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?

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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.

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Review: Soma Chocolate – Dancing In Your Head 70% (****)

Blend…. a word which is rare on this blog. Ever since I started reviewing quality chocolate, I focused on Single Origin bars. Using cacao for a single country, region or even plantation. Today we experience a bar created with cacao from 4 distinct regions, all over the world. Venezuela (El Vigia), known for its refined Criollo cacao – Papua New Guinea and Java, countries growing cacao releasing smoked flavors and finally Madagascar, terroir of fruity cacao.

These types of blend could be a masterpiece… or a flavor clashing party!

I’ve tried another bar from Soma a while ago and judging on that experience I was pretty sure I was in for something good and special!

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This time around, it was a hefty 80 grams bar I received from Adrienne, my friend from New York. Unfortunately, the voyage totally broke the bar in 4 pieces. By sheer luck, Soma has decided to wrap this beautiful bar in a transparent cellophane. The label makes everything crystal clear. This chocolate will make the neurons in your head dance from pure joy! I like the sound of that!

The bar is simply scored in small rectangular pieces, but it has such an amazing shine to it. Just by looking at it, you know this is well made chocolate.

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Bean: not mentioned
Origin: Papua New Guinea – Java – El Vigia Venezuela and Madagascar
Production: Soma Chocolate – Toronto, Canada
Price paid: unknown – 80g (gift)

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color: a gorgeous ebony-brown

Aroma: Lots of smoked wood, a touch of acidity, tobacco

Taste: A hard snap. This chocolate has the hardest snap I’ve encountered in quiet a while. A good sign.  It is opening swift and sweet with notes of brown sugar, molasses and roasted nuts. Followed by slight earthy tones and vibrant tobacco notes, slowly turning over to gentle yellow fruits reminding my of raisin and dried apricot and plums. A nice smoke aroma remains in the back of the mouth as the chocolate dissipates, turning to a great chocolate taste near the very end. The aftertaste follows the massive wave of chocolate, spiced up slightly and still reminding of the brown molasses.
Soma managed to deliver a great bar made out of a blend of several origins. The bar itself shows numerous aroma’s, joyfully playing together and never clashing. The taste is just a harmony that takes you though several stages, from the sweet roasted start over an earthy tobacco middle part and ending with gentle fruits and smoke. The chocolate maker somehow captured the essence of every origin and allows the flavor tones to show through in the final aroma. This bar show that even blends can take chocolate to extreme heights compared to bulk chocolate. It’s on par with single origin bars and is simply delicious!

Review: Chocolate Naive – Milk Chocolate Java/Papua New Guinea 53% (***)

Milk Chocolate. I adored the stuff when I was little and even now I still have a soft spot for it. Unfortunately I’ve lost my sweet tooth and many of the milk chocolate around seems so overpowering sweet and clingy in nature, it fell out of my grace but for a couple of times a year.

When I discovered fine chocolate, I wonder of the artisan chocolate makers could make the tide turn and make me fall in love all over again.

Today I unwrapped Chocolate Naive’s 53% Milk chocolate bar with anticipation. Lithuania’s finest Bean-To-Bar chocolatier might change my point of view.

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I just love their sleeves, folded like a precious book. On the front cover, the chocolates’ main identification. This bar features 53% cacao from Java/Papua New Guinea, lightly roasted and conched for 60 hours. On the back the usual ingredients info and a very entertaining little story about a chocolate maker trying to milk a cow. Great touch.

Open the sleeve, and inside you find a lyrical text about Chocolate Naive and it’s values and dreams.

The actual bar is sealed inside a transparent blister. Oh how unfortunate, the bar has been smashed inside its box during transport. A dozen of pieces awaited me.

Bean: Criollo + Forastero

Origin: Java + Papua New Guinea

Production: Chocolate Naive – Lithuania

Price: Unknown – sample

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Color: as to be expected, a light shade of brown, yet darker than most milk bars.

Aroma: Earthy cacao, slightly roasted, not really creamy.

Taste: This is a surprisingly slow starting bar, opening with roasted hazelnuts, honey and has a touch of a liquor aroma to it. The texture is quiet grainy – you can almost make out sugar crystals – and the melt is especially long. The diary itself doesn’t come through clearly, yet a nice nutty tone remains present and the bar shows great cacao aromas, even slightly fruity for an instant, before finishing off with light caramel. Even though the cacao percentage is low, it isn’t sweet but nicely balanced. The aftertaste remains nutty and reveals more of a milk profile, but doesn’t linger as long as most dark chocolates.

Did this bar set a new standard when it comes to milk chocolate for me? Not exactly. While it is nice, it falls in between classes. For a milk chocolate it offers a lot of flavor, but I miss a luscious cream feel and aroma. It aims for taste, but falls short compared to a great dark bar. Maybe it is just a personal thing. Oh wait, chocolate is as personal as it gets! And that’s why I love it!