Category Archives: Spicy Chocolate

Endorfin Foods Chocolate

Years ago, when I was raising my children, we belonged to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture program). It was a wonderful experience that brought us closer to the farmers who grew our food. Apparently, the idea appealed to bean-to-bar maker Brian Wallace, founder of Endorfin Foods, and the world’s first Community Supported Chocolate (CSC) box. Just like a CSA, it creates a relationship between the grower and the consumer. Brian’s program sends out a box of chocolates every month with your subscription. These are a combination of products made exclusively for the CSC, like: chocolate covered exotic fruits, truffles, barks, their whole bean drinking chocolate, and a couple of bars from his regular range. Of course, you don’t have to belong to his CSC to enjoy his chocolate as it can be purchased any day from his website.

Brian’s beans are never roasted. They are: fermented and dried on site, then cracked and winnowed, crushed, and stoneground with coconut sugar and coconut mylk before being milled, tempered, then molded into bars.

Like other bean-to-bar companies, Endorphin Foods is trying to be the change it wants to see by paying farmers higher rates for their beans and working only with cacao grown by small farmer cooperatives and estates in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, and Madagascar. This, as you know, bypasses the slavery and child labor used by 70% of cacao farmers in Western Africa.

I sampled five of Brian’s bars, all of which are sweetened with coconut sugar, dairy free, soy free, gluten free, agave free, and GMO free.

From the 80% single origin line I tried the Madagascar bar. Made from Criollo beans, its creamy texture enhanced a dark, fruity flavor profile.

Dark Coconut Mylk Chocolate, 56%, is sweeter with a melt in your mouth texture. It’s a completely different experience from traditional milk chocolate as it has a higher percentage of cacao solids. The coconut milk does not taste like coconut but somehow creates a milkier bar.

Dark Coconut Mylk Chocolate with Coffee and Cardamom, 60%, is a delicious combo of warm spice and coffee.

Dark Coconut Mylk Chocolate with Ginger and Rose, 56%, woke up my palate with its lovely gingery edge and floral essence. Unusual, creative, and very satisfying.

Dark Chocolate Coconut Mylk with Anise and Wormwood, 70%, used a darker base to balance out the heady flavors found in Absinthe liquor: Grand Wormwood, Anise, Sweet Fennel, Melissa (Lemon Balm), and Mugwort. The resulting bar is complex, rich, and slightly addictive.

At the time of this review, you can use the discount code “farmtotable” to get 30% off the first month of your own subscription box at http://www.endorfinfoods.com/subscriptions

Seed and Bean Chocolate

The older I get the more I appreciate something different, as long as it’s not different for different’s sake. When it comes to chocolate, that might be a particularly fabulous bean, a new flavor combination, or just a novel take on a classic. So, smoked Cornish sea salt in a 70% bar, or coconut and raspberry intrigue me.

Seed and Bean is based in Britain and devoted to producing an organic, Fair Trade, handmade chocolate range using beans from four areas: the ‎two volcanic islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic.

I sampled five of their dark bars:

70% with Cornish Sea Salt is a very silky chocolate from Nacional cacao enhanced with a hint of smoked salt. It sated my chocolate craving with its lingering briny edge, and micro-crystals of subtle crunch. A truly excellent bar. The more I ate of this delectable bar the more I loved it.

72% Extra Dark from Dominican Trinitario beans is a deep, layered experience of dark fruit flavors in a very smooth, slowly melting bar.

58% Just Ginger is made from the same bean with the addition of spicy ginger. Here, though, the ginger is not crystalized, but powdered. This allows it to fully infiltrate every bite, adding just the right amount of heat and complexity to a sweeter, creamier chocolate.

72% Chili and Lime is fetchingly hot and citrusy. Not scorchingly hot, but hot enough to grab your attention without making you suffer. The beans are Dominican Trinitarios.

66% Coconut and Raspberry uses São Tomé cacao, a touch of virgin coconut oil, raspberries, and raw cane sugar to create an easy-to scarf-down chocolate. The coconut oil adds just a hint of flavor while complementing the raspberries and velvetizing the texture.

Seed and Bean currently offers 18 different bars, including milk and white options. You can order from outside the U.K. by contacting them on their website. (All the companies I have reviewed are linked on the right side of this page.)

Crio Brü

It is a rare day when someone creates a completely new category of hot drink. In this case, Crio Brü’s brewed cocoa. You brew it just the way you would brew coffee, in a gold filter or a French Press using two tablespoons of roasted, ground beans, for 8-12 minutes.

I sampled two of their many varieties, some flavored and some not. The Cavalla and Coca River. Before brewing, I had to create some cranium space for this completely new experience; luckily, that was easy, as the whole concept is fascinating. Both samples were brewed in a small French Press for 12 minutes. I tried them with coconut milk creamer and stevia and black, the black was much more robust and satisfying, though if you like cream and sweetener you might prefer those additions. Cavalla was a deep, full-bodied drink, kind of a cross between coffee and tea, as it’s not as opaque as coffee and looks like a dark tea. The taste is of cocoa, not chocolate. This is definitely not hot chocolate, but a truly is unique experience.

