Chocolate art!

There are times when words only can say so much. This time I let the pictures do the talking. This wonderful chocolate figurine was created in honor of “Sinterklaas”, a traditional day for children in Belgium, Holland and Hungary. Sinterklaas brings chocolate and toys to kids who behaved well last year. Figurine made by Hilde Devolder Chocolatier – Ghent.

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Review: Duffy’s Indio Rojo – Honduras 72% (*****)

When I found the chocolate of Willie’s Cacao my wife wanted to try for such a long time now, she decided to surprise me with a little present of herself. So I got this Duffy’s Indio Rojo bar… Isn’t she the best wife ever?

The British Duffy Sheardown has a past in racing, but he changed his life dramatically once he got a great passion for quality chocolate. Nowadays, Duffy creates a vast line of artisan bean to bars that will make any chocolate enthusiast go wild. Think of Criollo, Camino Verde, Ocumare, Peru, Dominican Republic, Peru,…

Today we have an Academy of Chocolate gold-awarded bar on the table. Honduras isn’t an origin you see on many bars. So this makes for an extra appeal, to discover a new region and range of flavors. Indio Rojo means red Indian. Let’s see if this Indian can make us dream of far and exotic places.

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 I was immediately struck by the vibrant color of the wrapper. You simply can’t ignore this bar. The blue color and Mayan-style decoration take you straight to South-America, the birthplace of cacao and chocolate. The wrapper proudly shows the origin and percentage of the chocolate. I just love the design.

The 80 grams bar is pretty big, as I see more and more 50g tablets. Hidden in a silver foil, it comes out with a very tempting aroma.

The bar itself is pretty simple in design. A perfectly molded piece of chocolate, carefully divided in rectangular pieces. Neat and sleek.

Bean: Criollo

Origin: Honduras

Production: Red Star Chocolate, UK

Price paid: €- gift received from my wife, bought at Hilde Devolder Chocolatier in Ghent

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Color: a lighter shade of brown with a glorious red hint. So the name returns in the color of the bar. Nice!

Aroma: a touch of leather, raw cacao, faint orange in the back combined with dark wood.

Taste: hard snap on breaking of a piece, always a good sign. The chocolate is medium quick opening with sweet caramelized nuts and brown sugar and very chocolaty, before turning into a nice tangy, orange flower aroma that echoes around in your mouth and becomes stronger on the palate. Amidst, a dash of dried apricot pops up. Suddenly the fruits subdues and more herbal notes come through, reminding me of hay and spices with a pinch of cinnamon. The chocolate bites you a bit on the tongue near the end as if it was a much higher cacao percentage, before releasing a delicate aftertaste that revives the orange blossom flavors. The aftertaste has a great length and keeps evolving as does the chocolate itself. After the fruity tones again come some herbal notes swirling around a heavenly chocolaty flavor and a touch of coffee. The texture of the chocolate is good, if ever so slightly grainy. But it melts superbly in the mouth.

This bar was awarded with gold by the Academy of Chocolate in 2011 and I can clearly see why. It’s not often that you will experience a chocolate that evolves as much as this one. I once heard a connoisseur explain that Duffy builds three stage rocket chocolate. And in fact, this bar displays three distinct flavor profiles while savouring it. But on top of that, Duffy’s manages to create an aftertaste that keeps changing too! Doubling the fun! 5 stars in my book!

Review: Original Beans Piura Porcelana 75% (****)

Finally I got back to doing a little review. Well, the bar I’m presenting today may seem little, but not the review!

Hilde Devolder slipped this mini bar from Original Beans in my last Purchase. She seems very curious about my reaction to this specific bar.

The mini bar is part of a collection Original Beans sells, so you can try all their different origins in one go.

Original Beans is one of the chocolate companies who invest the most in durable chocolate. Not only do they aim at setting up a durable and fair relationship with the growers, they also replenish instead of simply consume. This means for instance that the company did set up a program to plant new trees to support the rainforests where cacao grows. Not only does it protect the forest itself, it also creates a larger biodiversity. A prime example of the fact that making quality chocolate can mean social and biological prosperity aswell!

