Monday, May 19, 2008
I picked up a short assortment of Lillie Belle Farms chocolates while I was in San Francisco. I got the Cayenne Caramels, Smokey Blue Cheese Truffles, Lavender Caramel & Marzipan Fig. They each came in a set of two, just tucked simply into a cellophane bag, for the rather reasonable price of $4 per pair (except for the Cayenne Caramels, they’re small so there were three of those).
I liked the ability to pick and chose what I was going to get. I’ve see Lillie Belle Farms at Whole Foods, but usually just the blue cheese 5 pieces and for Candy Blog purposes, I really want a variety. But having two of each means I get a pretty strong sense of each chocolate.
Jeff Shepherd runs Lillie Belle Farms, and it’s a real farm in Oregon (not some made up name), certified organic, where he grows marionberries, raspberries & strawberries. That’s another thing that sets these chocolates apart, they’re not named for the creator, one of the few chocolatiers that’s not. (Exceptions: Godvia, Vosges & Hotel Chocolat.) Well, that’s not quite true, Lillie Belle Farms was named for Jeff’s daughter, Lillie and his wife Belle.
These are adorable little chocolate buttons. The only molded chocolate in the bunch.
It has to be molded because the caramel filling is downright flowing. It’s smooth, without a hint of grain and with an authentic creamy toasted sugar taste.
And when it says cayenne, it’s not kidding. There’s the initial squeal of hot pepper and then this low lingering burn afterwards. Unfortunately I’m a bit of wuss and thought it was too strong. Perhaps if I was eating them in combination with other chocolates (and the smaller size is welcome in that respect), but as solo pieces I really only think they’re going to be loved by folks who have that iron constitution.
I had no idea what this was, the package simply said Rum & Fig, which sounded like a fabulous combination in my book. Since it was wrapped in foil, I had no idea that it also included nuts. (I didn’t know what kind of nuts and didn’t have the internet handy so I made my husband eat one in order to confirm that it was almonds and not walnuts.)
Once on the internet I found that it’s rum & spice poached black mission fig which is then wrapped in marzipan and then dipped in chocolate & rolled in crushed almonds.
It was like, well, nothing else. It smells drunk, like amaretto and rum. The crunchy almonds are held together by a bit of a chocolate shell. The combination of chocolate and fig is quite difficult, as many of the fig flavors overpower the chocolate. Even though I didn’t catch much chocolate here, all the flavors worked so well together. It didn’t come off as sweet or decadent, but so complex, like hearing a song that will become your favorite for the first time and just wanting to hit replay a few times.
A stiff and chewy caramel, very smooth chew with a strong lavender zest to it (or whatever you call the oily essence of lavender). The chocolate and salt complement this well, I’m not sure if the caramel was too hard for me or not, it’s hard to tell when the pieces are a bit below room temperature.
It’s sweet and mellow and really the perfect texture of caramel for me, an ideal combination of sugar and cream that brings out the burnt sugar notes. That darkness combines well with lavender, which I find to be a darker essence like rosemary.
I believe this is what’s known as a signature piece. The ganache is mixed with Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue Cheese and then rolled in crushed toasted almonds. It looks kind of like a little cheese ball, and smells a bit like it too.
There is no hint of sweetness here. It’s tangy and smooth and has a bit of biting bitter hint. The nuts are probably the sweetest thing in the mix and provide a great crunch. As a piece of confection, it’s not quite satisfying since it’s rather salty. As something to just ignore labels and eat ... well, now there’s the way to wrap your brain around it. I do wonder how it would taste smeared on a table water cracker.
I’m definitely interested in picking up some more of Shepherd’s pieces, I chose the ones that I thought were most distinctive (that I could get my hands on) but there are far more that seem to be available only through his store, so when the weather cools off, I’ll probably place an order. Or visit his shop in Central Point, Oregon (north of Medford):
Lillie Belle Farms
Monday, May 12, 2008
I’m kind of ridgid with my definition of gummi. I consider it a jelly-type candy made with gelatin. So just by that definition vegetarians can’t eat gummis because gelatin is an animal product. But gelatin gives gummis an inimitable bounce and chew that no other ingredient has been able to match.
