Category Archives: chocolate sites

Chocotenango

Chocolatier and Co-Owner of Chocotenango Aberrahmane ‘Ismael’ Neggaz a native of Algeria, has been a professional chef since 1994. He started his career as a pastry chef in England, and went on to work in some of the finest restaurants and hotels in London, Boston and Washington, DC.

With a Pastry Arts degree from Newbury College, a Professional Chef’s Diploma from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and having studied sugar work under Chef Ewald Notter, and chocolate-making at L’Ecole Chocolate and Barry Callebaut’s Chocolate Academy, Ismael’s versatility and experience is well suited to chocolate making.

Chocotenango was born in Antigua, Guatemala in 2005 and means “The Place of Chocolate.” This focus on terroir, micro climate, farming techniques and processing bring out the unique character of each bean.

As you might imagine, Chocotenango’s bean to bar wares have garnered a multitude of awards.

The crisply tempered bars arrive in attractive re-closable thick paper envelopes with an inner foil wrapping. I love being able to eat chocolate neatly. The fewer shards that get on my clothes the happier I am.

All the bars I tasted were beautifully tempered and gave off a fetching chocolate aroma.

90% from Guatemalan Chivite beans is as extreme as I generally want to go. This bar showcased the bean’s inherent fruitiness, a great choice for a 90% bar as it makes it gentle, rather than bitter. I would definitely include this in a chocolate tasting as many people won’t venture into the high altitudes of cacao—usually anything over 75%—on their own, and it’s interesting to experience a purer version of the bean.

85% made with organic Alto Beni beans from a cooperative in Bolivia is as intense as you might expect of a bar in the stratosphere of percentages. Made with only cacao and organic sugar, its smooth texture, lack of acidity and bitterness make this a a good choice for people exploring markedly less sweet chocolate.

73% Duarte from the Dominican Republic has all the earthiness I expect from this bean balanced by the elegance of dark fruits. The slight edginess, dryish finish, and creaminess all conspire to make this very satisfying.

70% made with beans from the Maya Mountain Cacao collective in Belize, consisting of 350 small farm cacao families in the Toledo district, is also a pure rendition of beans and organic cane sugar. I found myself re-tasting this bar as it offered up a nuanced series of surprises: cherry, apricot and pineapple.

70% with beans from Chivite, Guatemala has a cinnamon spiciness that woke me up from the first bite. This pristine bar, like its cousins, made with only beans and organic cane sugar, has a velvety texture highlighted with fig and plum flavors, with a brightness that reminds me of chili, though none is added.

73% organic Dark with Cardamom is also a purist’s dream with only three ingredients: beans, organic sugar and cardamom. I have to confess that I add five whole cardamom pods to my Lundberg Farms Short Grain brown rice before cooking. It imparts a delicate sweetness with its blend of citrus, mint, spice and herbal flavors.
When paired with Duarte beans from the Dominican Republic, it highlights the acidity while adding a spiciness reminiscent of mild chili.

73% Maya is a dark bar with chili. While I can really adore intensely spicy chocolate, I appreciate a little restraint when it comes to chilies as I want to taste both the heat, as well as the bean. It takes a deft hand to put in only enough spice to augment the cacao without having it steal the show. Nicely done.

54% Happy Medium is a good bar for people who want to move into a higher cacao range, but still crave a gentle milk chocolate.

54% with raspberries, even though it’s made with the same base as the plain version, was entirely different. The tart freeze dried raspberries give it greater acidity and fruitiness. Quite craveable.

64% dark with cocoa nibs on its base is a perfect combination of a not-too-strong chocolate heightened by the addition of crunchy little nibs. I am a huge fan of this trend to use nibs on bars as it amps up the cacao content in an unthreatening way…at least, for those folks who are not yet living in the 70% and above range.

64% Sea Breeze, a dark bar with sea salt, takes the chocolate up a few gustatory notches with the edginess of salt. This is no revelation for those of you who already scarf down dark and dark milk chocolate with sea salt; but, if you aren’t yet among them, it’s a marvelously exciting pairing.

54% Kaffee, a delightful mocha bar made with dark milk chocolate, has a lingering just brewed flavor that isn’t overpowered by coffee.

54% Zanzibar with nutmeg, sea salt and chili has the spice and heat apportioned very judiciously. This is not an intensely hot bar; rather, it offers up a melding of flavors that in these balanced proportions enhances the chocolate without claiming all your attention.

Last but not least, I have to tell you about their Bonbons. That’s what they call them, though to me they were like soft center truffles. Either way, they were just scrumptious. In a class by themselves. The flavors sang. I loved the vibrant, essential nature of each one. These little trips to gustatory nirvana are encased in a perfectly tempered thin dark chocolate shell. Their current flavor offerings are: coffee caramel, lemon popyseed, chili caramel, tropical passion fruit & mango, raspberry caramel, and rosemary & fig.

