Change of domain…

Dear friends,

Thank you for visiting my blog. It has been a great adventure to start my review site and discover the world of fine chocolate. Since traffic is booming and I started giving tasting sessions, I decided to switch to my own domain.

The entire content of this blog has been moved to

I won’t post no longer here, all the new content will be published on the new domain. However the content will remain visible.

So follow me as of this date on my new domain, you are more than welcome!

Kris Kellens

Preview: Marou – Dắk Lắk 70% (*****)

During the last edition of the Origin Chocolate event I had the enormous privilege of tasting the brand new bar created by Marou. It was so new they didn’t even have artwork for a new wrapper yet.

Samuel Maruta offered me a bar of this new origin as a sample for my blog. I simply can’t thank Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou enough for this opportunity!

Marou is a pretty special chocolate company. There are plenty of creative and adventurous chocolate makers around. Actually it is a lot of fun to follow the facebook and twitter acounts of many of them to discover the crazy situations these chocolatiers get themselves into while using old equipment or experimental techniques. But Samuel and Vincent take it just that extra step beyond. They decided to create the chocolate in the country where the cacao they use is grown. Vietnam!

So, we have two clever French guys having the best time they can have in an exotic country like Vietnam, pulling all sorts of stunts to get their hands on fine cacao and create chocolate with it. It does include riding and elephant and cruising around the countryside in a classic old school Citroen vehicle. But don’t be fooled, when it comes to the quality of chocolate they create, they are dead serious! Just like their fellow small-scale fine chocolate makers .

Marou Dak Lak  Marou Dak Lak

Even while this wasn’t a finished product yet, Marou always brings its bars in style. A shiny gold foil protects the bar, marked by a simple looking label. A hand written one that is! Stating the origin Dắk Lắk – situated in the central highlands of Vietnam, bordering Cambodia. Vincent and Samuel went great lengths to find that one farmer that could deliver them a high quality, aromatic cacao. The origin is pretty different from the others they used so far and during the Origin Event in Amsterdam they were looking for reactions from the audience on the flavor.

The chocolate itself is stunning like every other Marou bar. They always seem to squeeze the specific flavors from a region from the cacao beans, making every bar distinctly different from the next. The aroma coming from the freshly opened chocolate is overwhelming. The chocolate shines beautifully. The traditional Marou bar design means you get a thick, hefty 100 g bar, scored diagonally. It will break the way it sees fit, not in prefect a rectangular piece – as if to state Marou doesn’t follow any of the classic rules in chocolate making. And we should be thankful for it.

Marou Dak Lak  Marou Dak Lak

Bean: Trinitario
origin: Vietnam – Dắk Lắk Province
Maker: Marou, Faisseurs de Chocolat – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Price: Sample bar – 100 g

Marou Dak Lak
Color: A nice deep brown with red hue.

Aroma: Strong. Sweet and slightly spicy, tropical warm with a touch of tobacco in the back.

Taste: Semi quick starting with roasted bread followed by a strong brown sugar aroma. Gently turning over to liquorice with small twinkles of acidity and bitterness popping up to keep the aroma interesting and ever-changing. Did I just detect anise for a second? A deep and very satisfying chocolate flavor comes forth next. Near the end of the melt gentle wood aromas give body to the entire experience without overpowering the palate. The aftertaste follows the main aroma of the Dắk Lắk bar, slowly turning to volatile cacao, wood and faint spice aromas. The aftertaste keeps rolling and rolling in your mouth for an exceptional long time. The melt of the chocolate is great for such a thick bar, even as it is a bit dryer in appearance than French style chocolate. Unlike the other Marou chocolates I’ve tried so far, this bar doesn’t feature the nice, abundant spice tones and isn’t fruity at all, yet it delivers such an amazing warm and gratifying chocolate flavor, I would call it the ultimate comfort food on a dark, rainy day! It will be taking your mind miles and miles away to a warm and exotic Vietnam. 5 stars!

So in a nutshell, Samuel and Vincent, it would be a crime not to take this bar to the shops! That’s a bar of pure gold you gave me!

