Review: Amedei Blanco de Criollo – 70% (*****)

Now here is a first for me. After reviewing so many exciting bars, this time around I present you a blend. But if that blend is made by a company called “Amedei” and it features Criollo, I’m very confident I’ve got the attention of any true chocolate lover!

Cecilia Tessieri travelled all the way to Peru, in search of the most delicate and noble Criollo cacao beans to create an extraordinary chocolate bar. Amedei, based at Pontedera near Pisa in Italy, is renowned for its quality chocolate and high standards of production. This particular bar is part of a 20.000 piece batch, created in late 2012. As a limited edition, it carries its own distinct serial number, 12-903 in this case.

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The sleeve of the chocolate bar just breathes the luxurious Amedei tradition. A wonderful design featuring the amazing color array of fresh cacao pods and Amedei’s distinct logo. Inside, tasting notes are provided and while you are at it, you get a nice overview of other creations by the company. From their traditional bars up to the single origins.

A yellow blister keeps the bar safe from harm. Opening it, you are greeted by a glorious aroma tickling all your senses. The bar itself doesn’t have an eye-popping design, but rather consist of a solid bar made out of rectangular pieces carrying the Amedei Logo.

Bean: Criollo blend

Origin: Perú

Production: Amedei – Pontedera, Italy

Price: € 11,49 – 50 g at 1001 Sense – Munich, Germany

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Color: a light, slightly reddish-brown.
Aroma: the bar offers a distinct smoky and spiced scent. Deep and powerful – tobacco, sweet cinnamon, dried wood and cacao create a warm and inviting aroma.
Taste: The chocolate has a good snap and a medium quick start. The taste opens up sweet for an instant, before gliding over to overwhelming pure chocolate tones. Dried nuts and a nice and gentle coffee bitter come through. The bar has a perfect melt and a superb texture – as expected from Italian chocolate. Furthermore, raisin and yellow plum are detected as the chocolate melts in your mouth. These notes blend in perfectly with the great chocolate taste and create a little refreshing moment. Next the wood tones from the aroma mingle in and make for a warm and balanced taste profile. The overall taste reminds me of the aromas you experience during a walk in the woods during a warm autumn day – earthy and sweet. Before the piece has melted completely, the taste offers more roasted hazelnuts.

The aftertaste remains in same line and seems a bit more etherical with volatile toasted and nutty aromas rolling around for a prolonged time.

Cecilia Tessieri has succeeded in creating a wonderful and complex chocolate – floating on warm, earthy tones, gently surprising you with delicate taste changes. A sign Amedei knows its trade to the very last detail and will only produce the highest quality. Blanco de Criollo –  a bar you need to try whenever you get the chance!

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Double Review: Peru – French Broad Chocolate – Palo Blanco 66% (****) VS The Chocolate Tree – Salt and Nibs 70% (****)

Guess everyone knows the world championship soccer is played right now in Brazil. National soccer teams battle each other in South-American stadiums. But I like to do things different. I choose one origin and let two chocolate makers battle with their products! Let see who comes out on top!

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Peru is a growing cacao region and is home to some very tasteful beans. Both the American French Broad Chocolate and Scottish The Chocolate Tree, chose this specific origin to create a special bar.

French Broad developed its  66% bar from the harvest of Palo Blanco Community. I’ve already reviewed the Palos Blancos bar of Twenty-four Blackbirds, which delivers lots of mature, earthy flavors. It will be a great pleasure to see if French Broads bar follows this flavor profile.

The Chocolate Tree uses Peruvian Nacional cacao, renowned for its floral characteristics. Their bar also features salt and nibs, so it should be pretty different from French Broads creation. can’t wait to try it!

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French Broad Chocolates – Palo Blanco Community, Chulucanas, Peru – 66%

As always, French Broad Chocolates offers a gorgeous bar wrapped in its distinct French feeling wrapper, with a bright blue ribbon as accent this time. When the people of French Broad visited this Peruvian community, they were especially impressed with the cacao of Juan de La Cruz and only uses his cacao in this chocolate.

