Tag Archives: Madagascar 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/

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Dandelion Chocolate, 70% Single Origin Artisanal Bars

Sometimes, the most unadulterated things are the best. Take Dandelion’s three single origin bars. All they contain is cocoa beans and sugar. This allows the unique characteristics of each bean to shine, and they do.

Though there are times when hints of leather and tobacco call my name, I’m a pushover for dark chocolate with a strong fruity presence. I find its lightness almost cheerful, and fully capable of lifting my spirits from the first bite.

Todd and Cam have sourced some exceptional beans and treated them with the respect they deserve, starting with their Japanese-inspired wrapping paper that begs to be recycled into a notebook cover, or the new liner for a jewelry box.

I always like the option of saving some for later, which is fairly easy as each bar has an inner liner of heavy gold foil. Its ability to completely contain what’s left is perfect for someone like me who always seems to leave a little trail of chocolate shards from less well-constructed inner wrappers.

Three bars, three countries, all 70%. The Costa Rican chocolate was marvelously fruity, with memories of soil, and a texture that melted at body temperature. The Venezuelan was also fruity, but in a completely different way. Its complexity was enhanced by a deep layer of lychee. The Madagascan bar, made with beans from the Akesson plantation, had a slightly drier finish with overtones of dark fruits, though the fruit flavor seemed less pronounced in this one than the other two. All three had a smooth, silky texture that can only come from long conching.

I would highly recommend buying all of them as a tasting set, which also saves you a little money. They weigh in at two ounces each, which may seem like a small amount of chocolate, but it is so satisfying you will savor each of the 18 squares as if it were a bar unto itself.

Rausch Plantation Chocolates

There are so many factors that go into enjoying something, not the least of which is visual. Before I even tried these chocolates from Rausch, I was drawn in by their long, narrow, stick-like shape. The treasure chest box of mini Rausch pieces also beguiled me, as it accessed some childhood memory of Pirate’s booty. All six varieties are also available in traditional rectangular bars, if you prefer a classic shape.

With a name like Plantation Chocolates, you know each of these hails from a unique geographical location.

Nouméa, from Papua New Guinea, at 35% is the milkiest of the bunch and would appeal to anyone who loves a rich flavor profile with lower cacao solids.
Mandanga, 39%, uses beans harvested from Madagascar. Also creamy, it boasts a slightly crisper temper, and a bit more edge, though neither bar is remotely bitter.
Puerto Cabello, 43%, from Venezuela, is for those who want a high cocoa content bar with all the richness of a milk chocolate.
I liked the last two best.

The three dark bars were:
Amacado, 60%, from Peru, a very snappily tempered bar with a supremely rounded, balanced flavor almost anyone would enjoy.
El Cuador, 70%, from Ecuador, even more exquisitely tempered with a drier finish, hints of dark fruits, a scintilla of tobacco, and just enough bitterness to keep me coming back for more.
Tobago, named for its source, is a 75% beauty. While it is higher in cacao solids than the previous bar, it was just as easy to eat, since the main notes are fruitier.
The last two have deeply satisfying lingering finishes, long flavor profiles, and that very fetching edge.

For those of you who make your own chocolates, I just tempered the 70% for chocolate clusters and they came out perfectly. The chocolate was fairly thin when heated, which made it very easy to work with, and it set up quickly with a glossy shine and an excellent snap. I was delighted with the results.

Madecasse 63% & 75%

Once upon a time, Brett Beach and Tim McCollum were in the Peace Corps.  That  experience infuses every aspect of their remarkable company: Madecasse (pronounced mah-DAY-cas, the word used in the 16th and 17th century to refer to the island of Madagascar). Sustainability is the coin of their realm.  Not only have they opened up opportunities for local farmers, they produce their wares in Madagascar. Happily, this generates four times more income for people in one of the world’s poorest countries. Kudos for all that; but, how is the finished product?

Just great. The 75% bar was tempered to a glossy shine, had a wonderful snap, and a pretty little embossed cocoa pod on each of its 24 rectangles. Those of you who read these reviews regularly know how partial I am to bars with many segments.  It’s the six year old inside me that loves the idea (irrational as it is) that there is more chocolate simply because there are more pieces. Since we’ve been focusing on texture lately, let me say this bar has both earthiness and elegance.  It’s not particularly creamy, but few bars with this high a cacao content are. I concur with their description on the label: dark and intense. It definitely tastes like a 75% bar: assertive, adult, and very satisfying.

As you might imagine, the 63% bar is also well-tempered.  It has a completely different flavor profile, with fruitiness its predominant feature. The texture is smother, and, while there are three more grams of sugar than its sister bar, it is not overly sweet.  Madecasse has achieved an excellent balance of texture, flavor, and overall gentleness. So you decide: will it be the in-your-face deep, dark chocolate experience of the 75% bar, or the lovely, well-rounded delights of the 63%?

The packaging is appealing, and user-friendly, with a raffia tied pouch and inner foil liner.  

They also make a 67% and a 70% bar.