Tag Archives: Arriba chocolate

Szántó Tibor Chocolate

As you already know, each chocolatier creates different tastes and textures, even if they use the same beans and equipment. So, you can have a company that produces stone ground bean to bar chocolate that has a very coarse grainy texture, or a more refined texture. You can even have one company that creates varying textures using the same machinery, like Szántó Tibor.

These bars are packaged in a fetchingly designed cardboard box adorned with dark brown images that relate to chocolate consumption, chocolate love, and chocolate manufacture. Much to my delight, they have inner resealable cellophane wrappers.

All of the chocolates I tried are 70%, and tempered to an audible snap. A free-form design of a cocoa tree looks as if it has been engraved on each. The thinness of all the bars allows them to melt more quickly providing a turbo-charged cacao delivery system.

Here’s the run-down:

Cacao Roja from Honduras has an earthy profile and a slight acidic edge.

Hispaniola from San Cristobal, Santo Domingo, is another bar with hints of smoke and a touch of leather, though there is also a pronounced fruitiness. The texture is smoother than the Cacao Roja.

Trinitario from S. Elizabeth, Jamaica is complex with oak, smoke, and spicy flavors. Again, the texture is smoother than the Roja. The Roja is not crunchy, but there are still tiny grains of gently crunchy nibs, like little textural exclamation points.

San Cristobal from Santo Domingo is a much more grainy bar, for those of you who like to echt quality of stone ground chocolate, and it speaks in my taste buds in hushed tones of soil, forest, and citrus, with a nice short finish.

Raw Arriba from Ecuador, tastes very pure and simple, with an atypical cocoa freshness. Quite different from the floral Arribas I have reviewed in the past; probably, because of the earthier texture.

Inti from Ayacucho, Peru, has a smooth, slightly creamier texture and hints of raisin and tobacco.

Cacao Blanco from Nicaragua has a whiffs of coffee and tobacco in a more conched, hence silkier, texture.

Malagasy Criollo from Millot, Madagascar (from the 2012 spring harvest), reveals apricot and lychee, giving it a bit of a dry finish.

My favorite was the Criollo from Venezuela, an Academy of Chocolate Bronze winner for 2013. I am partial to Criollos, and this bar is superb. The texture is velvety, the flavor both elegant and full of nuance. A little peach, a bit of grape, a melange of fruit notes without the citrus that leave my palate feeling fully sated from its deep chocolate presence and soft, but lingering finish.

For all you chocophiles who want to know more, there is a plethora of information on their website: http://www.szantotibor.com/

Original Beans

I thought I had laid down a vast highway of neuronal pathways in my brain for all the chocolate I had tasted but Original Beans bars requires four new ones. Each is in a class by itself. Before I tempt you with a rundown of their charms, let us delve into the company’s history and mission, which can be summed up by their motto: “The planet: replant it.” For each bar they sell they plant a tree. You can even look up the number of your bar and track its tree’s progress.

The company was formed in 2006 when a German conservation entrepreneur, a Dutch fair trade pioneer, and an American organic food marketer got together and formed Original Beans.

Quoting from their website,
“For every bar you buy, local community farmers plant a tree that will support the forest; not just rare cacao trees, but a mix of trees necessary for lively biodiversity. Each Original Beans bar contains a lot number, which designates the location of a new tree so that you can track your contribution.
Active replanting is the best buffer to protect old, primary rainforests. As we plant tens of thousands of trees, we curb the farmers’ need to slash and burn the forest for fuel and food. Together we measure the effect of our replanting on wildlife, vegetation, and soils. New cacao trees generate immediate revenue for the farmers, and diverse plantings (teak, for instance) are an investment for future income.”

Each organic bean and resulting bar is as different as its provenance, though they have some similarities. None contain vanilla to adulterate the bean’s natural flavor profile, each is conched (stirred and ground) to a varying degree that in all cases produces a silky texture (the hours of conching is listed on the wrapper), each is unique and presented in thinnish rectangular bars that snap with excellent temper. All are packaged attractively.

