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 Ucayali 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.
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