The “N” bar that wasn’t…

Let me begin by saying that this hasn’t been the first time that I’ve been fooled by packaging (and it probably won’t be the last time either)!

When I started putting together the “lineup” for the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project, I wanted to feature both new-to-me bars as well as chocolates with unusual ingredients. This particular 62% Tanzanian dark milk chocolate Porcini bar made in Lithuania seemed to fit those requirements perfectly, so I was super enthusiastic when I found & purchased the bar in anticipation of “N” week!


However, imagine my dismay right around the letter “G” (early July), when I discovered that this was actually a “C” bar! Darn those European chocolate makers with confusing company names! (Naive vs. Chocolate Naive…really, I don’t think I’m entirely to blame!)


Since I still really wanted to feature this bar, I’m hoping you’ll indulge me in a little diversion from the proper alphabetical order!


There is an elegant simplicity to the cream colored box with minimalist taupe lettering. In a flat lay, the logo of a penny farthing (or is it a unicycle?) riding gentleman can “read” as black, but shift your perspective just a little bit & you’ll be rewarded with the shiny copper foil stamping. This philosophy can also apply to life in general! Nothing is exactly as you first see it, you’ll often be surprised when making subtle changes in your point of view.


Even before removing the bar from the pouch, I could tell that the bar was not completely flat in the middle – this is due to the delicate 3D logo.



Upon cutting open the sealed Mylar pouch, the distinct musty/earthy aroma of mushrooms was intense. Perhaps this is the right time for me to confess that I’m NOT fond of mushrooms (although, maybe it’s raw mushrooms that I dislike since a Vosges Reishi Mushroom & Walnut bar is among my favorites).

Carefully removing the chocolate bar onto a plate for further photographs, I took the opportunity to stick my nose fully into the empty pouch – almost like a wine or whiskey connoisseur would do before enjoying a poured glass. This transported me back to what it must be like to forage for mushrooms in a lush, damp forest! Did you know that mushroom hunting is Lithuania’s second favorite sport, after basketball?! The packaging says that “Each September, mushroom-hungry folks return to their super-secret spots where all the best ones grow.”

With as much mushroom as I was smelling, I was expecting the bar itself to be flecked and/or gritty due to the freeze dried porcini mushrooms, but that was not the case!


The bar was creamy and velvety smooth. There was definitely the umami mushroom taste – which was better when “melted” rather than “chomped” (this bar just might provide me with enough inspiration to acquire the patience needed to “melt” a piece of chocolate in order to better savor all the nuances).

Like many other chocolate makers, Chocolate Naive has a fascinating and inspiring backstory. Check out this link to a 2012 interview:

I leave you with this quote from the back of the packaging: “Chocolate is like my own life – both bitter and sweet. It has been a constant companion that has seen me grow from a carefree youth to a quixotic adult. Chocolate is as luxuriant as my most vivid dream and as humble as my simple reality.”

For more information about other delectable chocolate options, visit:

N is for NOMNOM Chocolate

There will probably come a time when friends will refrain from telling me of their travel plans (I DREAD that day!!) Until then, when you tell me about your upcoming trip, especially if it is to New Zealand, Australia or Europe, there will be a gleam in my eye while I scan through a mental rolodex…be prepared for a kindly request to acquire some “wish list” chocolates for me! 🙂

Right around the letter “G” (early July), I came to a startling realization that my coveted “N” chocolate was actually a “C” – more on that story later in the week. In a panic, I started combing through resources to find alternate “N” chocolates and became fixated on NOMNOM Chocolate from Wales based on the endearing tales of silliness and mischief by the norty (aka naughty) weasels on their Instagram feed.

