Saturday, November 24, 2012

Chuao Chocolatier Salted Chocolate Crunch



2.8oz (80g) bar
Ingredients: cacao, sugar, cacao butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, sea salt, panko breadcrumbs (wheat flour, dextrose, yeast, salt)
15g sugar/40g serving (37.5% by wt.)

Corporate Info: (Copied from 11/17/12) According to its stylish website, Chuao Chocolatier is a San Diego-based company founded by two brothers from Venezuela, who named the company after a region of their homeland. Chuao's whole deal is interesting chocolate combinations, in bars like maple bacon and potato chip (see the production here), and in confections like smoky macadamia and goat cheese & pear. You can buy Chuao's products at its well-regarded retail locations in Southern California, at other select stores, or at large chains like Whole Foods and Target.

Note: The site calls Chuao the “first Venezuelan Chocolatier based in the United States,” but aside from this pricey bar I can't find a claim that their cacao is sourced in the region of Chuao or in Venezuela generally, so I won't be labeling the company single-origin.


Appearance: Shiny, in a grey-yellow-brown that's surprisingly a touch lighter than last week's Chuao Firecracker, despite presumably being in the same base. Maybe the chipotle darkened the other bar?

Smell: Hm, subtle, which again surprises me compared to last week's—but my co-taster says he thinks this one smells stronger. Subjective senses!

Taste: So I had to step back from sugar over the last few weeks, which explains why this 60% cacao base tastes very sweet to me. That aside, it's quite nice. The chocolate is mild but with a light, bitter aftertaste, reminiscent of the lingering taste of a cup of coffee; my co-taster similarly reflected “you can really taste the toastiness—browned, I guess a little carbonized.” The breadcrumbs offer a pleasant, crispy crunch, varied and never mushy. The well-incorporated salt rounds out the flavor, which I think of as achieving balance but my co-taster expanded, commenting on the way the toasty/bitter flavors, salt, and sweet all pull in different directions, offering a broader experience.

Conclusion: Chuao Chocolatier Salted Chocolate Crunch is both complex and well balanced, in terms of both flavor and texture.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Chuao Chocolatier Firecracker



2.8oz (80g) bar
Ingredients: 60% cacao, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, chipotle chile, pasilla chile, sea salt, candy (sugar, corn glucose, lactose, carbon dioxide)

Corporate Info: According to its stylish website, Chuao Chocolatier is a San Diego-based company founded by two brothers from Venezuela, who named the company after a region of their homeland. Chuao's whole deal is interesting chocolate combinations, in bars like maple bacon and potato chip (see the production here), and in confections like smoky macadamia and goat cheese & pear. You can buy Chuao's products at its well-regarded retail locations in Southern California, at other select stores, or at large chains like Whole Foods and Target.

Note: The site calls Chuao the “first Venezuelan Chocolatier based in the United States,” but aside from this pricey bar I can't find a claim that their cacao is sourced in the region of Chuao or in Venezuela generally, so I won't be labeling the company single-origin.
 
Today's Bar: Chuao's Firecracker Bar, 60% cacao with sea salt, chipotle, and Pop-Rocks-type popping candy. Hm.

Appearance: Shiny, not especially red/orange/yellow medium brown, in an interesting mold (as you can see above). The back surface is pebbled with the candy pieces and possibly also the salt.

Smell: I mostly get a fresh/raw, sour, bitter (in a beany way, not acrid) chocolate smell, with perhaps a touch of smokiness from the chipotle but nothing obvious.

Taste: Ooh, that's fun. The chocolate is decent quality, with the beany, fresh flavor I got from the aroma. Depending on what hits your tongue first, you either get saltiness or the popping candies, which have little flavor but add a Nestle Crunch sort of crispiness that morphs into the crackle of Pop Rocks that fill your mouth as you chew but never threaten to explode—this isn't candy you'd have to eat on a dare. Chipotle is slow to arrive after the sweet-salty chocolate, mostly resulting in a slow but prominent burn in the back of the throat; a co-taster says he also feels the heat on the back of his tongue. I think I find the 60% cacao a tad too sweet for my taste, though that's after having eaten a good quarter of the bar.

