Category Archives: direct trade

Goodnow Farms Chocolate

I must confess, when I look back on my life and whatever joys I’ve been lucky enough to have savored, chocolate is among them. While it doesn’t compare to motherhood or connecting deeply with a loved one, it’s far more reliable. I know, because I have been eating dark chocolate for decades. It has been with me through thick and thin, a gustatory anchor in a constantly ebbing and flowing world.

These days, you can find very good chocolate pretty easily. Excellent, even exquisite, chocolate is less ubiquitous.

As one’s palate gets increasingly educated it becomes ever more exciting to discover new chocolates with their different flavor profiles and unique characteristics.

Goodnow Farms Chocolate has a range to please all your chocolate proclivities while broadening your discernment of subtle differences between percentages and beans.

I usually don’t quote from people’s websites, but the descriptions by owners Tom and Monica Rogan are so evocative I am going to include some. Let’s start with the farmers who grow the Asochivite bean.

“The remote Guatemalan village of San Juan Chivite is perched on the side of a mountain, reachable only by foot. Part of the journey requires crossing a long, narrow wooden and steel cable footbridge across which all harvested cacao is carried by hand.

At the start of the Guatemalan civil war the village was part of a coffee farm, but when coffee prices declined the owner sold the farm and the land ended up in the hands of 64 indigenous Maya families who had been displaced by the war. They began by growing both coffee and cacao but switched entirely to cacao in 2002.

There are now 125 families living in San Juan Chivite, all of whom are descendants of the original 64 families.

When we first visited the village in 2015 the villagers told us one of their most pressing needs was to replace their old and inadequate fermentation and drying area with a new facility that would allow them to improve their post harvest capabilities. We were impressed with the villagers’ commitment to producing high quality cacao and Goodnow Farms agreed to fund the construction of a new fermentation and drying area. The villagers built the new facility themselves, with technical advice from Cacao Verapaz, and began using it for the 2016 harvest.”

The Asochivite 70% bar with maple sugar has only one more gram of sugar than it’s sibling, Asochivite 77%, yet that extra gram, as well as the slightly lower cacao percentage, gives it a beautifully rounded taste. In contrast, the higher chocolate intensity of the 77% lights up the bean’s fruitiness, slight acidity and long finish. I loved both.

The El Carmen bean hails from a Nicaragua farm just outside the town of Matagalpa in Nicaragua’s Central Highlands about an hour’s drive northeast from Matagalpa.

I tasted both bars made with El Carmen beans: the 77% and a 69% with finely ground coffee. The former delivered a real taste of the Nicaraguan terroir without being too earthy. The luxurious, silky texture (something highlighted by the thinness of all their bars) carried notes of dark fruit and raisin to my deliriously happy taste buds. The bar with coffee seamlessly matched the chocolate’s richness with single origin lightly roasted coffee (also sourced from Nicaragua). Sheer delight for those of you who love mocha.

Their Esmeraldas 70% comes from the Salazar farm in Southern Ecuador. The bean is a hybrid of the now-famous Nacional, known for its mellow, fruity flavor. One of the most satisfying chocolate experiences you could ever hope to have. Not surprisingly, it won a Good Food award in 2018.

The 70% Ucayali bar comes from an area at the headwaters of the Amazon in Peru. The beans are sourced from small cocoa farms whose trees line the river’s banks.

I thought this was worth noting: “The Ucayali region is on Peru’s east coast and has long been known for growing coca. While many farmers there once grew coca they have increasingly been turning to fine flavor cacao as an alternative. Part of the reason for this change is the increased price that craft makers like us are paying for premium cacao, and another is an initiative being undertaken by the Peruvian government to eradicate coca crops and thereby reduce the endemic crime it brings.”

The Ocayali bar is beautifully tempered, as are all Goodnow Farms’chocolates I sampled, I was struck by the way its sweeter, fruity presence was punctuated by herbal and slightly acidic notes. Complex and very satisfying.

Almendra Blanca bars, a 60% with almonds and a 77%, look like milk chocolate at first glance, but they aren’t. It’s the lighter color of the “White Almond” beans that threw me off for a second. Tom and Monica give these beans a short, gentle roast which allows the naturally bright, fruity flavor to shine.

