Sometimes, there is a chocolate that I think I might NEVER taste. That's the type made on the other side of the world, far far away from my little Island in central Canada. But every once in a while, I get my hands on a chocolate that I had lost all hope of tasting.
Spencer Cocoa is one of those chocolate brands. Based in Mudgee, Australia, this chocolate maker focuses on a specific type of chocolate: single origin chocolate made from cocoa beans grown on the Island of Malekula, Vanuatu. Each harvest, Luke Spencer visits the plantation to buy cacao from that season, which he ships back to Australia to turn into chocolate in his factory (ref).
The growers ferment and dry the beans before they are shipped to Spencer Cocoa. What makes this unique, is that in Vanuatu cocoa beans are often dried by wood fire smoke, which creates a distinct taste profile specific to chocolate made from the region's cacao. And this profile can certainly be found in Spencer's unique single origin chocolate.
Some call this method of fire drying the beans 'contamination' or 'artificial drying', but I call it Pure Genius. What better way to infuse smoke flavour into chocolate naturally than to actually smoke the beans? No gross smoke flavour oils need to be added to infuse flavour, just pure, natural, real smoke.
Spencer's 72% dark chocolate offered a boldly smoky flavour that was noticeable, yet quite delicious. The chocolate was perfectly tempered, quite dark in colour, and was lightly creamy. Although texturally, it led with the cocoa beans, not cocoa butter, which was quite noticeable when I tasted it against a high-cocoa butter Pralus chocolate bar.
I was expecting the smoke flavour in Spencer's to be stronger, after having tasted Soma's limited edition Vanuatu origin chocolate last year. The 'Smoke Monster' bar was just that: a monster-sized flavour of smoke, upfront and in your face, like you'd been monster-slimed with it. It was bold and very much a great teaching bar. However, Spencer's is a little more subtle. Clearly the smoke flavour is present, a little bold and a little in-your-face, but not abrasive like Soma's was. Overall, it is easier on the palate.
The smoke flavour is certainly milder in Spencer's 42% milk chocolate bar; only detectable in the finish. The milk chocolate was also rougher in texture - nearing chalky but enjoyable none-the-less. The aftertaste of smoke adds an interesting element that is not often experienced when eating milk chocolate.
Overall, I enjoyed my first tasting of Spencer Cocoa's chocolate. And I look forward to my continued tastings of Australia's bean-to-bar chocolates; a market which seems to be growing just as rapidly as the US and Canadian craft chocolate movements.
I purchased Spencer Cocoa chocolate online from La Tablette de Miss Choco in Montreal for $11.99 (CAD) each. Here are the package details of each bar:
Milk Chocolate 42% Cocoa, 100g
Ingredients: cocoa mass (Vanuatu), cocoa butter, raw sugar, whole milk powder.
Dark Chocolate 72% cocoa, 100g
Ingredients: cocoa mass (Vanuatu), cocoa butter, raw sugar. Made on our equipment which we also use to make milk chocolate.