Conclusion: Chuao Chocolatier Firecracker is likably crackly, smoky-burny, and sweet, a novel if not necessary combination.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Equal Exchange Organic Mint Chocolate With a Delicate Crunch



3.5oz (100g) bar
Ingredients: Organic fair trade chocolate liquor, oft. raw cane sugar, oft. cocoa butter, peppermint crisps (oft. cane sugar, oft. peppermint oil), oft. vanilla
14g sugar/37g serving (37.8% by wt.)

Corporate Info: (Altered from 5/5/11) Massachusetts co-op Equal Exchange is serious about fair trade, organic growing methods, relationships with farmers, and everything that goes along with it. I'm actually overwhelmed by the extensive website, but suffice to say that the reason behind the company's founding was to do good via products that now encompass your usual array of tasty and potentially problematic foods from the tropics (chocolate, coffee, tea, bananas, etc) and a few other locations (almonds, olive oil). At this point they're well-established and respected (the Better World Shopping Guide gives them an A+), so if you care about “Corporate Info” enough to read this paragraph, this is the sort of company you'll love.

This Bar: Equal Exchange produces a bunch of different single-origin and flavored bars, of which I've only reviewed the orange in 65% cacao. Today's contains some sort of crunchy mint candy, and for whatever reason they've used 67% cacao here.

Appearance: Matte, greyish, with a little orangey undertone. Nothing special.

Smell: Not like mint exactly, but light and refreshing. Otherwise, nutty and sweet, not especially chocolatey.

Taste: Actually, that's really nice. The chocolate is crunchy melting to waxy, mild, and sweet, with just a little sour, and the little mint crunches are super tiny, adding fresh, sweet texture rather than tasting like separate candies. This isn't your super high quality stuff, but it's easy to eat and you'll be supporting a great company.

Conclusion: Equal Exchange Organic Mint Chocolate With a Delicate Crunch is fine, mild chocolate with itty bitty mint crunchies that offer texture and refreshing flavor.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

All My Sins Peppermint Mischief 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate Peppermint Coffee Beans


5.5oz (156g) bag
Ingredients: Fair trade unsweetened chocolate, ft. sugar, ft. cocoa, soy lecithin, ft. vanilla, ft. coffee, gum acacia, medium chain triglycerides, peppermint flavor, confectioner's glaze
8g sugar/35g serving (22.9% by wt.)

Corporate Info: Pop Quiz. Q: What's weird about All My Sins? A: The brand doesn't have a website, or any other identity as far as I can see. According to the package it's distributed by John B. Sanfilippo & Son, Inc., which according to this site filed a for trademark on the name (All My Sins With None of the Guilt) earlier this year. JBSS was founded in Illinois in 1922 and sources nuts commercially, for store generics, and as the brand Fisher. I found the All My Sins product at Whole Foods.

Today's Confection: This is All My Sins' dark chocolate item, which is why it's the one I bought!

Appearance: Shiny (that'd be the confectioner's glaze) and dark.

Smell: An appealing mix of chocolate and heady roasted espresso, with a light burst of mint.

Taste: Quite nice, if more or less what you'd expect. The chocolate coating isn't too thin or thick, and it holds up with its rich texture and dark but mild flavor to the crunchy, roasty coffee beans. The mint is kind of an afterthought, but I have to admit it adds a layer of refreshment to the dark and somewhat bitter (just because it's coffee) confection. I can't wax poetic about these—they don't have the gourmet texture or complexity of, say, Pacari's chocolate covered cacao beans—but there's nothing “off” in the balance of flavors, the thickness of the coating, or the beans.

Conclusion: All My Sins Peppermint Mischief 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate Peppermint Coffee Beans are a satisfying snack for those who like their candy caffeinated or coffee with their chocolate.