Review: Claudio Corallo – Plantaçao De Terreiro Velho – Sao Tomé E Principe – 75% (***)

Today we wonder across the globe and home in on Africa. I’ve not yet encountered many origin bars coming from this region, producing mostly Forastero beans used in industrial chocolate.

Claudio Corallo however, gathered a vast experience in coffee and decided late on to use this knowledge to produce good quality cacao and turn his harvest into refined chocolate. His plantation is based in Sao Tomé and Principe, an island on the west coast of Gabon in the middle of the African continent. One of the bars he produces is this 75% origin chocolate. Let’s see how it tastes.

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The bar comes in a thick aluminum-like cellophane blister. On top of that, a simple cardboard card noting the manufacturer’s name, the percentage of the chocolate and its origin. There is no further information given and it is unclear which type of cacao bean is used.
Opening the sleeve requires tearing it, offering no possibility to reclose neatly for storing.

I expected a single bar to appear, but instead two small slabs of chocolate emerge. Their design goes on using the same minimalistic approach of the package. there is no imprint, no decoration, nothing. Just two nice rectangular pieces of aromatic chocolate. Obviously mr. Corallo rather have you focussing on the taste of the chocolate than on the appearance.

Bean: Unknown – internet sources claim Forastero

Origin: Sao Tomé et Principe

Production: Claudio Corallo – Sao Tomé et Principe

Price: € 6,30 – 50 g at 1001 Sense – Munich, Germany

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Color: earthy, ebony dark brown

Aroma: a strange and powerful one… somehow it reminds me of the Amma Cupuacu bar – earthy tones, sweetness and roasted nuts are present.

Taste: A sweet start, this bar opens with earthy, woody aromas, while a clear roasted nut aroma is present, mingled with vanilla. In the back a slight coffee-like bitterness. The taste is a bit heavy on the palate and reminds me somehow of a home-made chocolate mousse. Very chocolaty in nature. There isn’t much taste development going on. The aftertaste follows the same pattern and has a nice length. While it misses some refreshing zings and bold taste notes, I can see how this could appeal to a lot of people as it stays close to what people are expecting to find in chocolate. I think the roast is a little on the heavy side, causing a distinct flavor profile. Even though this is a very well made chocolate bar with a great texture and melt, it just doesn’t capture my imagination like other ones do. Somehow I feel that Claudio Corallo has more delicate trick up his sleeve and I won’t hesitate if I get the chance to taste his creations.

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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!

Review: Menakao 72% + Pralus République Dominicaine 75%

A double review on my first Single Origin Chocolates…

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Menakao – 72% (****)

Bean: not noted
Origin: Sambirano region – Madagascar
Production: Chocolaterie Cinagra SA – Madagascar
Price paid: 4,90/75g

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Aroma: lots of cacao and touches of fruit

The small pieces are lighter brown than expected and a little coarse in the mouth. Almost instantly the fruity acidity kicks in and builds to a peak. Next comes a wave of woody, leathery taste in a rather unexpected taste turn.
Cacao mingles in and seems to be fighting for attention with the fruityness that keeps on going.
There is no bitterness going on.

Once the chocolate has melted down, which goes really easy, the acidity evaporates and the mouth is filled with a great chocolate sensation, that somehow seems to remain
for a very long time.
Leaves you wanting for more, though the strange woody taste switch doesn’t suit everyone’s taste. It reminds me of a muscle car, coming on strong with tastes that change wildly
leaving almost no time to follow. Bold and totally different from “classic” bulk chocolate.

François Pralus – République Dominicaine – 75% (****)

Bean: Trinitario
Origin: Dominican Republic
Production: Pàtisserie Chocolaterie Pralus – France
Price paid: € 4,95/100g

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Aroma:Cacao,lightly spiced and promise of red fruits

Totally different from the Menakao 72%, this chocolate is velvet smooth, sexy even. Deep brown in colour, it melts slow and almost creamy.

When it touches the tongue, it delivers a first quick touch of acidity, followed by lots of dark chocolate accompanied by a subtle bitterness, before the red fruits join in.
Before I started looking into these fine chocolates, I’d never believed you could taste raspberry in a straight dark chocolate. Next to the very clear fruit tones, there is the
amazing chocolate taste in symphony with the gentle sweetness and the touches of tannins way in the back.
The aftertaste is strong and dark, yet still very smooth and sexy in nature. This is quiet something!