Beni Wild Harvest sounded most unusual, so I began my tasting with that. The beans (66%) are sourced during the wet season from a remote group of islands in the Amazon’s Itenez River Basin in the Amazon. The resulting bar (conched for 24 hours) is full of tropical fruit notes mixed with hints of earthy, tobacco flavors ending in a long, smooth finish.

Piura Porcelana (75%) was discovered in the foothills of the Andes by Original Beans. This ultra-rare variety was previously thought to only grow in Venezuela and Mexico. Its fabulous Criollo flavors are redolent with honey, nut, and sweet fruits, like apricot. A very balanced bar that’s easy to scarf down.

Cru Virunga’s beans (70%) hail from the war torn Eastern Congo, in the buffer zone of Virunga National Park. Original Beans works with Wheels for Life to deliver bikes for cacao transport over challenging terrain. The bar is conched for 20 hours resulting in that now characteristic velvety texture that lures you into a reverie of dark red fruit, a hint of forest soil, and a lingering slightly dry finish.

Esmeraldas Milk with Fleur de Sel (42%) goes through a 50 hour conch and comes out tasting slightly of lavender and salted caramel. It is not overly sweet and has a lush finish. The beans are Ecuador’s Arriba variety, also known as Nacional.

If you really love chocolate, and want to help the planet through reforestation, you owe it to yourself to try these bars. You may not like them equally, but each will challenge and seduce you in its own unique way. The thought, love, and care that went into producing this chocolate is obvious from the packaging to the contents.

Caoni Chocolate: 55%, 77%, Milk, Coffee, Passion Fruit, and Macadamia

As a chocolate sleuth whose mission is alerting you to what’s new and noteworthy, I peruse many different websites. Some are utilitarian, some glitzy, and some just plain fun. Caoni’s site falls into the latter category. Their dancing chocolate bars, indigenous music, and a mysterious looking black background all conspire to make Caoni chocolate appealing and exotic. But their site isn’t just light hearted, it also offers information on chocolate’s health benefits, some of which were even new to me, like the compound “epicatequina,” a substance similar to aspirin that helps prevent blood clots. Also, I had not read about the effect of chocolate’s aroma increasing theta brain waves, leaving you calmer and more relaxed. All good news.

On the West coast of Ecuador there are three regions supplying Arriba beans for Caoni. Each has its own, distinctive micro-climate. Traveling North to South, we have: Esmeraldas, Manabi (both hugging the coast), and Los Rios (a bit more inland). Esmeraldas is known for its wide variety of tropical forests and high humidity; Manabi is the opposite with very dry conditions; while the Los Rios province is replete with rivers that come down from the Andes mountains. Each area produces a different flavor profile in the bean, from intense to mild and creamy.

Caoni offers a wide variety of milk and dark chocolates. Here’s a capsule review of each:

Milk chocolate with toasted macadamias is a very milky, mild bar with smallish, but still assertive, pieces of nut.  If you like a traditional milk base enhanced with the buttery crunch of macadamias, this is for you.

The plain milk bar is the same chocolate, but simplified. The people at Caoni don’t add vanilla to either their milk or dark varieties, which is good to know if you’re a purist and want that lovely floral taste of the Arriba beans to shine through unadulterated.

Milk chocolate with passion fruit is an interesting combination in that the slightly acidic fruit complements the sweetness of the chocolate, adding more complexity.

Surprisingly, milk with coffee was my favorite of the four light bars. Once again, the acidity of the coffee played against the milky chocolate creating a latte like flavor that was very appealing, if not a bit addictive.

The following dark bars are sourced from each of the three regions I described earlier, and available in a 55% or a 77%. I opted for grouping them by region, rather than by percentage of cacao solids.

Esmeraldas 77% is an interesting chocolate as it delivers both a tempered snap as well as a slightly chewy texture. Here, the Arriba beans take on the flavors of dark fruits, a hint of tobacco, and a medium long finish.  The 55% Esmeraldas is much fruiter, milder, and has a shorter finish.

