Thursday, October 3, 2013

Original Beans Piura Porcelana and Esmeraldas Milk

Original Beans Piura Porcelana 75%Original Beans is a small chocolate company that starts with carefully selected, direct-purchased beans and makes them into single-origin bars. They take special care with all aspects of the sourcing, manufacturing and packaging, as their name might imply. The bars are not easy to find in the United States, but luckily a very good chocolate source has developed walking distance from my office, so you’ll be seeing more of these interesting finds in the coming months and years.

The selection of bars from Original Beans is very small, but quite specific. I chose to review their Original Beans Piura Porcelana 75% as my first. You can read up on the Peruvian Porcelana beans on the Original Beans website and on other chocolate aficionado sites. The history of chocolate is fascinating and many people have become interested in the generic diversity of the trees and their distribution. The Porcelana beans, as a variety of Criollo, are characterized by their white color and distinctive flavor. They’re quite rare and grown in a few small areas in South America, so single origin bars are not common and often limited editions.

The bar features all organic ingredients and is made only exclusively with white Criollo cacao from the Pirua River Valley in the Peruvian Andes. The cacao is 75% and the package says that it’s a 22 hour conch. The ingredients list is simple and short: Direct-trade cacao beans, cacao butter, cane sugar. There’s no soy and it’s vegan and gluten free.

The tasting notes for the bar online are: Vibrant, luscious with kumquat, lime, apricot, raspberry flavours and notes of toasted pecan; wonderfully balanced acidity and lingering finish.

Original Beans Piura Porcelana 75%

Though the beans are white, the chocolate is brown. The fermenting and roasting of the beans makes them indistinguishable at first glance from any other bean.

The bar is simply and beautifully molded. The segments have a great snap and neutral medium-brown color. The scent is mild, it has some smoky vanilla notes

The flavor is an interesting balance of acid like citrus and tannins, for the most part the flavors I got were black tea and roasted nuts. The texture was smooth and has and excellent melt and lack of grit. It still has a bit of a dry finish that’s sharp from the tannins.

I loved this bar, this is the third one I’ve eaten, I bought the first two over the summer but found they weren’t doing well in the heat so I ate them and waited for it to cool off to do a proper review. The flavor is not too intense but still very satisfying after three or four squares. The cocoa butter balanced out the clean but sweet sugar to make it very munchable for a high cacao bar.

Original Beans Piura Porcelana 75% & Esmeraldas Milk

The next bar I picked for review is Original Beans Esmeraldas Milk, which is a 42% cacao bar with a touch of fleur de sel. Like the dark bar, it’s made with organic ingredients. From the photo above you can see that it’s a dark looking bar for milk chocolate, but compared to many commercial milk chocolate bars, I’m inclined to call it a dark milk.

Original Beans Esmeraldas Milk 42%The beans for the Esmeraldas Milk is from the Esmeraldas Rain Forest of Ecuador. The conch is 16 hours, according to the package.

Original Beans is in The Netherlands, and the packaging is largely in Dutch (though the website also in English) while the chocolate is made in Switzerland.

The ingredients list is a little longer than the dark bar, but still short: direct trade cacao, sugar, cocoa butter, milk and sea salt. The tasting notes suggest: Exceptionally velvety with salted caramel, hints of summer red fruits and spice.

The Original Beans website has a feature where you input the batch code from your bar into their website that says:

Enter the tree tracking number on your Original Beans chocolate here. See where your chocolate comes from and follow our ongoing conservation efforts in your chocolate’s rainforest of origin.

Unfortunately that feature just takes you to the same page you could browse to based on the name of the chocolate bar. For true transparency and education, I kind of wanted specifics about the harvest that made my bar. What was that year like? Were there special issues that would distinguish that vintage from the previous year or the coming year? Or even just things like how many pounds of beans were harvested, how many bars were made in that batch.

Original Beans Esmeraldas Milk 42%

The bar has a roasted, caramelized scent that has a bit of a cheese note to it, something a little more savory. The melt is great, it’s soft and fudgy without feeling too sugary or sticky. The flavor has molasses notes, maybe even a little fennel but a lot of milk. The hint of salt does keep it from tasting too much like sugar, but it doesn’t jump out. There’s a sharpness to the bar, again, that powdered milk cheese-ness that doesn’t quite satisfy me. I’m not a big fan of the powdered milk flavors in some milk chocolates; it’s a personal preference, not an indication of quality.

I also tried the Bolivian Beni Wild Harvest bar, as I was a big fan of Lillie Belle’s Wild Thing, also from wild beans, but found the 66% far too sweet for me.

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Name: Piura Porcelana
Brand: Original Beans
Place Purchased: Monsieur Marcel (Farmers Market)
Price: $8.00
Size: 2.469 ounces
Calories per ounce: 161
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Organic, Single Origin, 9-Yummy, Switzerland

Name: Esmeraldas Milk
Brand: Original Beans
Place Purchased: Monsieur Marcel (Farmers Market)
Price: $8.00
Size: 2.469 ounces
Calories per ounce: 162
Categories: All Natural, Candy, Chocolate, Ethically Sourced, Organic, Single Origin, 8-Tasty, Switzerland

POSTED BY Cybele AT 3:22 pm Tracker Pixel for Entry     All NaturalCandyReviewChocolateEthically SourcedOrganicSingle Origin8-Tasty9-YummySwitzerland

  1. Original Bean’s Piura is not true Porcelana and therefore not Criollo.

    Also, the company does not manufacturer its bars. They are made by a thrid party manufacturer.

    Comment by Jason on 10/04/13 at 9:16 am #
  2. Cybele's avatar

    Jason, I’m not surprised that they don’t make their own bars, since they have a very small list of pure chocolate products yet have the allergen statement (which would at least mean co-production).

    What makes you say that it’s not true Porcelana, is it that it’s not grown in Venezuela and likely hybridized or in a mixed variety forest?

    Comment by Cybele on 10/04/13 at 9:50 am #
  3. Porcelana transplanted from the Lake Maracaibo region of Venezuela would not be impossible. But it has not been well documented either. So another explanation is probable.

    The DNA of the so-called “Porcelana” coming out of Piura, Peru has not been thoroughly analyzed. The specimens that have been analyzed tend to show that it belongs generally speaking to the Nacional cacao group and not the Criollo group. This again is general because as your question infers mixed varieties are the norm on almost all farms. Very few farms have true monocultures. It is usually a jumble of different kinds of cacao trees.

    The Piura types that have whitish seeds inside their pods are probably a mutation of Nacional cacao with a recessive pigmentation gene. Brokers and brands call it “Porcelana” in order to ride the coattails of the high-priced Venezuela Porcelana.

    Sorry for the technical mumbo jumbo gobbledegook. No matter what you call it, Original Bean’s Piura is delicious.

    Comment by Jason on 10/05/13 at 10:51 am #
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