The beans are sourced from an 80-year-old family farm in the Mexican state of Tabasco run by Vicente Alberto Gutierrez Cacep. He strongly supports community initiatives and local businesses, including those owned by women.

The Almond bar is creamy, rich, and slightly crunchy as the nuts are finely ground and evenly infiltrate the chocolate. The 77% bar is also velvety, though the intensity of higher cocoa content allows the bean’s natural complexity to sparkle.

If you are seeking a superb chocolate experience, even if you have tasted some of the finest bars out there, I suggest you try Goodnow Farms’ bars. And, while you’re at it, enjoy the beautiful watercolors on their website.

If you sign up for their newsletter you get 10% off your first order.

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Single Origin Chocolate bars: 35%, 65% and 75% At Aldi

Just a quick heads up…at least, for my American readers…Aldi is now experimenting with selling their single origin bars as a regular item. Of course, if no one buys them they will quickly disappear. If you love truly fantastic chocolate I strongly suggest hightailing it over to your local Aldi store and loading up on their 65% and 75% single origin bars. The 75% from the Dominican Republic is delicious. All are UTZ certified, and only $2.49 for a five bar pack so you can scarf them down with a clear conscience.

Double Spiral Chocolate

Stuart & Mhairi Craig, creators of Double Spiral Chocolate, named it after an ancient Celtic symbol resembling the Taoist Yin-Yang. Two opposing spirals emerge from a single line to signify how opposite components can find balance. The opposites they speak of are taste & nutrition. One of the guiding forces behind their company is minimal processing with only 2 or 3 organic ingredients sourced by Direct or Fair Trade: cacao beans (70+%), unrefined cane sugar (non-centrifugal*)and a whole food ingredient like mint leaves, raspberry, ginger, etc.

I sampled the Tanzania 75% Kokoa Kamila and the Haitian 73% with freeze dried banana. While two bars is not a comprehensive review of their wares, it does indicate attention to detail and quality. Their lack of cocoa butter makes for a slightly drier finish. I was quite taken with the banana bar as the character of the chocolate was a great match for the tiny pulverized pieces of freeze dried fruit. The Tanzania bar had a pronounced rustic quality.

Check Double Spiral out if you are a purist who seeks a minimally processed bar that connects you with the bean’s true nature.

*Non-Centifugal Sugar (NCS) – This organic, fair trade, traditional raw sugar is obtained by evaporating water from sugarcane juice. Importantly, there is no centrifugation step to remove the nutrient rich molasses. NCS is produced in sugarcane growing regions around the world, and known by many different names such as panela, rapadura, jaggery, gur, kokuto or muscovado. These have superior nutrient content compared to other ‘brown sugars’, such as turbinado, demerara or refined sugars mixed with molasses.

Madecasse’s Impact Report on Chocolate Farmers in Madagascar

I was so heartened to read this report (see link below) from Madecasse about improving conditions for cocoa farmers and workers. Thankfully, they, Singing Rooster, and many other chocolate companies are changing the economic landscape of the industry. It may seem like a drop in the ocean compared to the impact of huge chocolate companies, but they are all doing what Gandhi suggested: Being the change they want to see, and I am grateful.

https://madecasse.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Madécasse-2017-Impact-Report.pdf?utm_source=Consumer+E-mail+List&utm_campaign=8fc9f743ef-Impact_Report&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_225ed42655-8fc9f743ef-108196097

Harper Macaw

One thing that really captivates me these days in the chocolate universe is a great dark milk bar. Harper Macaw makes one. It’s a 57% Brazilian rainforest direct trade sourced, perfectly tempered, smooth, creamy indulgence that is far too easy to scarf down. Dark milks offer the child in me something a little sweeter and the adult that higher cocoa intensity. If you’re doing a chocolate tasting this would make a great counterpoint to darker, single origin bars.

In that category Harper Macaw has you covered. Their line offers three dark single estate varieties: 74% Vale do Juliana, 75% M. Libânio, and 77% Tomé Açu. I did not sample those, but focused on their limited release 73% Bourbon Barrel Aged bar as a contrast to the dark milk. It was fabulous. Crisply tempered, redolent of bourbon’s lingering presence, rich, velvety, slightly acidic, with a hint of astringency, it sated my craving for a unique chocolate experience. I especially appreciated the slightly dry lingering finish as it etched its flavors into my memory.