Bean: Not mentioned

Origin: Palo Blanco – Chulucanas – Perú

Production: French Broad Chocolates – Ashville, North Carolina, USA

Price: Unknown – 60 g send to me by Cococlectic.com

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Color: Earthy brown/red. A tempting color.
Aroma: A warm spiced scent with a hint of tobacco, vanilla, very chocolaty and sweet.
Taste: Starting sweet as expected, a gentle roast tone comes up before gentle yellow fruit emerge, riding the sweet wave. Grapes, yellow raisins and apricots come to mind. A very enjoyable fruit flavor combined with vanilla and spiced undertone ride the palate with a reappearing hint of tobacco and some wood touches in the back. The texture is ever so slightly grainy, but certainly not offensive. Offering lots of taste, warm and exotic, this is a great piece of chocolate. The aftertaste keeps the more tannin and wood like aromas in the mouth, while keeping a full chocolate taste. Extremely enjoyable, especially later on the day!

 

The Chocolate Tree – Nibs and Salt, Peru – 70%

Delicate green and white flowers decorate the wrapper of this bar. Inside the beautiful design looking like little squares of chocolate combined in one rectangular piece of chocolate. The Chocolate Tree uses the famous Nacional cacao for this creation and mixes is the chocolate with salt crystals and cacao nibs.

Bean: Nacional

Origin: Peru

Production: The Chocolate Tree – Edinburgh, Scotland

Price: Unknown – 40 g given as a sample

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Color: Very alike compared to the French Broad bar, deep brown/red and gorgeous.
Aroma: Deep earthier tones, more masculine with clear wood and tobacco scents.
Taste: This chocolate opens instantly and a lot darker than the French broad bar. It chocolate bring a very nice earthy aroma up front. Tobacco and smoked wood. Salt pops up on the tongue and enlighten the aroma. It actually highlights the full flavor of the powerful chocolate. In between, cacao nibs emerge, causing you to bite down and release additional packed waves of dark earthy aroma’s, coffee, suddenly roasted nuts and a nice floral Jasmin flower hint. The melt is smooth and added nibs make you chew the chocolate, causing a great taste change in the mouth. The aftertaste is lightly smoky and keeps the powerful nib aromas lingering.
Due to the salt and nibs, this bar changes its taste several times. Not with different tones, but different styles of powerful earth tones, nuts, coffee, deep cacao and amidst this all, twinkles of salt and delicate flowers. My favorite bar from the Chocolate Tree so far!

So, two Peruvian bars – two visions. But who’s the winner? Well, I call it a draw! Both chocolate makers provide an extremely flavorful bar, highlighting different  tones and blend them together to balanced and satisfying chocolates. French Broad offers fruits in abundance, The Chocolate Tree offers dark tones and floral aromas. And in between they share a warm, spicy heart and tobacco!

 

Final result: USA – Scotland: 1 – 1!

Bars like these revive my enjoyment in chocolate once more!

Review: French Broad Chocolates – Tumbes Perú 70% (****1/2)

What is to tell. American Craft chocolate made by French Broad Chocolates… Now gimme gimme gimme!

Oh, I’ll hold my horses for a moment and push aside my love for the US chocolate scene and put on a more objective suit.

French Broad still creates its products in North Carolina. Search my other review on their chocolate to read more about their history. How many can state they went from the US to Costa Rica, fell in love with the cacao way of life and returned to the States to start-up their own chocolate company.

This time around, I get to sample a bar made from Peruvian cacao, harvested by the Tumpis Cooperative. Tumbes is situated in the northwestern part of the country.

 

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Tucked in its stylish wrapper, this time a deep red band accentuates the bar. Almost as if stating this will be an intense piece of chocolate. Almost French as their name states, this bar oozes with a luxurious vibe.

Inside, French Broad’s delicate scored bar strikes me as great looking once more. but how does it taste?

Bean: Not mentioned

Origin: Tumpis Cooperative – Tumbes, Perú

Production: French Broad Chocolates – Ashville, North Carolina, USA

Price: Unknown – 60 g send to me by Cococlectic.com

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Color: Dark ebbony

Aroma: Cacao, woody tannins, earthy with an illusive touch of berry fruits and ever so slightly spiced. An enticing dark aroma.

