Hägeland – Costa Rica 71%

This Hägeland chocolate bar, 71%, was made of Trinitario beans. According to their website, their Costa Rican beans are obtained from a Rainforest Alliance Certified farm, the leaders in sustainability farming, especially for crops like chocolate and coffee.

The bar had a bittersweet aroma, fruity without being too acidic

It was bitter at first, which turned to vanilla and raspberry

smooth melt, silky, earthy chocolate after taste

Published in: on May 20, 2011 at 10:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Blanxart – Chocolate Negro

The Blanxart dark chocolate bar is 62% cocoa (according to the list of ingredients). Blanxart is a Spanish chocolatier which calls Barcelona home. It’s not entirely clear from their website where they get their cocoa beans, though they do reference Ghana and the Dominican Republic.

The aroma of the chocolate is flowery and mellow, with caramel/vanilla undertones. Essentially, it smells sweet.

The first flavor is citrusy, but it immediately changes over to a more robust caramel flavor as it begins to melt (though towards the end I noticed that a fruity essence returned). Overall good flavor, though not especially creamy and didn’t melt very smoothly in my mouth. I did miss the bitterness of cocoa, so I could have gone for a little less sugar (but it’s 62%..).

Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 5:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Lover’s bar (85%)

I love Trader Joe’s…. they really know how to make yummy chocolate things, from the mint UFO’s to chocolate covered -fruit/pretzels/nuts (the black cocoa dusted chocolate almonds are a personal favorite.. but that’s another story). I was intrigued by the appearance of a dark 85%, single origin bar in the candy aisle. The cacao is from the Tumaco Region of Colombia.

The aroma of the chocolate is vanilla and strawberries, almost like strawberry shortcake or something!

The first burst of flavor I got was banana, though it was very short-lived. As it began to melt, it developed more berry-like flavors which became an earthy cacao flavor. The box does describe it as “smooth & fruity” and I’d say that was right –  it did melt pretty smoothly, though wasn’t particularly creamy.

Published in: on April 16, 2010 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Chuao – Todasana 74%

This bar was made from purely Venezuelan cacao (grown in the village of Todasana, hence the name). I believe I have reviewed Chuao before, but if you’re interested in learning more about them and their mission – organized by the Aguasanta Growth Initiative – check out their website.

The aroma was at first of a sweet caramel, which gave way to fruitier undertones.

The first flavor I detected was banana. The banana flavor remained in the forefront for the entire process, but as it melted other tropical fruitiness came out. The fruitiness prevented bitterness while not being too sweet – a good transition bar for anyone afraid to try really dark chocolate.

Published in: on March 24, 2010 at 3:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Chocolove – 70% dark, Dominican Republic

This Chocolove bar is from their Chocolatour collection. According to the wrapper, the beans are all of the Trinitario variety and were grown in the Dominican Republic. I like the style of the wrapper, emphasizing that different types of cocoa beans are like the different types of grapes used to make wine: the year and location of growth influence the flavors of the chocolate.

Chocolove - Chocolatour 70%, Dominican Republic

The aroma is very flowery, like roses and tulips (though the wrapper describes it as similar to a glass of wine, which I didn’t really get..).

At first, the chocolate has a slightly bitter smoky flavor, but quickly melts into a tangy fruity flavor like passionfruit and citrus. It has a dry finish, similar to the feeling of a white wine. It has a smooth texture as it melts.

Published in: on March 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Chocolate in Science – About Antioxidants

Not too long ago I posted about a research article describing how the chemicals in chocolate can help prevent cells from dying. I came across an article published last month detailing the antioxidant content of dark chocolate and cocoa, explaining what the antioxidants were and how much is absorbed by the body.

The review paper is called “Theobroma cacao L., the Food of the Gods: A scientific approach beyond myths and claims” (M. Rusconi and A. Conti, Pharmac. Res. 2010 (61): 5-13) and discusses a few interesting points I wanted to share.

The amount of antioxidants, or polyphenols, in a dark chocolate bar varies greatly between manufacturers. In fact, beans from different countries can have different levels of polyphenols, then, depending on the fermentation, roasting and manufacturing processes, the amounts are further varied. A typical dark chocolate bar (greater than 35% cacao) can have anywhere from 0.3 – 2.5 g of antioxidants per 100 g of chocolate. That’s a pretty big range, and unfortunately there’s really no way to tell unless you analyze the chocolate in a lab, and most chocolate makers don’t do that. So, while a higher percentage of chocolate most likely contains more antioxidants, it’s not always certain.

The majority of antioxidants in chocolate are called catechins (same ones as found in green tea..) or are groups of two catechins (or dimers, called procyanidin).  When you eat chocolate, the dimers can break in half in your stomach, which makes it easier for them to be absorbed into your bloodstream in the intestines. It also doesn’t seem to matter if you eat chocolate or drink cocoa – the catechins are still found in your bloodstream relatively quickly after eating. This contradicts an older study that said the presence of milk prevents the absorption of catechins, though they are not sure why. I guess this is still something open to debate and study.

