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: 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!

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!