Monday, January 4, 2016

Original Beans: Fine Chocolate from Amsterdam

The year is beginning with new chocolate to taste and learn about. Three Original Beans single origin chocolate bars have managed to land themselves in my lap over the last few days, which is delightful (geesh, who says that anymore? But it really is the best way to describe my feelings.). And although I haven't had much experience tasting Original Beans chocolate, I have definitely heard a lot about them.

The line-up of Original Beans chocolate bars that I have on hand were quite flavourful, despite just three ingredients each (direct trade cacao beans, cacao butter and raw cane sugar), meaning the company selected very flavourful beans to work with when designing their product line-up.

Original Beans also actually delivered on the flavours suggested on the package, which is not always the case with single origin chocolate (ahem, when the package says 'black olives' but it really tastes like strawberries..?!). So here is an overview and review of the three Original Beans single origin chocolate bars (Bolivia, Eastern Congo and Indonesia) that I tasted over the course of last week:

Original Beans Beni Wild Harvest 66% chocolate bar is made from beans grown in the Bolivian Amazon. Is this claim of 'wild cacao' marketing or fact? I don't know, but I like it. The taste of honey comes through strong and sweet in this lovely chocolate.  This chocolate is also available in a couverture for chefs and chocolatiers to use, which would be a lovely addition to any honey-based or fruit dessert, or for pairing a slightly sweeter red wine with the chocolate.

In contrast, Original Beans Eastern Congo-origin chocolate, Cru Virunga 70% is first earthy and bold, which then opens up to red fruit flavours, yet there is low acidity in it. I like it quite a lot. I can see why it won an Academy of Chocolate Silver in 2011 and 2013, as well as a Great Taste awards Gold in the same years. This one will linger in my mind for a lot longer than it lingers on my tongue.

The Papua Kerafat 66% surprised me in two ways.  The sweetness, like honey and fruit, came strong right away - which was surprising after having tasted the other two chocolates from Eastern Congo and Bolivia. But also, my past experience with Indonesian-origin chocolate caused me to make an incorrect assumption: I thought surely it would be smoky.  And it was not at all smoky!

The sweet, dried fruit flavour has just a little tartness, and the spicy pear - mentioned on the front of the package - does come in clear and upfront with the slightest spice to it. The texture is perhaps a little stiffer than the other two (don't get me wrong, it is still ultra smooth, but definitely has a slower melt). Overall, a nice mild chocolate.


Original Beans Competitive Edge

Original Beans certainly has some serious marketing programs that toot social and environmental responsibility. And if they are delivering on these promises, then I like this chocolate maker's style. Here are some of the ways Original Beans claims to help protect cacao, the forests that grow it and the farmers.
  • The Cru Virunga 70% chocolate bar is made with the intention of not disturbing the 800 gorillas that live in Virunga National Park in the Eastern Congo.
  • The Beni Wild Harvest 66% chocolate is made from wild-grown cacao in the Bolivian, and Original Beans wants the cacao farmers paid well, so the land is protected from `slash and burn` to change over from growing cacao to growing more profitable rice.
  • Original Beans has worked with WWF Indonesia (huh?) to rediscover "an original 'Dutch' cacao bean", found on plantations that have fallen into disuse by former Dutch colonists in the jungles of Western New Guinea. They say each bar of Papua Kerafat 68% dark chocolate helps to protect the rainforest and improves the lives of the indigenous people who live there.

You can also track your chocolate bar's individual "eco-impact" by using the code printed on each package alongside the expiry date.  My codes are listed here, so if you don't have your own, feel free to track mine and see what detailed information we get from Original Beans about this specific batch of chocolate bars. My codes were these:

Papua Kerafat 68% code - K41434 1442
Cru Virunga 70% - V41144 1553
Beni Wild Harvest 66% - B41244 1034

Below is a screen shot from my tracking of the Papua Kerafat (Indonesia) chocolate bar. The information is not as specific about the exact batch of chocolate, as I thought it might be since the codes seem to be unique to each batch, but rather more about the farming, social, and ethical practices at the cacao origin. But the added information was nice to know.

Screen caption of the Original Beans website showing information
specific to chocolate bar codes printed on each package.

What else do they offer and where can I get them?

Original Beans offers a full line-up of origin chocolate. They make mini bars, as well as full size 70 gram bars (2.46 oz).  They also make couverture chocolate for chefs, chocolatiers, and home bakers to use in their creations.  White chocolate is also a part of the line-up.

My chocolate bars were purchased from two suppliers:  Xoxolat in Vancouver, and the December box of Choco Rush. But you can also purchase Original Beans chocolate bars from Chocosphere.com (US) and Cocoa Runners (UK) and from direct-purchase on their website (for delivery in Europe only) at: www.originalbeans.com .


Note: I was not compensated, nor was I given incentive to write this post, just happy to taste a chocolate line-up that was new to me!

Happy Near Year! May 2016 bring you a lot of new chocolate to try!


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