Thursday, January 12, 2012

Diaries of a Girl Gone Dark and Bitter....with Bourbon

Dear Diary: It is Day 12 and I am still dark and bitter, but now I reek of Bourbon too 

Over the last few days, I have been tasting two very interesting bitter chocolate bars that I have been saving especially for this week of +80% chocolate (read here to learn more about why I am only eating +80% this week).  These two chocolate bars were made by Raaka "Virgin" Chocolate and are:

-85% Dark Dominican Republic
-83% Bourbon Cask Aged chocolate

These are small, perfectly portion-controlled bars of chocolate, coming in at just 1.25 oz in size (approx. 35.44 grams). But that is not the interesting fact about these bars.  They are made from bean-to-bar by one company in Brooklyn, New York who cares about using low temperatures and preserving the flavours of the cocoa bean. Which also preserves the flavanols and antioxidants and all that stuff that is considered good for us (giving us a great excuse to eat more chocolate). These are not usually preserved in commercial chocolate manufacturing facilities, where the goal is to make as much chocolate as possible at a rapid rate. So Raaka's chocolate is indeed virgin" in comparison.

Athough I ordered a selection of Raaka Virgin Chocolate bars in December, I have been waiting for just the right moment to taste them. I am glad that I waited until this week, when my taste buds were prepped and ready for Raaka's 85% and 83% bars. Had I tried these chocolates in December, when I had been overindulging in sugary treats, I may have found them too bitter to eat! But my first and subsequent tastings confirmed that this was just the right time for reviewing Raaka's darker side.

What I found in tasting these two chocolates together is the 85% Dominican is smoother and actually almost tastes sweeter than the 83% Bourbon Cask Aged chocolate. The tasting notes on the package include citrus rind, oolong tea, black pepper, and cardamom, but I just tasted really nice dark chocolate that made me forget it was an 85%. Although it is smoother than the Bourbon Cask Aged chocolate, it is still a little bit grittier than your average chocolate bar, but this is because of the minimal processing, which is a good enough reason to me!

As for the Bourbon Cask Aged chocolate bar...what a great idea!  I think the founder's of Raaka really have come up with something genius by aging cocoa nibs in oak bourbon casks. So you just get a slight bourbon flavour with just a hint of alcohol flavour. I also like the mental association with wine that it gives me, since I am a big fan of the method of aging wine for months in oak barrels.

Although I hate to choose, I do like the 85% Dark Dominican Republic chocolate bar more than the Bourbon Cask Aged bar.  The Bourbon is gritty in comparison and leaves my mouth a bit too dry. And with each tasting, I taste the Bourbon flavour more and more. But that said, if I was a Bourbon lover, I think this might be a favourite.  The problem with me is, I've never really liked Bourbon.  Now if the nibs had been aged in some Californian Cabernet Sauvignon oak barrels, it would appeal to me on a whole new level! 

But even though I am not a Bourbon-lover, the experience in tasting this chocolate was quite interesting and I enjoyed trying something completely new to me. I commend the people at Raaka for trying these wonderful and interesting new methods in chocolate making.

I was able to order Raaka online through their website and they shipped to me here in Canada, but they do have one Canadian retailer in Toronto (Pistachio on Yonge Street).

If you are interested in learning more about the chocolates that I tasted today, here are the package details:

Raaka Virgin Chocolate 85% Dark Dominican Republic, 1.25 oz
Raaka Chocolate (made in Brooklyn, NY, USA)
Ingredients: organic cacao beans, organic turbinado sugar, organic cacao butter.

Raaka Virgin Chocolate Bourbon Cask Aged, 83%, 1.25 oz
Raaka Chocolate (made in Brooklyn, NY, USA) Ingredients: Organic cacao beans, organic turbinado sugar, organic maple sugar, organic cacao butter.


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