The Coca River was smoother and less intense, while still creating a lingering subtle cocoa flavor. Both were easily quaffable, and I found myself sorry I hadn’t doubled the quantity.

They don’t suggest making this into an iced drink, but I think that would work well; especially, if you used the same amount of water and three tablespoons of beans.

I also sampled their nibs, and dark chocolate covered roasted beans. The former are excellent in smoothies, trail mix, or scattered on just-tempered chocolate. The latter were divine; yet, so satisfying I found myself having one a couple of times during the day for a quick mini-treat and energy boost.

Mystery Chocolate Box

Mystery Chocolate Box is the brainchild of Peter Messmer. When Peter was growing up, his family had a tradition where one of them would buy a bunch of chocolate bars, remove the outer label, and try to guess what was in each bar. Then, they read out their guesses and the person who brought the chocolates revealed the answers. They found the guessing and the eating a ton of fun, not to mention having a great time together as a family.

Peter and his family found out how different it was to taste what was in a chocolate bar once they already knew the ingredients, from trying to blindly figure out add-ins without any clues. As someone who eats chocolate daily, I can attest to his assertion.

If you aren’t already intrigued and need a bit more incentive, you can win a prize if you guess correctly on their website within a specified amount of time.

The three large bars (each monthly delivery including shipping is $30) arrived in perfect condition with ice packs. Each was labeled Mystery Bar A, B, or C. There was a guessing card, and information on allergies. I have decided not to post my guesses, just in case you are interested in procuring your own Mystery Chocolate Box. Suffice it to say, I am not even 100% sure I guessed correctly, and that’s even after visiting the three websites the bars came from (two of the names were printed on the bars themselves, while for the third nameless one, I did a little sleuthing).

Peter focuses on this as a family activity, which is a great way to do something different and fun with the kids. I can think of plenty of teens, and adults who would love it, too. It could also be a great fund-raiser for your favorite charity if done in small groups.

Emmy’s Macaroons

If you are looking for an intense coconut chocolate treat that is like no other, Emmy’s Macaroons will sate your craving. These chewy raw organic rounds look fairly unprepossessing; yet, each bite is chock-ful of flavor.

I sampled four different flavors:

Choco Orange had a brightness and slight acidity that played off the dark cacao beautifully,
Choco Chili kicked up the flavor with a perfect amount of heat,
Dark Cacao was pure coconut and chocolate, and
Mocha had a wonderfully balanced blend of coffee and chocolate.

The sweetener here is organic raw agave, which adds only five grams of sugar to each chunky disc.
Emmy’s Macaroons are a healthy snack that really taste great.

Note: If you accidentally came across this site and are not really a chocophile, Emmy’s makes a whole range of cacao-free macaroons.

The Chocolate Tree

Whether you are seeking out the unusual or the elegant, you will find a plethora of choices at The Chocolate Tree. This award winning organic, bean to bar chocolate hails from Edinburgh, Scotland.

Among their offerings is a pretty far-out Haggis inspired chocolate: The Chieftan. 32 little dark squares, each redolent of Haggis—yes, Haggis—provide a slightly oaty, crunchy, experience infused with unforgettable warming Haggis spices: black pepper, rosemary, sea salt, coriander seed, mace, and thyme. It’s a heady ride and sates one’s curiosity for Haggis without the sheep’s stomach. Frankly, I had Haggis many moons ago and vastly prefer this rendition. Of course, I am not a Scot and devoid of that collective unconscious connection to the real thing.

In addition to the Chieftan, I also tried two of their supremely beautiful and toothsome small batch bars, wrapped in lovely heavy stock floral paper. I especially liked the surprise of finding two 45 gram rectangles cached within each parcel. The chocolate is molded into a modern bas relief design of leaves and flowers, and divided into eight squares.

Their 50% Dark Milk Ecuadorian Arriba is conched for 60 hours yielding a super smooth, creamy texture that compliments the fruitiness of this renowned bean. A delicious choice for those fond of high quality dark milks.

The 72% Orange & Salt bars using Criollo beans from Madagascar conched for 45 hours, have just enough Pink Lake salt to perk up the flavor and texture of this addictive chocolate. One whiff set me up for the complex, yet subtle, melding of Criollo, essence of orange, and sea salt, all in a well-tempered bar. Incidentally, this one deservedly won the International Chocolate Awards European Silver medal for 2013.

Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé

Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé is a Hungarian bean-to-bar chocolate maker that produces some of the most beautifully packaged and delicious chocolates on earth.

Not only do they know their beans, sourcing organic Madagascan trinitarios and criollos from Åkesson’s and Venezuelan cacao from the Franceschi family in San José de Guaribe, but they offer a wide variety of chocolates for both the purist (single origin bars), and wildly experimental types (seasonal bars).