Taste: Starting slow, the bar opens up with an immediate black fruity acidity (blackcurrant and black berries) and a distinct coffee bitterness. Somehow those two flavors enhance each other and start of a slow waltz dance going back and forth. A while later, the aroma reveals a sort of added tartness, reminding me of fresh cheesecake with an almost creamy texture adding a fresh note of sweet and sour aromas. The chocolate has a really nice texture and wonderful looooooong melt. The aftertaste takes over swift, but not before the chocolate reveals a last note of woody chocolate. What remains in your mouth after the melt flows with the same flavor style of bitter/sour/sweet and keeps rolling and rolling on for ages.

 

I’m baffled. In some bars I would state this bitter note a bit too strong. But the powerful fruit flavor circles it constantly and tries to take the lead without ever succeeding. This makes for a very exciting taste profile that keeps you paying attention as the flavor develops. This bar might be a bit different in nature, more powerful and more pronounced than other chocolate bars, but if this doesn’t show you clearly how diverse chocolate can be, if you compare it to, let us say Original Beans light and roasty Porcelana bar, or Akesson’s tropical flavored Bali bar, I simply don’t know anymore!

Good job Jael and Dan!

 

Perú is slowly becoming my second favorite origin, next to Madagascar. Peruvian chocolate sure can deliver some amazing fruits combined with a deeper, more robust earthy tone. Can’t wait to try the next one!

Review: Fruition Chocolate – Dark Chocolate 70% (*****)

Even after having tasted quiet a few bars by now, but not nearly close to the numbers some other reviewers have achieved, I’m still being surprised by the complexity and array of tastes in fine chocolate. Still makes me wonder why it took me 36 years to discover it!

Back to what’s on the table today. The second Fruition bar I received from Adrienne, a wonderful lady from New York.

This time, it is a little higher in cacao content (70% compared to the 66% signature bar I reviewed a while ago) but the origin is the same, so this is actually a great experiment in how the content of the chocolate can change the taste profile.

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Fruition, a small batch craft chocolate maker based in Catskill Mountains near New York, made this bar from Peruvian cacao. This time around, there is only cacao solids, cane sugar and cacao butter included. How will the absence of vanilla change the taste profile? After all, 70% cacao is very close to 66%. Unfortunately, there is no info on the difference in roast or conche, so we just have the taste to discover.

The bar is equally wrapped as all their other bars, inside a very nice graphic designed outer sleeve and a cellophane wrapper inside.

Once more, the bar was broken somewhere during the Trans-Atlantic voyage, making it all the bars in the package. Oh well, it is the taste that matters, but the bar is so beautiful, it still is a shame… the chocolate itself is shining nicely and looks very appealing.

Bean: Not mentioned

Origin: Peru

Production: Fruition Chocolate – Shokan, New York, USA

Price: $ 8 – 60 g (Fruition website)

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Color: A luscious deep brown – pretty equal to the 66% bar.

Aroma: an impressive aroma comes from the bar as soon as you open the blister, deep cacao emerges , clear wood tones and a touch of spices combined with tobacco. Very promising.

Taste: a pretty quick, slightly sweet start provides some light tannins and loads of rich chocolate. The texture is out of this world. Melting ever so silky, one would expect it to be made in France. Not a trace of clinging cacao butter, just perfect a perfect balance between solids and butter to assure a great texture.  Underneath the main aroma a fresh, green acidic zing pops up and lingers for a moment, keeping the aroma fresh and light, before crystal clear spices come through. I detect cinnamon, ginger and clove. Almost like biting in a Belgian cookie called speculoos or gingerbread. The aftertaste rolls in flawless, repeating the same amazing spicy tones, a touch of dried tobacco and lots of chocolate and keeps rolling for a really long time!
Once more, this Fruition bar makes it very hard to put away the bar and not break off another piece to indulge your senses once more. Where the 66% signature bar offers lots of yellow fruit and a great aromatic balance, this 70% bar is totally different in nature, throwing three distinct aroma waves at you. Gone are the fruits, in come the lovely spices.

Fruition touches my palate deep with this bar, light and extremely aromatic, I can’t give anything less than 5 stars! Perfect!

 

This illustrates how a great chocolate should be and how a chocolate maker can bend the chocolate profile by changing the way the cacao is processed. Coming from the same origin, this ends in two very different flavor profiles. It would be great to know if there is any difference in the cacao bean type or if this is all down to the chocolate making process.

