Sunday, January 31, 2016

Best Vegan Hot Chocolate Recipe Ever!

I have been tackling more of the hot cocoa recipes on Shari's Berries infographic last week. Last time, I shared version of the Mexican Hot Cocoa recipe with you. And today I am sharing my testing of the Vegan Hot Cocoa recipe, and including a recipe for a slightly more chocolaty version (I can't help myself, I think everything needs to be 'more chocolaty'!).

This is one of my first vegan hot cocoa recipes. I am not vegan and not allergic to dairy, which is why I haven't experimented all that much with vegan hot chocolate. But I do understand why someone might be vegan, and the need for dairy-free for those allergic.  So I have experimented a little with using coconut milk and coconut cream in hot chocolate, as well a soy milk, over the years. I was not a fan of the flavours created by the soy or the coconut. Which is why I think this recipe may be a contender for The Best Vegan Hot Chocolate Award, if such an award exists.

Shari's Berries' recipe called for unsweetened almond milk. This truly had the mildest flavour of all the milk alternatives that I have tried, and once simmered, the almond flavour was almost non-existent. It also paired nicely with chocolate.

When I tried Shari's Berries recipe, it does not provide instructions, so I applied my gelato-making experience. The corn starch clearly meant it needed to be boiled, and was included as a thickening agent. The corn starch does, however, leave a bit of a gelato or store-bought ice cream taste. This is not unpleasant, but it can be reduced by letting the hot cocoa simmer a while.

The resulting drink was very good, but like I said above, needed to be a bit more 'chocolaty'. So I added a 1/4 ounce of semi-sweet chocolate to my cup, and voila! a richer, velvety and very chocolaty hot chocolate was born.

Here is my recipe for vegan hot chocolate (modified from Shari's Berries infographic, which you can find here.

Rich Vegan Hot Chocolate Recipe

You need:
  • unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 ounce semi-sweet chocolate (most semi-sweet chocolates are dairy-free/vegan, but check the ingredients list first to be sure)
  • 2.5 tbsp. agave syrup (you can use sugar, if no agave on hand)
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp. corn starch 
  1. Place the almond milk and the agave in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine and turn on to high to warm for a moment while you prepare the other ingredients. 
  2. Add the cocoa powder and corn starch. Whisk together or use an immersion blender to combine.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium and bring to a simmer, whisking all the while. This should take about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, up to 10 minutes if you wish.
  5. While simmering, place half of the chocolate in one mug (1/4 ounce), and half in another mug.
  6. Once ready, pour the vegan hot cocoa liquid into your mugs.  Stir in the chocolate immediately until combines. Let cool slightly before drinking.
Makes enough for two, so over with a lid or plastic wrap and reserve the remainder for another time. Reheat in the microwave for 1 minute to enjoy.

Top with dairy-free whipped cream and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mesocacao: Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Couverture Made at Origin. And a delicious milk chocolate truffle recipe!

A few weeks back, I purchased a few bags of Mesocacao chocolate couverture. For those of you who don't know, couverture is chocolate that usually has a higher cocoa butter content and is sold in bulk for chocolatiers to use to make truffles, ganache, pralines, chocolate art and more. I had my eye on this couverture for some time, and wanted to try it.

Mesocacao is a bean-to-bar chocolate maker who is working directly at the source in Honduras, and sourcing cocoa beans from within the country, as well as neighbouring Nicaragua and El Salvador. Working directly at the source means that the cacao used to make the chocolate is grown within the country, and the chocolate is made from that cacao before it is exported. That is not normally the case with chocolate; often the cacao is grown somewhere warm (within 20 degrees of the equator), then shipped out to be made elsewhere. In other words, Mesocacao is keeping the chocolate-making jobs and profits in the region. If you've read articles like Justin Rohlrich's recent one on slave labour in cocoa farming, you'll understand why this is so important.

I purchased Milk and Dark couverture chocolate of Nicaraguan Origin made by Mesocacao. It is grown in the Matagalpa region of Nicaragua, also known for coffee, vegetables and flower crops. Mesocacao also sells 70% and 80% dark chocolate made from El Salvador origin, and also 70% and 80% dark chocolate, as well as cocoa nibs from Honduras.