Eldora Craft Chocolate

Happily, we live in an age where you can learn anything online. Steve Prickett, founder of Eldora Chocolate, studied online through Ecole Chocolat, a Canadian company. Apparently, he was a star pupil as his chocolates offer an embarrassment of riches.

Steve has a real passion for discovering different beans from around the world. So far, he has made chocolate from 24 countries, comprising 31 different origins; and, he’s always on the look-out for more.

I love his approach of bean to bar chocolate making. Depending on the nature of the beans, he adjusts his process to bring out and enhance its essence. The result is a cornucopia of bars, truffles and energy balls.

As you already know, chocolate has amazing powers. Among them are its ability to change your brain chemistry. This salubrious effect gets amped up when chocolate is paired with chili peppers. Three of Eldora’s 70% bars deliver that potent chemical experience.

All of the following are made with well-tempered Guatemalan Chivite beans.

Chili Blast lives up to its name. Made with 70% dark chocolate, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, red chili, pink peppercorns, chipotle, black salt and vanilla, it really packs a punch. Not only did I feel an immediate warmth in my mouth, I also notice the lingering heat. The effect is comfortably intense.

The Zesty Mango Pinon bar, also 70%, is enhanced with mango, Aje chili, tangerine, piñon and five spice powder. Pinon are pine nuts, and they added a wonderful richness and crunch to this heady mix. Not overly spicy, but definitely mysterious and seductive with its undercurrent of flavor and heat.

Mole Mole, 70%, has a generous sprinkling of mole powder on its underside. (Mole is usually made with chiles, tomatillos, dried fruits, spices, and nuts. All are roasted and ground into a fine powder or paste). Not too spicy or hot, its slightly dry finish went well with the creaminess of the chocolate.

70% Dark with Toffee is a great pairing of this complex, earthy Guatemalan Chivite bean with shards of toffee pressed into its base. I love the extra hint of sweetness and and crunchy texture. This toffee is definitely the adult variety and tastes of butterscotch, cream and vanilla.

70% Dark with Tart Cherries brings out the opposite end of the taste spectrum by sashaying its acid/sweet/chewy cherry presence close to its satisfying dark chocolate dance partner. Another winner.

70% Dark wirth Lavender and Lemon doesn’t have any added vanilla which keeps its clean, fresh taste unalloyed. The floral notes from the beautifully fresh purple flowers embedded on the bar match well with the restrained use of lemon. This allows the citrus to enhance, rather than overpower, the chocolate and lavender.

50% Dark Milk with Almond is a tried and true combination of roasted nuts on a slab of dark milk chocolate with a lovely crunch, and just the right amount of creamy sweetness.

85% dark with Macadamia and Coconut is only for those who crave a super dark chocolate experience. Coconut flakes, coconut milk powder and macadamia nuts add a lovely texture but not much sweetness.

I also sampled a few of their truffles, each of which was deeply flavorful and incredibly fresh. Blood Orange, Boubon, Green Chile Biscochito, and 9 other enticing flavors await you, all are large and very deserty. The melt-in-your-mouth caramel has a perfect texture: lightly chewy and creamy…redolent of butterscotch.

Eldora makes 70% single origin one ounce square tablets that I was quite smitten with. All are made with only three ingredients: nibs, organic cocoa butter and organic cane sugar. This lets the bean’s true characteristics shine. I tried three:

Tanzania Kokoa Kamili, 2018, is made with beans from a central fermentary based in Tanzania. They currently work with over 2,000 smallholder farmers, most of whom farm between 0.5-2 acres of cocoa. Kokoa Kamili pays a premium well above the market rate to farmers and conducts its own fermentation and drying. The chocolate evoked citrus, tamarind, molasses, lemon balm and nuts.

Dominican Republic Zorzal, 2019, is a very eatable bar with notes of cherry and apricot.

Guatemala Polochic, 2017, was a 2019 silver award winner from the International Chocolate awards and I can see why. It’s very balanced and satisfying with hints of caramel and roasted nuts. Farmers of this delicious bean live in 35 communities though out the Polochic valley.

A percentage of all profits go to support Kiva, the Heirloom Cacao & Rainforest Project.

Crow & Moss

I have been writing chocolate reviews for a many years. The one thing I am always struck by is the incredible passion chocolatiers bring to their work. Mike Davies, the founder of Crow & Moss, is no exception. One day, as he was driving home from work, he was suddenly overcome by the desire to learn how to make craft chocolate. Within a few months he was up and running. Crow & Moss now makes artisan chocolate in one hundred pound batches in their 2000 square foot factory in Petoskey, Michigan.