Shipping from Wales was going to be cost prohibitive, so I sent out several inquiries to friends who a) live in the UK, b) were going to be visiting the UK soon or c) knew someone who knew someone with any connection to the UK. All this effort resulted in dead ends 🙁 But, then, my boyfriend mentioned that one of his work colleagues would be traveling back to England soon for a visit (cue the choir of angels singing!) Imagine my delight! I wasn’t sure what flavors were available, so I couldn’t make specific bar requests. After several weeks of not hearing updates, I was told not to get my hopes up since this might not pan out either. After moments of distress and disappointment, I began searching for other Ns that might be acquired more locally. Then in the middle of a humdrum day, I received a text message with a picture attachment, but no actual verbiage. Ta da…a stack of SIX NOMNOM Chocolate bars. Good thing my boyfriend wasn’t around to take a video of my “happy dance” 😉

With so many delicious options to now choose from, I decided to feature the only dark chocolate bar of the bunch (follow me on Instagram to hear about the milk chocolate ones later).

Lemon Curd (72% Ecuadorian Chocolate + Welsh Lady’s Lemon Curd)


Before each thick bar receives a fairly plain brown paper outer sleeve, the bars are hand wrapped in a different colored rectangle of shiny thin aluminum foil. During the recent Olympics, NOMNOM had a friendly wrapping competition among their employees. First place was a record of 12 bars in 1 minute and 17 seconds! The wooly lamb that is part of their logo reminds me of the mischievous “Shaun the Sheep” cartoon.

Upon unwrapping the foil, there was the unmistakable scent of citrusy lemon & it was then that I noticed some small cracks on the back of the bar due to its transit from England to California. Since there is a bit of heft to the bar, the crack didn’t go all the way through and the top side of the dark brown bar was intact.


Using the existing fissure as my “breaking point,” I was so surprised to see that the chocolate bar was filled with creamy, tart lemon curd.



(my penguin alter ego above, was VERY curious about the curd 🙂 )

According to, Welsh Lady Preserves was voted in the Top 50 Foods by the Guild of Fine Foods, with judges describing it as “The creamiest, most lemoniest spoonful of deliciousness ever offered to man or woman.” The recipe had been perfected over 50 years, each batch lovingly prepared from the finest ingredients and cooked slowly just like you would at home. This is in keeping with NOMNOM’s philosophies which are explained on the back of the outer sleeve:


Honestly, I wasn’t expecting a messy photo shoot today, so I had to suppress giggles during this process: “stage” the chocolate pieces so that they were ready for their close ups, lick fingers, take photo & repeat.

What a great way to start the week!

It was a little difficult to taste the 72% Ecuadorian chocolate separately from the lemon curd, so I don’t have much to say about that other than it was tasty and worked well with the citrus notes. Based on this initial taste of NOMNOM, I can’t wait to dig into the other 5 flavors that I acquired: welsh cake, peanut butter, waffle, orange marmalade & Halen Môn (Anglesey Sea Salt).


Here’s a thought for the day from the nutritional info on the back of their wrapper: “Never eat more chocolate than you can lift.” – I think that’s a motto we could all live with 😉


When you visit their website (, one of the first things you will see is this greeting: “hello we’re NOMNOM and we haven’t a proper website” + these notes:


Since flavors change weekly, my recommendation is to send them an email since the super friendly “Keeper of Deliciousness” (Lili Woollacott) will be happy to assist you! (P.S. wish her a belated 21st birthday too!)

Bonus “M” bar – Marou Faiseurs De Chocolat

Up until now there hasn’t been an opportunity for me to taste chocolates made from Vietnamese cacao beans, I had to content myself with drooling over photos posted on other people’s Instagram feeds and reading articles about them. So, imagine my delight when I found a nice selection of Marou bars at a local chocolate shop!


It was so hard to choose just one, so these are the two that ended up following me home (two is better than one for comparing & contrasting…at least that’s my story & I’m sticking to it!) 🙂 It finally “clicked” this morning that the company name is a combination of the last names of the owners (Sam Maruta and Vincent Mourou) rather than a foreign word that needed to be translated!

Cacao trees were first introduced to Vietnam in the late 1800s by the French during their colonial rule, however less than 20 years later they rescinded paying the farmers to grow the crops since they felt that the cacao was “completely useless” and had “not yielded any satisfying result.” Many of those trees are still in the Mekong Delta provinces. About a decade ago, cacao covered less than 2,000 hectares (equivalent to about 5,000 acres); now that quantity has increased by almost 1000% to more than 54,000 acres. Marou was founded in 2011 by two expatriate Frenchmen from non-food backgrounds who had the ambition to create the first bean-to-bar and single-origin chocolate company in Vietnam, using only local ingredients from that country. This article provides more information about Marou’s beginnings.