Speaking of etching, each bar has a unique design that reminded me of the more angular elements in furniture created by Charles Rennie Macintosh. Just beautiful and unique. The outer wrappers are also works of art, as is Harper Macaw’s logo.

They also have a collection of bars with add-ins related to one’s political leanings. Titled: Tea Party, Left Wing, Red State, Flip-Flopper, Filibuster, and Taxation Without Representation, their inclusions run the gamut from butter toffee to peanuts and pretzels.

Harper Macaw is dedicated to conservation. When you buy their chocolate you help restore and protect deforested or vulnerable rainforest in northeast Brazil. Through partnerships with Instituto Uiraçu, American Bird Conservancy, and Rainforest Trust, they reinvest in the expansion of Reserva Serra Bonita, a cutting-edge rainforest conservation initiative. As Earth’s second most threatened terrestrial biome and the focal point of Brazil’s cacao industry, it is crucial to the survival of their cacao economy and the region’s biodiversity. By supporting innovative approaches in cacao farming Harper Macaw helps insure the health and stability of the region.

Singing Rooster Haitian Chocolate

If you regularly read this site, you already know I was totally blown away by K’UL chocolate. A few days ago I received an email from Molly Nicaise, the CEO of Singing Rooster, the company that exports fermented cocoa beans from Haiti used in K’UL’s bars. Once I started reading about their mission I became even more enraptured. Not only is the chocolate divine, they are an über socially responsible company that is making a difference in the world. As I believe their work deserves more attention, I want to review Singing Rooster’s chocolate bars, and share a bit about the way they work their magic.

Singing Rooster was established in 2009. They partner with small-holder growers of coffee and chocolate to alleviate poverty in Haiti.

They serve as:
Agricultural and business consultants
Organizers of pre-harvest financing
Primary buyers of crops and products at premium prices
Product transformation: creating higher value items (like roasted coffee or chocolate bars)
Business guiders, developers, and cheerleaders
Equitably distributing economic gains
Creating new markets and special sales opportunities

Singing Rooster offers an opportunity to directly support vulnerable farmers, help reforest Haiti, and build rural economies.

Singing Rooster exceeds every aspect of fair trade: they pay farmers a minimum of $3/lb for coffee crops & return another .50 cents from sales.

They use proceeds to help farmers with agriculture improvements, business management, and replanting Haiti’s deforested lands with tens of thousands of coffee and cacao trees. Haiti gets a whopping 66% from every sale!

There is minimal job stability in Haiti with 70% of Haitians unemployed; sustainable jobs are required for autonomy. Haiti’s potential as a self-sustaining country rests, in part, with economic development: job creation, product improvement or design, and opening up international markets for Haitian goods like coffee, art, and chocolate.

Meaningful employment is one path to autonomy, self-sustainability and dignity.

According to The World Bank, economic growth in agriculture is more than twice as effective at reducing poverty as growth in other sectors of the economy. Coffee and cacao play important roles in Haiti’s rural economy: they provide income diversification. There are thousands of jobs in coffee and cacao, and new seedlings are environmentally essential for reforestation and soil management.

So far, Singing Rooster has put over $1,000,000 directly into the pockets of farmers.

Unlike the bulk of the world’s cacao, Haiti’s organic crops represent the top 3% of cacao produced on earth.

I sampled four of their bars, all of which were made with 70% Kafupbo single origin chocolate, a luscious Criollo/Trinitario hybrid.

Orange Crunch, a gustatory celebration of vibrant citrus flavor with roasted nibs, is complex, wildly textural, and full of super rich chocolate flavor. Each aspect of this bar compliments the others, creating a unique combination of sweet and slightly acidic flavors in a velvety chocolate base.

Lemon Ginger is a delicious blend of organic cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, sunflower lecithin, and natural crystalized ginger with lemon oil. It’s positively addicting with the yin/yang play of sweet crunchy ginger and slightly tart lemon. Deep, dark, creamy Haitian chocolate rounds out the experience.

Pure Dark offers an unadulterated experience of that lovely smooth texture, hints of licorice, red fruits, and jasmine.