Review: Akesson’s Madagascar – 100% Criollo (*****)

Today we go red. There is no room for compromises. Today is 100% chocolate!

Akesson is The name in the fine chocolate world when it comes to Madagascan cacao. Bertil’s Ambolikapiky plantation produces some of the finest cacao around and countless bean-to-bar chocolate makers use his cacao to create their masterpieces.

But Akesson also produces their own chocolate. Their cacao and vision combined with the craftmanship of a leading French fine chocolate maker, create some spectacular chocolate. So I had pretty high expectations about the content of the little red box lying in front of me.

Akesson's 100% criollo

The box turns away from the classical dark grey box with red text – so typical for the Akesson line. This time the box is vibrant red. As if you already know this isn’t a normal chocolate. 100% is about as hardcore as it gets. The color also reminds me of the typical red fruits you’ll find in quality Madagascan origin chocolate.

Inside, a cellophane foil and a glorious little square of dark chocolate. Ripping open the foil means releasing an amazing deep chocolate aroma. The bar design itself is still one of the most minimalistic and pure to be found in the origin chocolate world. Sleek and luxurious looking.

Akesson creates this single plantation chocolate from pure Criollo beans – the top quality produced. A mere 2 tons of Criollo cacao is produced on this estate in the Sambirano Valley. Knowing the total yield of the plantation is about 300 tons Trinitario, you’ll understand this is a pretty exclusive cacao.

Bean: Criollo
Origin: Madagascar – Ambolikapiky Plantation
Maker: Produced in France
Price: € 5,00 – 60 g

Akesson's 100% criollo  Akesson's 100% criollo

Color: Dark, dark dark brown

Aroma: surprising sweet and sour, fruity – roasted nuts pop up – deep chocolate.

Taste: This bar has a nice roasted start concentrating on a nutty flavor, slowly maturing in the full body of a high percentage cacao with gentle but noticeable bitterness. On the tip of the tongue, little sweet, red fruit twinkles develop, while the chocolate remains very powerful in the back of the mount with earthy aromas including coffee and a delicate chestnut flavor. The chocolate certainly bites at the tongue, but never as aggressive as other 100% bars I’ve tried. If you breathe in some air while tasting, the fruit flavors open up in an abundant way. Red currants, raspberry and sour cherry come to mind. It is in fact by far the most palatable 100% bar I had so far and I love how it still reveals the fruity aromas of the Madagascan terroir. The aftertaste brings back the glorious roasted coffee and hazelnut tones and lingers in the mouth for a very long time. Chocolate in abundance all around. The longer the aftertaste floats around in your mouth, the more balanced it becomes, until you have this very satisfying chocolate aroma remaining. And it just keeps going. Texture and melt of the chocolate are superb, following the French tradition in chocolate making. By adding just the right amount of cacao butter, you get a super velvety melt. People who want to try a high percentage bar which still retains the wonderful flavors of fine cacao are in for a treat! This chocolate offers all the maturity of a pure 100% chocolate, while keeping the experience enjoyable. To me it is worth the full five stars!

Chocolate art!

There are times when words only can say so much. This time I let the pictures do the talking. This wonderful chocolate figurine was created in honor of “Sinterklaas”, a traditional day for children in Belgium, Holland and Hungary. Sinterklaas brings chocolate and toys to kids who behaved well last year. Figurine made by Hilde Devolder Chocolatier – Ghent.

KKBTB141206-5  KKBTB141206-1
KKBTB141206-2  KKBTB141206-3

Review: Republica Del Cacao – Comunidad Vinces 75% (***)

The good thing about inspiring people with fine chocolate, is that they can surprise you in unexpected ways. A lady who attended one of my tastings is active in the import/export business and when she went on a trip to South America recently, she brought back some fine chocolate she decided to share with me. This way I received a partial bar by Republica Del Cacao from the Vinces Community in Ecuador.

The company has set the goal of putting Latin American chocolate back on the world map by creating fine chocolate from regionally grown cacao, produced into chocolate in their Quito factory in Ecuador. By putting sustainability, traceability and tradition high on their list of attention, their wide array of origin bars ride the wave of fine chocolate makers around the globe. By combining local quality cacao with European knowledge in chocolate making, they might be on to something.