The company was started by Zsolt Szabad and his wife, Katalin Csiszar, in 2004. Their first products were a line of chocolate bonbons and some seasoned bars. All bonbons were created by Katalin in their small workshop. Over time, she learned the tricks of the trade from a few master chocolatiers (Lionel Gauvin in France, Roberto Catinari in Italy and Michael Recchiutti in San Francisco). Initially, she ran most of the operations, as he still had a full-time job that he later quit to open their first (and still only) shop in downtown Budapest. It was then they started to make their own bean-to-bars. They already had a good relationship with the Franceschis, having visited their plantations in Venezuela where Zsolt studied bean varieties, quality assessment, cultivation, and fermentation practices. From 2008, they gradually introduced their bean-to-bar chocolates. Currently, they produce eight different single-origin tablets, more than 40 bonbons, 20 seasoned tablets, dragees, and other products to tempt every segment of the chocolate loving world.

This year, they won two awards from the Academy of Chocolate. In the seasoned bar category they took a bronze medal for their amazing Olives and Bread bar, which is made with trincheras chocolate, toasted olives, bread and a little hint of olive oil. And, another bronze in the packaging category for the 95% Trincheras.

Frankly, I would give them a gold award for almost all the packaging, as it is both whimsical and elegant. The square bars themselves deserve more accolades for their artistic bas relief designs. Even their stickers are adorable, drawn with a funny little hat askew on a heart sprouting arms and legs. According to Zsolt, the logo has many meanings; among them: “chocolate with love.” The valley shape that the heart is standing on symbolizes Rose Valley (Rózsavölgyi in Hungarian). This where they live, and where the business started. Katalin has degrees in animation and illustration from Manchester Metropolitan. Her artistic flair is evident in everything they produce.

I sampled a variety of their bars, 70 grams each, both single origin and seasoned, and a box of their candied Bergamot in dark chocolate.

Trincheras, is a 70% Venezuelan square slab, which, like all other single origin bars in their range has only three ingredients: cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, and cocoa butter. It was awarded a Silver Medal by the Academy of Chocolate in the “Bean-to-Bar Best Dark Bar” category. These cocoa beans from Trincheras, Venezuela are roasted at very low temperatures to preserve every bit of their natural taste. It is beautifully tempered to a high gloss and firm snap. the flavor is almost Criollo-like with some slight leathery notes and plenty of plum. Its creaminess is balanced by a slightly dry finish.

Criollo 71%, from the Åkesson estate, was a lovely, smooth, lighter chocolate with a wonderful undercurrent of hazelnut. It tasted more complex to me than other criollos. This particular bean is a rare and wonderful find from the Sanbirano Valley of Madagascar.

Madagascar 72% is an Åkesson Trinitario bean from that same valley. It is far edgier than its criollo cousin and looks darker. Again the addition of cocoa butter makes for a silky texture allowing the chocolate to linger longer on the tongue. In my experience, this bean has often had a more pronounced flavor profile than the one from Åkesson’s plantation which had a dry finish and a more gentle, yet still interesting, taste.

Olives and Bread is a stellar 77% bar with roasted green olives, toast, and olive oil. The texture is truly amazing: bits of smokey, chewy olives, and slightly crunchy toast are deliriously happy in their creamy dark chocolate home. This bar seamlessly blends all the flavors while allowing each to have its moment in the spotlight. Though made with 77% chocolate, it is like no other I have ever tasted. Perhaps, spiking it with olive oil gives it such a dreamily smooth texture. The toast crumbs add interest without being hard or too crunchy, and the barely briny olives intensify the whole experience. Truly memorable, wildly original, and an Academy of Chocolate Bronze winner this year.

Cardamom is another in this category of “seasoned bars.” They come in thin cardboard boxes adorned with back and white prints of cacao pods, leaves, vines, birds, with the sweetest little face in the middle. That’s just the beginning, inside you find another insanely beautiful bar with a bas relief that is reminiscent of heraldic designs or crests, breaking into 12 lovely angular shapes, with a circle in the middle. The warm cardamom flavor permeates 77% chocolate without overwhelming it, while a long finish allows you to savor this combination.

Caramelized Lavender with Star Anise is a 40% milk bar that will wake up your taste buds, even if milk chocolate is not typically your first choice. The caramelized lavender is a tour de force of slight crunch, light caramel notes, and a soupçon of anise. Just as the caramel lulls your taste buds into a gentle stupor, star anise kisses them awake.

Pistachio Gianduja, 77%, comes wrapped in another highly adorable, lovely green paper painted with flowers and birds. I especially appreciated this bar’s firmer texture, as many giandujas are somewhat soft. Here, 77% chocolate takes a backseat to intense pistachio flavor. Fabulous.

Venezuelan 72% dark chocolate covered matchsticks of candied bergamot are called Sailor Mustache. They are incredibly fresh, chewy, and complimented by this very dark chocolate. The fruit is harvested by local farmers from January to March on the sunny hillsides of Calabria. A Sicilian confectioner personally picks the best bergamot for candying, which is then cut into mustache-sized slices and dipped. Bergamot is different from candied orange peel. It is a bit more citrusy, has a slightly sour edge, and goes well with their super creamy dark chocolate.

Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé is certainly one of the best new chocolate companies I have come across. Their attention to detail, originality, careful provenance of ingredients, and truly beautiful molds and packaging promise a bright future filled with worldwide appreciation.