Friday, April 22, 2016

Watch Out Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Lovers of the World, Canada has another 'one to watch'

Introducing DesBarres Chocolate, a new micro-batch chocolate maker
located Uxbridge, Ontario in the greater Toronto region. Ariane Hansen designs the labels,
which she and co-founder Erik Hansen collaborate on and
wrap by hand, to package their artisan bean-to-bar chocolates.

I have tasted a lot (and I do mean, a LOT) of small-batch, bean-to-bar chocolate in the last several years, and every now and then one truly stands out. DesBarres Chocolate, a brand new chocolate maker in Uxbridge, Ontario, surprised and delighted me at first taste.

The brand's 'Ambanja' 72% Madagascar chocolate bar had a texture that was silky and creamy, and it screamed 'this is fine chocolate!' into my mouth with each and every bite. The fruity blackberry and mixed raspberry-citrus flavours were bold, but not overly acidic, which indicated to me a long conche and great flavour development. It truly made a great first impression.

I also tasted the DesBarres 85% Madagascar origin chocolate bar, which was very bold, and certainly more acidic, but not in a harsh way, just a surprise to the tongue. The texture, however, was still creamy and silky for a two-ingredient chocolate.

Finally, I moved on to the DesBarres 78% dark chocolate bar, the Ecuadorian origin called 'Camino Verde'.  This one is certainly stiffer, presumably with a little less cocoa butter in the beans.  It is also quite bold in origin flavour, with a taste to me of true nuttiness, with walnuts being at the forefront, and roast and deep bitter cocoa flavours lingering in the background (although the chocolate maker describes malt and spice tones to the flavour). And although less silky than the 72% Madagascar chocolate, it is certainly a perfect example of single origin chocolate in its bold flavor profile. If you prefer something a little lighter, Desbarres also makes a sister Ecuadorian bar with 72% cocoa solids.

Although I have not met these chocolate makers in person, from my e-mail communications with Erik Hansen, co-founder of DesBarres, I can clearly see the passion for chocolate making. Also, the website, which just came online in the last few weeks, talks about having a passion for Valrhona chocolate 22 years ago (back when most Canadians knew nothing about fine chocolate, let alone dark chocolate). And I can see the appreciation for fine French chocolate in the product. 

Before reading the Desbarres website, I had actually tasted Valrhona's 64% Madagascar dark chocolate against DesBarres' 72% Madagascar bar, and had found the texture and taste quite similar (but not so similar that I couldn't tell the difference between the two chocolate makers). So knowing that DesBarres is focused on making 'two-ingredient chocolate', I am quite impressed that they are achieving results similar to long-time world-renown French chocolate makers.

I asked Erik a little about his processes and equipment.  I don't need to share all the details, but he clearly focuses on drawing the ideal flavours out of each bean, by adjusting conche* and refining time according to the chocolate. "The time is dependent on what we try to coax out of the bean," Erik explained to me via e-mail, and he said that can include a conche longer than 48 hours if necessary.

Erik and Ariane's passion for the craft can also be seen on the Real Seeds website, where Erik is one of several start-up chocolate makers to share a picture of his homemade, handcrafted winnower+.

As you can see, I'm truly impressed with the quality of the DesBarres chocolate that I have tasted thus far. And my pleasure in it reminds me of the surprise and excitement I felt when first tasting British Columbia-based Sirene Chocolate just one year ago. At that time, Sirene was certainly the 'one to watch' and has since grown a following, with its retailer network growing to stores in 17 North American cities and some overseas. And this year, I predict that central Canada (and the world) has a new 'one to watch' in DesBarres Chocolate. 

Learn more about this new chocolate maker at: or follow them on Facebook:


*Conching is a process of applying heat and agitation to chocolate for an extended period of time, in order to burn off harsh acidity and develop a more refined flavour profile of the chocolate.

+A winnower is a device to remove the shells from the cocoa bean, the bean being the key ingredient in chocolate.  The shells, or husks, are difficult to remove by hand, but must be removed to prevent off flavours in the chocolate.


  1. Doctor's warning: Take your temperature before tasting Desbarres' "Camino Verde" because after your ecstasy and meltdown, your mind will be at a higher level! Having worked with Valrhona's chief cacao consultant, Claude Costes, at INA-PG in Paris in the early '90s I too have held it as one of the top bars of modernist cuisine to surpass. But now for the past few months, Camino Verde has been showing us the road to flavor fantasies and heaven! Congratulations, Ariane! Dr. Altosaar.

  2. I have had the privilege of meeting Erik - and tasting Erik and Ariane's very fine bean to bar products. I was as impressed as Lisabeth - and totally agree that they are the ones to watch. Having been frequently disappointed with the bean to bar offerings I've experienced usually due to lack of smoothness and unpleasant acidity (acetic overtones) - I was thrilled to discover someone so close making something so wonderful!

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