I sampled six of their beautifully tempered offerings. This is a pure chocolate experience, no vanilla. All Mike’s bars are sweetened with organic cane sugar.
The packaging is easy to reclose, and the bars themselves are divided into 28 easy-to-break little rectangles. Their abundance make me think there’s more chocolate; and, slow down my enjoyment.

70% Dominican Republic Zorzal beans made for an exceptionally mellow, rich chocolate with layers of caramel and cherry. The tasting notes say there’s some spiciness in this bar, I didn’t discern it. To me it’s quintessentially eatable: not too challenging, acidic or astringent; just a very satisfying chocolate experience.

70% Honduran Wampusirpi had a little edge. I like that. It woke up my senses. There were hints of roasted nut, a memory of the soil, and a slightly creamy texture with a nice lingering finish.

70% Columbia Aruacam, made with only beans and organic cane sugar, had that same creamy texture, if a bit amped up, with an earthier profile of cashew, dried plum and honey.

67% Bolivian Rose Salt is made with Columbian Aruaca beans and Bolivian Rose Salt from the Andes. It’s always amazing to me how the addition of a little salt changes the complexion of the chocolate. The astringency from the salt really perks things up and brings out aspects of the bean waiting to be catalyzed.

67% Brazilian Santos Coffee had a dusting of finely ground coffee on its base of Columbian Aruaca chocolate. It delivered a perfect balance of mocha, that classic coffee and chocolate pairing.

67% Ginger Snap had the same Aruaca base with tiny bits of ginger snap cookies sprinkled on its base. The hint of brown sugar, molasses, fresh ginger and other spices lent a wonderfully subtle, yet still quite disceranle, flavor to this bar. The more of it I scarfed down, the bigger fan I became.

Mies van der Rohe wasn’t always right: sometimes, more is more; but, in this case, whether it’s the addition of pink salt, coffee beans, or ginger snaps less is definitely more. I found myself noticing the nuances of these additions far more than I might have if they had been larded on.

Crow & Moss offers free shipping for any order of $25 or more; a wonderful incentive to try new artisanal chocolate bars.

Cocoa Parlor

I am happy to report that it’s becoming de riguer for chocolate companies to source their beans ethically, pay cacao farmers a decent wage and improve their living conditions. Cocoa Parlor does all that and uses organic beans from the Dominican Republic.

Their bars weigh in at 2.82 ounces, or 80 grams. there are 28 sections and they break cleanly. The package design is cheerful and inviting. They keep it simple which helps the cost stay lower than you would expect for quality chocolate: $5 a bar. I sampled seven of the 16 they offer. All were well tempered and appealing.

Night Train, a 75% bar with nibs was a very easy-to-eat dark (for those of you who eschew anything over 70%). I happen to love the inclusion of nibs as it really heightens the bar’s intensity. The chocolate itself had a lovely complexity I have come to associate with beans from the Dominican Republic. Its fruitiness makes it a good choice for people who don’t like any bitterness, acidity, leather, or coffee flavor in their chocolate.

Simple Pleasure, a bar with roasted hazelnuts and Himalayan pink salt was perfectly balanced. Its nutty crunch was perked up with just the right amount of salt. (Maybe someone can explain to me why hazelnuts are so much more popular in Europe than the US, except in Nutella, of course. They are so rich and delicious; especially, when roasted.)

Cowboy Up 70% with toasted almonds and Himalayan pink salt was another deliciously textured offering.

Popped Quinoa 70% had a different appeal as the quinoa offers up a gentler, smaller crunch and allows more of the chocolates personality to shine.

Jungle Peanut in 35% milk chocolate had the largest roasted nut pieces. The nuts are sourced from the wilds of Ecuador and accented with that same pink salt. These peanuts definitely tasted different from the ones I typically eat. More rustic, more natural, with a milder peanut taste. You might think this bar would be quite sweet, but it wasn’t, even though it had a fairly light milk chocolate base.

Into Dark 80% was a nice fruity ultra dark bar. It was intense, but not bitter. Very satisfying.

Dark Perfection 70%, with a tiny bit more sugar, was a touch less intense.

In addition to the cocoa mass they use, they add cacao butter and cacao powder, but no vanilla. This allows the bean’s true nature to come through.

They also make a very popular non-chocolate Quinoa Bar that’s made with cacao butter. It’s packed with almonds and gluten free. Great for campers, gym rats and meal skippers.

Goodnow Farms Chocolate: Brown Butter, Spiced Apple Cider, Columbia 73%

Trust Tom and Monica at Goodnow Farms to create new craveable single origin and innovative inclusion bars.

I recently sampled three of them and wanted to share my thoughts before they sell out.

