Friday, September 4, 2015

Weekly Chocolate Round-Up: Dick-Taylor's Belize & Madagascar, Hummingbird's Vietnam and Marou's 80% Vietnamese Chocolate

I am not sure if this week was a 'battle of the beauties' or a 'battle of the birds'. Between Hummingbird's gorgeous logo, Dick-Taylor's perfect seagull illustration, and Marou's beautiful chocolate bar, my week of chocolate tastings was both appealing to the eyes and to the palate.

Marou's modern-looking chocolate with its clean, angled lines, was in far contrast from Dick-Taylor's intricate chocolate bar design that is reminiscent of antique royalty.  And Hummingbird's chocolate, adorned with flowers and leaves that indicate the nature from where the cacao came, offered an entirely different look. So with all this beauty, all three chocolate bars looked equally worthy of eating.

I agree that beautiful-looking chocolate isn't always great tasting chocolate, but in this case, these beauties also tasted AMAZING.

So let's take a closer look at each one...

Marou's Tien Giang 80% Vietnam-origin dark chocolate may well be the most beautiful chocolate bar in the world. The cool diagonal pieces and the super shiny, near-black coloured chocolate bar is a symbol of the new era of bean-to-bar chocolate.

I personally love how this chocolate bar breaks apart. No matter which line you break it on, the remaining chocolate bar still looks 'cool', dynamic and somehow, architecturally designed. Like a modern skyscraper with interestingly sharp angles.

As for taste, I found Marou's other chocolate bars to be fruitier than this one, which still had fruit flavours in it, but also something by the way of smoke, tobacco and roast flavours. There is a nice addition of cocoa butter to add a smoothness and creaminess to this 80% chocolate, which somehow tasted less bitter than other chocolate bars with cocoa solids as high. Overall, it was quite enjoyable.

Hummingbird's new Vietnam 70% chocolate bar surprised me with the smokiness. The 'chestnuts and caramel' flavours, as described on the package were mere hints of flavour, with smoke being the most pronounced flavour.  It was interesting, like Spencer Cocoa's Vanuatu-origin chocolate or Soma's limited edition 'Smoke Monster' chocolate bar. To achieve this kind of flavour, the cocoa beans used to make the chocolate had not been sun-dried, but rather fire-dried, which causes a strong smoke flavour. Some chocolate connoisseurs say that smoke flavour is not a good thing, but I find it fascinating, as it enhances the tasting experience of chocolate.

Why would it enhance it? Well for starters, if all chocolate tasted the same, life as a chocolate lover would be boring, would it not? And, tasting Marou's Vietnamese-origin chocolate, with its fruity flavours against a smoky chocolate like Hummingbird's teaches us that not all cacao is the same, even when grown in the same country (or sourced by the same people, since Marou sourced Hummingbird's cacao from a plantation in Vietnam). We can learn so much about how the methods used to process cocoa beans affects the final flavour of the chocolate, how growing conditions and soil can affect flavour (i.e. fruit influences in the growing region versus other crops grown nearby).

Dick-Taylor's 72% range of origin chocolate bars are absolutely picturesque. This antique-style design is so intricate that I was quite impressed with the lack of air bubbles in the chocolate bar (a detailed chocolate mold can often lend itself to problematic air bubbles for the chocolate maker). The company name is imprinted so delicately in the centre, finishing off the royalty-worthy look.

Dick-Taylor's Belize bar was very fruity, with citrus and berry flavours, and a hint of sweet purple grapes.  Perhaps a hint of tobacco, but mostly just cocoa and fruit. However, it's fruit flavour is not as bold in citrus-raspberry flavour as Dick-Taylor's Madagascar origin chocolate, which almost tastes like raspberries have been added to the chocolate. The Belize bar, with its dark mahogany chocolate colour, has just the perfect subtle mix of fruit and raspberries.

There is no added cocoa butter, so certainly this chocolate is a little 'stiffer' than some of the European-made origin chocolates, like Pralus, Akesson or Bonnat.  But the trend in America now is clearly two-ingredient chocolate (cocoa beans and sugar), and Dick-Taylor's chocolate certainly has a nice 'melt-in-the-mouth' feel for chocolate with just two ingredients.

All of these chocolate bars were purchased at JoJo Coco in Ottawa on Hazeldean Road.  The Marou chocolate, made in Vietnam with Vietnamese origin cacao and weighing in at 80 grams, cost $11, the Dick-Taylor chocolate bars cost $13 for 57 grams and Hummingbird's cost $7 for a 50 gram bar.

Here are the package details of each:

Marou Tien Giang 80% Vietnam Dark Chocolate (exp. 23-11-2015), 80g
Marou Chocolate Co. (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
Ingredients: Cocoa and cocoa butter (80%), cane sugar (20%). Soy and gluten free. May contain tree nuts, eggs, and/or derivatives.

Dick-Taylor 72% Belize (batch 15132) & Madagascar (batch 15147) chocolate bars, 57g (2 oz)
Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate (Arcata, CA)
Ingredients: cacao*, cane sugar*
Processed in a facility that also processes nuts.

Hummingbird Vietnam 70% Cacao (batch 226), 50g
Hummingbird Chocolate Maker (Almonte, ON)
Ingredients: Organic Trinitario cacao, organic cane sugar, cacao butter. May contain nuts.