Original Beans is a bit of a complicated company. Basically they are a team of people from several different countries who have combined the search for quality beans and setting up a good chocolate recipe and who produce the actual bars in Switzerland with the help of Felchlin.

Now, back to the bar.

This little bar comes in a bright pink wrapper, covered in golden ink. Very simple, yet effective. The bigger bars are hidden in a much more decorated sleeve, but we’ll keep those for an other occasion. After all, it is the taste that matters most! The bar itself is a nice rectangular piece, scored with fine lines.

it is made of the illusive Porcelana bean grown in Peru. This cacao is renowned for its white color and delicate taste. It is the second Porcelana chocolate I review (See Valrhona El Pedregal 2012), so I’m pretty excited to compare this one with my former experience.

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Bean: Porcelana

Origin: Peru

Production: Original Beans by Felchlin, Switzerland

Price paid: €- sample (Hilde Devolder Chocolatier)

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Color: an ebony wood-like, powerful looking dark brown. I’m always surprised that a white bean can produce such a dark chocolate when processed. Quiet a bit darker than Valrhona’s counterpart.

Aroma: A distinct but delicate toasted aroma, nuts, sweetness and chocolate with a hint of dried fruits. Promising and different from all the chocolates I’ve sniffed so far. The bar clearly has a character of its own.

Taste: A moderately quick and sweet start, bringing up front the roasted touch. Toasted bread and nuts come to mind. Almost reminding me of a dark Pralus roast, but less aggressive and very enjoyable. The first notes are quickly followed by gentle yellow fruits reminding me of apricot, dried raisin and… watermelon! With just that touch of espresso bitterness in the back. Melts rather quick and smooth with a good balance between sweetness and refreshing acidity. Almost like clenching your thirst on a very hot day. The chocolate actually disappears fast in your mouth and without a pause turns over to a balanced aftertaste which brings the toasted aromas back. The aftertaste has a nice length and is subtle yet very rewarding with a luscious chocolate aroma. The chocolate itself is not a powerhouse that will grab you by the collar, but rather seduces you with its balanced taste and surprising refreshing. It is light in nature, perfect as a morning chocolate that tingles on the palate and makes you crave for just a bit more.  well deserved – 4 stars!

Personally, I like this bar better than Valrhona’s version. It is higher in cacao content, but more important, it brings more taste variations. The Valrhona version provided a balanced yet single aroma style experience. While this Original Beans bar once more shows the strength of a great quality chocolate. The numerous notes that can be detected and the evolution of the taste while you enjoy it.

Review: AMMA Theobroma Grandiflorum Cupuaçu 80% (***1/2)

Chocolatiers, they are strange people. They like to confuse poor beginning chocolate enthusiasts like me. Hilde Devolder talked my wife and me into buying a bar of Amma Cupuaçu, just because she was wondering what we would think about it.

It’s like chocolate, she said, but it isn’t. Pretty intriguing and strange. So naturally we had to try it.

Now what do we have here? A bar made of Theobroma Grandiflorum. Not Theobroma Cacao. The Grandiflorum is a species of the Theobroma family. Making it a relative of the cacao plant. Yet it isn’t. Confusing, right?

So in fact, we have a bar of Cupuaçu here. The name reminds me more of a cocktail drink than chocolate, but hey, we love to be adventurous and give it a go anyway!

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So what do we actually get. A bar. In a nice cardboard sleeve. Stating it hides a bar of 80% Cupuaçu. Produced in Brazil. By AMMA, a company producing several single origin chocolate bars. Opening the sleeve, we discover a green foil wrapper and some extra info on the genus of the plant Theobroma Grandiflorum. A little more is revealed on the fruit, its difference to cacao and the fact that it is fermented for a long time to get it at its peak of aroma.

Opening the foil, we discover a nice looking bar of choco… no, Cupuaçu. It is going to take a while to get used to that one. The bar looks as sleek as a tablet of Pralus chocolate. Neat rectangular pieces and one big slab with the signature of mister Diego Badaro, owner of the land where the AMMA trees grow. While it looks good, it isn’t as glossy as a dark chocolate bar. It looks a lot more like milk chocolate. Though no dairy has come close to this bar.