Mesocacao chocolate actually comes in drops (like chocolate chips),
but I melted and made them into the bars and other confections shown in the photos here.
The Nicaraguan 44% milk chocolate is slightly sweet, but also not too sweet (certainly on the 'dark-milk chocolate' side). There is the slightest taste of aged butter, which is not unpleasant and may have something to do with the age of the chocolate when I purchased it. Otherwise, the flavour is not fruity, closer to nutty, coffee flavours that are quite nice.

The milk chocolate is slightly rustic, meaning it is not as smooth as a Lindt milk chocolate bar. But I like that it does not have additives like artificial vanilla (like a Lindt bar does!). Go to the end of this post for Mesocacao's ingredients list. And although not silky smooth, when melted this chocolate makes a very smooth and lovely truffle.

I experimented and made chocolate bars that certainly highlighted the slightly rustic texture of the chocolate.  And I also made creamy milk chocolate truffles from Mesocacao's milk chocolate, which worked out beautifully and were super smooth. (see below for a quick recipe for milk chocolate truffles). So if you are a chocolatier who is considering using Mesocacao milk chocolate for a couverture, keep in mind that you will have better use of it to make truffles and ganaches, and perhaps chocolate bars with inclusions, rather than solid, plain milk chocolate bars.

The Nicaraguan 70% dark chocolate was smoother than the milk chocolate. The chocolate bars that I made from the dark chocolate were absolutely delicious.  The taste was like coffee and nuts, and like the milk chocolate had no discernible fruit flavours, just a nice balanced chocolate flavour.

I also made Salted Dark Chocolate Pecan Bark (recipe) from the dark chocolate, which paired beautifully with the nuts and salt. Truly a great chocolate for pairing with tree nuts, such as nut clusters, hazelnut truffles and pralines. But also using it for straight up dark chocolate truffles or as bars is perfect! Mine were divine!

You can find a dark chocolate ganache recipe here, to use with Mesocacao's 70% dark chocolate, or see below for a milk chocolate truffle recipe.  Enjoy and have a great day!

Quick and Easy Milk Chocolate Truffles

Time: 5 minutes to prepare, plus 4 hours setting time, plus 10 minutes to roll into cocoa powder (longer if you dip in chocolate like I did in the pic to the right). And 20 seconds to eat each one (don't forget to savour them!).

You need:
4 ounces milk chocolate
1/4 cup cream
Optional: 2 tbsps. warmed butter (not liquid, just warmed and a bit melty)


1. Place the chocolate (chopped into small pieces) and cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute on HALF POWER. Remove and stir until smooth.  If not quite melted, place back in microwave for 10 seconds, remove and stir. Continue with intervals of 5 seconds until smooth - DO NOT OVERHEAT or your cocoa butter will separate from the chocolate. If you dislike using the microwave, heat cream in a small saucepan to near-boiling and pour over your chocolate, in a medium sized bowl. Stir until smooth.

2. Stir in the butter, if adding.

4. Let set in fridge for 4 to 6 hours.

5. Once set, scoop out spoonfuls (about 2 tsps. in size) and roll into balls between the palms of your hands. Then roll into sifted cocoa powder (alternately dip in melted, tempered chocolate). Place each truffle in a mini cupcake paper and serve. Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Best when consumed at room temperature.

Mesocacao Ingredients:

44% Milk Chocolate: 19% nibs, 25% origin cocoa butter, 33% raw cane sugar, 23% milk powder.

70% Dark Chocolate: 65% nibs, 5% cocoa butter, 30% raw cane sugar.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Versatility of Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate ganache adds richness and reduces sugar content in cakes, see the recipe below for ganache that can be piped.

Last week, I provided a recipe for chocolate ganache made from 100% dark chocolate.  And yesterday I was making one a little sweeter, using 56% semi-sweet organic chocolate to top a cheesecake for a customer.  While I was piping it onto the cake, I got to thinking about how versatile chocolate ganache is.  You can do all sorts of things with it, including:

  • Pour it over a cake for a glaze-like topping
  • Let it set, then pipe it to decorate a cake
  • Let it set, then whip it.  Once whipped, you can pipe it, fill chocolate cups, use it like mousse, or filling between cake layers (see pic of whipped ganache below at bottom of post).
  • Let it set, then scoop out rich, creamy truffles with a melon baller, and dip in chocolate.