But every once in a while a product comes along that does a pretty good simulation of a gummi, and in this case it’s not only vegan but also mostly organic. Enter Surf Sweets Super Sour Worms. If you’re looking for a candy with no artificial anything that still feels like the candy all the other kids are eating, this just might be it.
The ingredients list is short: Organic evaporated cane juice, organic tapioca syrup, citric acid, pectin, sodium citrate, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), colors (black carrot juice concentrate, turmeric & annato), natural flavors. So for anyone concerned about corn products, those are also not on the list.
The sugar sanded worms are pretty firm, they’re still bendable (even posable) but not at all sticky. The sugar sanding is pure sweet, not blasting acid wash here. (So kids who are used to really sour candies might be disappointed here.)
Inside the stiffy jelly candy is pleasantly chewy, plenty tangy and comes in different flavors.
One is a cherry & lemon (alternating yellow & dark red), on the wild cherry side of flavors, rather woodsy and sour enough to keep my salivary glands a-tingling.
The solid amber orange one is orange, or perhaps tangerine. It’s an authentic-tasting citrus mix.
If you leave the package open they will get a bit firmer, which is the way I preferred them. Right out of the bag they were very soft, kind of limp but extremely juicy.
They’re made in a peanut-free, tree nut-free, soy-free, and gluten-free facility, though they’re not certified Kosher, they’re also vegan.
I’m glad to see that Surf Sweets is continuing their trend of making (mostly) organic, all natural versions of mainstream treats. There are very few compromises here if you’re a parent looking for a treat for the kids that doesn’t have the dreaded glutens, nuts or artificial colors. The packaging is friendly looking and won’t make the kids feel like freaks either.
Friday, May 9, 2008
It’s called MarieBelle Mayan Chocolate Bar 70% single origin Colombian cacao - unsweetened. That’s the extent of the description given. What I found interesting reading the back of the package is that this bar is made in Colombia. And it’s made by Eneh Compania Nacional de Chocolates, and only distributed by MarieBelle (in their bar format, of course). It’s certified Kosher.
Now, besides its origin, it has other tricks up its sleeve. Unlike the 99% & 100% cacao stuff that I’ve been eating for the past two days, this is more like Michel Cluizel’s Cacao Forte 99% truffle. While there’s no added sugar here, there is a lot of milk ... probably more milk than some chocolate bars have chocolate.
The bar may be 70% cacao, but the second ingredient is milk. The whole list of ingredients goes like this: Cocoa mass, skim milk powder, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, soy lecithin, PGPR-90 polyglicerol polyricinoleate (emulsifier) and natural vanilla.
From what I understand from reading the label, what MarieBelle (or Eneh) has done is take some intense, unsweetened chocolate and diluted it with some milk & emulsifiers. Much like coffee becomes much more drinkable to the majority of folks with a bit of milk to temper the bitterness but still allow the flavors to come through, that’s how this bar operates. Milk adds a bit of sweetness with its natural sugars (lactose) as well as simple bulk with its fats & protein. (This bar has about 20% more protein per ounce than straight chocolate but also has 16 grams of carb per ounce though none of them straight sugars.)
Yes, it has PGPR in it too, which I was a little concerned about, as I associate it with cheap chocolate ... it’s a simple filler in most cases, it maintains the texture & mouthfeel of chocolate but of course is far cheaper than actually have chocolate content. In this case, I’m guessing with such high milk content the extra emulsifiers are handy to keep the bar properly integrated.
But all that technical stuff aside, it’s a nice looking bar. It reminds me of a rye crisp, with the little divets in it or maybe a game board that should have little pegs.
The thick plank of chocolate has a nice stiff snap to it. I was concerned with all the extra milk & emulsifiers it’d be fudgy or soft, but it has a texture consistent with a 70% dark bar.
On the tongue it has a very slow and viscous melt. It reminds me of peanut butter. It actually tastes a bit like dark roasted peanuts. It also has those toasted burnt sugar notes, like the crust of a creme brullee.