In addition to the attention to detail in terms of ingredients, each one of the labels is stunning and eye-catching. In this 5-6 minute video you can see the multi-step, labor intensive process to silk-screen the hand-drawn images onto the hand-printed outer wrappers and then emboss each label individually (packaging design by Rice Creative). Additionally, the main color of the wrapper pays homage to the color of the cacao pods that the chocolate was made from.

74% Lâm Đong


This turquoise/teal outer wrapper has images of clouds, a cacao pod, flowers and leaves among a golden trellis/lattice background. From the label, this is a rare and delicate chocolate made in micro batches from beans cultivated in hilly woodlands at the edge of the Vietnamese Central Highlands between Madagui and Bao Loc. I’ve seen the picture of the cacao pod rainbow, but I still can’t believe that there is a pod that is naturally a light blue.


Unwrapping this chocolate from the gold foil inner wrapper sealed with the Marou label, was a beautifully shiny, deep brown bar with only a few air bubbles marring the surface.


The aroma was earthy and woody and reminded me a little of leather. Although some might consider it “cheating,” I like to refer to tasting notes before, during and after tasting. This is partly to know what to expect, as well as to see how close I could get to the description. Some tasting notes that I’ve seen refer to this bar as “intense” and “roasted”…I didn’t get that. The taste, to me, was more mild and subtle: starting buttery (like caramel), continuing as light sweet fruit (like raisins) and ending with a wine or tannic note. While I know that taste is subjective, I’m a little disappointed that my palate & the tasting notes didn’t match.

For another person’s perspective, check out these tasting notes.

80% Tien Giang


Maybe it’s because I went to a baseball game last night, but the lines on this light green outer packaging remind me of the lawnmower patterns that can be seen in the outfield. However, the true story is that these stripes are extensions of the asterisk logo from the lifestyle, travel and design magazine Wallpaper*.


Don’t blink or you might miss the asterisk that appears on the “spine” of the chocolate bar.


First impressions are important, so I really like that Marou packages their bars with the logo facing up so that this is the first thing you see after unwrapping the outer layers. Their logo reminds me the molten candle wax seal and stamp that have been used on important documents since the Middle Ages. It almost looks like the M is wearing a tiara, so I’m curious about the significance of the small emblem that looks like a truncated fleur de lis.


Generally the Tien Giang bar is made of 70% cacao from the Cho Gao & Mekong Delta, but since this is a special edition bar for Wallpaper*: The Handmade Issue, the percentage was increased to 80% – the darkest of the Marou bars in terms of percentage of cacao. Surprisingly, though, the color of the chocolate itself is slightly lighter than the 74% bar that I tasted earlier (in the picture below, the top is the 80% bar & the partially consumed one on the bottom is the 74%).


From the tasting notes, this is full-bodied with notes of spices, fruits and honey. It certainly was the more complex of the two bars, with a scent that wavered between a delicate sandalwood perfume and a freshly made gourmet hot chocolate. What I tasted was tangy, tart and acidic (while also a little metallic), with cherries and apples coming to mind. Maybe as I continue with my sensory experiences, one day I too can detect the earthy, grassy, woody, banana and citrus fruit notes mentioned in other reviews.

If you’ve tried Marou’s chocolates, I’d love to hear your impressions!

In the meantime, please visit the company’s website to learn more about the rest of their product line:

M is for Map Chocolate Co.

Maps are multi-faceted. They can evoke memories of journeys from the past, they can open up a whole new world of places you have yet to explore and can also serve as a guide to help you find your way while on your present path.

“M” week is finally here! This is one of the bars that I have been eagerly awaiting for MONTHS! When I first started using Instagram at the beginning of the year, I was mesmerized by gorgeous photos of Map Chocolate’s square bars. If I’m honest with myself, I might have designed the whole Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project simply as an excuse to try this chocolate brand for myself!

