Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'Chocolate Treasures' from Equador, Tobago, Trinidad, Peru, Papua-New Guinea, Madagascar, Venezuela and Costa Rica

I was recently shopping at Costco - a large Canadian membership-based discount retailer - and I spotted an amazing box of plantation/single origin chocolates made from cocoa beans from eight different cocoa plantations. Each of the eight varieties are individually wrapped single-serving-sized pieces of chocolate, four of which are milk chocolate and four are dark chocolate.  Each has a different percentage (%) of cocoa solids.  Best of all, they come in a lovely "treasure box" - a great thing to put out with the desserts at a party, or alternately, you could bring it to a party as a hostess gift.

I was very excited to see such a box and I decided that I just had to buy it.  I thought, what a great way to have a tasting of single origin chocolates from one brand name and the cost was only about $15 for 150 pieces! What's more, I don't have to go onto their website and order eight different chocolate bars at $4 or more per bar. It also means that I have left overs for my friends, stocking stuffers and for future group tasting events.

So today I am tasting these chocolates.  Like usual, I have not followed 'proper' tasting rules, I'll admit.  I started with the dark chocolate and worked my way down to the milk chocolate.  However, I did start with the sweetest of the dark chocolate and worked my way up to the most bitter in each of the categories, so I tried to follow standard tasting rules just a little bit.

The Amacado 60% chocolate comes from the Amacado Plantation in the Amazon in Peru - a co-operative of nearly 1,000 families.  It is sweet, smooth and bitter all at the same time. This would be a good one to keep in your purse or desk at work for the time when you need a pick-me-up.

The El Cuador 70% is from the El Cuador plantation in Ecuador. It has that "organic" chocolate smell to it, and clearly no vanilla is present.  It is bitter and without the vanilla, it is a little flat.  It reminds me very much of Cocoa Camino 70% dark couverture.  So I've had a piece of that too, and they are very similar.  Likely because of the lack of vanilla. Don't get me wrong though, the taste is still great.  I have gotten used to chocolate with no vanilla added, which is often done on purpose so you can taste the real flavours of the cocoa beans, and I have come to like it without the vanilla.

The 75% chocolate from Tobago has a really nice dark, luxurious colour and a wonderful smell.  It is bitter, and tastes like what bitter chocolate should taste like.  It's also thick on the tongue and difficult to melt away and swallow.  But very good. I don't believe there is vanilla in this chocolate either.

The 80% Tembaroro is from a plantation in Trinidad.  It also has a nice smell and is definitely the most bitter (well, duh, it's % is different). There is nothing distinctive about this chocolate compared to the one before it - which may be due to the closeness of Trinidad to Tobago.

Now that I've tasted them all, I realize that I can't really taste any distinct flavour profile differences in these chocolates, which is strange considering that they are supposed to all be made of beans sourced from different countries.  They taste very much like the same chocolate, only more bitter with each % difference. I think I better try this again to really see.

I have laid them all out side by side.  Other than the 60%, the others all smell like the same chocolate, only less sweet as they go up in percentage of cocoa solids.  The 60% is also the only one that looks different - it has a milky chocolate look to it, and in fact, melts in the mouth in such a way that it is possible there is milk products and flavour.   Mmmm...it's very good!

I have now tasted two of each piece and gone back and forth between the different %s and really can't taste a difference between each region that the chocolate is supposed to be from.  Usually I can taste distinct differences.  Either it's my taste buds today, or they are using the same cocoa beans for each chocolate and just varying the sugar content. Alternately, their production process and combination of sugar and cocoa butter is masking the specific flavours in the cacao beans - if that is even possible when the beans come from a single plantation.

I have sampled the milk chocolate, and have noticed that they are melt-in-your-mouth fantastic.
There is a definite colour difference between each of the milk chocolates as the cocoa solids percentage increases.  And like the dark chocolates of the same brand, I haven't noticed any distinct regional flavour profiles between the milk chocolates.

Here are the milk chocolates that come in this `treasure` box:

35% Nouméa  - a plantation in Papua-New Guinea
39% Madanga - a plantation in Madagascar
43% Puerto Cabello - comes from the Barlovento region in Venezuela
47% Guácimo  - a plantation in Costa Rica

I love the 43% and 47% ! I like darker milk chocolates because I feel they have a stronger flavour overall and I guess because I prefer dark chocolate in general, so it is only natural that I like the darker milk chocolates.

Overall, the milk chocolates are creamy and leave your mouth watering for more. So does the 60% El Cuador plain dark chocolate.  If you check their web site, it looks like they have a nice variety of formats of the 60% chocolate, from portion controlled sizes to larger ones.  I highly recommend this chocolate.

The treasure box would be great for a tasting party.  But be sure to include two or three other single origin/plantation chocolates from different brands to really see what flavour differences can be identified between single origin chocolates.  A few Cachet bars or Valrhona would be good ones to try.

All that said, I do recommend this chocolate to people who like portion control - you can just through a few of the individually wrapped pieces into your bag each day for an afternoon-pick-me-up at work.  It is also great for those who like to have a variety of milk and dark chocolate on hand.  For instance, if you really love milk chocolate and your spouse or someone in your family loves dark chocolate (or vice versa), then this is a great box to keep at your house. It is also a great way to introduce yourself to tasting chocolate with different percentages of cocoa solids by giving you the opportunity to taste several at one time.

However, if you are looking to taste chocolate with interesting and different regional flavour profiles of the cocoa bean itself, this is not the box for you.

That's it for today.  I've eaten so much chocolate this evening, I only hope I can sleep tonight! This is why tastings should be in the day time...

Here are the stats on the company that makes the Chocolate Treasure box:

Chocolate Treasures, 8 varieties, 150 pieces (1000 grams) by Rausch Schokoladen GmbH
Berlin, Germany
http://www.rausch-schokolade.com/
Plantagen® Schokolade
Marketing on website: "...a full aroma and still is amazingly mild; every single variety is carefully balanced to bring out the character of its cocoa. For each variety we use only fine flavoured cocoa from one single cocoa plantation."

3 comments:

  1. Funny that you can't taste the flavour differences in these. They all have a very distinct taste. the 47% is my least favourite of the milks because I don't like that particular flavour profile. The 35% milk chocolate must be the smoothest milk chocolate ever produced, both in taste and in texture. In fact, the distinguishing characteristic of Rausch is the smooth texture of all their products.

    As for the dark chocolates, the 60% has a very distinct fruity note that is lacking or more subtle in the others. The 70% is also my least favourite, but the 75% and 80% are both delicious and actually stand out against almost all other brands for their lack of bitterness.

    I encourage you to a second testing.

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