Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Scharffen Berger - Cacao Nibs

Name: Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs
Brand: Scharffen Berger
Place Purchased:  Factory Store (Berkeley, CA)
Price: $8.00
Size: 4.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 160
Type: Chocolate

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You’re saying, what the heck is a cacao nib and why cover it in chocolate? (Well, never ask why cover anything in chocolate ... we cover things in chocolate because that’s what sets us apart from animals.)

Cacao (that’s pronounced cuh-COW) nibs are what chocolate are made from. They’re the edible part of the cocoa bean after it’s been harvested, dried, fermented, roasted and hulled (winnowed). Yes, after all those steps (usually invovling at least two continents) you get these unassuming little crumbly brown bits. These are raw chocolate. In order to make a chocolate bar you take a bunch of them and mash them into a paste and then add some more cocoa butter and some sugar and maybe a little lecithin to keep everything smooth and you’ve got a chocolate bar. (The extra cocoa butter is made from taking nibs and expeller pressing them to get out the cocoa butter which leaves behind the cocoa solids which are used to make powdered cocoa.)

You can eat the nibs just as they are. They’re kind of like really roasty tasting nuts. Not quite chocolately, but they have a wonderful butteriness that you don’t find in many nuts. But they’re a little chalkier than a regular nut as well and can be freakishly bitter at times. Apparently using nibs in recipes is all the rage now, especially since Martha Stewart featured them in a recipe recently. By coating the nibs in chocolate they’re a lot more scrumptious.

But enough about the history lesson. This is pure chocolate enjoyment. Seriously. Whew!

The chocolate coating is 62% semi-sweet Scharffen Berger chocolate over the cacao nibs, which are unsweetened. They look kind of like little glossy cocoa krispies. But they taste absolutely divine. There’s an alcoholic aroma to them, an intense bitter start and then this incredible mix of woodsy flavors, acidic elements, astringency and this lingering smoky feeling on the tongue. The vanilla of the chocolate coating also lingers nicely. The nibs, being a rather raw product, are unpredictable. Sometimes they’re crunchy and smooth, sometimes you get one that’s a little fibery or chewy.

What’s also odd is that some of them taste different. I guess they may have been from different trees or harvested a different week or something. Some mouthfuls will be fruity, with intense plum or apricot notes and sometimes it’s oaky or maybe have a touch of maple or even sassafrass to it. What it does is make me want more ... I keep eating them. Which is bad. These are expensive little puppies. (As is all Scharffen Berger.) Of all the Scharffen Berger products I’ve tried (and they’re very well regarded though I’m not particularly fond of them) this is the one that sends me over the moon.

Rating - 10 out of 10

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:06 am Tracker Pixel for Entry     CandyReviewScharffen BergerChocolateKosherNibs10-SuperbUnited States

Comments
  1. So you know you should be shopping for Christmas but you're just not yet ready to drop the big bucks. Here's a few local hints to get you going, painlessly. The MOCA store has cool arty holiday cards; the pic above is from the card designed by SoCal artist…

    Comment by http://www.laist.com/archives/2005/12/07/a_few_sto on 12/07/05 at 7:19 am #
  2. Holy Cow! this is the first 10 out of 10 I think I’ve seen from you. I’ll have to try and get my hands on some.

    Comment by Dena on 12/07/05 at 7:30 am #
  3. Cybele's avatar

    Dena - there’s just something about the incredible aroma from these that makes me want to buy a ton of them and just roll around in them.

    Comment by Cybele on 12/07/05 at 2:51 pm #
  4. I can’t wait to try this!

    Comment by Jodi on 12/08/05 at 12:33 pm #
  5. “We cover things in chocolate because that’s what sets us apart from animals.”

    Some day there will be a book of Candyblog and that quote should be on the back cover.

    Comment by sallie on 12/14/05 at 8:01 pm #
  6. LoveLeaf Garden has really good cacao
    from peru.  Its not even roasted.. so it has all the nutritional value.

    Comment by Scott on 2/07/06 at 8:13 pm #
  7. i found these.  i bought these.  i love these.

    (and, yes, they are expensive little things!)

    Comment by erin on 3/02/06 at 5:17 pm #
  8. I just read this, and I’m DYING to get my hands on this. Can it be purchased anywhere in Australia? I live in Sydney btw. Please please please tell meehs~! So craving for this.. *DROOLS*

    ~mo

    Comment by Mo on 4/30/06 at 4:59 am #
  9. What are ur guys gross sales per year?

    Comment by Jaquelinn on 8/22/06 at 11:08 am #
  10. Cybele's avatar

    Jaquelinn - you should probably try contacting Hershey (or looking on their corporate website) for info about their sales, as a publicly held company some of that is freely available.

    Comment by Cybele on 8/22/06 at 11:58 am #
  11. A friend of mine writes reviews of various things and gets sent samples to review.  Last time she came to visit she brought samples of some new Hershey’s chocolates.  Definitly high end.  They were Milk, Milk with Hazelnuts, Bittersweet and Bittersweet with nibs.

    The last was utterly wonderful.  It will be great to do a tasting with it and the Scharffen Berger.

    Comment by Liz Biss on 10/12/06 at 11:45 am #
  12. Cybele's avatar

    What timing Liz! I’m sitting here with the Hazelnut and Extra Dark w/Nibs bars. The post will go up tomorrow (well, no comparing it to Scharffen Berger at the moment, but maybe soon!)

    Comment by Cybele on 10/12/06 at 11:49 am #
  13. After I posted, I searched a bit and found that Hershey’s does in fact have a web page for them and claims they are “currently available”.  I also found another forum:

    http://www.seventypercent.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=978

    They were totally underwhelmed.  My “gold standard” has always been Callebaut and I just found out that Cooks Illustrated aka America’s Test Kitchen ranked Callebaut first and Hersheys Select as second (ahead of Valrhona and several other European offerings).

    I’ll be waiting for your comments.

    ~LB

    Comment by Liz Biss on 10/12/06 at 12:33 pm #
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