Thursday, February 25, 2016

Fresco Chocolate Part 1: 100% Dark Chocolates

I decided to begin my series on Fresco chocolate with Fresco's 100% dark chocolate bars, mainly because it is easier for me to enjoy 100% dark chocolate if not consuming sweeter chocolate in the days leading up to it.

But before I start, I want to ask: Have you ever tasted unsweetened chocolate? By 'unsweetened' I mean no alternate sugars are added, like stevia or other calorie-free sweeteners; I'm talking chocolate made with just one ingredient: cacao. That can include just ground cocoa beans or cocoa mass, or cocoa beans and added cocoa butter. If you have not yet come around to the idea of chocolate without sugar, I recommend you try it several for days, and eat nothing sweet before it. If you do this every day for a week, I am pretty sure you will get used to it. 

Definitely do not train your palate on unsweetened baking chocolate! Most often it is inedible - too acidic to enjoy on its own. Buy some 99% chocolate or 100% dark chocolate from fine chocolate makers, like Soma, Fresco, Pralus, Bonnat, Michel Cluizel and one of my recent favourite's, the Labooko 100% Peru by Zotter.

Now back to Fresco. The two 100% dark chocolate bars they offer are made from two cocoa bean origins: a Peru Marañòn Pure Nacional 100% chocolate bar (medium roast, long conche) and a limited edition Madagascar 100% chocolate (light roast, long conche).  Over several days, I have tasted both, and below are my notes on and comparing each bar:

Fresco Chocolate, Peru Marañòn 100% Cacao (Recipe 231, medium roast, long conche), 1.8 oz/50g

Peru Maranon is a bean that is highly coveted, and definitely can be described as 'all the rage' right now.  Soma's award-winning Peru: Nacional 70% chocolate bar seemed to be among the first to highlight the bean, then I tasted Hexx's Maranon origin chocolate made with coconut sugar,  I found Ritual's and DURCI's excellent-tasting Maranon chocolate bars and now I am tasting Fresco's chocolate made with the same bean type.

Each chocolate maker does something different with the beans - a different percentage (DURCI's 70% compared to Ritual's 75% dark chocolate), different format or thickness of the chocolate bar and varying roast levels.  With the other chocolates makers' creations, they have done their experimenting 'behind the scenes' and shown us their chosen 'perfect' chocolate bar to fit the bean's unique flavour.  In Fresco's case, they let us taste the experiments.  Fresco has taken the Marañòn pure Nacional cacao and  created several bars, with varying conching, roast levels, and cacao percentages and let us decide which we like best. You'll learn more about Fresco's bittersweet  chocolate bars made from the Maranon beans in a post later this week, but today I am focusing on the 100% cacao bar by Fresco.

The acidity and extreme bitterness of the 100% Marañòn chocolate immediately surprised me. I suppose it shouldn't have because most 100% dark chocolate bars can taste acidic. But Fresco had given the beans a 'medium' roast and a long conche, and so I expected the acidity to be reduced quite a bit through the process. I became more used to this after a few tastings, but it still clearly has quite the bite to it that surprises me each time I eat it.

There is a hint of fruitiness, which is apparent, but tougher to identify over the acidity level.  Based on my experience tasting Peru-Marañòn origin chocolate made by other craft chocolate makers, and from digging into Fresco's 70% Marañòn bars this morning, I think a little sugar can really bring out the fruit and other flavours in this bean.

Overall, the chocolate was well made. It had a quick melt and was soft to bite into (albeit a good snap), which made me wonder if cocoa butter had been added, but no. From experience, this bean simply has a lovely natural cocoa butter content. The long conche also gave the chocolate a lovely texture.

With the acidity levels, I might be inclined to make a lovely ganache from the remainder of this chocolate, or a lovely single-origin hot chocolate, rather than simply eat it on its own.

Fresco's Madagascar  100% cacao, Light Roast, Long Conche, Limited Release, 1.8 oz (50g)

The Madagascar 100% seemed to be a little less acidic at first, but the lingering aftertaste was all sweetness (don't get me wrong here, there is no sugar in this bar but it leaves a sort of sweet aftertaste).

Like with the Peru Marañòn 100% chocolate, the citrus fruit flavours commonly found in Madagascar origin chocolate are harder to identify with no sugar added. The citrus comes off more like acid when no sugar is added. So I'll say it again: A little sugar truly goes a long way to enhance the flavours in origin chocolate.

The Madagascar also has a lovely smooth texture and a nice soft, buttery melt. Unlike the Marañòn 100%, I could enjoy this one as an 'eating chocolate' for tasting, and also perhaps as a ganache or hot chocolate.

As a Tasting Flight Overall...

My tasting overall of Fresco's 100% chocolate bars was fun, albeit bold. I would have liked to have a third 100% chocolate bar, perhaps of a less 'fruity' origin flavour such as an Ecuador Nacional or perhaps a smoky Indonesian bean origin to compare something with less citrus-type acidity, just to compare to these two chocolate bars. I did try both of them against a few inferior unsweetened dark chocolates, as well as a 100% raw chocolate bar. Fresco's texture, taste and quality won in all cases.

And of course, I am left wondering what these would taste like with added cocoa butter, or different roasts?  Perhaps Fresco's owner and chocolate maker, Rob Anderson, knows. And perhaps someday he will share with us. 

Stay tuned, later this week, I will explore varying conche lengths, roasts and harvest years through Fresco's bittersweet (70%) dark chocolate line-up.

For more information on Fresco Chocolate, visit:
Please note: I paid for this chocolate and my review is therefore unbiased. Well, it would be unbiased regardless, since I tend to only tell you about the chocolate that I like best!


  1. Providentially, at this same time I am also doing a mini 100% comparison using 3 bars: these same 2 Frescos and the French Broad 100%. Your comments are a very helpful perspective! I will post my reviews soon. While all 3 are really pleasing, for what they are, I give a slight nod to French Broad as my favorite of the 3.

    1. Thanks for your feedback! I will definitely need to taste French Broad's 100% bar sometime soon!

  2. I love 100%! My favourite is Domori Il100% Criollo, but I like every 100% which I tasted. Tomorrow I will try Menakao 100%. In Poland we have also very interesting Manufaktura Czekolady Ghana 100%. (Sorry for my English ;))

    1. I haven't heard of that one, I am excited to try it someday. And your English is great! :-)

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