Below is a quick recipe for chocolate ganache that you can pipe onto cakes.  As you get more comfortable with making ganache, you can start to modify the amount of cream, chocolate or syrup used depending on your applications.  For instance, if you want a thicker ganache to pour it over a cake, it may be best to reduce the whipping cream by 1/4 cup so the ganache is not too liquid and doesn't drip everywhere when it's warm and your pouring it over your cake. Good luck!

Recipe: Dark Chocolate Ganache
Time: 10 minutes to start, then 6 to 8 hours is required to let it set (or overnight).
For milk chocolate ganache, use the same amount of chocolate and syrup/honey, but reduce the cream by 1/4 cup.

You need:
  • 10 ounces semi-sweet dark chocolate (I used 56% organic couverture, but you can choose to use something sweeter or darker depending on your preference)
  • 1 cup cream (you can vary this as you get more comfortable with the recipe)
  • 1 tbsp. agave syrup, honey or corn syrup (not necessary, but it adds shine)

1. Chop the chocolate into 1/2" pieces and place in a medium-sized bowl.

2. Pour your cream into a small saucepan and heat on the stovetop to a simmer (well, nearly simmering, don't let it actually boil!).

3. Immediately pour over the chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth (not your red-stained pasta spoon though! If there are no odour-free wooden spoons on hand, just use a regular spoon from your utensil drawer).

4. Add the syrup and stir in.

5. Cover with plastic wrap and let set on the counter overnight or for 6 to 8 hours (it's best if the room is no hotter than 21 degrees C.)

6. Once set, you can do one of the following:

Pipe it onto a cake or cupcakes: Vigorously whip by hand with a spatula to soften before piping it.  If you are using a metal piping end, you may want to warm that slightly.  You can also warm the mixture slightly over a double boiler or for 5 to 10 seconds in the microwave if it seems too stiff to pipe. But be careful that you don't melt it back to a liquid or you cannot pipe it!!!

Make whipped ganache: Once set, whip it with beaters or a stand mixer until you fluff it up and get more volume.  The colour will lighten tremendously, so don't be surprised by this. See the pic below for whipped ganache on a cherry-topped cheesecake.

Make Truffles: Scoop out balls of truffle and then roll them in cocoa powder or dip them in melted, tempered chocolate.

Re-melt and pour over a cake. Let the ganache set on the cake in the fridge for 1/2 hour.

Make a rich hot chocolate: Drop two tablespoons into a mug of warm milk and stir.  Drink and enjoy!

I regularly use ganache in all the ways listed above for my chocolate business (well, the hot chocolate part is just for me, truthfully).  It truly is a versatile tool that can enhance your dessert recipes or chocolate creations. And the best part about topping a cake with ganache, instead of using 'icing, is that you can reduce the sugar in the cake!
Whipped Ganache:
When you use beaters or a stand mixer to whip it, the whipping cream in the ganache
does what it is supposed to and adds volume.
The colour changes from dark to light, but it is still delicious.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Recipe for Ganache Made From 100% Dark Chocolate

Last week, a reader asked if I had a recipe for chocolate ganache made from 100% dark chocolate bars. At the time, I did not.

Most of my ganache recipes are made from chocolate as high in cocoa solids as 85% dark chocolate, and as low as 38% (for milk or white chocolate). But I have thought about experimenting with 100% dark chocolate over the years, in case that happens to be all that's on hand one day (and a sad day that would be!).  I also think it is important to learn to make ganache from naturally-origin flavoured 100% dark chocolate liquor, in order to control the quality of the entire product from start to finish, and the ingredients used, including the type of sugar to sweeten it.

So I got to experimenting. I had kilos and kilos of milk, white, semi-sweet and 70% bittersweet chocolate on hand, and even some 85% bars, but not much 100% dark chocolate. And just when I thought all hope was lost, I remembered that I had one box of Camino 100% Cacao Baking Chocolate on hand, with 200 grams (2 bars) of chocolate inside.  That gave me just enough to test my recipe idea twice. I also did some testing with a few bars of 85% dark chocolate, to see if I could create a nicely sweetened ganache using a chocolate that bitter, which worked out beautifully.

