Review: Chocolate Naive – Madagascar 85% (***1/2)

After an annoying two-week cold including a blocked nose, things finally cleared up so I can enjoy craft chocolate to the fullest again. About time, because I have a massive amount of bars waiting to be reviewed.

Today we return to my favorite origin. Madagascar. Naive provided me with this gorgeous looking 85% bar, made from Criollo cacao from the Ambolikapiky plantation in Madagascar… By now I understand the better part of all the quality cacao from this region originates from this plantation owned by Akesson’s. It is great fun to discover the different approaches of the different chocolate makers when they use this cacao. The results are so different it is hard to believe they all use the same cacao. It really shows how a chocolate maker has a great influence on the final taste.

Naive, based in Lithuania, by far a renowned country for chocolate, already succeeded in dazzling me with their products. The Dark chocolate with forest honey (also using Madagascan cacao) never ceases to impress me. It is that good.

So it is with great expectations that I turn my attention to the bar on my table.

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The 30 gram bar looks modern and minimalistic. A dark band gives away we are dealing with an extra dark chocolate, the 85 percentage dominates the wrapper. I especially appreciate the extra info spread around to give you an instant idea of what lies ahead. A Madagascan, medium roasted criollo bar. Sounds divine to any chocoholic. Medium roasted means a lot of the inherent flavors of the cacao are preserved and should be detectable in the final product.

Open the package and you will find a thick silver foil hugging the bar itself. Out comes a piece of chocolate of perfect size. Not to big, just the right thickness and my oh my, does it smell amazing. But first take a look at all those perfect little rectangular pieces, deep and shiny. This little bar of chocolate takes my mind immediately to the Pacari bars.

Bean: Criollo
Origin: Ambolikapiky plantation  – Madagascar
Production: Naive Chocolate – Parapijoniskes – Lithuania
Price paid: sample – 30g

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Color:A wonderful light brown, touching the color of a dark milk chocolate with the typical Madagascan red hue.

Aroma: warm, powerful and surprising sweet, tobacco,toasted bread and a hint of red fruit.

Taste: The chocolate starts medium quick and lets the Madagascan fruits pop from the very start. They actually took my by surprise. Lots of red currant and raspberry followed by pretty intense earthy flavors reminding me of raw cocoa. Every swirl of the tongue releases a new wave of fruits, followed by a woody interlude before jumping over to the earthy flavors and a remarkable fresh farmer’s cheese tartness. The texture is fresh and light on the palate. Not buttery at all, meaning Naive wasn’t tempted to calm down the powerful taste by adding too much cacao butter. It melts like a charm and releases a final warm vanilla tone before it is gone. The aftertaste carries on the earthy notes, is slightly smoky and reveals a nice cacao aroma and the reminiscence of the berry flavors. I’m impressed by the leap in texture Naive achieved compared to the bars I tasted before.

This chocolate has a pretty high percentage of cacao and certainly doesn’t go for an easy and mellow taste. You get the full power of cacao, rich and intense – combined with the typical Madagascan fruity acidity. It has the potential to scare of people who are used to the sweet industrial chocolate and try this without knowing what to expect, but you should definitely give it a try to experience wild and untamed Madagascan-origin chocolate!

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!

 

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!

Review: Chocolate Naive – Trinidad and Tobago 70% (***1/2)

Lithuania. No there is another country I wouldn’t have linked to chocolate some years ago.

How little did I know back then. Today I know bean-to-bar chocolate producers are popping up everywhere. In center point of this movement seems to be the USA and UK, but in nearly every country there are chocolatiers stepping up to the challenge.

Chocolate Naive is on of those inspired companies who put quality before quantity. They produce chocolate all the way from cocoa bean to finished bar from their workshop in Giedraiciai, Lithuania.

http://chocolatenaive.com/

And the origins they state on their website are enough to make your mouth water. Peru, Grenada, Madagascar, Vietnam, and so on.

Agné Laskauskaité was so kind as to offer my a very broad array of samples of their products. I’m very happy with that, as it seems a bit difficult to find their products in my homeland Belgium. I’ll spread their products over several reviews, because I think they all deserve full attention, rather than cramping them into a single text.

 

So let’s start with the two dark origin bars I found in the package. First on the line, the Trinidad and Tobago bar (being the purple one on the right)!

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These samples come in such a great package! It’s almost like little books. On the front you get their logo and the origin. On the back the cacao bean used,the percentage, the roast and the conch time! Perfect! I love it when a producer shares this information.

This bar features 70% of cacao, lightly roasted and conched for 60 hours.

Inside a perfect square of brown gold is preserved by a cellophane blister. Opening this foil reveals a great aroma! Hard not to dig in right away!

The little square looks very nice and shiny with the Naive logo embossed on it. Simple and beautiful.

Made with Trinitario beans from Trinidad and Tobago, situated just in front of the coast of Venezuela. I haven’t tried any chocolate from this origin, so I’m not sure what to expect. let us find out together!

 

Bean: Trinitario

Origin: Trinidad & Tobago

Production: Chocolate Naive – Lithuania

Price: Unknown – sample

 

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Color: Deep ebony brown.

Aroma: There is a hunch of leather and lots of spices, including just a smidge of fruit.

Taste: Sweet at the start, a bit spicy with a touch of tobacco and  even some hay for a moment, before going to a sweet bread-like aroma. The texture is a bit grainy and a bit dry. This isn’t a bad thing to me, as there is no excess cacao-butter feeling to it. Next come subtle yellow fruit tones to mind – delicate and illusive, difficult to specify the exact fruits. Even a hint of vanilla twirls around. The melt is pretty quick but leaves a really satisfying chocolate aroma in the mouth. The aftertaste stays in line with the aromas detected before, although it seems short-lived.

Rather enjoyable, though it could do with a longer melt. It is gone to soon! Fresh and Light on the palate and no trace of bitterness, it is a morning chocolate to me. Balanced and satisfying, it offers everything a good bar should provide.