2.64oz (75g) bar
Ingredients: Cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, pink pepper, combava
13g sugar/37.5g serving (34.7% by wt.)
Corporate Info: (Altered from 12/3/11) Madécasse has one of those interesting progressive-chocolate-company stories: The American founders met as Peace Corps volunteers in Madagascar and decided to not only grow their cacao there (not unusual) but also process and package the chocolate there to benefit the local community. The company claims to be paying good wages and using sustainable farming practices, and has impressed The New York Times and Fast Company (among others) with its commitment and innovation. The bars are not officially labeled fair trade or organic, but from what I read, the process is essentially a variation on both of those complicated labels. Madécasse produces a relatively small selection of plain and flavored bars. As Emma pointed out after my last Madécasse review, the company has changed its labels since then—though I should note that, even a few months later, I'm still seeing some of the old bars on store shelves among the new ones, so you might find the old labels out there.
Today I'm trying a really fun bar, a 63% cacao Pink Pepper & Citrus. I've tried herby pink pepper before, in two bars I brought back from Germany, but while those peppercorns were pressed into the chocolate these are incorporated, so I'm curious if they will impart a different experience. What's totally unfamiliar to me is the combava, which turns out to be another name for kaffir lime, a fruit I only know through the leaves (and apparently rind?) used in southeast Asian cooking. I suspect Madécasse used “combava” because it seems to be the preferred term in French, one of Madagascar's official languages. (Similarly, Madécasse is apparently the old French name for Madagascar, I'm assuming having to do with its being a one-time French colony.)
Appearance: Like a normal chocolate bar, though I'm reviewing a 70% cacao Madécasse bar next week and they actually have very different finishes. Today's is fairly matte, with only a little gloss after I wipe it a little, and the brown is quite light, almost washed-out looking, whereas next week's only-somewhat-higher-cacao bar is a significantly deeper, richer color. Hm.
Smell: Not strong, though I'm getting a hint of the pink pepper's prickly spice. No obvious citrus.
Taste: Fun! The chocolate is foundational, maybe a little chalky and beany, but not strong. Then a hit of citrus, and then the super-complex pepper that's hard to describe, plus the flavors are well blended, in that I don't taste three separate ingredients. There's some medium-volume sourness that I think comes from both the combava and the chocolate, because it's both sharp (like citrus) and beany (like you'll taste in tart chocolates). Then there's that resiny, prickly, herby flavor like cardamom and grass and nutmeg that I'm assuming comes from the pink pepper, but since I don't know combava well, I wonder if it contributes any of the fresh, green elements. As I said, texture is a little chalky, and the pink pepper is totally incorporated, whether finely ground or somehow steeped in the chocolate.
Conclusion: Super interesting, if you like herby-spicy (and not super dark) chocolate.