We get asked daily at The Chocolate Project what our favourite bars are. While we love all the bars we carry some certainly have an extra-special place in our hearts. Here I'll attempt to quantify exactly why each of these bars is meaningful to me. If I was stranded on a desert island this is the chocolate I'd want to be a castaway with.
Askinosie – Mababu, Tanzania :
Tasting this bar feels like swimming in a vat of plummy fudge. We've carried it for years and I have tried it literally hundreds of times but it never gets old. There's a fascinating story about the genesis of this bar and the trials and tribulations Shawn Askinosie went through to get it made. He even wrote a Huffington post article about the whole crazy affair which is a cautionary tale to all those who think profit sharing and empowering cacao farmers doesn't have a down side!
Zotter – Barranquita, Peru :
We all know Joseph Zotter as the wacky Austrian with all the exotic flavoured truffle bars. I did for years too and only when this bar came out about did I realize that he was also a serious bean-to-bar guy. He traveled to Peru and sourced these beans, plus a number of other single origins, and has released them intermittently over the years. The Barranquita is the stand out bar though. It was the beginning of what is now a landslide of single-sourced Pervian bars.
Fruition – Bourbon Barrel Dark Milk:
Now its true that I rarely eat milk chocolate but when I do this is the bar I reach for. A partnership with Tuthilltown Distillery in the Hudson Valley led to this delicious creation. Cacao from Hispaniola aged with bourbon barrel staves (and a bit of actual bourbon) plus just a tiny bit of milk powder produced this deeply flavourful, caramelly creamy bar. Tasting this you can sense the craftsmanship that Bryan Graham brings to everything he makes. It just has every element in perfect harmony.
Patric – Madagascar 75%:
This bar holds a special place in my heart as it was tasting this eleven years ago that convinced me that we had to make The Chocolate Project into a retail store so everyone could have access to bars like this. I am still floored today by the sheer weight and magnitude of what Alan is able to achieve here. So much berry fruit and red wine flavour it is almost too much for your palate to handle. A benchmark bar for everyone since who works with Madagascar trinitario.
Rozsavolgyi Czokolade – Porcelana:
Many bars created from this rare variety of cacao have graced our shelves over the years but there's something special about this incarnation. Perhaps it is due to the longstanding relationship that this maker has with top growers in Venezuela, but these beans bring a heightened level of complexity, especially if you can allow it to melt on your tongue for a few minutes. A great bar for serious, quiet contemplation.
Letterpress – La Masica Farm, Honduras:
This landmark agroforestry project in the Honduran jungle has produced some fine cacao over the years, but this bar features a special joint effort between David Menkes of Letterpress and fermentation expert Dan O'Doherty. The result is a bar where everything feels like it is turned up to eleven. Big, brawny and yet so complex. Each piece you taste brings a new flavour note.
Bar Au Chocolat – Chiapas, Mexico:
Probably the bar I've eaten the most in 2018 so far. Has flavour elements not found in any other chocolate, although they are extreme so you'd have to be ready for that. Top notes of dried fig and plum lead to things like freshly rolled Cohiba cigar, saddle leather and green olive. A beautifully lush and rich mouth-feel and a finish that goes on and on. What more could you want in a chocolate bar?
Castronovo – Nicalizo, Nicaragua:
This is the finest bar Denise has ever crafted and that's really saying something as all her bars are at a supremely high level. Nicalizo is a highly sought after criollo varietal and here she has managed to extract every possible nuance of taste. Cherry and berry at the start, toasted toffee and spices, roasted nuts, shortbread cookies, There is truly much to love and admire about this beautiful bar.
Akessons – Fazenda Sempre Firme, Brazil 75%
AMMA – Mata Atlantica – 75%
I'm going to group these last two together because they represent for me two elements of the same issue. Hundreds of years ago Brazilian Forastero cacao was brought to Africa and became the workhorse varietal of the chocolate industry. Known for big yields of bland industrial beans, Forastero was embraced by growers but shunned by serious craft chocolate makers. Popular wisdom as recently as a decade ago held that you just couldn't make a complex, interesting bar from these beans. Now though, botanists are dividing the Forastero family into many sub-groups and discovering some truly exciting trees in the jungles of Brazil. “Parasinho” is one such varietal and is featured in both of these bars. They are both excellent yet so different. As grown by Bertil Akesson on his farm, the Parasinho becomes a smooth, silky bar with enticing notes of woodland flowers, spices, dried cherries and mocha. The AMMA bar, wild harvested by Diego Badaro is a riot of fruity, tropical notes with elements of port and cognac soaked oak barrels on the finish.
So that's my list. All of these are regularly stocked at the Chocolate Project. How many have you tried?
Would any of them be in your top 10?
By: David Mincey