Bean: Theobroma Grandiflorum
Origin: Brazil

Production: AMMA chocolate, Bahia, Brazil

Price paid: € 7,00/80 g (Hilde Devolder Chocolatier)

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Colour: The bar has a very light brown, milk chocolate colour. Very different from high percentage cacao bars.

Aroma: Here the wonderment starts. It is swaying away from the smells a chocoholic is accustomed too. It is sweet with a slight acidic touch. Nutty. And clearly reminding me of liquor filled chocolates.

Taste: The most obvious difference to chocolate is immediately obvious. The bar is a lot softer than chocolate. There is practically no snap, as the cupuaçu beans contain a lot more fat than its close relative. This results in a whole other mouthfeel. It opens quickly and sweet. Next you discover its buttery nature as it melts. Yet it is a pleasant richness, not clingy or dull on the palate. It brings great espresso tastes up front, combined with lots of nuts. Almost like a ganache or praliné. But a lively acidity in the back keeps if from being to thick on the palate. A fruityness of yellow exotic fruits like mango come to mind. It is like a filled bar, but combined with the delicate tones one expects in a quality chocolate. And somehow, it is all different at the same time. The aftertaste rolls in with the same powerful, yet balanced flavours, while the acidity gives way for more espresso tones. This Theobroma Grandiflorum has a remarkable long finish. While it is high in percentage, it is very approachable and smooth.

I am a bit puzzled by this bar. I like it. A lot. But at the same time, it differs from dark chocolate in a lot of ways. One must change his view on chocolate to place it, but in the end, isn’t it the taste that matters most? And in that segment it really provides a new experience! I even think this bar might sway people who fear high percentage cacao bars into giving it a try, as this product is so open and inviting. Wonderful.

So why only three and a half stars? Because to me, the coarser texture and more buttery mouthfeel make it a bit less desirable than an equal chocolate bar. Yet the taste is top notch! It all boils down to personal preferences I guess.

Review: Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé – Trincheras 95% (*****)

Ah, finally my first review of 2014. After fighting of several nose blocking colds, my sense of taste seems te be back at normal.

Just in time to discover this tiny bar by Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé, a Hungarian Single Origin bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer. Their Trincheras 70% allready made for a great discovery, so why not push the cacao a little higher. 95% is a little outside my comfort zone when it comes to chocolate. While these high percentage cacao’s sure develop quiet a taste, I find them pretty brutal to the palate.

As usual, this bar comes in a magnificent little cardboard box. Rózsavölgyi keeps the design pretty simple, yet stylish and refined, while keeping an East-European vibe to it. Nice!

Inside, a white wrapper keeps the bar protected. On officially has to break the red seal to get to the goods. A nice touch, Rózsavölgyi pays attention to the little details.

The bar itself is pretty tiny and thin. At 25 grams it’s hardly hefty! But high percentage chocolate delivers such a taste, there is no need to buy it in big blocks. One must take time to enjoy this creation. The design is almost minimalistic. A flat bar embossed with a little hat. That is all it takes to make a good looking piece of chocolate!

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Bean: Not mentioned
Origin: Trincheras – Venezuela
Production: Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé – Budapest, Hungary
Price paid: € 3,50/25 g (Hilde Devolder Chocolatier)

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Colour: A deep and dark brown, yet not as particular dark as expected. When turned around in the light, it shows brief red hints.

Aroma: Remarkably it smells less strong than expected. I vaguely detected some woody tones, deep within the smell pure cacao. Soft for such a high percentage

Taste: a slight dry but delicately sweet start-off, with the expected tannins kicking in after a few seconds without being to overpowering the palate. The melt is wonderfully smooth while the deep acidity of high cacao remains very well controlled. The silky, velvety texture slowly releases very herbal notes and spicy tones very unusual when compared to the 100% bars I tasted before. Gingerbread comes to mind, followed by some pepper and grass. Just near the end, a wonderful little touch of acidity lives up the taste before a glorious cloud of smoked cacao starts the aftertaste, releasing heaps of chocolate entwined with the gentle acidity. The aftertaste makes this bar even better as it keeps going and going and going. Even minutes after the chocolate melted away, it’s aromas still linger around. And that’s a good thing!

