The winners of the 2016 International Chocolate Awards were just announced, and Ingemann's Fine Cocoa from Nicaragua is showing up as the beans used in some winning bars. And many chocolate makers are wondering if these are the right cocoa beans for them to use in their chocolate? Well I can tell you to stop wondering! I've been testing four varieties of Ingemann's cacao in my little commercial kitchen and I can tell you: it is fantastic!
The cacao supplied by Tomric, in partnership with Ingemann, comes in four flavours:
1. NicaFruity, a premium blend of beans from Nicaragua
2. Chuno Classico , a Trinitario-type caco from the Northern Highlands
3. Tenor, beans from the region of La Dalia, Matagalpa region.
4. O'Payo, the certified organic cacao offered by Ingemann and Tomric, consisting of beans from Waslala, Raan, on the UNESCO protected Bosawas Nature Reserve in the northern mountains of Nicaragua.
Chaleur's original run of sample bars from Ingemann were 80% and on the bitter side, which chocolate maker Dany Marquis had also acknowledged that perhaps a sweeter chocolate would be a better way to showcase the Ingemann beans. So I went a little sweeter, but not by much, to highlight the flavour of the beans and truly understand the taste of each variety.
At times, I wished I had made 70% chocolate bars, since I still found a strong bitterness to some of the chocolate that I made. Although, once the chocolate had aged a bit, I found some of that bitterness wore off somewhat, and the flavours of each chocolate truly opened up.
I would consider buying any one of the four varieties of beans from Tomric. As far as an organic bean goes, the O'Payo is quite nice, and offers no strong flavours that might affect the end result of the chocolate, should you be using it to make a couverture chocolate for truffles or confections.
My flavour notes are below on each bean, as well as some recommendations on what you can pair them with, or suggested percentages for the chocolate. Hopefully this helps other hobbyist or craft chocolate makers when trying to decide what bean to choose!
For more information, or to buy any of these cocoa beans from Nicaragua, visit the Tomric website at www.tomric.com. Enjoy!
Notes on the Beans:
'Nica Fruity' or the Nicaraguan Premium Blend worked well with a dark roast and a 75% dark chocolate. The resulting chocolate was not in-your-face-fruity like a Madagascar or perhaps a Grenada, but that may have something to do with the dark roast that I applied to the chocolate, which could have muted some of the natural flavours. If I were to work with these beans again, I might go with a light roast to bring out the acidic nature of the bean and highlight the fruit flavours. Although the chocolate I had made was quite good as a 75% dark roast. But for a different sort of palate, a sweeter 65% might also be nice on these beans to soften the bitterness and bring out the fruitiness. Find more information on the Tomric site here.
The Chuno Classico had a sweeter profile and a nice warm, roasted taste. Raisins and a hint of grape, orange with some taste of cream and cocoa. And also, an olive flavour reminiscent of other chocolate bars that I have tasted before, namely the Fiji bar by Chaleur B Chocolat. You may have tried a 'Chuno' bean by Ingemann before and found a different flavour profile, but don't be confused! Ingemann produces five varieties under the Chuno name: Classico, Intenso, Esencia, Tradicional and Profundo. The Ingemann website provides information on each type of bean, as well as the length of fermentation and drying time. For instance, the Chuno Classico beans that I tested had a moderate fermentation time (as opposed to long or short) and a moderate drying time. You can also find a flavour profile graphic on the website, to help you along when tasting the beans or writing up a description of your chocolate.
I made a few 70% bars with no cocoa butter added, and it had a creamy texture and taste - and was fruitier - but yet left a dryness on the palate like a dry red wine might. Mouthfeel certainly benefits from the added cocoa butter, but has a robust enough flavour to get away with no cocoa butter to be a nice chocolate in the low 70% range. Overall, the Chuno made a very nice dark chocolate, with a good balance of bitter and sweet with 75% cocoa solids.
O'Payo - There is a bite to this chocolate, but not unpleasant. It is that acidic feel you get after eating a kiwi, which may be why the supplier described it as tasting like kiwi and pineapple. As the chocolate aged, I also started to taste some notes of purple grape. I also tasted this flavour in Tomric's sample 70% chocolate made from the same beans.
The notes of coffee, mentioned by Tomric in their info pack, I'll agree with. This might pair well with a coffee-flavoured chocolate bar, or might be used in an espresso truffle. I used my 75% dark O-Payo chocolate bar to make a meltaway-style truffle (a meltaway replaces the cream and butter in a traditional truffle with coconut oil) and added a dark-roast ground coffee to it, and it was delicious!
Tenor - For me, it had a slight dried fruit, floral, and mild tangy clementine with an earthy aftertaste. The suppliers found "interesting floral notes with hints of red wine, wood and orange." After tasting it again, the red wine did stand out to me. With 48 hours in the refiner, it wasn't notably bitter, but somewhat acidic (as compared to 35 hours in the refiner, when I pulled some chocolate out and made a few bars to test the differences (at 35 hours it was definitely more acidic and fruity). Again though, with the acidity, this chocolate might have benefited from a little more sugar - I think a 70% dark chocolate would have been delicious, and perhaps a dark-milk chocolate, and also made into a 60% dark chocolate for red wine truffles.
Although all the chocolate bars from Tomric's four beans had a similar theme of high cocoa taste, nuttiness and somewhat acidic, each one featured their own unique flavours. Every one of these chocolates got better with age, and truly all four stood out as interesting chocolate bars.