Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dagoba Xocolatl Rich Dark Chocolate Chilies & Nibs

2.83oz (80g) bar
Ingredients: Organic cacao beans, o. cane sugar, o. cocoa, o. cocoa butter, soy lecithin, o. cacao nibs, o. chili powder, o. maca, o. vanilla, o. nutmeg oil, o. milk

I admit I've already made up my mind about Dagoba. First, there's the history. You won't see much of it on Dagoba's website, just the founder's name and the company's sustainability goals. Let's try Wikipedia... Ah, I see: Founded in Colorado and later moved to Ashland, Oregon, Dagoba was bought by Hershey in 2006. There's still a retail store in Ashland; I've been there, and it was small, quiet, and dull, the only company presence a woman who seemed to be office staff. I can't tell if production remains there or somewhere else. The vague, minimalist website lists the retail store address with no phone number, online orders direct you to San Francisco, and a general (866-) number has Eastern Standard Time office hours. Hershey wants to elicit your organic/sustainable warm fuzzies while standing behind an opaque, soulless wall.

Second, the taste. I've tried to like Dagoba chocolate. It's organic, it's often on sale (something big companies like Hershey can afford), and it comes in lots of flavors. But in my experience, it's just not good. Take the Xocolatl bar here. It's pretty and smells like raisins, which can be nice. The texture is of dense, chalky-type chocolate rather than creamy or waxy, and there's that subtle crunch of nibs. But the flavor comes on sour and harsh, without much complexity or interest besides. In some of the bites, I taste something “off” in the back of my mouth. There is a nice afterburn in this subtly spicy chocolate, but the chocolate itself just isn't good. I ate my last piece ten minutes ago, and I'm still tasting sour.

As I've said before, I understand why small chocolatiers sell to large companies. If those large companies act transparently, and absorb the brands' standards as well as their names, it's hard to be critical of the merger. I'm certainly not seeing transparency here. What about the chocolate? To be honest, I don't remember how Dagoba chocolate tasted before 2006; maybe this is how it always was, and presumably some people like it. Personally I'd like to think it was better once upon a time, because this really isn't doing it for me.

Conclusion: Dagoba Xocoatl Rich Dark Chocolate Chilies & Nibs is harsh and sour, albeit with a nice chile afterburn.

P.S. That “maca” in the ingredients is a Peruvian root. Based on a quick Google search, it sounds like it has a bitter and polarizing flavor. Dunno if that made any difference in the chocolate.

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