Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Askinosie: Three Dark Chocolates


70% San Jose Del Tambo Ingredients: Cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter
8g sugar/42.5g serving (in full-size bar; 18.8% by wt.)

75% Soconusco bar not currently available

77% Davao Ingredients: Cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, cocoa butter
7g sugar/42.5g serving (in full-size bar; 16.5% by wt.)

I'd never heard of Askinosie until I found these single origin mini packs at my local chocolate specialty shop. As high-end chocolate isn't cheap, I thought it might be fun to do a sort of tasting flight with these little bars, and I picked three of them more or less at random. I ended up with the following “Itty Bars”: 70% San Jose Del Tambo (Ecuador) Nibble Bar; 75% Soconusco (Mexico) Bar; and 77% Davao (Philippines) Bar. I've since looked up the various bars on Askinosie's website, though the Soconusco chocolate isn't currently available except as white chocolate.

Before I try the chocolate, who are these Askinosie people? The complex website is a bit of a pain (just try perusing the news section) and could use a copy editor, but basically the company was founded in Springfield, Missouri by ex-lawyer Shawn Askinosie, his wife, and a business partner. They try to work with the cocoa farmers in person, pay them fair wages, and share a percentage of the profits with them to encourage high quality. Aside from specialty items their chocolate is just beans and sugar—no vanilla or soy lecithin—and they try to be as organic as possible short of going through the certification process. (See the FAQ for more.) They sound like lovely people.

Back to the Itty Bars. Each gives you two wafers of plain chocolate, with the Nibble Bar having nibs on the back. Let's take them one at a time...

70% San Jose Del Tambo with nibs has an underlying tropical scent, like bananas. The texture is dense and thick, coating the mouth with cacao, and the flavor is dark with minimal sweetness, but not harsh...like bitter chocolate with some of the bitterness removed. Nibs add texture and more of that tropical banana vibe, something I've tasted in other nibs too. Aftertaste is light, tropical, and short-lived.

75% Soconusco has a minimal smell, quiet and banana-free. It's dense but not so mouth-coating, more bitter, almost like chocolate distilled to its essence: just enough sugar to get past the wince factor and on to the cacao, not especially fruity or tropical or rich, just chocolate. The aftertaste is a bit sour, but it's more like intense chocolate than free-floating acid. Overall a neat experience.

77% Davao also doesn't smell like much to me, so perhaps I'm not especially creative today. It tastes sweeter than the Soconusco, probably because it has that red wine quality, tannic but also fruity in a way that speciously reminds me of sugar. It's not berries or cherries or raisins; my co-taster says fresh currants, which I've never eaten myself, but perhaps that'll be helpful to you. Either way it's not overwhelming or off-putting, though there is a long, lingering bitter finish that isn't the most pleasant.

All in all, this was a fun way to compare three subtly varying bars. My favorite was the 75% Soconusco, though I didn't love it enough to pay for this premium chocolate. If you feel like spending a little cash, you could do worse (and support worse companies) than to pick up some of Askinosie's chocolate.

Conclusion: Askinosie's 70% San Jose Del Tambo with nibs is tropical and thick; 75% Soconusco is the essence of dark chocolate; and 77% Davao is winey and somewhat bitter.

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