Tag Archives: new chocolate company

Dark Forest Single Origin Bean-to-Bar Chocolate

It’s amazing to see how many things conspire to create an overall impression of something, especially food. Take packaging, for example. Dark Forest Chocolate, a new bean-to bar company based in Western New York, has the sweetest logo above its name: dark brown abstract trees on a shiny copper background. Charming and captivating.

Though the bars weigh in at 60 grams, or 2.1 ounces, their division into 24 small rectangles makes it seem as if they are larger.

In the high end chocolate world, there is a never ending debate about whether to add vanilla. Does it highlight cacao’s naturally complex flavor, or not? Dark Forest chocolate makers Joanne and Dan Sundell do not add vanilla to their bars, so the unadulterated flavor of the beans shines through. I find this creates an earthier experience.

It is hard to stop eating their Goat Milk Dark Chocolate (50% cacao). Made of Trinitario-Forastero beans from Uganda, it is deliciously creamy with a depth you can’t find in commercial milk chocolate bars. The wonderful edge of acidity from the goat’s milk gives it even more complexity and interest. If you love dark milk bars, this is definitely one to try.

Dark Forest’s Madagascar Criollo from the famed Akesson plantation in the Sambirano Valley is a 70% bar. I have always been a big fan of Criollo beans and this one is no exception. At first, it may seem like Criollo is the Merlot of cacao because it is so easy to scarf down, but as it lingers you appreciate the beautiful balance of fruity flavors, texture, sweetness, and depth.

Their Tanzanian is a Trinitario from the Koko Kamili Cooperative and is also 70%. I loved the lingering slightly dry finish with its dark fruit and hint of tobacco/coffee notes.

They offer more flavors, like Cinnamon Pepper Milk, in their shop and will soon be able to ship.

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Chocolate Naive

Whimsy goes a long way in my book, and Chocolate Naive has a healthy dose of it on every wrapper. Each micro story they print, like a semantic Magritte or Zen koan, is philosophical and endearing. Another fetching feature is the chocolatier’s signature and production date.

While the wrapper is a riff on lightness and innocence, their mostly dark 70 gram bars are deep and intriguing. The chocolate is poured to a very well tempered, glossy, thin, flat shape I always find enhances the experience, since it melts faster and delivers itself up almost instantly. I also like their lovely retro image of a man on a unicycle in chocolate bas relief.

The 43% Organic Milk illustrates how cows from Lithuania produce distinctly different milk from cows grazing elsewhere. There’s a freshness, along with a hint of grassy flavors that permeates this delicious darker milk bar. The finish is a bit sere, which complements the creamy texture enhanced by a 60 hour conche. I could eat it, if you’ll pardon the expression, until the cows come home.

Their 68% Ugandan bar with sea salt and vanilla, conched for 55 hours, also boasts a creamy texture, softening the slight acidic edge and bite of the salt.

A 71% Grenadan chocolate, conched for 59 hours, is a completely different experience. At first taste, it’s a bit dry, but that gets dominated by a rich, full cacao flavor, where no one note predominates.

63% Organic Orange and Cinnamon with Nibs has been conched 19 hours and uses the House Blend of Haitian and Ugandan beans. I might have thought the far shorter conche would make this a much more rustic bar, but the addition of crunchy nibs masked the slightly less creamy texture of the base. Hints of orange and cinnamon support an earthy chocolate flavor perfect with the nibs. Since they are scattered unevenly across the bar, you can break pieces off with them, or without them, getting two different chocolate experiences from one bar.

Chocolate Naive isn’t easy to find, but they have an active Facebook page and a website that should be up and running soon.

Ritual Chocolate 75%

Eating dark chocolate has been a daily ritual in my life for as long as I can remember, so the name, Ritual Chocolate, and its intention to make a ritual of eating this fine product, immediately resonated with me. After all, it is the rituals in our lives that keep us centered. Chocolate has always been one of my go-to grounding techniques as it reliably reminds me of sensuality, complexity, and unalloyed hedonistic joy. Of course, not all chocolates are capable of inspiring such reveries, but Ritual Chocolate’s 2009 Vintage Trinitario is up for the task. One bite and you are transported to the essence of Costa Rican beans carefully roasted, winnowed, and conched for several days to produce one of the most sublime textures to grace your lips.

This snappily tempered, glossy bar, with its juxtaposition of earthy and dark berry notes, beguiled me with its lingering, slightly dry finish. The texture has that lovely, almost chewy quality I find so much more like food and less like candy. Even using that word seems heretical when speaking of such an echt product. You can taste the careful attention to detail, sustainability, and quality in every incredibly satisfying bite.

If you are a real aficionado of vintage chocolate, sample this bar. With its pure, short ingredient list of cacao beans and sugar, Ritual Chocolate has captured the essence of Costa Rican Trinitario from the Guapiles region.