The first one, a limited release, is 77% Spiced Apple Cider made with Zorzal beans from the Dominican Republic. Like all their chocolates, it is superbly tempered, incredibly fresh, and conched to a point that leaves the finished product meltingly smooth. They use fresh pressed cider from a local orchard, add Macoun apples with their characteristic tang, and a hint of cinnamon. The spice is applied with great restraint, adding a subtext without hogging the narrative. Despite the high cocoa content, 77%, it’s all too easy to scarf down.

Using the same Zorzal bean, but in a 70% version, they offer a Brown Butter Chocolate bar. I know this may sound like a Portlandia joke, but the butter is sourced from High Lawn Farm where the cows can trace their lineage back 15 generations. All kidding aside, I prefer dairy from happy bovines. The addition of Brown Butter ups the creaminess ante without overpowering the depth of the bean’s profile, an earthy but still sophisticated chocolate with a slightly dry finish.

It was the 73% Columbia Boyaca that stole my heart. An incredibly fruity chocolate with layers of flavor that don’t let up. As with the previous bar, the finish is a touch dry, but the complexity of the bar and the creamy texture is memorable. The bean’s origins are just as captivating as the chocolate; you can read about it here: https://goodnowfarms.com/our-chocolate/boyaca/

I have to say a word about their user-friendly packaging. The cardboard envelope keeps the bar from breaking, while the inner cello wrapper is easy to re-seal for keeping everything fresh. It may sound unimportant, but it adds a lot to my joy when I don’t find chocolate shards on my clothing or furniture.

How to keep your chocolate costs down while still enjoying a cornucopia of choices.

“One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.”
Iris Murdoch

How we rationalize spending money on our passions is as individual as we are. I consider the pleasures many people enjoy, like theater, sporting events, and travel, all things I don’t often crave; then, I convince myself I’ve just saved a fortune by not doing them. In comparison, that $10 chocolate bar is a bargain; especially, when I think of the joy it’s likely to bring me.

Here are some ways to save on your chocolate purchases.

* Subscribe to your favorite chocolate company’s newsletters. This will insure you’re notified when they have a flash sale or other promotion.

* Take advantage of free shipping. Sometimes there is a minimum, but there are two sites that offer free shipping every day, without a minimum purchase:
Caputo’s Deli and Worldwide Chocolate.

* Get a subscription to Moka Origins monthly two bar deal. It’s $20 a month, including shipping. They pick the two bars, but you’re notified every month before your box ships so you can cancel if that month’s selection doesn’t appeal to you. The wonderful thing about that plan is you get to try limited edition bars, new flavors, or seasonal bars.

* Check out the bargain basement at Chocosphere for soon to expire bars they offer at a two-for-one price.

* Some companies, like BOHO chocolate, offer special incentives on a regular basis, like 20% off all bars with a minimum purchase of four (they’re each 3 ounces) with free shipping. This is an especially wonderful deal if you’re mailing gifts.

* Check out end of season and after holiday sales.

Mrs. Mason’s Brittles

Holidays are often a time when you give yourself a cosmic permission slip to indulge in something a little sweeter. I may typically gravitate towards darker chocolate when it comes to daily consumption, but there are times when I crave something truly different from my normal fare.

If you’re looking for impressive holiday gifting, the packaging is really lovely. Gold boxes, or bags, with French wired ribbon and a sprig of holly berries.

Mrs. Mason’s Brittle has a cornucopia of treats that are irresistible to anyone who loves the ultra richness of chocolate drenched toffee in a flavor to fit every craving.

I sampled five of their confections, all of which were super fresh.

Apple Crisp is crunchy and sweet with a very slight chewy texture, a compelling mix with its dried apples and walnuts. A light dusting of cinnamon and brown sugar on top of the white chocolate topping make it perfect for the holidays.

Chocolate Covered Cherry is a delicious combination of Michigan cherries, topped with a thick layer of dark chocolate.

Heart and Soul is crammed with whole, roasted and salted peanuts and raisins. It has a double layer of chocolate, first white, then dark. The creaminess of the chocolate against the crunch of the nuts, chewiness of the raisins and crunchy-slightly-chewy brittle is a full orchestra of textures and flavors.

Orang’ You Sweet is that classic combination of dark chocolate and orange with the added twist of cashews and brittle. Another incredibly satisfying experience.

XOX offers all the creamy chocolate, crunchy nuts and brittle with the addition of tartness from the dried cranberries. Here, the nuts are pecans and cashews. The topping is white chocolate and the result is destined to satisfy any sweet craving you might have.

If you’re a baker or a home chocolate temperer you might want to know about their Crumbles, the too-small pieces that get left on the cutting board. These would make an amazing topping for a cake, brownies, cookies or chocolate bark.