It’s quite sticky in the mouth, but that makes it feel substantial and long-lasting if savored. The other way to go is to chew it up, but I have to say that makes a big mess in the mouth. Once it melts, it’s clingy. Chocolate with sugar in it wants to fall apart, kind of like fudge. Instead, this is almost like a caramel, it wants to stay together.
I have to say that even though this bar is jarringly different than many chocolate bars, the way they’ve solved the problem of leaving out sugar without being chalky or blazingly bitter is quite pleasing. (Kudos for not going to the sugar alcohols that mess with the texture and of course have those unwanted side effects.) If you’re a fan of peanut butter flavors and textures, this bar won’t feel too unfamiliar.
I don’t know if I’d buy it again for myself, but if you’re on a low carb or no sugar diet (but have no problem with the immense amount of fat) this could be the indulgence you’re looking for. I don’t think this bar is that easy to find. I got mine at Chocolate Covered in San Francisco, you can also order online directly from MarieBelle.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Before I took on this challenge of the all-chocolate chocolate bars, I did take a test to find out if I’m a “supertaster”. People are divided into three categories: nontasters, regular tasters and supertasters.
Our tongues can detect five tastes: sweet, salt, bitter, sour & umami (savory). Nontasters (about 25% of the population) tend to enjoy more intensely flavor things such as super sours and liberally salted products, enjoy fatty & sweet foods while regular tasters (50%) shy away from intensity but sample liberally from all the major tastes & textures equally. Supertasters (25%) dislike stronger bitter & sour things and even high fat content foods. There are all sorts of scientific studies about evolution and how each of these types can be beneficial or detrimental to your ultimate longevity ... or enjoyment of that long life.
Although I have a very keen sense of smell, I am a regular taster. (I like coffee, super sours, broccoli & used to drink pickle juice - though I really like chocolate & cheese, I’m not that keen on other types of fatty foods.) So I figured I might be a good candidate for appreciating the more authentic tastes of the purest chocolate.
Dagoba makes one of the few 100% chocolate bars and the only one that I could find that was organic. It’s called Prima Materia which means, literally, prime matter. It’s usually used to refer to alchemical ideas about the base matter that makes up the universe, that all matter can be changed back into and then reformed. Kind of like stem cells are for living creatures.
In this case, this is the essential chocolate - just beans from Madagascar, ground up and made into a bar.
At only $2.75 retail, it was about the same price as a baking bar (though smaller of course). I got this one as a sample at the Fancy Food Show in January.
The Prima Materia is a dark looking bar, nicely glossy with a solid snap.
The melt on this was a little sticky, I can’t really explain it. Whatever it is, it’s not terribly dry. The melt lets the flavors come out slowly. I taste a bit of cherries and raspberry at the very start, but once it melts a bit more it’s all about the dark mulch of the forest floor.
There’s a light yeasty note in there that reminds me of dark beer. The bitterness is noticeable, but not enough to keep me from eating more pieces. By far this is the most edible of the bars I tried. I wouldn’t say that I’ll be eating a lot of it, but with some almonds or cashews nearby, it’s an acceptable form of entertainment for a while.
It really doesn’t take much to satisfy my chocolate craving either. (Of course then I start craving something else, like a glass of water & some sweet caramels.)
2 ounces - 185 calories per ounce - Kosher
After Christmas this bar, Ghirardelli 100% Cacao Unsweetened Chocolate, was on sale for only $1.25, and found in with the baking products, I thought I’d throw it into the mix as a way to see if I was just being overly picky about what eating chocolate is in the first place (besides a fancy way to charge two or three times as much as chocolate chips).
The wrapper is very simple, but still quite compelling. The bar is large and flat, a little larger than the regular bars in the candy aisle, in this case it’s 4 ounces instead of 3.17 of the current Intense Dark line.
To their credit, Ghirardelli is clear that this is a baking bar. So this is an off-label application of the confection.
As lovely as it was, and it is a lovely bar, nicely tempered, perhaps a bit stiff but a deep red-brown, they are correct in not promoting this as an eating bar.
The smell was quite woodsy, like cedar and a bit grassy. It tastes like olives and asparagus. Bitter, moisture-sucking, mulchy and green.
