Chocolate daily connects me to the greater world in unimaginable ways.
A couple of months ago, I made a plea on Instagram for recommendations for some of the letters that were stumping me. Thanks to Lilla from Little Beetle Chocolates/Taste.Better.Chocolate for suggesting Virunga, otherwise I might never have known about the endangered mountain gorillas that live in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
From online sources and a 2014 documentary that can be seen on Netflix, I learned that Virunga National Park is the oldest and the largest national park on the continent of Africa. Originally established in 1925 to protect the mountain gorillas, Virunga National Park has been a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site since 1979. There are currently less than 900 mountain gorillas left, making them a rare and critically-endangered species.
I’m pretty sure that it is illegal to explore for oil within a National Park; yet in 2013, about 80% of the Virunga National Park was allocated for oil concessions to a UK-based company. While that company demobilized in 2014, they still hold operating permits and the future of the exceptionally biodiverse National Park is uncertain. In an effort to research things for this blog post, I read that earlier this week there was more bloodshed within the Virunga National Park as five DR Congo soldiers were killed by the Rwandan army. It was truly shocking to read that during the Second Congo War between 1998 and 2003, there was upwards of 5 million human fatalities.
While I haven’t yet seen the Netflix documentary, I recently watched the companion piece called “Virunga: Gorillas in Peril.” It was heart-wrenching to watch the gorillas cower in fear each time they heard machine gun fire and I have much admiration for the individuals who have risked their lives to protect the mountain gorillas from poachers, war, and the devastating effects of oil exploration.
As mentioned on the back of the bar’s packaging, Amsterdam-based chocolate company, Original Beans, does what they can through their “one bar: one tree” program to help preserve some of the Earth’s rarest places. By entering a code from the box, I was led to a website with information on the progress made in Virunga. Additionally, this particular bar helps to protect the world’s last 800 mountain gorillas: https://originalbeans.com/cru-virunga-congo/
Now for the chocolate itself!
Original Beans: Cru Virunga 70%, Virunga Park, Congo DR
The main illustration on the front of the box pays homage to the mountain gorillas whose home is the Virunga National Park. I love the delicate gold foil stamping and embossing.
Unless you look carefully, you might miss the image at the top: a tree sprouting from the flattened image of the globe.
The back and inside panels provide more details about the efforts made by Original Beans, as I mentioned earlier in this post.
Removing the 12-rectangle bar from the biodegradable inner pouch, the chocolate itself felt silky smooth, almost a little greasy, to the touch despite the lightly frosted/bloomed appearance.
Running a fingertip over the sunburst image at the center of the rectangle seemed to smear the chocolate rather than bring back the lustre and shine.
There was an earthy, mushroom-like aroma to the chocolate. Splitting a rectangle in half with a medium snap, the aroma turned nutty, like browned butter. There were no air bubbles at the break point.
Smooth, creamy mouthfeel during the slow/even melt, punctuated by berry and citrus notes. The overall chocolate flavor lingers pleasantly on your palate with little to no astringency on the finish. This is a very easy-to-eat bar and you can support a good cause at the same time. WIN:WIN!
To learn more about Original Beans, their products and their philosophy, please visit their website: https://originalbeans.com/