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!

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Event: My first tasting session – an introduction to the world of bean to bar chocolate

Question: How does one win over the heart of unknowing people for the cause of fine chocolate. Ideally you lure them into a room, close the door and surprise them with the pure class of the chocolates you make them taste.

Now, as the luring and forcing may seem a bit drastic, I decided to ask people politely if they would care for a real-life experience in the world of fine chocolate. About 15 people couldn’t resist my sweet voice and seductive words…

So how did things work out? After all, these people knew nothing about origin chocolate.

This was the line up for the evening. Seven first class bars, covering a wide range of tastes and regions. A perfect way to let people experience the amazing difference in taste from bar to bar, from region to region, from Trinitatrio over Forastero to Criollo and back.

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 Original Beans – Piura Porcelana – 75%: This light, yet extremely tasteful bar opened quiet a bit of eyes around the table. As a first touch of fine chocolate, it immediately won the heart of most around the table. The roasted start and sweet yellow fruits were clearly discovered and for the first time my guests noticed the formidable length of the aftertaste of a quality bar.

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Pacari – Raw – 70%: Totally different from the first bar, yet its floral/green aroma’s didn’t convince everyone. Still I was happy people were able to appreciate the entire different nature of this chocolate compared to the Original Beans’ bar.

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Rózsavölgyi Csokoladé – Madagascar – 72%: Turning to Africa, my guests noticed the sweet sour touches in this balanced, yet powerful bar. It did get noticed by several people for its fruity and fresh taste. Suddenly some couldn’t decide which was the best so far.

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 Akesson’s – Bali – 75%: As I expected – no one was left untouched by this bar. it just oozes tropical aromas, like banana and papaya. Several people detected an enjoyable spiciness added towards the end of the melt. The texture and melt were considered the very best so far.

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Marou – Ben Tré – 78%: People noticed the bars started to become a bit more powerful. Almost everyone detected the wonderful spices in this great chocolate, and even though the melt if slower than the Akesson bar, it was still enjoyed fully. One of my personal favorites.

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The Grenada Chocolate Company – 82%: At this point you could notice that some sweet-tooths started to get a bit outside their comfort zone. Yet the great woody aromas and subtle fruits were noticed and some detected coffee tones in the back.

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Rózsavölgyi Csokoladé  – Trincheras – 95%: as the final bar I choose a bit of a gentle shocker. 95% cacao makes sure you’ll have a taste explosion in your mouth. The dry start and abundance of tannins surprised some, yet still about half of the audience could appreciate the luscious spiciness and smoked aromas. In fact, many returned to it after the tasting, to sample it one more time.

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By the end of the night it was clear we had two distinct winners.  The Original Beans Piura Porcelana and Akesson’s Bali bar. Expressive and tropical as they are, the bars offer plenty of overwhelming aromas. Closely followed by the Rózsavölgyi Madagascar and Marou Ben Tre bar.

It is great to see how people react when they first come into touch with a total different kind of chocolate than the one they are used to eat. Even better is to see how some held little tasting sessions with their family the next day, with a few bars they bought the night before.

And that my friends, is why I love to do this. To help people getting aware that taste is a wonderful thing. Especially when it comes in the rectangular shape of a gorgeous chocolate bar!

Thanks to everyone for attending and a special thank you to my lovely misses, who – despite feeling sick – stood aside me with logistical help, added her personal insights to the evening and took care of the photography this special evening. She is one of a kind!

 

Review: Akesson’s Madagascar 75% Criollo Cocoa (****)

Two little words on a box of chocolate can make my heart skip a beat… Madagascar and Akesson’s. For one, the Madagascar region provides several chocolate makers with the beans to create wonderful, fruitful chocolate. And secondly, Akesson’s took me by surprise with their Bali bar, which brought me one of the most exotic tasting bars I encountered so far. Amazing aroma’s.

So, will this bar bring me the same enjoyment and a fresh look on Madagascan origin chocolate? Let’s see…

Akesson’s is a bit of a strange chocolate producer. Actually they aren’t, yet they are. Confusing éh?

The Akesson Family owns several plantations producing pepper and cacao. Their high quality cacao is actually used by several bean-to-bar producers to create their little brown wonders. However, Bertill Akesson was introduced to the art of creating chocolate while working together with his clients. These days, Akesson’s actually produces its own chocolate in a French factory, using their own cacao beans naturally. While many chocolatiers buy beans to create chocolate, they actually work the other way around. And the results are stunning!

This bar is created from the very limited 2 tons of criollo cacao the Ambolikapiky plantation produces, next to the main Trinitario production. This cacao, grown in the Sambirano region, is the best of the best Akkenson produces in Madagascar.

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The bar is wrapped in the unmistakably Akesson way. It stands out by the square shape, the dark tones in combination with the typical large red “A”. The silver award sticker of the Academy of Chocolate makes clear this is more than just another bar.

