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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Review: Menakao – 100% madagascar (****)

100%. The highest number in chocolate. The most terrifying, the most intense, the most under-appreciated of chocolates. We met again. I know it’ll never by my top favorite chocolate either, yet every single time I’m drawn to it, just to experience the taste in its purest. Madagascan style this time around. Ladies and gentlemen, Menakao 100%!

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The bar comes in a sleave-style cardboard wrapper. Simple but effective. The artwork places it directly in the dark heart of Africa, no mistake about it. Bold and Punchy it claims. The inner part of the box reveals more artwork and a nice read about Menakao. The bar itself, wrapped in a golden foil, looks exactly like the other bars in their range. Once more, simple but perfect.

Bean: Not mentioned
Origin: Millot plantation – Madagascar
Production: Chocolaterie Cinagra SA – Madagascar
Price paid: € 4,90/75 g (Choqoa.com)

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Colour: A dark brown as expected from such a high percentage. Lacks the reddish hint some Madagascar bars have.

Aroma: Remarkable fruity in essence, an ever so slight touch of acidity and lots of chocolate aromas, completed by faint spicy notes.

Taste: The expected 100% earthy bite kicks in the moment you take a piece in the mouth. The texture is a little coarse. As powerful chocolate tones roll in, the bar strengthens its potent character by bringing acidity up to the front. This refreshes the palate and opens up coffee and musky aroma’s. A dry and nutty flavour ends the melt phase of the tasting. I really like how well-balanced the use of cacao mass and cacao butter is, the bar isn’t greasy or exceptionally dry while it melts. The aftertaste reveals a fresh, nutty character that plays around in the mouth, tingling some more musky and earthy tones with the remains of the acidity as found before.
Very enjoyable as would be a powerful espresso coffee, perfect to finish of a meal. The lack of sweetness brings a refreshing feel in the mouth. Sadly non of the wonderful Madagascan fruit tones show through, but there are many bars out there who bring you that enjoyment. This 100% bar is here to show you the real taste of the cacao bean, yet slightly less empowering than the Pacari 100% raw, but more intense than the Pralus 100% Criollo. Meant for the true chocoholics!

Review: Pralus – Le 100% (*****)

After I’ve tasted the Pacari Raw, I gathered 100% chocolate would be a bridge to far for me. I do appreciate the magnificent aromas present, but it’s to in your face tastewise, I didn’t see myself going to the cupboard and choose a piece of 100% above any of the other nice chocolate I have in my stash. But the misses adores her Pacari 100% Raw. So, good hubby as I am, I ordered her a new one to try. Pralus – le 100%. No way I was going to let this one go by untasted off course!  Especially as it has been made out of Criollo beans, the Rolls Royce in cacao world. And it comes from Madagascar, my so far favorite cacao region.

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Bean: Criollo
Origin: Madagascar – Sambirano valley
Production: Pàtisserie Chocolaterie Pralus – France
Price paid: € 4,95/100 g – Choqoa.com

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Colour: Deep brown with a slight reddish hue

Aroma: Cacao, tobacco, freshly ground coffee beans and a hint of red fruits

Taste: Far less astringent than the other 100% chocolate I experienced so far, a slight acidity tickles the tongue when first tasting this creation. There is some earthyness before a typical deep roasted aroma comes through. Pure Pralus style. The melt is really velvety, rich and buttery, making the tasting far less overwhelming than the Pacari 100% I tried some weeks ago. Behind the dark roast, the taste evolves from crystal clear acidity, deep espresso tones over to nuts and chestnut. Although there is absolutely no sugar involved, somehow this chocolate even displays a sudden dash of sweetness that’s hard to hold on to. This is probably caused by the evolution of the acidity waves, releasing patches of typical Madagascar-style red fruits before the aroma rolls over to the smokey, coffee tones.
I can’t say I’ve yet discovered more complex chocolates than this particular masterpiece. It’s dark, bold and yet refined and soft. The aftertaste almost makes you forget the chocolate has gone, as pure chocolate and delicious smoked aromas battle with more coffee. And it just keeps rolling on. Even minutes later it’s clearly there. And you want it to stay. And what only hits you once you’ve gone through all these delicate expressions… there is no bitterness. Absolutely non.

 

Monsieur Pralus, Vous m’avez convaincu! *

And you’ve won my first 5 star ranking. Because this is one chocolate I won’t forget soon! Better start looking out for more 100% chocolates for the misses, because I will get back to this one in the cupboard. 🙂

 

(*: Mister Pralus, you’ve convinced me!)

Review: Pacari – 100% Raw (****)

So we finally meet, i whispered softly. It responded by utter silence, either ignoring me or was it already looking forward to what was to come? Hard to tell. I’ve dreamt about this moment, lived through it a thousand times in my mind. It could all turn for the worst in a second, or for the best. Who will tell… who?
As time went by, a single drop of sweat formed on my forehead. I kept staring at it, hoping it would reveal anything that could prepare me for what was to come. It’s deep dark face remained motionless. I know many have found themselves in this exact situation. I know the stories. But somehow, that doesn’t help. I have to do this al alone… my first try of… 100% chocolate…

Pacari 100%. Raw. I reached out, gently picked up a piece and brought it to my mouth… no way back now!

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Pacari offers a line of Raw chocolate. This means the beans ar fermented, but weren’t roasted, rather processed in a natural state. This would keep all of the good anti-oxidants, vitamins, magnesium, iron, etc. within the chocolate, instead of being reduced by a heat treatment like roasting. Pacari produces bean-to-bar premium chocolate in Ecuador.

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Bean: Arriba
Origin: Ecuador
Production: Pacari Ecuador
Price paid: € 5,00/50 g

Bought at: www.choqoa.com

Colour: A deep deep brown colour, nearly black. The tablet looks sleek.

Aroma: As one would expect lots of dark chocolate, but surprisingly also red fruit, with a distinct earthyness in the back as a small warning of what’s to come.

Taste: The earthyness and tannins overtakes the palate instantly, no hunch of sweetness present.It grabs you like no chocolate ever did before. It takes some seconds before other tastes come through, as your palate slowly adjusts itself after the initial shock. Then the pure cacao comes on. It’s only because I’ve eaten real cacao beans that I recognise the taste. It’s cacao in its purest. Mingled in a deep dark espresso taste followed by tardiness and a nutty finish. It reminds me of chestnut. The aftertaste is remarkable chocolaty in nature with the nut tones and tannins hanging on.
It is quiet an experience to taste this chocolate. No sugar, a little coarse in the melt, but still tons of flavor. This isn’t subtle chocolate, it is strong and will overwhelm anyone who isn’t used to high percentage chocolate. But for the ones looking for genuine cacao taste, this is as close as you get without actually eating a bean. I only hoped that the fruits from the aroma would come through in the taste, which doesn’t. Well worth the try, but I still prefer 80-90% cacao’s so far, as they reveal even more tastes.