Looking at the nutrition label it’s easy to see why this is so chalky, it has less fat than the Prima Materia, a whopping 40 calories per ounce less fat. (Have i mentioned lately that I love cacao fat ... sometimes I wonder what it’d be like if donuts were made by frying them in cocoa butter.)
4 ounces - 145 calories per ounce - Kosher
Meiji is a good consumer brand in Japan. They make all sorts of candy, not just chocolate products. (My favorites are their Gummy Choco and Chelsea.)
It’s a pretty bar with 15 nicely shaped scored pieces. The package is also good, an easy to open paperboard box that fits back together pretty well to hold the leftovers (and there’s gonna be leftovers, who eats the whole thing?). I was encouraged that it had a pretty high fat content, too.
The bar wasn’t expensive ($1.99), which is probably a pretty good indication of what I should expect for a chocolate without any sugar. The scent is of the dark roasted cocoa flavors, a bit of charcoal. There’s a very abrupt high-note of the vanilla flavoring in there as well.
On the tongue it melts pretty nicely, but it’s quite bitter and dry. Keeping it further back on the tongue seems to help to recognize the other flavors that included a bit of a yeasty note of baking bread, wood smoke and burnt sugar.
I should note, in case you haven’t noticed so far, these are not low-calorie bars. In fact, this “sugarless chocolate” is some of the highest caloric density reviews I’ve ever done. (It’s the cocoa butter.)
But note that chocolate has a good amount of iron (10%), and about 3 grams of protein per ounce and 4 grams of fiber per ounce. That doesn’t even go into the positive effects that all those antioxidants have for your heart and circulatory system.
1.58 ounces - 161 calories per ounce (contains soy lecithin & artificial flavors)
I was so excited when I bought the Chocolat Bonnat 100% Cacao. I’ve never had Bonnat before, the only experience I have with it is reading this exhaustive series at DallasFood.org about Noka and seeing the bars at several upscale stores. At $8 a bar (granted it is a big bar at 100 grams), I was hoping for some sort of miracle. I’ve come to realize there’s a reason that chocolate with sugar is so widely available ... it’s just better that way.
The wrapper, I admit, is lovely. The regular Bonnat bars have white wrappers with similar lettering, but the 100% gets the special brick red treatment, which should be a good indication that you should stop and think about it. 100% Cacao. No sugar, not even lecithin or vanilla. Stop. Hazard. Danger.
The bar was wonderfully tempered. (As wonderfully tempered as I was ill tempered when I was done.)
When I first unwrapped it, it smelled strongly of green olives. Later when I tasted it, I kept getting the strong, puckering flavor of green olives, grassy matcha and artichokes. These are all good things as far as vegetables go, but I don’t like them together and I don’t like them as the primary notes in my chocolate.
Here’s the thing, I hear my flavors. Well, not quite hear ... they have wavelengths in my head (and kind of colors that go along with them). Flavors create vibrations. And different kinds of flavor combinations create different combinations of these vibrations & wavelengths. It’s called synesthesia and many people have it to some degree.
So when I talk about things being harmonious, it’s not just a metaphor, it’s an actual description of my experience. In this case the bar was screechy. It was unripe, unrehearsed, stuttery, weak and tinny.
I’ve had the bar for a couple of months and have unwrapped it a few times to see if it was just that I’d had the flu, the lights in the house were at the wrong level, the moon was in the wrong phase or was in a bad mood. No, this is like Phillip Glass & Stephen Sondheim collaborating on some sort of atonal opera about database programmers performed by deaf alley cats in a poorly ventilated auditorium with squeaky chairs that pinch. It’s probably a wonderful intellectual experiment, but it’s not an enjoyable physical one. (But again, this may be an experience colored by the way that my brain processed certain things and might be just glorious to folks who don’t get the cacophony of wavelengths.)
3.53 ounces - unknown calories
The best news is that I have a deeper appreciation of my blended chocolates now and single origins even more so. As far as pure chocolate as being a “sugarless” alternative to regular sweetened chocolate, I think a very small quantity of sweetened chocolate will be more satisfying than a larger portion of one of these. But your mileage may vary. I definitely recommend the Dagoba if you’re itching to try just one. (The fact that it has a reasonable price is also a selling point.)