The challenge in using 100% dark chocolate is the sweetness, and how to add sugar without adding a grainy texture to the ganache. The trick is to melt the sugar into the cream, and ensure it fully dissolves before pouring the cream over the chocolate.

Now, if you are a purest and you want to enjoy a ganache with no sugar or sweetener at all, simply eliminate the sugar from the recipe below. Just be sure you disclose a warning before serving to others; most people prefer some sweetness in their truffles (even those Paleo lifestyle folks want a little sweetness sometimes, even if just a few percent).

If you want your chocolate with sweet, but with no cane sugar whatsoever, you can replace the sugar in the recipe below with the same measurement of agave syrup.  I tried it both ways, with cane sugar and agave and both were quite nice.  There is also liquid coconut sugar now in jars (see pic) and dry coconut sugar, which is a little harder to dissolve, but it still works. Keep in mind that will add a slight coconut flavour and be a little less sweet. In my opinion, agave syrup is best as an alternative.

So let's get started on the recipe!

Dark Chocolate Ganache made from 100% Dark Chocolate
With options for No Cane Sugar Ganache and No Cane Sugar Truffles

Makes: 20 truffles or ganache topping for one 8" cake
Time: takes about 15 minutes to chop chocolate and make truffles, 4 to 8 hours resting/setting time before rolling, dusting or dipping your truffles in chocolate.
You need:
  • 100 grams (3.5 oz) 100% dark chocolate
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar, or agave or coconut sugar (for No Cane Sugar Truffles)
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream (any heavy cream will do)
  • Optional ingredients (see below), but not necessary.
  • 200 grams semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, if dipping in chocolate. Or 1/4 cup cocoa powder for dusting


1. Chop the chocolate into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a medium bowl (use microwavable safe just in case you need help getting the chocolate to melt).

2. Pour your cream into a small saucepan and place on an element on the stovetop. Heat on medium high. Add the sugar and stir, heating and stirring until it dissolves.  If using, add the vanilla, mint or coffee extract.

3. Do not let the cream boil, just bring it to nearly a simmer then immediately pour half of the cream over the chocolate.  Stir until you get a smooth and dark chocolaty-looking mixture, but with large lumps of chocolate in it.

4. Then reheat your remaining cream and pour into the mixture. Stir until smooth.  If lumps still remain, microwave for five seconds (not more!) and stir again until the mixture is smooth.

For cakes:
Immediately pour over the cake and spread to the edges.  You can even let it drip over slightly, if you are not decorating the sides with icing.

For truffles:
Line a small box, container or half of a loaf pan with plastic wrap, letting it come up all the sides.  Pour your ganache into it and let sit 6 to 8 hours (or overnight) if dipping them in chocolate (you don't want to put ganache for dipping in the fridge at all or it will cause cracking in your chocolate shell).  If you simply want to roll them in cocoa powder, you can let your ganache set in the fridge for 4 hours.

Once set, remove the top plastic wrap from the ganache. Then flip the rectangle of ganache out onto a cutting board. Cut into 20 pieces. You can leave these in rectangular or square shapes, or you can roll them between the palms of your gloved hands to make truffle balls (without gloves you will melt the truffle, plus there's that sanitary thing).

Dip in 200 grams (6 oz) of melted, tempered, semi-sweet chocolate, or roll in cocoa powder.
Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days, or freeze for up to 6 months in a deep-freeze (only 2 months in the freezer attached to your fridge).

Flavour Options:

Butter Truffles:
Stir in 2 tbsp. of softened salted butter (warmed but not melted) to the ganache just when it becomes smooth.

Vanilla Truffles:
You can add a 1/2 tsp of real vanilla to the cream, but I did not like it when I did. If you are used to eating chocolate with a lot of vanilla flavour (i.e. Lindt, Godiva, Giradelli, etc.) then you might prefer a little vanilla. For a high vanilla flavour, add both extract and the scrapings from one vanilla bean.

Peppermint Truffles:
Add 1/2 tsp peppermint extract or just 2-3 drops of peppermint oil to the cream.

