Some people pick up t-shirts or mugs as trip souvenirs. I pick up chocolate. Sure, it may not be as enduring as a blowfish in a sombrero, but it offers the opportunity to mentally revisit places any time I taste that bar again. And, since I’m working on this Around the World in 80 Bars challenge, I might as well try to visit the places where the chocolate is produced (a girl can dream, no?). My recent trips to Hamburg and Zofingen yielded quite a bounty, but a few of them disappeared too quickly to snap photos. I’ve mentioned the stunners on Twitter if you’re curious. These five are no less remarkable, I just managed to conjure up a wee bit of willpower for photography.
- Rio Napo Chocolat Grand Cru Cacao Nacional Ecuador 73%. Where it’s crafted: Switzerland Why I love it: Original Food have aided Quichua groups in Ecuador to create a cooperative dedicated to preserving heirloom cocoa varieties while providing 600 families with fair income. With hints of prunes and dried cherries touched by a drop of strong coffee, it is all I expect from good dark chocolate. Like a strong dance partner who never misses a lift.
- Rio Napo Chocolat Grand Cru Cacao Nacional Ecuador 40% Milk with Cocoa Nibs. Where it’s crafted: Switzerland Why I love it: I am admittedly not normally a huge fan of milk chocolate, but holy cow does this ring my bell! It’s rich, with caramel and vanilla notes, and the cocoa nibs bring a nuttiness and crunch that tips it just north of sophisticated. The finish is not at all cloying, totally smooth. Like a kiss from a handsome stranger.
- Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat Ba Ria 76%. Where it’s crafted: Saigon, Vietnam Why I love it: Two French guys had the idea chocolate might be best crafted right where it’s grown and Vietnam might be the most unlikely and splendid place to do just that. The farmers themselves ferment and dry the beans, so they receive more for that added value. Besides the gorgeous packaging that looks like something you’d want to find peeking out of your sexy lingerie drawer, the bar is solid, strong, with bold coffee and fruity notes. The texture is smooth as silk and the flavours of cherry and damp wood linger together in the most elegant way. I think I will pair it with cognac and see what transpires.
- Original Beans Piura Porcelana 75%. Where it’s crafted: Switzerland Why I love it: Philipp Kauffmann has a mission to create the world’s best and most sustainable chocolate. Each package carries a tracking number you can enter on the OB website to learn the story of the beans behind your bar. Mine returned this: “Your Piura Porcelana originates from a small valley in Northern Peru where we found it in 2007. Then, it was nearly extinct and has since been replanted in an exemplary project of biodiversity restoration. Your chocolate contributes to regrowing this unique original bean in new cacao forests.” The bar itself breaks off with an almost intoxicating raspberry aroma, none of which is lost in the explosion of berry on the tongue along with sweet roasted nuttiness. Swoon.
- Delicacao Baked Beans Kakao 70%. Where it’s crafted: Berlin, Germany Why I love it: The selection of Single Origin chocolate burgeoned so much in the last few years you might wonder what could possibly set them all apart. Delicacao focuses on the right equipment to delicately process the beans so they retain terroir, or sense of place. The place they’ve chosen is Madagascar, the beans Trinitario (a hybrid of the rare criollo variety). Their Baked Beans are meant to showcase the hand roasted and peeled beans in a way like no other. Coated in a silk-smooth barely sweetened dark chocolate, these morsels are meant for a true cocoa lover. Earthy with intense coffee notes, they should be enjoyed when you can close your eyes and imagine for a moment the beautiful land and people from which they come. Can you hear the zither playing?