Pacari – 65% Cacao Manabi

The second Pacari bar is a 65% cacao manabi (arriba nacional), also organic and single origin from Ecuador.

This bar has a very flowery aroma (like springtime!). It’s flavor is bitter at first but as it melts it develops acidic fruity notes, like oranges. It has a smooth finish, with an after flavor of cacao that is sweeter than the first taste.

(I looked at their website after tasting, and they say there are also nut flavors present. I tried another piece but still just get floral and fruit/citrus… hmm).

Published in: on October 20, 2009 at 1:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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How I taste chocolate

Since I was a kid, I have always loved chocolate (and sweets in general). However, I didn’t always eat them in order to appreciate the full chorus of flavors present. My aunt loves to tell the story about the Christmas when I was 6 and I shoved 7 Christmas cookies in my mouth all at once. As I grew older, I wanted to understand the depth of chocolate, so I picked up Chloe Doutre-Roussel’s book “The Chocolate Conoisseur” and the way I approached tasting chocolate changed dramatically.

I start by Looking at and Smelling the chocolate. I think this is the first step when really tasting anything (I know for wine, beer and cheese tasting it is). I make note of the types of things I smell, whether it be fruit or flowers or earth.

Then, I Break it. I want to listen for the snap. Darker, well tempered chocolate breaks with a nice, sharp snap. In Chloe’s book, she breaks it before smelling it.. I do too, sometimes because it’s easier to hold a small piece up to my nose.

Then, it’s Taste time. I bite off a small piece and let it coat my mouth as it melts. I try to pay attention to the first flavor impressions I get. There are usually 2 to 3 tasting phases: when it first hits my mouth, during and just after it has melted, and then the aftertaste (after I swallow). I find it interesting to compare the flavors I detected in the aroma and in the taste – sometimes they are very different! Chloe has a wonder flavor wheel in her chapter on tasting to help you identify the different types of possible flavors. You can download a free PDF of her chapter on tasting at her website.

For tasting filled candies (truffles and things), Chloe recommends cutting it in half, and tasting the filling and the shell separately and then together in order to get a full understanding of the flavor. For bars with nuts/nibs in or sprinkled on top… if I can remove the topping, then I will taste those separately and then together as well. Sometimes the things are inside the bar so it is difficult to remove. However, letting the chocolate melt a little bit first before chewing it up a bit helps me to isolate the chocolate flavors. But, it is good in these cases to then chew it and taste the whole set of flavors together because that’s how the chocolatier intended it to taste. I stuck to plain chocolate bars when I was first starting (and still am, mostly) because I think I need to sophisticate my palette a bit more first before I start tasting things with nuts or other crazy spices added!

I know that my palette is going to continue growing as I keep tasting, because right now I sometimes find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what flavor I’m tasting. I practice with regular food and drink as well (I love tasting beer and wine, and I’ve found that these also have helped me to identify certain fruit and acid flavors).

Hope this helps anyone looking to taste chocolate in a new way! Best of luck!

Published in: on October 19, 2009 at 12:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pacari – 60% Cacao Esmeraldas

So I recently celebrated my birthday, and a good friend who appreciates my passion for chocolate sent me a collection of Pacari Ecuadorian chocolate. Pacari means nature in a native Ecuadorian language, and the company tries to be true to their name by producing all-natural (and organic) and local chocolate. Therefore, they use a cocoa bean native to Ecuador: arriba national. I randomly decided to start with the 60% cacao… you’ll see the rest of them popping up in my reviews over the next few weeks!

The aroma of the chocolate is slightly sweet and fruity. The flavor is very earthy and almost savory (not sweet). As it melts, slight banana-ish flavors appear. It has a very smooth and creamy texture as it melts.

Published in: on September 22, 2009 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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E. Guittard – Nocturne (91%)

Mmmm “Pure Extra Dark Chocolate…” and with 91% cocoa content, that is definitely the case. Guittard, company based in San Francisco CA, prides themselves on making quality chocolate from natural ingredients and in the traditions passed down through the family over generations. The Nocturne bar, according to the company website, contains a blend of 7 different types of cacao beans. As I read the website description after eating it, I was excited to see that the flavors listed are the same things I was tasting!

The chocolate doesn’t smell especially bitter, in fact, it has a sweet cocoa aroma. It bursts on the tongue with a slightly acidic bitterness, which as it melts develops fruity notes, like tart cherry. The texture is not as smooth as I like it, it is a bit crumbly, which may be due to a relatively low cocoa butter content.

Published in: on September 15, 2009 at 4:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Veritas – True Flats Milk with Cacao Nibs

This Veritas True Flat bar is constructed different than most: it doesn’t look like a typical chocolate “bar”… it’s just a slab of chocolate with cacao nibs sprinkled over the top. This bar is a 32% milk (hmm that’s the lowest cocoa percentage I’ve had in a while. This will be interesting). The chocolate is all-natural (hooray) and they claim to get all their cacao nibs from either the Ivory Coast or South America. That looks pretty good on the package, but I think most cacao comes from those two locations, so I’m not convinced they can claim to satisfy the “origin-seeking chocolate purist” unless they can truly specify a single origin of their chocolate.

The chocolate has a faint flowery aroma to it under the sweet cream.

