Friday, October 23, 2009
Al Nassma Camel Milk Chocolate
I didn’t find this terribly exotic, since there’s already chocolate made with goat’s milk and sheep’s milk on the market. But of course I didn’t realize that camel’s milk is kind of hard to come by at this time.
Al Nassma is the first chocolate company to make camel milk chocolate. And instead of just plopping themselves in the middle of the crowded deluxe chocolate bar market, they’re positioning themselves as fine chocolate with a unique taste and possibly some other splendid properties.
There is only one place in the United States to buy Al Nassma, it’s at a little shop I’ve visited before in San Francisco called Chocolate Covered. Happily a friend was visiting the city and agreed to pick up my chocolate for me (I dare not try to send the stuff as it was a brutally hot late summer ... though camels bear it well, their chocolate does not). Yes, I have chocolate mules.
The chocolate is made with camel’s milk from Dubai but manufactured in Vienna, Austria by a chocolate maker named Manner. Some folks may recognize that company, as they make Chocolina’s Sheep’s Milk Chocolate (photo here) in the same facility. After the basic chocolate is created it’s shipped back to Al Nassma’s facility in Dubai to be combined with the final ingredients and molded into bars & chocolates.
Camel’s milk is reported to have many fabulous attributes. It has more protein, no lactose, a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals ... lots of wonderful things to recommend it. I don’t actually hear much about it being really, really tasty ... but there are studies going on to see if it can treat autism, diabetes, tuberculosis and Crohn’s disease (yeah, big stuff). Still, I see the value of trying different milk products in chocolate in order to maximize its nutritional profile and also improve digestibility for those with allergies.
The milk chocolate comes in four varieties: Whole Milk, Whole Milk with Dates, Macadamia-Orange and Arabia. I went for the bars (mostly because that’s what’s available so far here).
I love the packaging. It’s spare and elegant. A simple deep brown and metallic gold wrapper. The heavy paper overwrap is even printed on the inside with little camel line drawings. The same camel and palm tree logo is embossed on the stiff gold foil wrapper underneath.
The stack as a whole has a comforting scent to it. A bit like unburnt incense and potpourri. I get a vague whiff of orange and spices but also just a comforting clean smell. I don’t know if it’s that my chocolates, which are each different flavors, have commingled to the point that I won’t be able to tell them apart or not.
Once I opened each bar, I was aware that though some flavors may be shared, they’re definitely different.
The Whole Milk Camel Milk Bar is nicely molded and tempered. It’s quite a dark looking milk chocolate bar. It has a distinct, thick snap to it.
The flavor is immediately a bit salty to my tongue. The caramel flavors are noticeable as is the smooth texture but still on the rustic side. It’s not quite fudgy but also not completely slick or oily like some milk chocolates. It’s sweet but also well rounded with toasted notes and maybe a hint of malt and cheese. The ingredients on all bars list honey, though it’s far down on the list and I didn’t really get the honey notes here. The chocolate flavors are mild but more to the malt and woodsy side of things than raisins/berries or coffee.
I rarely eat dates straight, as they’re exceptionally sweet, but I enjoy their grainy texture and deep molasses notes.
This bar didn’t quite capture that. While it was sweeter than the straight Whole Milk, I didn’t get the berry and musky notes of the dates. Instead I got the texture - the kind of papery skins and grainy sweetness. I didn’t get the same salty notes as the Whole Milk either, which might have helped.
I thought the Macadamia-Orange smelled like oranges from the outside, I was certainly surprised at how strong it was once I opened the foil. The scent reminds me of candied orange peels boiling away in sugar syrup on the stove. Warm and steamy.
The orange is present in the whole bar as an essence, but also as little bits of candied orange zest. The pieces aren’t crystallized and grainy like some bars, which means that they don’t distract from the smoothness of the chocolate and also, they don’t add any additional sweetness. Instead, at moments, they can add an orange oil bitterness.
The macadamia chips are quite small, and sometimes barely noticeable. Macadamias, when this small, may as well be coconut as far as I can tell. They’re slightly chewy, a little buttery and have that tropical coconut note to them.
I don’t know if it was the orange or not, but the honey was more lively here. A kind of musky and low background for the whole bar. I liked the intensity of the orange and thought the macadamias added a little peppy crunch.
After the plain bar, I was most looking forward to the Arabia bar. I like spiced chocolate and thought a blend specific to the culture & food of the Arabian peninsula would be fantastic. Of course I didn’t know what that would be and the wrapper doesn’t say much about what spices specifically are included. I could tease out perhaps coriander or nutmeg or one of the other woodsy spices and black pepper or perhaps a note of saffron. There’s something slightly floral and maybe musk-like in it (but that could be the honey). It’s also a little grainy with the spices. It’s not quite as pungent and chaotic as Indian Chai.
As a whole line, they’re nicely made and well thought out. They’re incredibly expensive, but novelty does that (as does shipping and of course small inventories). For folks looking for something to point to as a source of pride, well, camel fans certainly can. The whole nutritional aspects are probably not going to bear out when put into a product like chocolate, but for lactose intolerant folks this is certainly some of the nicest stuff you’re ever going to get.
I would like to try some of the filled chocolates in their line, but I’m hesitant to shell out close to fifty dollars and fret over whether it will make it to the house in the heat any time soon. (I still have plenty left to eat on these bars as it is.)
Sara has a review on her site of the Whole Milk and Dates bar and Graeme Wood at The Atlantic went all the way to Dubai to look the camels in the face.
POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:29 am
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.