Since this chocolate wasn’t available locally, my only viable option was to visit Map’s website to make my selection. It was such a treat to scroll through more mouth-watering pictures and smile while reading each bar’s unusual and unique name. In the end, I selected one inclusion bar (Still Life with Pi: a renaissance of candied orange peel & vanilla seeds / Belize 65%) + one bag of hot chocolate mix. (Let me tell you, it’s been such a challenge not to indulge in a cup of cocoa, I’m so glad that the self-imposed moratorium is finally over…stay tuned on Instagram for that!)

It’s evident that much care and thought have been put into each small detail, including the packaging. Rather than revealing itself too quickly, this chocolate bar arrived packaged like a small gift to be unwrapped.


The simply folded plain brown tissue paper, adorned with a bit of gold ribbon, was kept closed with a small black sticker emblazoned with an “M” in gold calligraphy amongst a cloud of decorative curlicues.


I was especially touched by a personalized, handwritten note on the back of a small map square tucked into the ribbon at the back of the package.

Once that layer was removed, an old world style map peeked out from the sides of a simple, yet elegant outer sleeve providing ingredient information.


The clear sticker used to keep the sleeve closed exhorts you to “find open roads” and begin an exciting adventure! 🙂


Sliding the map-wrapped bar from the sleeve, I saw a familiar sight! An aerial view featuring the colonnade and piazza of St. Peter’s Basilica, an Italian Renaissance church in the Vatican City, the papal enclave within the city of Rome. This map transported me back to my 2009 trip to Italy and a treasured photo that a friend took from the top of the dome, overlooking the city below.


As I peeled away each layer of protective packaging, the heady chocolate aroma was both enticing and intoxicating. After months of waiting and worrying, would the square be broken into pieces or perfectly intact? Now came the moment of truth! I delicately unwrapped the final layer of coated white paper to reveal a pristine shiny square which brings back memories of the Moorish tiles I saw at the Alhambra in Spain during my first European trip as a teenager.


Maybe it’s me…but from within the 12-pointed star (which is said to depict completeness), I can almost see the outline of the Castel Sant’Angelo, which was also on the map of Rome.


In an interview, Mackenzie Rivers (Map Chocolate owner and chocolate maker) revealed that this Belgian-made mold is called “Scheherazade” – as in the storyteller of “One Thousand and One Nights.” This seems to go well with a quote that was included as part of the non-traditional tasting notes page: “…chocolate carries an amazing story of cultivation, travel, wild places, people, birds landing amongst its leaves, rain falling, farmers tending it, and mouths tasting it. every bite the story unfolds.”


The reverse (or inclusion) side is equally complex with the combination of slightly chewy vanilla seeds, crunchy candied orange peel and tiny perfectly shaped sugar crystals.


It seemed like such a shame to break the bar into pieces, but it had to be done! Not surprisingly, the same adjectives can be used for both the mold and the chocolate itself: overlapping, interlaced and intricate. Biting into the smooth & creamy chunks, there were long lasting layers of flavor as well as bright/tart fruit notes.

In the words of Mackenzie: “this bar is about coming full circle, by way of the meandering tangent.”

With my apologies, here are some of my thoughts on the reason for choosing “Pi” as part of the bar’s name (with help from an online article from

  • “Pi is an irrational number, which means that its value cannot be expressed exactly as a simple fraction.” Since taste is very subjective, it would be impossible to create a definitive, one-size-fits-all description for any chocolate bar. Therefore, just like there is no end to Pi’s decimal places, there is an infinite number of ways to encapsulate the experience of tasting chocolates.
  • “Since circles can vary in size, yet they all retain the same shape, ancient mathematicians knew there had to be a special relationship amongst the elements of a circle. That special relationship turns out to be the mathematical constant known as pi.” I’d like to think that, regardless of each person’s history/backstory, chocolate can be the connection that unifies us all.

To find the chocolate bar that “speaks to you” and begin your own adventure, check out:

Bonus “L” bar – L’Amourette Chocolat

The origin of L’Amourette Chocolat sounds just like a romantic movie plot (and if it isn’t one already, it should be)!