Coffee Ganache or Espresso Truffles:
Steep the cream with 1/4 cup lightly ground coffee or espresso beans for 15 minutes.  Simply heat the cream in your saucepan, then remove from the heat, add the ground beans to the cream, and place a lid on the pot. Let steep. Then reheat and run the cream through a sifter as you pour the cream over the chopped chocolate to remove bean pieces.  You can use a 1/2 tsp of instant coffee in the cream instead, but there will be that funny 'instant' taste from the coffee.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hot Chocolate for Every Kind of Winter Day, Starting with Mexican Hot Cocoa

Sunday was a snowy, blowy, and downright blustery day on this little Canadian island where I live. It was that kind of wicked winter day where all plans are dropped, you shut yourself indoors, and even that thing that you desperately wanted to buy at the store suddenly can 'wait until tomorrow'. Yes, that's right: it was a hot chocolate kinda day.

In November, someone from Shari's Berries sent me an info-graphic with 14 super simple hot chocolate recipes on it. And with the first snowfall in December, I was stoked to start working my way through every single one. But the busy Christmas season was upon me and suddenly I was making chocolate confections like crazy, with no time to even think about hot cocoa, let alone make some. 

But on Sunday, there was time. So I looked through the recipes on the list, and decided I should start with the most chocolaty of all: the 'Mexican' hot cocoa (fourth on the list). There are no instructions as to how to make it, but my experience with chocolate truffles and ganache have taught me a few things about how to mix liquid and chocolate without causing cocoa butter separation. I know that most people don't know these techniques, or that cocoa butter separation is even a problem, so I will share the full ingredients and 'how-to' instructions below.

I am not quite sure why the creators of this info-graphic felt that 5 ounces of dark chocolate and one cup of milk was the best chocolate-to-milk ratio, but I liked the pure boldness of it. You can find the ingredients on the info-graphic here, but below I've re-written the list of what you need, and also included the full instructions for making the recipe:

Mexican Hot Cocoa Recipe (based on the ingredients provided by Shari's Berries)

You need:
-1 cup milk (I used 1%, you can use skim, homogenized whole milk, or 2%)
-1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
-5 oz dark chocolate
-pinch cayenne


1. Chop the chocolate into 1/2" pieces (if not using chocolate chips) and place in a large mug.

2. Sprinkle the cinnamon and cayenne on top of the chocolate.

3. Place your milk in a small saucepan on the stovetop and warm on medium-high until it just about boils (do not let it fully boil or the milk will curdle).

4. Pour half the milk onto the chocolate in a circular motion, being sure to touch all the top pieces with the hot milk while pouring.  Stir slowly with a spoon until as much of the chocolate melts as possible and looks like smooth truffle. 

5. Reheat the remaining milk and then pour into your mixture, then stir until smooth. 

If there are still remaining chunks of chocolate, you can either microwave the mixture for 5 seconds and stir again, or leave them in the bottom of the mug and simply use a spoon to eat them once you have drank the hot chocolate - it's a lovely bonus at the end!

This hot cocoa recipe is very chocolaty! It should be shared among two or more people (make it fun 'hot chocolate shots') or consume it over two days, otherwise it's like eating nearly one-and-a-half 100 gram chocolate bars! Alternately, you can double the milk for two people, or reduce the chocolate by half and you will still enjoy a very chocolaty spiced drink. The heat from the spices and the hot beverage are perfect for a cold winter day.

I plan to try all of the recipes on Shari's Berries' list this winter, so stay tuned! I will share my results and hot cocoa recipes weekly - maybe even daily, since I am so excited to try these recipes!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Chocolat Chapon: Origin Chocolate Made the French Way

Wow. Cocoa Butter.  That was my first thought when I put a piece of Chapon Chocolatier's Venezuela origin chocolate into my mouth. The thought was back when I tasted Chapon's Cuba chocolate bar. After tasting primarily American and Canadian bean-to-bar chocolate recently, the high cocoa butter content was nearly a shock to my palate.

This fatty indulgence was not unpleasant though, but it certainly got me thinking again about how French chocolate is influenced by the country's food culture.

But before discussing that, let's take a closer look at Chapon's chocolate...