The flavor is very sweet… I have difficulty tasting the chocolate at first. The small cacao nibs sprinkled on top are the saving grace of this bar: they add a satisfying crunch and a hint of the bitter cacao flavor that I really love under the creamy, sugary chocolate base.

Published in: on July 23, 2009 at 1:36 pm  Comments (2)  

Chocolove – 77% Extra Strong

Chocolove is the cute chocolate that comes in the wrapper that looks like an envelope (and it has a love poem inside). It is made in Colorado with Belgian chocolate and in the Belgian tradition, and at 77% cocoa, I’m curious to give this bar a taste.

It’s aroma isn’t overwhelmingly strong. Vanilla is not one of the listed ingredients, but the chocolate does smell faintly of vanilla and other sweet spices. Once you bite into it, however, it is an intense cocoa flavor. It is initially a warm, woodsy flavor that melts with a hint of cherry. It melts rather quickly and smoothly for such a high cocoa content bar, but I guess that is the cocoa butter at work.

Published in: on July 7, 2009 at 1:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Divine Chocolate – 70%

Divine Chocolate is a fair trade chocolate maker that produces chocolate from cacao grown in Ghana. It is associated with a farmer’s co-op called Kuapa Kokoo, which is also one of the larger shareholders in the company. Read more about them here.

The 70% chocolate bar has an earthy aroma that is sweet, like being outdoors. The flavor is warm and woodsy, and it has a very smooth and surprisingly creamy texture. It strikes a pleasant balance between sweet and bitter. I’d definitely put this on top of my favorites list.

Published in: on June 19, 2009 at 11:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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Patric Chocolate – 70% Madagascar bar

Patric Chocolate is a chocolate maker based in Columbia, Missouri. A relatively new chocolatier, Patric makes single origin chocolate bars out of simple but pure ingredients (only two on the list: cocoa beans and sugar). The cocoa beans are from a single plantation in the Sambirano Valley, Madagascar, and the bars are produced in small batches at the Patric facility. The company claims its goal is “to create micro-batch chocolate of such quality that it becomes a flavorful work of art in itself, like the finest wine or Scotch–a magical sensory experience.” Pretty of course I must taste!

The bar has a sweet aroma, almost flowery, with rich undertones. At first, the chocolate tastes slightly acidic, but as it melts, it mellows and takes on a more fruity flavor: cherry and blackberry. As it melts away, the aftertaste is rich and chocolatey – more of an earthy taste of chocolate than a bitter one. A little of this goes a long way, it’s very satisfying!

Published in: on June 7, 2009 at 12:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bissinger’s All-Natural Chocolate Bars

Since I am in St. Louis for a period of time, I thought I would search out some local chocolate. I found the Bissinger’s chocolate shop in the Central West End of the city. I was disappointed to learn that this was only where they sold chocolates, not where it was made, so I will attempt a visit to the actual factory at some point. However, I wanted to taste a variety of their chocolate bars, so I took one of each kind: a 38% cocoa milk chocolate bar, and dark chocolate bars of 55%, 60% and 75% cacao. I was pleased by the lists of ingredients of all the bars: they really are all natural! Nothing but unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin and vanilla (plus milk and whole milk powder in the milk chocolate).


Range of Bissinger's All-Natural Chocolate bars I tasted

Range of Bissinger's All-Natural Chocolate bars I tasted

38% Milk: This milk chocolate bar smells faintly of coconut (though I should point out that there is no coconut in the ingredients). It melts instantly and is thick and creamy. Since it is only 38% chocolate, the cocoa flavor is muted. It is luckily not too sweet. The milky flavor dominates here.

55% Dark has a flowery aroma. It’s flavor, however, is much more robust. At first it tastes earthy, like mushrooms. As it melts, it preserves this flavor. Sugar, though the first ingredient on the list, is nicely balanced by the bitterness of the chocolate, so neither of these flavors come through immediately. A slight bitterness can be detected after swallowing.

60% Dark has a spicier aroma than the 55%, as if one were to walk into a room after someone has been cooking Italian food. It tastes bitter, like coffee, at first but melts into a mellower earthy flavor, not unlike the 55%, but now the sugar is second on the list, so the bitterness is more obvious.

75% Dark has a list of ingredients that makes me happy: Unsweetened chocolate, Sugar, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla. No messing around. It has a more distinct aroma of spices than the 60%. It smells of rosemary and sage and other savory spices. At first taste, it is very strongly that earthy, mushroom flavor of before. It melts into something that tastes more like its aroma… a bit of sage and oregano with some flowery undertones.

Delicious 🙂 The 75% was definitely my favorite because of the definitive nature of its flavor, but if you’re looking for a subtle, well balanced dark chocolate bar, try the 55%.

Published in: on May 31, 2009 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Scharffen Berger – 70% Cacao Bittersweet

Scharffen Berger is hard to resist on two counts: it has a cool name, and it has bright, clean looking packaging. I picked up their 70% bittersweet bar from a grocery store to give it a try.

It has an earthy, slightly roasted smell, like coffee beans and cacao nibs. At first, the flavor is bitter, reflecting it’s aroma. As it melts, it develops a fruity tone, almost like apricot jam. It is sweeter than I would expect a 70% cacao to be, but in a pleasant way. It coats your entire mouth as it melts, and so the bittersweet cacao flavor lingers long after you’ve finished eating. 🙂

Published in: on May 24, 2009 at 5:16 pm  Leave a Comment