A young chocolatier’s love is unrequited, so he travels the world to forget the woman of his dreams. While in Paris, he visits a used bookstore and purchases a book called “Practical Magic.” After reading about aphrodisiacs and magic rituals, he experiments with different chocolate recipes until he finds the most intriguing one. With a bouquet of flowers and this special chocolate bar, he proposes to his sweetheart and she accepts after eating a single piece of decadent chocolate. And so begins this “love affair.”

What attracted me to this 72% Noir chocolate bar? Well, I couldn’t resist its bright/colorful packaging with vintage-inspired artwork + I had never seen a bar with pomelo peel. Until today, I thought that “pomelo” was just an alternate name for “grapefruit” – so reading this article was an eye-opener. Pomelo (the largest fruit in the citrus family) is considered the ancestor of the grapefruit since pomelos are a natural (non-hybrid) citrus fruit, whereas grapefruits are a hybrid between an orange and a pomelo. One of the main differences between these fruits are their peels. Pomelos have thick, pebbly, soft skins, while grapefruits typically have thinner, smooth skins. To maintain the true taste of the pomelo peel, L’Amourette candies them naturally, without sulfur dioxide.


Sometimes it’s easy to overlook small details upon first glance. Such is the case with the various citrus wedges that are printed on the front and back with spot high gloss UV varnish. You have the hold the package just so and in the right light to fully appreciate these images that hint at the flavor of the bar inside. I wonder if the rest of the bars in the Art Noveau line have the same type of design element?!


There was a heft to this chocolate bar, so upon removing the 10 segment tablet from the shiny blue-ish green foil inner wrapping, it came as no surprise that the mold they used was a little thicker than usual. The domed shaped segments make me think that this mold could serve a dual purpose, if they wanted to make filled chocolates. While this bar had a glossy finish, there were a few remnants of bubbles on the surface. Each of the segments have the company logo embossed on them: a romantic cursive script font within a stylized heart.



Due to the thickness of the segments, it was a little difficult to break them in half. However, there was a medium to dull snap once I was able to do so. It’s difficult to fully describe the aroma of the blend of Rio Caribe and Carenero Superior beans from Venezuela: it reminded me of a freshly-made gourmet hot chocolate with warm nutty spices…I wonder if the Bourbon vanilla beans and cocoa butter had anything to do with this?! Both of these cacao beans have distinct characteristics. Carenero Superior beans are known for a lighter flavor while also being more bitter and less earthy, though they still have complex, yet delicate, woody and flowery notes. Rio Caribe beans, on the other hand, are reported to be less complex and exhibit sweet, rich earthy and fruity notes. Overall this blend produced a not too sweet bar that hinted at bitter notes without being harsh. Some would say that this is not a complex bar, but I found it to be very enjoyable since you could savor both the chocolate itself and the other ingredients without being distracted by the separate elements.

Even though a segment might outwardly appear not to have any candied pomelo peel, you will be rewarded with a tangy morsel whether you let it melt slowly or chomp into it. I personally prefer the “chomping” method since that seems to release more of the lightly roasted flavor notes. While the packaging says that this bar was produced using a 36-hour conching process; the texture was not the silk-smooth that I was expecting, it was slightly coarser, though not really gritty either.



If Hollywood ever decides to immortalize Andre V’s story, which actors should portray him and his wife and, more importantly, will that secret chocolate recipe ever be revealed?! 😉

To see their various chocolate lines and discover if they are available in your area, please visit:

L is for Lillie Belle Farms

Call it the “hand of fate” or serendipity…sometimes plans fall perfectly into place in the most unexpected ways!

Lillie Belle Farms Handmade Chocolates was on my “short list” of chocolates since the very beginning stages of the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project. When it proved difficult to locate their chocolate locally, I decided to substitute them with another “L” chocolate (check back later in the week for that bar!) Recently on Facebook, there was a funny exchange between Estelle Tracy of 37 Chocolates and David Menkes from LetterPress Chocolates as they joked about what might be featured for this particular letter. Being from the Los Angeles area, it would make sense for me to select LetterPress; but alas, I wanted to concentrate only on new-to-me bars! (Sorry 🙁 ) However, after reading David’s comments, my enthusiasm for Lillie Belle Farms was renewed…but I didn’t really want to deal with summertime shipping issues. Then, an unexpected opportunity presented itself when I discovered that a friend would soon be driving back to Southern California from Oregon! What would I do without supportive friends willing to act as “chocolate couriers” for me?! 🙂

So, that is the story about how it came to be that I could share this Limited Edition, Hand Crafted Stella Blue bar with you!


