Friday, March 2, 2012

Want to be a 'Chocolate Connoisseur'? Better Try it Stone Ground then!

Just when I thought I had tried it all, I learned that I have not.  Admittedly, I have eaten hundreds of different chocolate bars, if not thousands.  And since I am on a mission to become a proper chocolate connoisseur, I have eaten everything from cocoa beans, cocoa nibs, smooth chocolate to filled chocolate. I have even crushed cocoa beans and brewed a coffee-like beverage with them. I have eaten "raw" chocolate, "virgin" chocolate and all chocolate in between. However, there was still one type of chocolate that I had not yet tried, and that was "Stone Ground" made by TAZA chocolate.

Having tasted minimally processed chocolate before (sometimes called raw, or virgin depending on the manufacturer), I expected "stone ground" chocolate to be similar; slightly grittier and not quite as smooth as chocolate that is processed the 'regular' way.  I recently wrote about Raaka Virgin Chocolate being not quite as smooth as, say, a Lindt chocolate bar, but it is healthier for you.  Also, the texture of raw chocolate, like that made by Pacari, also lacks complete smoothness.  So I assumed that TAZA's "Stone Ground" chocolate would be similar to those, but I was wrong.  It was much, much grittier.

So how can I describe this tasting experience?  It is exactly like eating tiny stones that are ground by other larger stones. Oh wait, I am describing sand. Okay, so it is sort of like eating sand, except that is it cocoa beans, vanilla beans and sugar ground up.

I could see how someone who is used to only eating Lindt chocolate bars would react to Stone Ground chocolate.  Likely they would be shocked by the texture, maybe say that is is NOT CHOCOLATE and perhaps never buy it again simply because it is different than what they are used to. At least, that may have been my reaction 10 years ago when I thought Lindt chocolate was the highest quality chocolate that I could buy and nothing else existed in this world quite like it. And not that Lindt is not great chocolate, but in the last ten years I have discovered that the world of chocolate is so full of different tastes, different textures and overall, different experiences. So my reaction today is the just opposite of what it would have been back then.  I instantly loved the grittiness of TAZA because it offers me a new and more importantly, a different, experience!

Since this is my first TAZA chocolate tasting, I do not want to generalize and so I will tell you a little about the bar that I am tasting.  It is the TAZA 80% Stone Ground Organic chocolate bar in a 3 oz (85g) size. The beans are single origin, from the Dominican Republic, and the chocolate is listed as "dairy free - gluten free - soy free". The flavour is fantastic and slightly fruity and tangy at the same time and it holds up well to other Dominican Republic chocolate bars that I have tasted. The difference is that there are tiny particles left in your mouth, including crunchy sugar and bean parts. It does eventually melt away, but the texture starts out like fine beach sand. I am looking forward to trying more of TAZA's chocolate to see how it compares to this bar.

So why make chocolate by grinding cocoa beans with stones?  Well, TAZA says that by minimally processing the chocolate, they can preserve the flavours of the cocoa beans.  I agree and add that minimal processing also should preserve the flavanols and antioxidants in the chocolate, and so it should be healthier for you.  You can learn more about their chocolate making process here: http://www.tazachocolate.com/OurProcess.

Also, what is really cool about TAZA's website is that you can enter the batch number of your chocolate bar and they will tell you more about it! Mine was batch #500 and a simple search gave me all sorts of info about my specific chocolate bar.  Check it out: http://www.tazachocolate.com/OurProcess/See_How_Your_Batch_was_Made?batchNum=500  They also gave me the weather in the Dominican Republic (a little depressing, truthfully, since I am in Canada's north country right now and looking at a snow-covered landscape through the window).

However, I LOVE that I know which day my chocolate bar was made on, and the exact origin of the cacao beans.  It makes me completely trust in this product, which is great in an age where we are not always sure of what is in our food.  I think TAZA has had a great idea here and, through their website, has taken this whole 'small batch bean-to-bar' trend just a little further than everyone else.

So if you are trying to become a chocolate connoisseur, do not just stick to your regular smooth chocolate bar that costs $2.99. Try something a little different and see if you like it.  You might not, but it is an experience worth having!

As usual, here are the details from the package of the chocolate bar that I tasted today (my 'package details' report seems so old-school now considering that TAZA has this stuff searchable on their web site!):

STONE GROUND ORGANIC CHOCOLATE, 80% Dark, 3 oz (85g)
TAZA chocolate (Somerville, MA, USA)
http://www.tazachocolate.com/
Ingredients: cacao beans (Dominican Republic), cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole vanilla beans.  All ingredients certified organic. May contain traces of nuts.  Batch #500: 80%, Bean Origin: Dominican Republic.

2 comments:

  1. I have been trying a number of dark chocolate bars myself, and just tried the Stone Ground 80% today - it has become my new favourite. Love the gritty texture.

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