Anyway, Mr. Bryan Graham, I’m a fan of your work. A big one!

 

Review: The Chocolate Tree – Peru 80% (***1/2)

Would you like some samples of our Scottish bean-to-bar made chocolate? Some days you receive wonderful questions by mail.

The Chocolate Tree is obviously a proud artisan chocolate maker and rightfully so. As I said before, I can only have the deepest respect for people willing to venture in the world of high quality cacao and chocolate, because they make life a lot more enjoyable!

So there is was a while ago. A gorgeous pile of small chocolate bars, bound together as if it was a precious gift.

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All these bars (two single origins, a milk chocolate bar, a Gianduja bar and two flavor-infused bars), deserve all my attention, so you”ll see them pop up on my blog one by one the following weeks.

Today we sample the Peru bar made from Nacional cacao and a hefty 80% cacao content. Not really knowing what kind of flavor to expect, as I’ve samples highly fruity bars and dark powerful ones from this origin, I was first struck by the package.

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The bar is wrapper in a flower decorated thick paper. It’s closed on the back by a label stating all the info one likes to read – origin, percentage, type of cacao bar and ingredients. The package is further decorated with a very Celtic looking logo. a rune-like drawing of infinite trees combined with a typical writing font puts you in Scotland right away. Oh, how I can smell the smokyness of a nice peated single malt Whisky… oh wait, it’s about chocolate.

Inside the wrapper, a golden foil keeps the actual bar away from daylight en outside interferences. Opening it, reveals one of the best looking designs I saw since a while. The difference in bar thickness from piece to piece, combined with careful styled decoration is a sight to see. Good points so far!

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Bean: Nacional

Origin: Peru

Production: The Chocolate Tree – Edinburgh, Scotland

Price: Unknown – 45 g given as a sample

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Color: a gorgeous ebony with a reddish hue

Aroma: Deep chocolate, earthy, a bit acidic and ever so slightly spiced

Taste: A softer snap when breaking of a piece, this chocolate is starting quick with coffee tones; mellowed down by a very soft sweetness. Next comes a wave of nuts and spices – cinnamon comes to mind. A hint of vanilla joins the party merely seconds after. The taste remains very masculine, with lots of espresso bitterness and rich chocolate aromas. The melt flows fluently into a pronounced aftertaste, adding a bit of smoked hay, prolonging the powerful aroma of a satisfying chocolate.

The melt of the chocolate is very smooth, probably due to the extra cacao butter added to the mix. As I’ve noticed in several 80+ chocolates, adding the butter makes the chocolate easier to enjoy, yet may overwhelm some of the cacao subtle tastes. In this case, The Chocolate Tree is very careful not to smother the aroma’s, but rather make the tasting more enjoyable texture wise. Due to this rich texture, my first reaction was not being very fond of the bar, but I have to admit this chocolate grew on me during the tasting session. Every bite I took made me enjoy the flavors and overall experience just a tad more, until I realised it is actually pretty good! Don’t expect a fresh, fruit festival, but a gorgeous deep, expressive high percentage chocolate!

Review: Fruition Chocolate – Signature Dark Chocolate 66% (*****)

The chocolate circle. I’ve written about it before. Somehow the origin/artisan chocolate world is filled with people who are so thrilled by the wonderful products they make or discover, they want to share this knowledge with as many people who will appreciate it!

A while ago, I was contacted by Adrienne from the United States. She was intrigued by the Amma Cupuaçu bar, which she couldn’t find locally. So she proposed to swap some bars. You know, you toss me the Amma bars and I’ll throw some other bars back at you. And if we throw hard enough, we’ll reach the other side of the Atlantic ocean. I’m glad we both turned out good throwers!

In my package, I found two Fruition and one Rogue Chocolate bars.

Today I dig into the first of the Fruition bars. Let’s start with the lowest cacao content, to get a smooth first impression!

Fruition is a small batch, bean-to-bar chocolate maker from New York. The Catskill Mountains to be precise. I’ve heard a lot about them and saw their products pass by on Twitter and Facebook, but they are really hard to get over here in Europe. So I was thrilled to set my teeth in this bar.