I’d say this is like an Aston Martin car. It’s not as in your face as those wild “Ferrari-Lamborghini” 100% bars. It just knows its own power and gently delivers it. discrete and overwhelming. A winner in my book.

Sneak peek!

The year 2013 nears its end. It brought me the wonderful discovery of fine chocolate and lots of great discoveries and tastes.

Thanks for reading my chocolate reviews, I’m baffled by the amount of viewers who have visited my little blog, showing nothing but my view on this delicious dark gold.

So what has been popular so far? J.D. Gross tops the list. Yep, the origin bars sold at the Lidl chain sure intrigue a lot of people.

I just hope they prove to be a step up to the really good stuff.

Next in line, to my surprise, is Hilde Devolder chocolatier, my favorite chocolate shop in Ghent. I’m sure Geert Vercruyssen, another Belgian chocolatier with eye for quality chocolate will catch up soon. Somehow more of my Belgian countrymen are looking into fine chocolate than meet the eye. Keep it up!

And next are the really fine chocolate makers, pretty equally divided. Seems you people appreciate what I’m trying to do here by putting down my personal experiences when tasting their products. I can only try to make you curious, so you’d try for yourself, right? You won’t be disappointed.

So, with the turn of the year in view, I can give you a little sneak preview of some things to come!

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And that’s only the latest catch.

So stay tuned for more news from the chocolate world.

Cheers,

Kris

Review: Hilde Devolder chocolatier – 100% Colombia (****)

Hilde Devolder owns a chocolate shop in Ghent, Belgium, where she produces fine pralines and sells several Single Origin chocolates produced by a carefully selected selection of top bean-to-bar companies. But she also produces several 100% chocolate bars in her workshop. As a base, she use Luker cacao. Luker is a Colombia based cacao company that recently opened a branch in Belgium to strengthen their international position. Luker produces “Cacao fino di aroma”, or “fine or flavor” cacao beans as indicated by the International Cacao Organisation. Fino di aroma cacao usually means criollo or Trinitario beans. Bulk chocolate as many people know the best, is made out of the more resistent yet les flavorful Forastero beans. Only about 8% of the world’s cacao production is considered “Fino di Aroma”. And exactly this cacao makes fine chocolate stand out way above its supermarket bulk nephew.

I was eager to try one of Hildes bars, so I picked out the Colombia 100%, mostly because I didn’t encounter any other Colombian origin chocolate so far.

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The delicate bar is wrapped in the store in nice wrapper with Hilde’s home-style logo. Opening it revealed an amazing chocolaty aroma, making it hard to resist digging in right away.

The bar itself looks like a little tablet with handmade carvings. By far the nicest mold design I’ve seen so far. Made me hesitate to break of a piece as it feels a bit of a shame to ruin the bar. As with many 100% bars, it is less thick than lower percentage bars, because of the intensity of the taste.

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Bean: Trinitario
Origin: Columbia
Production: HD chocolatier using Luker cacao – Ghent Belgium
Price paid: € 1,75/30 g – HD Chocolatier

Colour: incredibly dark and deep.

Aroma: a somewhat spicy, tobacco smell combined with cacao and the acidity of a seriously high cacao content.

Taste: This chocolate doesn’t veil anything, it states 100% cacao right from the start, with an earthy bite on the tongue. When it subsides, a vibrant cacao comes through, somehow even a bit sweet for a second even without presence of actual sugar, before a wave of acidity and deep, concentrated espresso coffee tones take over. The melt isn’t creamy like the Pralus, wich obviously means Hilde didn’t try to temper the intensity of the cacao by adding to much cacao butter. It feels a little dry in the mouth as it delivers wave after wave of pure cacao bean tastes. It brings along the chestnut flavors I’ve come to expect in 100%, towards the end of the melt, a thing I really became fond of.  Once the chestnut has passed, a sweet wave of pure chocolate marks the beginning of the aftertaste, focussing on the cacao with reduced intensity in acidity. And it just keeps ringing away such a long time after the last crumb has molten.
To me this is a bar that makes no compromises, and tends more towards Pacari’s “100% raw” than to Pralus’ “Le 100%”. It could startle anyone not used to high percentages, yet thrill those who are already introduced into these fine chocolates. Delicious!