Chocolate is the third greatest source of antioxidants in the American diet, after fruits and vegetables! However, I highly doubt people will start saying “A chocolate bar a day keeps the doctor away.” It can certainly help increase your antioxidant intake, but the typical chocolate bar is also a great source of fat and sugar. That doesn’t really stop me from eating a lot of it, though 🙂

Published in: on February 25, 2010 at 11:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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Michel Cluizel – Grand Noir 85%

Michel Cluizel is a famed French chocolatier, making chocolate since 1948! He has perfected the art of using a minimum number of all natural ingredients to produce rich, smooth chocolate. (reportedly, the cacao beans are ground to particles smaller than 18 micron = 0.018 mm – very small!)

The chocolate has a very sweet and flowery aroma. At first, the flavor is sweet also, but quickly melts into a rich cocoa bitterness. It has an earthy mellowness to it – it’s not bitter in an acrid way, but is satisfying. It has an incredibly smooth texture that belies its 85% cacao content (and lack of soy lecithin as an emulsifier) but can only be credited to the 18 micron particles. mmmmmmm

Published in: on February 9, 2010 at 6:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Kakao Chocolate – Extra Dark 72% Chocolate Bark with Organic Candied Ginger

Kakao Chocolate is a must visit chocolaterie and cafe if you are ever in St. Louis. If not, check out their website for a sampling of their tasty chocolates and other treats. I was very excited to visit for the first time and get my hands on some of their yummy bark. Since I have a penchant for dark chocolate, but am still trying to understand the flavors in pure chocolate, I chose the simplest chocolate bark –  a 72% dark blend of three types of chocolate (which I am not sure is top secret or not, so perhaps I’ll keep that info to myself) and has a sprinkling of candied ginger pieces.

The chocolate itself has a warm chocolatey aroma with subtle fruity smells. It melts smoothly and at first has that slight bitterness we expect from dark chocolate. It mellows as it continues to melt and has maybe raspberry undertones.

It has a slight different experience when eaten together with a piece of candied ginger. The bittery spice of the ginger is not too overpowering, but does mask any bitterness in the chocolate, leaving a pleasant sensation in your mouth. I have decided I need to learn how to make candied ginger… it is so delicious! I think I would actually pick off all the pieces and eat them plain if the texture of them with the chocolate didn’t play off eachother so nicely!

Published in: on January 18, 2010 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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Chocolate in Science

I’m always the first one to roll my eyes at the latest “study” that came out touting the antioxidant or other health related properties of various foods (chocolate, wine, etc). Sure, a lot of them are based on what I would consider “real science” but get a bit blown out of proportion by the media. However, today I was doing a literature search (“scientist” is my day job) and came across a paper entitled: “Protective Activity of Theobroma cacao L. Phenolic Extract on AML12 and MLP29 Liver Cells by Preventing Apoptosis and Inducing Autophagy.” (Arlorio, M et al. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2009 (57): 10612-10618) It immediately caught my eye because it had Theobroma cacao in the title, and as I read it, I found it to be very interesting and wanted to share the main findings.

To sum up (and translate the title!), there are small molecules in chocolate called phenols which the researchers extracted from both roasted and unroasted cacao beans (for comparison). They fed them to liver cells and observed some interesting results. After letting the cells “consume” the chocolate chemicals, they added celecoxib (CLX), which is an anti-inflammatory drug that is known to kill liver cells by causing them to go into a process called apoptosis. Apoptosis is also known as programmed cell death, or cell suicide, and is a very complicated process by which cells detect that they are damaged or under too much stress and gradually shut down and die.

They looked at the cells after giving them CLX to see how many were still alive. More cells survived if they had been fed chocolate. The researchers showed that the chemicals in chocolate can actually protect the cells from apoptosis and keep them alive so they have a chance to recover. That’s pretty cool! That means it could be possible to help protect your liver from disease by eating chocolate!

A few disclaimers: The study was done in vitro which means in glass, so the cells are not in their natural environment. Therefore, it is possible that cells behave differently in the body than they do in a petri dish. In addition, unroasted chocolate was better than roasted chocolate in this study, but we usually eat chocolate that has been roasted. There are more, but I won’t get into them here.

However, who doesn’t love a good excuse to really enjoy that dark chocolate bar? 🙂

Published in: on December 8, 2009 at 3:43 pm  Comments (1)  
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Pacari – 72% Cacao Los Rios

The third bar in the Arriba Nacional trio is the 72% “cacao los rios.” Of the previous two, this is my favorite. I have a thing for chocolate with >70% cocoa content!!

I have noticed that these bars are very simply molded – no frilly shapes or inprints, just a block of rectangles. I kind of like that (after all, I’m going to eat it rather quickly..).

The aroma of the 72% is sweet and fruity – definitely makes me think citrus. At first, I get a strong cocoa flavor but as it melts citrus and flowery flavors become apparent. According to the tasting notes at their website, a finish of coffee can be tasted, though I must admit I don’t really get that at the end. The finish to me maintained a fresh feeling that was more flowery than roasted.


Published in: on October 29, 2009 at 3:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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