Sunday, July 12, 2015

Amma Chocolate's Gula Merah 70%: Fruity tasting and made with coconut sugar

Amma Chocolate is one of the few tree-to-bar chocolate makers worldwide.  It is based in Brazil, grows its own cacao trees, and produces some of the most interesting flavours of chocolate that I have ever tasted. Recently, Amma has been getting some traction in North America.

Last week, I tasted Amma's Gula Merah 70% chocolate bar. This is a chocolate made with an alternate sweetener to cane sugar, called Gula Merah, which is also known as coconut palm sugar. It is made from "the sap of cut flower buds" (ref) of the coconut tree and is said to cause less of a glycemic spike in our bodies than cane sugar. The world's largest producers are from the Philippines and Indonesia. Amma has used Gula Merah from the Island of Java, Indonesia for its chocolate bar.

This is by far my favourite chocolate made by Amma yet. Although on paper, it really shouldn't be.  Initially, there is an obvious crunch to the chocolate, although smoother than stone-ground chocolate but still slightly crunchy, none-the-less.

Also, it is very bitter tasting, and tastes much darker than a 70% chocolate (I would have guessed it had 85% cocoa solids) and it's a little acidic. But often chocolate made with coconut sugar will taste more bitter than when made with regular cane sugar.

The Gula Merah chocolate also has a citrus fruit flavour that is reminiscent of sweet orange, and perhaps raspberry.  The Meadow website lists the flavours as grapefruit, coconut and honey. The coconut taste is a given, since it is sweetened with coconut sugar. And I can see how the high acidity, combined with the fruit taste would reveal itself as a grapefruit flavour to some.

Also according to The Meadow, the cacao beans used to make the Gula Merah bar were grown in the Rio de Contas Valley in Itacaré, Bahia, Brazil.

So the chocolate is bitter, slightly crunchy, and acidic, which is why 'on paper' it should not be my favourite of Amma's selection.  But the fruitiness is quite tangy and surprising upon first taste, making it immediately interesting. Perhaps it is the local pitanga fruit that creates the taste, much like in Akesson's Brazil-origin chocolate bar that I tasted last week. Or perhaps it is the combination of local fruit grown and coconut sugar that creates such a uniquely fruity chocolate.

Also, I like that the ingredients are simple: organic cacao, organic coconut sugar, and organic cocoa butter.

The other reason why it is my favourite by Amma, is because I have had mixed tastings. There is sometimes a strange flavour in Amma's chocolate that I cannot pinpoint - which may have something to do with the interior packaging they previously used and the time it took to travel through humid climates to arrive here in Canada, or perhaps it just has a very distinct Brazilian origin flavour that is unknown to me. Although I did like Amma's 85%, and the Gula Merah 70% chocolate is now a favourite among cane sugar-free chocolates for me. So I intend to revisit Amma's other chocolate bars again in future.

If you want to learn more about Amma Chocolate and their quest to make the finest chocolate in Brazil, there is an interesting story of how the company came to be founded by Diego Badaro, a Brazilian cacao planter, and Frederick Schilling of Dagoba Organic Chocolates in the U.S. To read it, click here.

You can purchase the Gula Merah 70% chocolate bar from La Tablette de Miss Choco in Montreal for $7.49 CAD, from The Meadow website for $10 US, and also in Asia online from Cult de Choco.

If you are looking for an 'alternative' to chocolate, try a Cupacu bar - made with the Cupacu fruit.  It looks and tastes very similar to chocolate, because the fruit is in the same family as cacao, but it is not chocolate. Amma makes a bar, similar to chocolate, from Cupacu. The one I ordered was not in good condition, so I cannot comment on taste, but there have been some interesting stories and good reviews online. See this article for more information.