Cinnamon was just fantastic, but I love a little heat with my chocolate. The combination of chile and cinnamon was like a far more complex Red Hot with creamy dark chocolate. A real winner.

You can buy those, plus other chocolate bars, nibs, and coffee from their website: http://www.singingrooster.org.

Georgia Ramon Bean To Bar Chocolate

While Keats once said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” when it comes to chocolate it’s all about the ephemerality of the experience. Perhaps, the beauty that fades quickly is precious because of its fleetingness. When I eat a piece of amazing chocolate and know the flavor, texture, and aroma are with me for only the briefest moment, I can savor them with a different kind of attention. Chocolate from Georgia Ramon reminds me how great chocolate can bring me fully into the moment. The visual joy of their packaging, the tactile and auditory pleasure of the reclosable interior cellophane sleeve, and the quality of their beans all invite a gustatory reverie.

Georg Bernardini and Ramona Gutmann founded Georgia Ramon in 2015, but this is no novice chocolatier. Bernardini has over 27 years experience in chocolate, patisseries & confiserie. His career has taken him from Bonn and Munich to Paris and Toulouse.

In 1992 he and Oliver Coppeneur founded Confiserie Coppeneur et Compagnon. While there, he set up the company’s bean to bar chocolate line. Ramona spent two years working at Confiserie Coppeneur in Bonn as a shop manager.

Georg wrote the definitive book on artisanal chocolate: “Chocolate – The Reference Standard.”

Georg and Ramona value sustainability using many organic ingredients and beans sourced from cooperatives, or plantations Georg has been working with for years.

Before I even tasted any of the eight bars they sent me, I was captivated by the flat, rectangular cardboard envelopes adorned with unique designs that went from an insanely beautiful Dia des Muertos themed painting on their Haitian 80%, to a floral hippie-inspired pattern on the 100%.

Each bar is 50 grams, but the packaging, flavor intensity, and lovely bas relief of Mondrian-like squares made me think it was larger.

Let’s start with the wildest chocolate combo I have ever eaten: Broccoli and Salted Almonds in White Chocolate. This khaki green beautifully thin slab is conched with de-oiled almond flour and air-dried broccoli powder. Then, they add Sicilian roasted and salted almonds. There are 42% cocoa solids. It tastes creamy, green, fresh, and comes studded with tiny bits of crunchy nuts. If you have a curious palate I would highly recommend experiencing this unique vegan bar.

At the opposite end of the cacao spectrum is their 100%, Mountains of the Moon. Made with a combination of Forastero and Trinitario beans from the Congo, it is well-tempered and incredibly intense. The earthy flavor redolent of coffee, spices, and leather.

Georgia Ramon’s 80% made with Haitian Trinitario and Criollo beans is crisply tempered, almost black, rich, and balanced. I am a fan of the 80% range and find products differ greatly. This one is so satisfying that even a small rectangle sated my craving for an exquisitely smooth chocolate with flavors of fig, roasted nuts, and cognac.

Their 70% dark from the TCGA Cooperative in Belize is a gentle, sweeter bar. Like its siblings, it’s beautifully tempered. The flavor is earthy and more straightforward with a slightly dry finish.

If you love the combination of dark chocolate and sea salt, Georgia Ramon offers a 70% with sea salt flakes from the Isle of Anglesey in Wales. It has the same amount of added sugar as the plain 70%, but a vastly different flavor profile. The salt is subtly added, achieving the exact right balance. Enough to perk up the essence of the beans while not overwhelming them.

Super finely ground coffee from the jungles of Ethiopia and cocoa nibs infiltrate every bite of their 55% bar. Unlike many others in this cacao content range, it is not particularly sweet, with 13 grams of sugar in the whole bar. An inventive, perfect combination that once tasted seems as if it should have been ubiquitous for years.

38% white chocolate never dreamed it could embrace beetroot and coconut, but it all deliciously comes together in this bar. The dark ruby-amethyst color looks amazing while the flavor and texture surprise your taste buds. Crunchy-chewy coconut pieces are a perfect counterpoint to the beetroot’s sweetness and ultra creamy texture.

Their 66% Brazilian Trinitarian dark milk bar was delightfully deep, full of terroir, and ground but not conched. Its mildness combined with memories of the bean’s earthy origins, making it another original from Georgia Ramon.