Initially, I assumed that this chocolate bar was named for one of the primary ingredients. It surprised me to discover that, like several of their other chocolate bars, Stella Blue was inspired by a Grateful Dead song. In fact, when you visit the Lillie Belle Farms website, you will find that the descriptions of many bars include a YouTube link to a Grateful Dead performance of their namesake.

As a rule, I generally avoid blue (or veined) cheeses because of their overwhelming pungent flavor and, whenever possible, I choose to indulge in dark chocolate…so what am I doing with a milk chocolate (50% cacao) that has been flavored with Rogue Creamery Blue Heaven powdered blue cheese?! All I can say is that while this flavor combination might not sound good on paper, keep an open mind – your taste buds will definitely thank you for taking a risk! Besides, who could resist the eye-catching, psychedelically colored packaging?

The outer packaging looks like a cross between an envelope and a box with corners that can be tucked in so that it stays closed. To me, it always feels like I’m unwrapping a special present when the chocolate bar is meticulously wrapped with shiny foil.



Inside the inner foil wrapper was a slender rectangle adorned with their company name and two flowers on either end. After reading about how Jeff Shepherd started Lillie Belle Farms, I wanted the flowers to be hibiscus or plumeria to honor his time living in Hawaii; but I believe that these are lilies, which echo the company name (which happens to be a combination of his daughter’s and wife’s names).



Unwrapping the gold foil, there was a faint tangy buttermilk aroma, but there wasn’t the telltale smell of blue cheese. Given my dislike of blue cheeses, I braced myself before biting into the chocolate chunk, but really there was no need for that! Blue Heaven is a proprietary blend of powdered Oregon Blue, Oregonzola, Crater Lake Blue + special reserve blues which imparts the pure essence of all the Rogue Creamy blue recipes combined while having a milder/dialed back intensity of flavor. Paired with naturally fruity Madagascar cacao beans, these ingredients produced a super creamy and smooth mouthfeel as well as a flavor rich in umami. Had this been a “blind tasting,” I would have said that cheese was a component, but I definitely wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint blue cheese.


While accolades are great (Jeff Shepherd was chosen as one of the inaugural top 10 chocolatiers in the United States by the Dessert Professional magazine in 2009), I really like this quote from the now-defunct CocoAroma magazine:

“Artists don’t really care if you think they’re good (although I’m sure compliments don’t hurt). I think what artists—especially fiercely individualistic artisans like Jeff who create truly original work—are really searching for is a connection, a shared experience, with their audience.”

Once you try their chocolates, you’ll agree with this line from another Grateful Dead song lyric which appears on the side of the outer packaging: “Life may be sweeter for this…”

To plan a visit to their factory or to learn more about their various chocolate delights, check out:

K is for ki’XOCOLATL

Thus far, the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet series has been a journey of discovery. It’s the impetus to intentionally seek out new-to-me chocolate brands and slowly start to recognize and appreciate the subtle taste differences in bars made from beans of different countries of origin (produced both domestically and internationally). Taste is very subjective, what might appeal to me might not appeal to others and vice versa. But, I digress…more on that later!

What do you get when you take knowledge from two modern, but classically-trained, master Belgian chocolatiers and combine that with tropical rainforest cacao farmers of the Chiapas and Tabasco regions of Mexico who maintain ancestral Mayan cultural traditions? You get ki’XOCOLATL, established in 2002. This collaborative fusion continues with the company name itself, which is an homage to two great pre-Hispanic cultures that dominated the cultivation of cacao: “ki” means delicious or delectable in Mayan and “xocolatl” means chocolate in the Nahuatl (Aztec) language. Even the graphics on the shiny outer packaging pay tribute to both the multi-colored cacao pods as well as the ancient Mayan pottery and intricate stone carvings.


