Sunday, July 5, 2015

Akesson's Single Plantation Chocolate: Three origins and three bean types

When I purchased a selection of Akesson's chocolate last month, I had not realized that I choose three origin chocolate bars made from three different types of cocoa beans. Akesson's Brazil-origin chocolate is made from Forastero beans, the Bali-origin chocolate is made from Trinitario beans, and the Madagascar chocolate is made from Criollo. This tells a lot about the cacao (cocoa) commonly grown in each country. And it also says a lot about Akesson's as a fine chocolate maker.

Why? Well, it is commonly thought that Forastero beans generally do not make good chocolate. However, good chocolate makers know that there are fine flavour Forastero beans, as well as 'other' ones. Those 'other' beans are used for most commercial chocolate bars, which require a LOT of vanilla flavouring to make them taste good!  Fine chocolate makers - the craft, bean-to-bar type - are usually determined to make good chocolate from various origins, and so, when there are no Criollo or Trinitario to be found in a country, they will seek out fine flavour Forastero instead. And if they see to fermentation, proper roasting and just the right conche, they can bring out delicious flavours in chocolate unique to the origin of the bean. Akesson's has done just that with their Brazilian forastero beans.

It certainly helps that Akesson's owns the cacao plantation, called Fazenda Sempre Firme, in Bahia, Brazil. Being an owner means controlling the harvest, the fermentation, and the drying methods of the cocoa beans. Akesson's Brazil origin chocolate bar has 75% cocoa solids and to me, offers a unique taste of sour fruit and a smoky cigar flavour. The texture is very smooth and full of cocoa butter creaminess. It by far the most interesting and delicious tasting Brazil-origin chocolate that I have tasted to date.

Although acidic and reminiscent of burnt cherry sauce (I've been known to burn some on occasion), the fruit flavour in Akesson's Brazilian chocolate was not one I could easily identify, but that may be explained by the description on the package, which says the chocolate tastes of the local Brazilian pitanga fruit. These fruit look like a mix between ground cherries and cherries, and yet have the shape of mini pumpkins and, according to Wikipedia, their taste can range from sweet to sour. I have not tasted pitanga fruit, so I will have to take Akesson's word for it. The texture is very soft in this chocolate, and just melts away in the mouth.

Akesson's Madagascar chocolate bar has an abundance of fruit and raspberry flavour, nearly overwhelmingly so.  It also has an incredibly smooth texture and a reddish colour that is typical to Madagascar origin chocolate, but unique compared to other origins. This truly is a bold flavoured chocolate bar with, I think, just the right cocoa percentage and cocoa butter to bring out that bold fruity Madagascar flavour.

Akesson's Bali 75% chocolate, made with the cacao grown by Sukrama Farms, was the toughest to figure out. I found the bitter cocoa taste to overwhelm any other origin flavours in the chocolate. Which simply might be the origin flavour of the chocolate. There was also a little smoky spice, like the flavours added to a BBQ'd steak might have. I liked this chocolate least of the three, but the cocoa buttery smooth texture made it enjoyable none-the-less.

Overall, my first venture into tasting Akesson's 'Single Plantation Chocolate', was good.  I found the key differentiator for their chocolate was the texture.  There was a great balance of cocoa butter to cocoa solids and sugar. It was not overly creamy, like Pralus or Bonnat, but definitely creamier than most.

The other differentiator for Akesson's chocolate is the story of each chocolate's origin. Not only does the company fully describe each plantation on the chocolate package, so we know precisely where the flavours are coming from, but also, they own their own cacao plantations, so we know that Akesson's fully understands the entire process of chocolate making, from tree to bar.

I look forward to tasting more from this chocolate maker!