All of the remaining bits of these bars will be taken next door to the neighbors this evening where I will donate them to Amy in the hopes that she’ll create some awesome and rich brownies out of them so that I may love this chocolate again.
Casey at Chocolate Note has far more appreciation for the most concentrated chocolate bars. For other deeper appreciations for these bars try the Seventy Percent for: Michel Cluizel Noir Infini & forum discussion about Bonnat & Cluizel.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
For about six months I’ve been looking for the Michel Cluizel Noir Infini 99% bar. It’s not that it’s new, it just happened that the usual stores where I find Cluizel products were sold out of the bar.
I like the responsible size of it, it’s only 30 grams (1.05 ounces) instead of the usual 100 gram size for Cluizel’s large tablets.
Even though I declared this sugar free week, it wasn’t until I was prepping this post that I found out that there is sugar in this bar. The ingredients are: cacao (99%), cane sugar, spices, cocoa butter & Bourbon vanilla. Honestly, with a list like that, I can’t imagine it’s more than a pinch per pound. The wrapper also explains the bar further: This chocolate with its long kneading process and extremely high content of cocoas, reveals deep and dense strains for connoisseurs’ palate.
It is a lovely little bar, with a rich and deep scent of chocolate.
On the tongue the thin bar melts pretty quickly. Overall it feels a bit like a clay slurry ... not quite chalky enough to call it, well, chalky or dry. The vanilla notes are pretty strong, as is a bit of a green wood and black tea note. By the end I was getting mulch, vanilla grass, pecans, burnt hazelnuts ... all wrapped up in smoke and charcoal.
Though it was bitter, there was very little puckeringly acrid acidity that I get with other high cacao bars (I’ll have a rundown of some of those tomorrow).
But not really a lot of fun. I was grateful that it was a small bar.
The other chocolate on my list of pursuits lately has been the Michel Cluizel Cacao Forte bonbon.
It’s amazing what a difference it makes when the intensity of the cacao is reduced by just a bit. While this truffle has no added sugar, it is a ganche and contains butter and/or heavy cream. So while the chocolate is 99%, the truffle itself is not.
The ganache is soft and melts quickly. The lighter berry & fruit notes come out much better, the bitterness is nearly gone and the finish, though dry is not acrid or acidic. But it feels thin in flavor, and I’ve tried quite a few Cluizel chocolates, so I know I can do better.
After eating the straight chocolate, the bonbon is a relief and seems almost sweet by comparison. But if you have this in a box and have been eating Champignon Caramel or Madagascar Dark Chocolate Ganache it will be jarring.
These pieces feel like exercises, like some single origin bars that give us the sense that it’s great that so many chocolate makers blend beans to give us a consistent and appealing flavor profile. I appreciate them, I grant that they have the right to exist, but I don’t care to eat them again.
As for the aspect that they’re free of added sugar (effectively), they’re not a low calorie food. Chocolate has oodles of fat in it and the bar comes in at 151 calories per ounce and less than a gram of carbs. (I don’t know what the bonbon is, but I’ll guess it’s even higher in fat.) However, if you’re looking for a chocolate punch that won’t raise your blood sugar level (and dark chocolate has been shown to lower insulin resistance, lower blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol levels, blah blah) this is an interesting “theraputic” option that’s probably cheaper than many other medical alternatives. It’s also just an interesting excercise all chocophiles should experience. The Noir Infini tasting square can be found in Cluizel assortments, so that’s probably the best way to experience this ... as part of an entire trip, not as the destination.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
I got a few samples at ExpoWest of their different flavors, but ended up opting for a full package of the Cinnamon XyliChew for this review.
The package is a nice paperboard box with a blisterpack that holds 12 pieces inside. Two pieces are normal serving size (though sometimes I go for three pieces).
XyliChew boasts 70% of its content is xylitol, which is supposed to have many health benefits. Studies link lower incidences of dental caries (cavities) to consistent use of xylitol (either in gum or mouthwash) and others have said that it keeps teeth & bones strong as we age. But the amount needed for those more substantial positive effects are probably greater than would be consumed normally. A pair of pieces gives the chewer only 1.6 grams per serving. (Studies were using dosages of 20-40 grams per day.) You can read more of the features at their website.