A unique trait of this company is that they harvest, process and produce their chocolate bars all within the country of Mexico. Many companies source from one country, but produce in another. According to the eye-catching box, this 72% dark chocolate bar is made from 100% organic Criollo beans single sourced directly from the cacao tree grove. Additionally, ki’XOCOLATL seeks to preserve the characteristic aromas of these rare Criollo beans through a low-temperature roasting process.

Upon opening the sealed inner foil wrapper, I was disappointed to find the bar coated with chocolate “dust” particles. I’ve learned from experience that any attempts to “clean off” the surface with fingernails or brushes will only mar the appearance of the bar for photographic purposes; so, reluctantly, I had to leave things “as is”! (Let me tell you that it took a bit of effort to resist the urge to blow on the bar to dislodge the “dust” for fear of introducing any water droplets to the surface!) Aside from the “dust,” the bar was glossy, smooth and free from other imperfections. The 15-segment mold that they used was intriguing – reminding me of an ice cube tray or an integrated circuit board.


One of the first things that I do after unwrapping a bar is to inhale deeply and get an initial impression of the chocolate that I’ll be tasting. In this case, I was stumped as to how to categorize/describe the aroma. To me, it seemed a little “industrial” (almost plastic-like). This didn’t bode well for me. 🙁

There was a nice sharp snap when breaking off a few segments. Again, I was stumped with the flavor since it didn’t taste like anything I’ve experienced before. It was bitter on the tongue and didn’t seem to melt easily, so I “chomped” the piece without tasting any distinguishable flavor notes. Next, I exercised patience and melted the next segment. This time, it was slightly nutty, earthy (almost tobacco-like) and had an astringent after taste.



As I said earlier, taste is very subjective. Based on my initial reaction, I decided to do a little more research on the Criollo cacao bean & discovered some fascinating information that I wanted to share:

  • It is generally accepted that there are 3 major types of cacao beans. Of the three, Criollo is considered to be the “original” cacao.
  • Since Criollo beans are susceptible to pests and other diseases, the plants are low-yielding and difficult to grow. Because of this, Criollo beans are considered rare and only make up about 5% of the market.
  • Some say that Criollo beans are the best and have a very distinctive taste…however, there is debate whether “authentic” Criollo beans still exist. Perhaps what we associate with Criollo beans are really just hybrids designed to resist those things that might harm them.

For more information on this subject, here is a link to an article from a well-known chocolate maker:

Overall, this quote from The Chocolate Revolution website accurately expresses my sentiments: “…the taste might not be everyone’s favourite as it differs considerably from that of the more common Trinitario and Forastero varieties, which define the taste of dark chocolate as most people know it.” You’ll never know, if you don’t try for yourself! So, if you DO try this bar, please reach out & let me know your thoughts!

While this particular bar was a little underwhelming for me, I’d be interested in trying some of their milk chocolate bars with unusual ingredients like almonds + oregano or baked corn chips! Maybe a different region of Mexico will produce beans that appeal more to me?

Even though this website is in Spanish, don’t despair…there is a language toggle button at the bottom right hand corner of the page to switch the language to either English or French:

Additionally, you can also see more information in English through these websites:

Jade Chocolates, Part 2

Krakatoa is one of thousands of volcanic islands that makes up the nation of Indonesia in Southeast Asia. The 1883 eruption was cataclysmic, unleashing huge tsunamis which killed tens of thousands of people. According to Wikipedia, “The explosion is considered to be the loudest sound ever heard in modern history.” The LiveScience website says “Barographs around the globe documented that the shock waves [from the eruption] in the atmosphere circled the planet at least seven times.” That’s certainly quite a name to live up to!


This 63% bittersweet bar with lemongrass oil and cracked black pepper, aptly named after this volcanic island, is a “sleeping giant” in terms of flavor. At first, the black pepper wasn’t overwhelming to me, unless I isolated a peppercorn granule & chomped down on it, unleashing a warming explosion in my mouth. However, as I continued eating a couple more pieces, I realized that the black pepper had a long lasting/lingering after taste that was quite potent, but not unpleasantly so.