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The package is simply gorgeous. Stylish, yet playful and reminds me of an envelope sleeve. The first thing I noticed is how Fruition doesn’t throw the origin all over the package. It just states Signature 66% Dark Chocolate. Almost as if they already want to draw your attention to the bar itself, rather than name-dropping terroirs or bean varieties.

Flip over the package and there you’ll find all the info you desire.

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So Bryan Graham is the person behind this receipt, it is made from Peruvian cacao beans and contains nothing but cacao, cane sugar, cacao butter and vanilla beans. The cacao is stone ground and slow roasted.

The bar itself is hidden in a clear cellophane blister, but to my happy surprise, it is one of those blister you can actually open in a way you can rewrap your bar for storage after tasting. Excellent!

Unfortunately, my bar seems to have been shaken up a bit during the cross Atlantic throw-about, as it had broken into several pieces. But you can tell the design follows pretty much the sleeve. The same markings show up, combined with nice “F” letters stating it is Fruition. The chocolate shines like there is no tomorrow. Perfect thickness and a gorgeous surface.

Bean: Not mentionned

Origin: Peru

Production: Fruition Chocolate – Shokan, New York, USA

Price: about $10 – 60 g

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Color: A pretty dark brown, considering the lower cacao content.

Aroma: Dark Cacao tones, wood and roasted coffee. Smells more powerful than expected.

Taste: An obvious sweet start giving room for clear vanilla aromas, supported by loads of luscious yellow fruits. They remind me of ripe papaya, apricot and raisin. Slowly some roasted coffee tones come through, giving body to the chocolate. Never overwhelming, but just enough to make it mature. The texture is extremely smooth and the melt is very seductive and long. The aftertaste has a nice length and looses the fruit tones, but leaves you with such an amazing chocolate taste including touches of wood and espresso.

Even though the cacao percentage is lower than I normally experience, this chocolate never becomes to sweet. It is simply delicious. Full bodied, amazing flavors and a gorgeous melt. And what struck me most? I barely could put it aside. I could easily have eaten the whole chocolate bar in one sitting. Not because it is the most complex chocolate ever or throws the most amount of flavors around, but just because it is so darn good!

Highly appreciated and recommended! I can’t wait to try the other bar I have laying in the cupboard! Mr. Bryan Graham unmistakably knows his trade!

Review: Chocolate Naive – Peru Pure Nacional 78% (****)

No. You don’t need to worry! You are not seeing double, this is just the second part of a double review about the first two samples of Chocolate Naive’s dark origin bars I received. You’ll find more info on Naive in my post about their Trinidad and Tobago bar just below.

Well refresh your memory with these pictures:

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This time I focused on the little black square. Peru Pure Nacional. A 78% chocolate,  roasted at a medium level and conched for 60 hours.

This time the cacao beans originated in Peru. The Nacional variety of cacao (part of the Criollo family) is grown with in the Marañón Canyon in Peru and are regarded the purest DNA cacao beans, according the extra info on the sleeve of the sample. Anyway, the aroma coming from this little square of chocolate blew me away right away! Powerful and enticing.

Bean: Arriba Nacional

Origin: Peru

Production: Chocolate Naive – Lithuania

Price: Unknown – sample

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Color: Though higher in cacao content and longer roast than the Trinidad & Tobago bar, it surprisingly has a more a medium brown color.

Aroma: Cinnamon, smoked wood and sweet cacao.

Taste: a drier but still sweet start takes you to a more robust chocolate flavor, combined with deep wood tones without becoming bitter or overwhelming. Underneath the main flavor, a red berry aroma flows along without taking control. It gives the flavor that little punch of freshness to make it really enjoyable. The chocolate melts slower and has a better texture than the Trinidad and Tobago and adds light coffee tones to the aroma near the end of the melt. The aftertaste reveals a nice warm vanilla aroma, floating on the warm woody tones and provides an exceptional length. The Naive Peru bar is a great, powerful chocolate with a perfect balance between taste, sweetness and robustness.

If I had to choose between the two samples, this Peru bar is the clear winner, as it comes very close to all the things I like in a quality dark chocolate bar. I especially love how Chocolate Naive seems able to control the nervousness of a higher cacao percentage. Wonderful!