Just when I thought I had heard every cool thing one could know about chocolate and its production here comes Hoja Verde with their factory right on the equator. Since 2014 it has been in Cayambe, Ecuador, bisected by the equator. One half is located in the northern hemisphere and the other half in the southern hemisphere.
Their beans, the now famous Arriba or cocoa Nacional, are sourced from an area above the Guavas river in Ecuador. I have written about them before as their lovely floral notes and lack of bitterness are fairly legendary.
Let’s start with the four bonbons, all made with 58% dark chocolate. I have an affinity for chocolate with passion fruit and this little gem combined them in a happy marriage of crisply tempered chocolate encasing a delicious filling of passion fruit, whole milk and sugar. Rich, sweet, and decadent. Guava was also stellar. Mint, with its creamy green filling rang in at a perfect pitch of sharp coolness, while tangerine had a surprisingly mellow citrus flavor.
I also sampled eight 50 gram bars, each with 14 rectangular pieces. The 50% dark milk bar was just luscious. There’s nothing like a great dark milk chocolate and this one hit a home run with its adult, not-too-sweet flavor, snappy temper, and smooth texture.
There are three 58% bars, all somewhat sweet, but still full of dark bean complexity and depth. One had crunchy peanuts embedded on its side, another was mixed with toasted quinoa, giving a more subtle textural interest, and the third was infiltrated with chia seeds that gave it a slightly more pronounced crunch.
The remaining bars did not have add-ins, which allowed for the full flavor profile of the beans to come through. All had a firm temper. The 58% and 66% bars have 4 grams of sugar per 10 grams of chocolate. The 66% was far more layered, reminiscent of dark fruits and dusky florals. The 58% was better suited to the three previously mentioned bars. 72% was sublime. Those same dark fruity notes with chestnut and a perfectly balanced long dry finish. 80%, an almost black chocolate, was also immensely satisfying as it had everything the 72% offered plus a deeper, earthier, perfectly rounded flavor not easily achieved in an 80% bar. To me, Arriba beans shine in the bars with higher cacao content as they bring a softness to what might otherwise be too intense.