Saturday, August 25, 2012

Madre Chocolate Pink Peppercorn & Smoked Salt Hawaiian Dark Chocolate

1.5oz (43g) bar
Ingredients: Hawaiian cacao beans, organic sugar, o. cocoa butter, Mexican whole vanilla, Hawaiian pink peppercorn, Hawaiian mesquite smoked salt

Corporate Info: (Copied from 8/11/12) Madre is basically brand new (circa early 2011), the brainchild of a traveler working on social justice in Central America and a botanist with a focus on food and medicinal plants. There's a lot of passion behind everything written about the company: the “About Us” page of their website, the focus on ecology and direct contact with cacao farmers, the now-funded Kickstarter, and even reviews by fans of their chocolate and their shop in Kailua. The cacao is grown organically, some on the Big Island (in the only U.S. state in which this is possible) and some in Central America, and they make the chocolate bean-to-bar in Hawaii. Madre has already been talked up in Saveur and, at greater length, by food personality Aida Mollenkamp after she visited the founders in Hawaii.

Madre currently produces two lines of chocolate, one inspired by Latin American cacao and flavorings and the other using Hawaiian cacao and flavorings. All three of my bars come from the latter line and are listed as “limited edition” because of the seasonality and availability of some of the ingredients. As you might imagine, this is not cheap chocolate: All bars are 1.5oz (half the size of most common chocolate bars) and range from $6 to $10 each on the website, and as my mother experienced, they may cost slightly more in stores. The bars are sold all over Hawaii, but they look to be spreading quickly to high-end and specialty stores in the U.S. and abroad.

[Update 9/5: I forgot to change these scheduled posts to indicate that reader Emma has pointed out that the mold Madre uses is mass produced, and you can find it here. Now you know.]

Today's Bar: This is the one recommended to me by reader Emma, pink peppercorn and smoked salt in 70% cacao.

Appearance: Matte, slightly greyish brown chocolate with flecks of dark pink peppercorn and small salt flakes under the surface and on the back.

Smell: When I opened the package, this emitted a powerful herby peppercorn scent. Now, much later, close sniffing still finds pink peppercorn's prickly, resiny odor.

Taste: Texture is Madre's usual crunchy then smooth, with a strong, well incorporated hit of pink peppercorn. There's nothing hot or spicy here, just herbaceous and with minor support from occasional salt crystals. Unlike some other pink peppercorn chocolate I've tried, this contains such small pieces of the spice that I'm not getting the papery rind caught in my teeth, just a hint of grit and a lot of flavor. I don't taste a lot of smoke here, but it's not missed...perhaps it just contributes to complexity.

Conclusion: Madre Chocolate Pink Peppercorn & Smoked Salt Hawaiian Dark Chocolate is a must-try for lovers of pink peppercorn mixed with chocolate.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Madre Chocolate Passion Fruit Hawaiian Dark Chocolate


1.5oz (43g) bar
Ingredients: Hawaiian cacao beans, organic sugar, o. cocoa butter, Hawaiian passion fruit, Mexican whole vanilla

Corporate Info: (Copied from 8/11/12) Madre is basically brand new (circa early 2011), the brainchild of a traveler working on social justice in Central America and a botanist with a focus on food and medicinal plants. There's a lot of passion behind everything written about the company: the “About Us” page of their website, the focus on ecology and direct contact with cacao farmers, the now-funded Kickstarter, and even reviews by fans of their chocolate and their shop in Kailua. The cacao is grown organically, some on the Big Island (in the only U.S. state in which this is possible) and some in Central America, and they make the chocolate bean-to-bar in Hawaii. Madre has already been talked up in Saveur and, at greater length, by food personality Aida Mollenkamp after she visited the founders in Hawaii.

Madre currently produces two lines of chocolate, one inspired by Latin American cacao and flavorings and the other using Hawaiian cacao and flavorings. All three of my bars come from the latter line and are listed as “limited edition” because of the seasonality and availability of some of the ingredients. As you might imagine, this is not cheap chocolate: All bars are 1.5oz (half the size of most common chocolate bars) and range from $6 to $10 each on the website, and as my mother experienced, they may cost slightly more in stores. The bars are sold all over Hawaii, but they look to be spreading quickly to high-end and specialty stores in the U.S. and abroad.

[Update 9/5: I forgot to change these scheduled posts to indicate that reader Emma has pointed out that the mold Madre uses is mass produced, and you can find it here. Now you know.] 

Today's Bar: Passion fruit in 70% cacao.

Appearance: Matte, greyish-orangish brown with tiny dark and light specks.

Smell: Sweet, beany, fruity, nutty, and mild.

Taste: Texture is crunchy then smooth, with a fresh, light sweet-sour flavor following in little bursts from teeny tiny flecks of dried passion fruit. Unlike Marabou's passion fruit bar, this tastes like the real deal, subtle but genuine.