Inside, the bar is sealed in a see-trough plastic foil. unfortunately the bar itself was shattered in quiet a number of pieces. A pity, as the design is of such a great minimalistic yet classy quality. But luckily this will not affect taste in any way. Texture wise, this is one of the sexiest chocolates I know. It just screams “smooth” all the way and shines superbly. A typical French style chocolate.

Bean: Criollo

Origin: Ambolikapiky plantation – Sambirano valley – Madagascar

Production: Akesson

Price paid: € 5,00/60 g (Hilde Devolder Chocolatier)

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Colour: deep and dark, promise of a full-bodied bar.

Aroma: powerful in the nose, with an acidic touch and a hint of earthyness and tobacco in the back.

Taste: a moderate slow and sweet start when taken in the mouth, bringing typical Madagascan fruits in abundance. Entwined with some vanilla tones and very balanced chocolate bitter-sweetness, citrus and red berries come to mind. It takes a while before the piece starts melting away, but once it does the texture is so velvety. To me, this bar demonstrates a perfect balance between cacao and cacao butter.  Once the chocolate has almost melted away, the fresh citrus tones make way for more masculine, darker tones touching wood and coffee. The aftertaste has a nice length and keeps the flavour vivid. The fruityness is replaced by some more masculine tannins. An extremely elegant chocolate not going for harsh taste changes, but a very satisfying and powerful taste. The way a quality bar should taste!

While the Madagascar bar doesn’t bring any surprising notes, it excels in bringing the typical Madagascan tones in a wonderful symphony of taste. I totally understand why Bertill Akesson turns to French masters in order to create a glorious chocolate. The sure know how to deliver. Don’t even think twice when you encounter a dark square box with a red capital A!

Sneak peek!

The year 2013 nears its end. It brought me the wonderful discovery of fine chocolate and lots of great discoveries and tastes.

Thanks for reading my chocolate reviews, I’m baffled by the amount of viewers who have visited my little blog, showing nothing but my view on this delicious dark gold.

So what has been popular so far? J.D. Gross tops the list. Yep, the origin bars sold at the Lidl chain sure intrigue a lot of people.

I just hope they prove to be a step up to the really good stuff.

Next in line, to my surprise, is Hilde Devolder chocolatier, my favorite chocolate shop in Ghent. I’m sure Geert Vercruyssen, another Belgian chocolatier with eye for quality chocolate will catch up soon. Somehow more of my Belgian countrymen are looking into fine chocolate than meet the eye. Keep it up!

And next are the really fine chocolate makers, pretty equally divided. Seems you people appreciate what I’m trying to do here by putting down my personal experiences when tasting their products. I can only try to make you curious, so you’d try for yourself, right? You won’t be disappointed.

So, with the turn of the year in view, I can give you a little sneak preview of some things to come!

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And that’s only the latest catch.

So stay tuned for more news from the chocolate world.

Cheers,

Kris

Review: Akesson’s – Bali – 75% (****)

When I ordered my latest stash oh fine chocolate, I decided to try something different. Most of the chocolate I tasted so far was made out of South American or Madagascan beans. I wondered if beans coming from the other side of the world would make a big difference. So here is my first Asian Single Origin chocolate.

Akkesson makes this wonderful looking chocolate from Trinitario beans originating from the Sukrama farms in Bali.

The bar comes in a nice carton sleeve and is protected by cellophane. Opening the box reveals the amazing looking bar. As far as molds go, this one looks very stylish ans sleek. Opening the cellophane reveals the most intense aroma I’ve encountered so far. You can’t help but notice this one will be different from the other bars I tried before.

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Bean: Trinitario
Origin: Bali
Production: Akesson
Price paid: € 5,75 (60 g) at Choqoa.com

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Colour: A nice and deep brown colour, slightly reddish

Aroma: remarkable strong, tantalising sweet fruits and some spices mingled in. Exotic in nature.

Taste: A relatively fast start reveals heaps of tropical fruits. Banana was the one that stood out the most, but mango did twirl around too. I never noticed these flavors in chocolate before. Dried Raisin aromas add some more sweetness, while a very gentle fruity acidity keeps thing very fresh and light. This chocolate delivers a very exotic impression. Towards the end of the melt, smokey cacao starts adding a nice depth to the overall experience. It even reveals some mushroomlike/woody tones. What a wonderful taste development, sweetness and fruit glide over to full-bodied dark chocolate. The aftertaste reveals lots of deep cacao tones and just a slight hint of bitterness. It is rather short but does complete this amazing chocolate and keeps you craving for more!

I still can’t believe the amount of notes that can be found in fine chocolate… so many styles, so many different tastes. Just try it, you’ll be amazed!