The Vinces community produces Arriba cacao – One of the only Forastero cacao varieties which can be labeled as fino di aroma cacao. Forastero typically is a bean used for industrial bulk chocolate, but Arriba has a much more refined taste – allowing chocolate makers to make wonderful bars based on this cacao.

KKBTB141207-2 KKBTB141207-1

The package is filled to the brim with information, stating about the company’s mission and why this bar we are holding is special compared to classic chocolate bars. The logo clearly gives it a traditional look.

Inside, the bar is made out of pretty large square pieces of chocolate, perfectly embossed with the type of cacao and the origin. Novel idea. The design fits superbly with the sleeve and makes it look good. The chocolate itself is super dark in color and hits the senses with a delicate floral aroma.

Bean: Arriba (Forastero)
Origin: Vinces Community – Ecuador
Production: Confiteca CA – Quito, Ecuador
Price paid: gift – 100g – received from a friend

KKBTB141207-3 KKBTB141207-4

Color: Dark, dark brown – almost black.

Aroma: Floral notes, hints of tobacco and wood.

Taste: A quick, earthy and sweet start with hints of vanilla and delicate flower notes (jasmin like) combined with a touch of brown sugar. Next comes a gentle coffee bitterness and touches of tannins giving it a bit more power. The melt is super quick and smooth, but not clingy at all. Yet I feel as if a bit too much cacao butter has been used, mellowing down the taste profile. Overall the taste is harmonious, but less pronounced than other chocolate bars around. The aftertaste is very subtle, offering a very deep chocolate flavor, but remains very gentle – after quiet a while you notice some nice smoked wood and chocolate aromas lingering on. This is a very enjoyable chocolate, quiet different from the bars I tasted before. It is gentle in nature, but grows on you as you savor on.

Maybe the European style of chocolate making is what holds it back a little. I can sense a big potential in the bar, but going for the silky texture may inhibit the delicate aroma’s of the cacao to come forth. I wonder how this bar would taste if Republica Del Cacao chose a more “American” artisan style to create the bar. A bit rougher around the edges perhaps, but possibly also more intriguing taste wise.

You can safely introduce any unknowing person into the world of fine chocolate with bars like this one. A perfect place to start your exploration of a wonderful world of taste!

Improvised review: Bovetti Equateur – Ghana – Papouasie 73% (*)

All in all I consider myself a pretty lenient person. Especially when I talk about chocolate, I tend to look for the best in every bar a chocolate makers creates. But there are times I become so disappointed. Sadly, last monday was such a day.

While going on a 7 hour road trip to Lyon, France – my boss who traveled with me – noticed a display of French Bovetti bars in a shop. As he knows I’m into good chocolate he convinced me to buy a bar to see if it is any good. He got himself a 38% milk bar. We both looked forward to a little moment of chocolate delight, while turning back to the highway. But just after the first bite we looked at each other and asked ourselves: where is the taste?

 KKBTB141205-1   KKBTB141205-2

I have to admit the bar is looking great. The bar stands out from generic chocolate packages. It even states an origin and the chocolate itself shines beautifully, while an embossed logo on the pieces gives it a certain luxurious look.

73% can be such a wonderful percentage and while I noticed Ecuador, Ghana and Papua New Guinea I still thought it could be tasty. After all, Soma chocolate already showed me a blended bar can be a delightful aromatic experience.

But then comes the aroma and taste… or rather, the lack of it. I was godsmacked that such a pristine looking bar – sold at about € 5 – could be so… bland. There is no other word for it. I expected roasted aroma’s, maybe some fruity vibrations, smoky cacao…. but nothing. Even the deep chocolate, hard roasted flavor of dark bulk chocolate is missing. Abundant cacao butter makes for easy melting but tasteless bar. The “Pur beurre de cacao – pure cacao butter” imprint on the package could be considered a warning.

And it makes me sad. Because I wished it would have been good.