Conclusion: Madre Chocolate Passion Fruit Hawaiian Dark Chocolate offers subtle but legit and complex passion fruit flavor.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Madre Chocolate 70% Hawaiian Dark Chocolate


1.5oz (43g) bar
Ingredients: Hawaiian cacao beans, organic sugar, o. cocoa butter, Mexican whole vanilla

A few months ago, in response to my review of Madécasse's pink pepper and citrus chocolate, reader Emma asked if I'd ever tried the pink pepper bar made by Madre Chocolate. I'd never heard of the brand, so of course I looked up Madre online, and imagine my surprise when I saw that the young company is based in my hometown of Honolulu, Hawaii! I implored my mother to buy several bars locally and bring them with her when I saw her on the mainland last month, and luckily for me she complied. So here I am with three bars from Madre, and three weeks' worth of reviews. Today's is for the basic 70% Hawaiian Dark Chocolate.

Corporate Info: Madre is basically brand new (circa early 2011), the brainchild of a traveler working on social justice in Central America and a botanist with a focus on food and medicinal plants. There's a lot of passion behind everything written about the company: the “About Us” page of their website, the focus on ecology and direct contact with cacao farmers, the now-funded Kickstarter, and even reviews by fans of their chocolate and their shop in Kailua. The cacao is grown organically, some on the Big Island (in the only U.S. state in which this is possible) and some in Central America, and they make the chocolate bean-to-bar in Hawaii. Madre has already been talked up in Saveur and, at greater length, by food personality Aida Mollenkamp after she visited the founders in Hawaii.

Madre currently produces two lines of chocolate, one inspired by Latin American cacao and flavorings and the other using Hawaiian cacao and flavorings. All three of my bars come from the latter line and are listed as “limited edition” because of the seasonality and availability of some of the ingredients. As you might imagine, this is not cheap chocolate: All bars are 1.5oz (half the size of most common chocolate bars) and range from $6 to $10 each on the website, and as my mother experienced, they may cost slightly more in stores. The bars are sold all over Hawaii, but they look to be spreading quickly to high-end and specialty stores in the U.S. and abroad.

Appearance: Madre's chocolate is immediately striking because of its interesting mold. All three of the bars I have and most though not all of the bars on the website appear to be made in the same mold, in which half of each bar is covered with abstract, convex shapes reminiscent of lava rock walls and the other half is carved with what appear to be ancient Central American figures. I can't find an explanation of the molding choices on the website, but there is a blurb about the company's logo design here. Aside from that, the chocolate is a middle-of-the-road brown, not especially red or grey or shiny, though it is mostly matte. 

[Update 8/12/12: Emma points out that the molds Madre uses are mass produced, and can be purchased here. Thanks, Emma!]

Smell: Strong. Robust, beany, spicy, a little tart, a little roasty, very complex. I expect a lot of flavor here!

Taste: Texture is waxy, chewy, then smooth—the extra cocoa butter might be doing that. Flavor is fruity and surprisingly mild, like creamy banana or coconut, as well as a little tart and a little bitter in the tannic/drying/astringent way.

Conclusion: Madre Chocolate 70% Hawaiian Dark Chocolate is lush and tropical, with added cocoa butter creaminess.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Green & Black's Maya Gold


3.5oz (100g) bar
Ingredients: Organic fair trade chocolate, oft. raw cane sugar, oft. cocoa butter, soy lecithin, orange and spice flavor, oft. vanilla, o. whole milk powder
18g sugar/40g serving (45% by wt.)

Corporate Info: Check out this Brand Overview from March.

Today's Bar: Maya Gold is Green & Black's nod to “Mexican” or otherwise “Central American”-themed chocolate flavorings. Often that's a mix of hot chile and cinnamon, maybe pepper and/or vanilla; here it's (according to the website) a non-hot combo of orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla, and they're claiming inspiration from the Maya of southern Belize.

Appearance: Green & Black's usual semi-glossy chocolate in a lightly scored mold. Color is kind of flat looking, with a purplish undertone.

Smell: Well-incorporated sweetness and light spice; the nutmeg stands out along with what I'm guessing is orange oil rather than some other orange extract.

Taste: I've had Maya Gold before and liked it, as it conforms to Green & Black's standard: Thoroughly flavored, balanced, not challenging. Texture is thick and rich. Flavor is sweet (it's only 55% cacao) but entirely appropriate to the chocolate here, as while it does have bitter and sour tones, they're all curve, no edge. Similarly, the spices are complex but blend entirely. Think of, say, a good oatmeal cookie or pumpkin pie, which should taste redolent of autumnal spices rather than separate cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove, and so on—they just have an aura of warmth that lingers pleasantly, in this case for a rather long time. I do think the nutmeg is standing out and perhaps the orange (we're not talking citrus here, but rather heady, aromatic orange oil), whereas I don't get a lot of cinnamon, and to my taste buds vanilla is more backup than headliner. So some flavors are louder than others, but they harmonize well.

Conclusion: Green & Black's Maya Gold isn't challenging, but as an everyday flavored chocolate its spice and balance excels.