More than 400 flavour notes have been identified in cacao, but basically you can separate beans into the fruity / floral camp and the caramelly / nutty one. This month we’re getting fruity.
All four of these single estate dark chocolates have their own unique characters. All taste generally fruity, but within that they are still wildly different. Having scoured the world for these beautiful beans, I do everything I can to protect their precious flavours. So I conche the chocolate (to drive off the acidity) at low temperatures for up to 3 weeks. That’s slow! Industrial chocolate is made in a few hours.
The Magnificent Creations this month continue the fruity theme. These are the two handmade chocolates that are in every Tasting Box.
Let’s start with the San Agustin 88 with its dark cherry and damson notes. Always start by tasting the darkest chocolate and move sweeter so your palate can adjust. What’s so interesting is that the different levels of sugar really bring out different characteristics in the cacao. So when you come to the San Agustin 70 it has softened such that you are glimpsing red fruits among the soft notes of honey and nuts.
I discovered these beautiful Trinitario beans in the ancient San Agustin District. Bean buying trips to Colombia have been a real highlight of the last few years. Pictures on the next page. One group of farmers around El Amparo, a town known for its links with the ELN. There were slogans daubed all over the walls and signs of air strips deep in the countryside. When I got back to Bogota people were so astounded when I said I had gone to El Amparo, that they told me I must be making a mistake and pronouncing it wrong! I ended up being interviewed on national television! By buying cacao there, we are supporting the farmers in their transition from growing coca. It represents a new start and new hope for many families. ‘Cacao for Peace’ as they say.
Let’s move on to the Chulucanas 70 a highly prized criollo bean from Peru, with notes of raisins and plums, and the juicy, fruity Madagascan Sambirano 71. People often ask me what I add to this because they can’t believe that all the citrus notes come simply from the cacao. They do!
Now you have tasted the full basket of naturally occurring fruit flavours, we’ll move on to the flavoured bars. Pistachio Date is a totally different type of chocolate. This is 100% cacao naturally sweetened with fruit and nuts, so I have not added any sugar. Many people are looking to reduce sugar and this is the perfect, natural way of doing this. No artificial sweeteners here!
I made Hazelnut Raisin with Chulucanas 70 because of the way its natural raisin notes pair with the inclusions. Similarly both Ginger Lime and Luscious Orange are made with a Cuban bean which tastes naturally of honey and so pairs perfectly with the ginger and citrus.
Hot date. Sur del Lago 70 dark chocolate with dates, cashews & cardamom.
What a sexy collection of ingredients we have here. What I love about the addition of the cardamom is that it brings a depth and complexity to the caramel sweetness of the dates.
El Cubano. Baracoa 65 dark chocolate with lime and sea salt.
This is a seriously retro, party combination. In swings the zesty lime followed by a hit of sea salt, both dancing to a passionate Latin beat. No surprise that the chocolate I used here was the Cuban Baracoa again. It’s that honey – citrus combination.