Manabi 77% is a delicious sublimely balanced bar. In Caoni’s publicity materials they rightly claim “These beans are naturally sweet, to the point that you will hardly believe it is a 77% cocoa chocolate.”  There are 12 grams of sugar per 50 grams of chocolate, but that is far less than many comparable products. The 55% was much sweeter, with 23 grams of sugar per 50 grams of chocolate, and I found it a bit less enticing, though an excellent choice if you are not ready for a 77%.

Los Rios 77% is almost a combination of the other two 77% bars in that it has all the complexity of the Esmeraldas, the lusciousness of the Manabi with the addition of pronounced floral notes and a slightly spicy long finish.  I enjoyed the 55% rendition of this bean as much as the 77%. Both Los Rios bars managed to add a creaminess that seemed less pronounced in bars from the other two regions.

If you are a fan of the Arriba bean Caoni’s chocolates provide a wide range from which to choose.

Republica Del Cacao 75% and 67%

 

REPÚBLICA DEL CACAO° was established four years ago to rescue one of the most valuable Ecuadorian agricultural treasures: Cacao Arriba. 

The origin of the name “Arriba” given to the “Fine Aroma” Ecuadorian cacao comes from a XIX century legend that tells of a Swiss chocolatier who, while navigating along the Guayas river, perceived a strong cacao scent. He was so impressed by this special fragrance he asked some workers unloading cacao from their canoes, “Where does this aroma come from?” They said, “de río arriba,” which means “from up the river.” Since then, this variety of cacao is known  “Arriba.”

If you want a little tour of Republica Del Cacao’s geography, more Ecuadorean chocolate history, some fascinating flavor profile charts, and a detailed explanation of their mission (including a sustainability program), check out: republicadelcacao.com. I found the tour quite mesmerizing.   

Great, but how’s the chocolate? Let’s start with their 3.5 ounce 75% organic bar, Vinces. There are pronounced floral, fruity, and earthy notes, with very slight hints of leather: a complex, heady mix. As each sensuous second passes, a different flavor dominates. The clean cocoa taste is enhanced by the omission of vanilla. (I happen to love the addition of vanilla, but there’s a certain purity in bars that leave it out.) Well tempered, with a creaminess that nicely offsets the intensity, this bar delivers.

The next three renditions are smaller: 1.76 ounces, and tempered to a snappy gloss. 

The first one I sampled was from the Manabi Province (75%). Along with the characteristic fruity profile of the Arriba bean, there was a subtle hint of licorice.  I couldn’t detect much earthiness, which made it easy to eat, and the texture was a tad less creamy; but, it didn’t need that textural boost, as the floral/fruity flavors were milder than the Vinces bar. 

My next choice was from the Los Rios Province (75%). On numerous occasions, I  have read of a particular chocolate having floral notes and can’t for the life of me detect them. Here, however, there are definitely present along with a really well-balanced creamy texture, and some fruitiness. This is a delicious bar.  It’s interesting, but not too interesting. Very well balanced, easy to scarf down, and satisfying. A great choice for someone who wants to investigate the higher cacao percentage offerings, but still feels a bit wary.

My last tasting was their El Oro province (67%).  Again, the predominant flavor was fruity, though, a bit gentler and sweeter. Another winner.

After tasting these bars, I have a new theory: many chocolatiers claim their beans have a fruity flavor when in actuality they are bland, boring, or  banal.  Republica Del Cacao’s chocolate really is redolent of fruit, yet complex. It’s a captivating combination as it delivers depth without gustatory challenge. Often, the most appealing chocolate is multi-layered, aromatic, with a perfectly balanced creaminess. These bars are all a bit earthier than that,  but still offer a high-end experience. 

If you are looking for a truly haute chocolate, try Beschle’s Quizas, but if you want something that in one bodacious bite takes you on a mini-trip to Ecuadorean heaven, this is it.