But that aside, this is gum and most often we’re chewing it for other reasons, such as to freshen the breath, a boost of flavor, keep us from munching and just plain old enjoyment of chewing.
These are cool on the tongue immediately, which is one of the big appeals of xylitol as a confectionery sweetener. The cinnamon flavor is much more like the powdered spice or chewing on an actual stick of the bark than those “cinnamon flavors”, so it’s a bit deeper. It’s not at all spicy though, there’s no burning feeling to it. The chew lacks much grain to it like sugared gums have (well, there’s a little from the shell, but that dissipates quickly). The flavor remains for quite a while, I tracked it as still having a satisfactory amount of cinnamon flavor after 30 minutes, though the sweetness had abated.
It didn’t stick to my teeth, which is also a nice feature (yes, I have fillings - those old fashioned amalgam & those new fangled white composite ones).
As a sugar free product, I don’t feel like I’m missing a thing. Some folks may not like that cooling sensation and of course you have to get used to xylitol. I still prefer my good old Peppermint Chiclets, but I could get used to this, too.
XyliChew is all natural, even the gum base is from the sapodilla tree. It uses beeswax though, so may not be appropriate for all vegans.
Many stores like Whole Foods, Nature Mart and health food shops carry XyliChew, you can also order online through Nature Mart or Amazon. They retail for about $2 a package. It also comes in other flavors like: spearmint, peppermint, tropical fruit, licorice and chocolate.
UPDATE: Also, be aware that xylitol is dangerous to dogs, so be very careful to keep xylitol sweetened products away from pets.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
After Valentine’s Day I picked up some discounted items from Target. I haven’t re-visited much of the Choxie line since my initial tastes on their launch, so I figured it was time to see what else they had.
The box they came in was a goofy flat affair, I think just this stack with a red ribbon is a fine gift (and I threw out that box pretty much as soon as I got home). The assortment contains two milk chocolate bars and two dark chocolate bars.
The one that interested me the most was the Milk Chocolate with Roasted Almonds & Sea Salt. True to its name, it was a nice dark milk chocolate with big almond pieces (they tasted buttery like Marcona almonds) and there were some pretty intense large pieces of sea salt in there (the picture on the box makes them look like little pieces of popcorn).
The milk chocolate is a very dark and smooth version, it goes really well with the crisp crunch of the almonds. The sea salt was quite apparent, but the mixing of it was a little off. Sometimes I’d arrive at whole reservoirs of the stuff, it’s a little offputting to get more than a few grains at once. But still, an addictive bar. Though I shared it, I ate most of it in a day and a half.
The second bar was the Milk Chocolate Cashew Almond Cherry Bar which I thought sounded terrible at first, especially when I saw that it also had salt in it.
However, it won me over. The cashews & almonds aren’t as plentiful in this bar and the salt is only a slight glimmer now and then. The cherries are soft and chewy with a bright tangy note that infuses those bites.
I was grateful to try my first Choxie single origin bar with the 62% Ghana Cocoa. I recently had another Ghana bar from Tcho, which I found to be a little too gritty for my tastes. This bar is smooth. The flavors are spot on “chocolatey” with some vanilla notes and a little cedar & tobacco. It’s a tasty bar, though not quite buttery enough for me if it’s going to be on the low end of the cacao percentage. But it’s also pretty sweet, so a nice started bar for those who don’t like the intensity of some of the higher cacao.
The box for the Dark Chocolate Espresso Bar showed the bar, like the one above, surrounded by coffee beans. I didn’t know if that meant whole coffee beans or fine grounds when I bought the assortment (I could only see the fronts of the boxes). The ingredients say “ground coffee” but I was still afraid that I was going to get coffee grounds in my chocolate.
The package smelled like the coffee aisle at the A&P where we used to grind our own 8 O’Clock coffee when I was a teen. Mostly coffee but also slight wafts of tea, cocoa and sweet sugary General Foods International Coffee flavors.
The grounds are palpable as the chocolate melts. The coffee flavor is mellow, not burnt or caramelized tasting, just a medium roasted vibe. And of course all those coffee beans integrated in. The chocolate has a good melt to it, is pretty smooth otherwise and stands up rather well to the otherwise overwhelming coffee. (Nicole at Baking Bites has a nice review of this bar, too.)
