full attention, hormonal shifts, etc. All I can say for sure is these are a worthy investment. It’s like art: even with the greatest art history background, you either like something or you don’t. Education may help you appreciate a painting, glass of wine, or chocolate more, but no amount of information can make you like it. In addition, your tastes are always changing and evolving. The more chocolate of this ilk you sample the more discerning your palate becomes.
Back to Mindo. Each 100 gram bar is scored into 28 little rectangles which makes it easy to enjoy just the right amount in every bite.
I also had a chance to bake a fallen chocolate mousse cake with their unsweetened large discs, and it came out exceptionally well. That complex, deep flavor profile made for an amazingly delicious dessert. In addition, they offer a fantastically satisfying unsweetened, non-alkalinized cocoa powder for hot chocolate, baking, smoothies, sauces, etc.