Each time I see this mold comprised of 8 topsy-turvy “tiles” adorned with a leaves and flowers, I think of a childhood block puzzle that was left unfinished.


Unwrapping the bar from the colorful Nepalese handmade paper outer wrapper and the plain wax paper like inner wrapper, you immediately smell the refreshing citrusy aroma of lemongrass oil. The chocolate itself has a creamy texture despite not having any dairy. I like to challenge myself to pinpoint tasting notes of the base chocolate; but this time, I couldn’t get past the primary lemongrass flavor. Even though I was a little disappointed not to find information about the country of origin for this chocolate on either the packaging or the website, after reading this fun interview from 2014, it sounds like owner Mindy Fong uses Guittard or Valhrona for her confections, so maybe a Madagascar origin bean could have been used?!

When you’re ready to take a flavor adventure to the Pacific Islands, check out:

J is for Jade Chocolates

Even though I’m still recovering from a summer cold, I didn’t want to delay tasting & posting about this uniquely flavored chocolate bar. Later in the week (yippee…there will be a “bonus” bar this week!), I’ll post about the 2nd chocolate that I purchased from Jade Chocolates, so that I can properly do justice to the flavors in case my taste buds are still returning to “healthy” mode.

Though this is the 10th letter of the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet series, I’m already thinking about “round 2”! I’m toying with the idea of selecting chocolates with unusual ingredients for each letter of the alphabet (think “A” is for amaranth, for example). If I follow through with that, I’ll be regretting this week’s choice since the bar below has an incomparable “Y” ingredient…keep reading & you’ll see what I mean!

In Tagalog (the language of the Philippines), “mahal” (as a noun) means LOVE…so it makes sense that this bar includes three ingredients that are considered aphrodisiacs: cinnamon, dark chocolate and ylang ylang – see what I mean…how am I ever going to beat that for a “Y” ingredient next round?!

Jade Chocolates is located in San Francisco, California and is known for their Asian and Pacific Island influenced chocolates. Mindy Fong, owner of Jade Chocolates, is half Chinese and half Filipina, so she knows just how to evoke the flavors of these countries by blending teas and spices to her chocolates. To read more about her inspirational entrepreneurial story, check out this interview from 2012:


There is a simple elegance to Jade’s chocolate bar collection. Each bar is wrapped in handmade Lokta Paper made from the inner bark of an evergreen shrub that is indigenous to the mountains of Nepal. I find it fascinating that the lokta plant self-regenerates every 5-7 years, so harvesting does not affect the ecology of the area while also providing a stable income to the lokta farmers. There is a narrow, low-resolution, slightly pixelated informational sticker keeping the outer wrapper closed, but thankfully it peels away fairly easily from the paper itself. Inside, the bar is wrapped by a plain wax paper-like rectangle. The mold that was used looked very familiar, since it’s the same one that was used for the “H” chocolate that I featured a couple of weeks ago.


Just unwrapping the bar, I was greeted by the exotic, delicate, floral perfume of the ylang ylang oil that was used. No wonder these flowers that are native to the Philippines are used in therapeutic essential oils! Just the aroma put me in a relaxed mood/state of mind. The bar itself is fairly thick and not easily broken into segments. There was a dull snap and when the bar broke apart, I could see small pieces of toasted coconut.


These tiny nuggets added a crunch to the creamy smooth mouthfeel and the warming Indonesian cinnamon. I can only imagine this as a hot chocolate mix. That flavor combination would be my ultimate definition of “hug in a mug” 🙂

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a country of origin for the 72% bittersweet chocolate that was used. Regardless, I think that the fruity, lightly earthy/citrusy flavor paired well with the rest of the ingredients. To me, the flavors all complemented each other very harmoniously.

In an interview, Mindy mentioned that the name “Jade” was chosen since it is an auspicious symbol and form of good luck. To read more about the company & see more of their product line, check out:

Tune in later in the week when I feature a 2nd Jade Chocolates bar!