Venezuela Origin Chocolate Bar by Chapon:

My taste experience was completely opposite Chapon's website description of the flavours for this chocolate bar. Nutty, with no fruit flavour to me, except perhaps just in the aroma. A strong 'roast' flavour was quite noticeable. Overall, bold flavour and extremely creamy chocolate that was quite enjoyable. I would buy this chocolate bar again.

Cuba 'Cacao Rare' Origin Chocolate Bar by Chapon:

When I first tasted this chocolate, I immediately thought of super sweet ground cherries with a hint of industrial flavours. Although, I think it would be quite enjoyable to many people who like that sweet, bold, fruity cherry-type flavour. Also there was some spice and smoke, and woody roast flavour.

Interestingly, Chapon's Cuba origin chocolate tasted a lot sweeter than the Venezuela chocolate, despite both have 75% cocoa solids and the same amount of sugar. It reminds me a little of some Brazilian chocolate that I have tasted, where I can't quite pinpoint the unique flavour. The website description of flavours in this chocolate is a little different than my own, but perhaps my perceived exotic fruit taste is really the taste of real licorice; I suppose I will need to revisit licorice to decide. Overall, a very eye-opening look at Cuban origin chocolate.

Setting up a chocolate tasting with Chapon's chocolate:

I think it would interesting to create a chocolate tasting line-up with Chapon's chocolate, and including a Bonnat Asfarth dark-milk chocolate, with also two American craft chocolates, such as two-ingredient chocolates like Castronovo's Sierra Nevada and Askinosie's Ecuador, or perhaps Dandelion's Venezuela bar. An Amano chocolate bar would also be a great way to round out the tasting, as Art Pollard uses a little more cocoa butter in his chocolate compared to some of the newer bean-to-bar chocolate, but with a balance, and not as much as the French chocolate makers.

This tasting line-up would show a cultural difference, highlighting the French way of looking at chocolate like it is a true indulgence and 'par plaisir' with extra creamy, high-cocoa butter mouthfeel. In America, the bean-to-bar and fine chocolate trend is more about the health benefits of chocolate, minimal processing, and learning to enjoy just the flavour of the natural cacao, without added ingredients, which often means a stiffer texture and slower melt. You will find a shocking difference between the two styles of chocolate. So what's better? Well, I suppose that depends on you.

Personally, I like both. I like to be hit with the bold flavours of American-style craft chocolate and recently, it is what I am most used to. But I have to admit that I feel I might melt away with the chocolate into a cloud of bliss when I put one of Chapon's or Bonnat's super creamy, cocoa buttery chocolates into my mouth.  And the cocoa butter certainly softens any abrasive flavours that might exist.

More About Chapon:

With four shops in France (two in Paris), Chocolat Chapon seems to be on rise. They have even added a Chocolate Mousse Bar food truck to their line-up of locations.

And what can I say about their Chocolate Mousse Bar - I thought an ice cream shop with every flavour being chocolate-only existed in my dreams, but Chapon's Chcoolate Mousse Bar is exactly the ice cream shop of my dreams. The ice cream comes in four flavours of single origin chocolate: Ecuador, Venezuela, Madagascar and a mixed variety (Ghana and Ecuador mix). My question is: is it mousse or is it ice cream? Either way, I could live there. In Chapon's shop. Forever. 

I am tempted to get on a plane right now and fly to France to find out. Oh a girl can dream.

Ingredients and Package Details:

Chapon Chocolatier Chocolat Noir D'Origine CUBA, 75g (2.65 oz)
Ingredients: cocoa mass origin Cuba, sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier: SOYA lecithin.
May contain traces of tree nuts, mustard, milk and sesame seed.
Cacao: 75%

Chapon Chocolatier Chocolat Noir D'Origin Venezuela, 75g
Ingredients: cocoa mass origin Venezuela, sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier: SOYA lecithin.
May contain traces of tree nuts, mustard, milk and sesame seed.
Cacao: 75%

I purchased both chocolate bars for $9.99 (CAD) each from (located in Montreal). For more information on Chapon Chocolatier, visit:

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 (US) and Cocoa Runners (UK) and from direct-purchase on their website (for delivery in Europe only) at: .

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!