The 38% milk chocolate was even worse. The only thing I could compare it to is a “chocolate” bar know as Koetjesreep in Holland and Belgium. Basically it’s not a chocolate as it has less than 35% cacao in it and lots of other ingredients. And this high-end looking bar tasted just the same. Sad really.

Simply because I was so shocked by the actual taste, I decided to write about it. So you will forgive me the photo quality – shots taken with my smart phone in a hotel room under artificial light.

This is a prime example of an industrial bulk product repacked in a fancy wrapper to make it better than it really is and it stands as far away from real chocolate as it possibly can.

Maybe in the end I should be glad I tried it. Because now I have a renewed respect for real artisan chocolate makers, who create wonderful chocolate oozing with exciting flavors. Just the thing that makes my heart skip a beat.

Review: Chocolate Naive – Madagascar 85% (***1/2)

After an annoying two-week cold including a blocked nose, things finally cleared up so I can enjoy craft chocolate to the fullest again. About time, because I have a massive amount of bars waiting to be reviewed.

Today we return to my favorite origin. Madagascar. Naive provided me with this gorgeous looking 85% bar, made from Criollo cacao from the Ambolikapiky plantation in Madagascar… By now I understand the better part of all the quality cacao from this region originates from this plantation owned by Akesson’s. It is great fun to discover the different approaches of the different chocolate makers when they use this cacao. The results are so different it is hard to believe they all use the same cacao. It really shows how a chocolate maker has a great influence on the final taste.

Naive, based in Lithuania, by far a renowned country for chocolate, already succeeded in dazzling me with their products. The Dark chocolate with forest honey (also using Madagascan cacao) never ceases to impress me. It is that good.

So it is with great expectations that I turn my attention to the bar on my table.

KKBTB231114-1   KKBTB231114-2

The 30 gram bar looks modern and minimalistic. A dark band gives away we are dealing with an extra dark chocolate, the 85 percentage dominates the wrapper. I especially appreciate the extra info spread around to give you an instant idea of what lies ahead. A Madagascan, medium roasted criollo bar. Sounds divine to any chocoholic. Medium roasted means a lot of the inherent flavors of the cacao are preserved and should be detectable in the final product.

Open the package and you will find a thick silver foil hugging the bar itself. Out comes a piece of chocolate of perfect size. Not to big, just the right thickness and my oh my, does it smell amazing. But first take a look at all those perfect little rectangular pieces, deep and shiny. This little bar of chocolate takes my mind immediately to the Pacari bars.

Bean: Criollo
Origin: Ambolikapiky plantation  – Madagascar
Production: Naive Chocolate – Parapijoniskes – Lithuania
Price paid: sample – 30g

KKBTB231114-3   KKBTB231114-4

Color:A wonderful light brown, touching the color of a dark milk chocolate with the typical Madagascan red hue.

Aroma: warm, powerful and surprising sweet, tobacco,toasted bread and a hint of red fruit.

Taste: The chocolate starts medium quick and lets the Madagascan fruits pop from the very start. They actually took my by surprise. Lots of red currant and raspberry followed by pretty intense earthy flavors reminding me of raw cocoa. Every swirl of the tongue releases a new wave of fruits, followed by a woody interlude before jumping over to the earthy flavors and a remarkable fresh farmer’s cheese tartness. The texture is fresh and light on the palate. Not buttery at all, meaning Naive wasn’t tempted to calm down the powerful taste by adding too much cacao butter. It melts like a charm and releases a final warm vanilla tone before it is gone. The aftertaste carries on the earthy notes, is slightly smoky and reveals a nice cacao aroma and the reminiscence of the berry flavors. I’m impressed by the leap in texture Naive achieved compared to the bars I tasted before.

This chocolate has a pretty high percentage of cacao and certainly doesn’t go for an easy and mellow taste. You get the full power of cacao, rich and intense – combined with the typical Madagascan fruity acidity. It has the potential to scare of people who are used to the sweet industrial chocolate and try this without knowing what to expect, but you should definitely give it a try to experience wild and untamed Madagascan-origin chocolate!