At the reduced price (expiration isn’t anywhere to be found on the packages, maybe I shouldn’t have thrown out the box), these were a great deal. I’m not sure if I would pay $4-5 for one of these in the future (well, maybe the almond & sea salt bar), but keep an eye out for their assortments (perhaps after Mother’s day?). The ingredients are all-natural and the dark chocolates have no added butterfat. They are not, however, Kosher.
Other recent reviews: The Girl Tastes has a lot of more recent Choxie introductions, Rosa tried the Key Lime Truffle Bar, Candy Snob tried the Espresso Truffle Bar, Secret Hideout thinks Choxie is better than Godiva (and I don’t disagree) and OffBeatEating tried the Coconut Truffle Bar.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Mmm, what a tasty name! Yes, I got my hands on a lovely and pristine Tcho Beta Batch No. C Ghana 0.7 AH bar.
Tcho is one of the newest American chocolate factories, this one located in the Bay Area, which has no lack of chocolate factories as it is. They proudly state that they’re the only chocolate factory in San Francisco.
Instead of making a package that accommodates a 12 section bar, they make the long bars, snap them in half, stack them and then insert them into these waxed kraft paper square packets.
It makes for a unique look, but makes me wonder why they don’t just make the chocolate that size to begin with. Or design the package to fit the bar.
Tcho eschews things like cacao percentages, varietal & origin, instead focusing on easily understood classifications for their chocolates. This one is called C - which stands for Chocolatey. According to the flavor wheel included, it might have been citrusy, fruity, floral, nutty or earthy. (I’m not sure what the letters for those are ... that would make two possible Cs and two possible Fs.)
The ingredients are simple:
The bars are 50 grams (1.76 ounces) ... though you wouldn’t know that once you got a hold of it. It’s not on the package, just on the website.
The chocolate smells sweet, a bit woodsy and a lot like bourbon vanilla.
It’s very dark, very brown (no hint of red or caramel tones here).
It’s only mildly sweet on the tongue, as it melts it’s a bit rough ... not quite chalky as it does have a good level of cocoa butter, but the particle size is a bit big for my texture preference. I was pleased with the deep rich flavors. There are dark cedars, tobacco and a bit of a mulchy note that almost pushes it into the earthy realm except for the consistent feeling that I’m eating hot chocolate.
The finish continues with a lingering woodsy note and a rather parching dryness. Overall, it’s a satisfying bar. After four squares, I didn’t feel like I wanted more for quite a while.
Personally I prefer a butterier bar, a nuttier set of notes. But this tops some of my experiences with the very dark bars from Theo (which I haven’t written up) but does not beat out the Amano or Chocovic Ocumare (okay, not American-made) or Guittard Chucuri.
I’m hoping Tcho has figured out their shipping problems. (More on that history here.) Just a note, they shipped my replacement bars on a Friday over a holiday weekend, not really a good tactic either, they arrived on Tuesday and though everything turned out fine, unless the USPS made it overnight, the package was guaranteed to sit around for at least two days. (I’ve talked to many candy shippers, I don’t know many that would ship chocolate products on a Friday, and certainly not when Monday was a mail holiday.) A note went out to the folks on their email marketing list that they were implementing hot weather shipping. My second package didn’t have any warm weather protection, it was the exact same metallic bubble wrap envelop folded tightly over and taped. If you’ve ordered from them more recently than February, maybe you can chime in with how yours arrived.
Clay Gordon has an extensive article about Tcho on The Chocolate Life. I was sure to not read through it until after I’d done my tasting notes.
I might try this again, but I’m much keener on trying other bars from companies that I’ve either developed an affinity for or some of the other new chocolate makers like DeVries, Taza, Rogue Chocolatier or Askinosie (I have one of those already in my hands). The price is a bit steep as well, they’re now $5 on the site and with the shipping, that’s a steep price for less than two ounces that are still in beta. It was supposed to feel like a fun experiment, like I was part of something, but I think I’ll leave it to others to work out the kinks.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.