R is for Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé

Like some famous personalities that need only go by their first name (think of Prince, Cher or Madonna), Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé requires no introduction to aficionados of fine chocolate since their molds are visually so distinctive and unique!

The husband and wife team of Zsolt and Katalin started making chocolate confections in Budapest, Hungary in 2004 and they chose the name “Rózsavölgyi” (meaning “from the valley of the roses”) to pay tribute to the neighborhood that they lived in. Soon after Katalin honed her skills learning from various chocolate makers around the world, they knew that switching to bean-to-bar (instead of using other people’s couverture chocolate) would provide them more control over the natural chocolate flavors of their creations. This particular 71% dark chocolate bar is made from Porcelana Criollo beans grown by the Franceschi family in Venezuela.


There is so much to look at and notice on the outer packaging; from every inch of the sturdy cream colored paper decorated with gold foil birds, insects and flowers to the anthropomorphized logo of a single-eyed heart with outstretched arms, wearing a bowler hat.


That endearing logo was intriguing to me, so it was disappointing to read that Katalin (a former graphic designer) had simply drawn this, but no significance was attributed to the image’s various elements.

Removing the informational band from the outer wrapper allows the graphics to be better seen/appreciated.


Another eye-catching item on the packaging is a sticker celebrating their 2015 Bronze Award from the Academy of Chocolate for the best dark chocolate bean-to-bar under 80%.


Gently removing the clear & black logo sticker keeping the paper closed and carefully undoing the precise origami-like folds, another cheerful heart-logo sticker greets you from the inside, keeping the parchment paper inner wrapper closed.


Now for the moment of truth…would the gorgeous mold that reminds me of Batchelder fireplace tiles from the American Arts and Crafts movement era be intact or would the square bar be split into multiple pieces?!

Ta da…the glossy, symmetrically decorated reddish-brown bar was pristine, aside from some minor scuff marks and evidence of air bubbles.


My initial impressions of the aroma ranged from floral, fruity, reminiscent of raisins to lightly baked rye bread. It seemed like such a shame to break into such a beautiful mold…but it had to be done! The chocolate itself seemed to flex under the pressure of the knife instead of breaking sharply; I attribute that to the current heat wave, though I’ve seen other Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé bars also described as “bendy.”


Time and temperature certainly make a difference. This morning, after taking several photos of the bar, the snap was dull/soft…however, revisiting the bar just now, after keeping the chocolate in a wine fridge at 65 degrees for several hours, the snap is sharp and well-defined.

The mouthfeel is smooth and the segments melt evenly in the mouth. Porcelana is known to be mild and subtle, but to me the initial taste was tangy and mildly acidic/tart. My second taste was more earthy and dry. Both tastes had a long, almost woody aftertaste/finish.

Now I’m on a mission to find more of their offerings, especially their hot Hungarian paprika inclusion bar, which Matt Caputo from A Priori (a specialty food importer & distributor) said reminded him of “goulash-meets-chocolate” around 2:23 of this YouTube video!

To read more about this award winning Hungarian success story, check out this link. Another informative article from 2013 can be found here.

In addition to single-origin tablets and flavored bars, Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé also sells hot chocolate mixes, bonbons, truffles, dragees and more. Hopefully a location near you carries their products, so check out: http://www.rozsavolgyi.com/en/index.php

Chocolate Q or Q Chocolate…does translation matter?

Sometimes it takes a village! The quest to locate a chocolate bar from a company that starts with the letter “Q” for the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project has been daunting. For a while, I thought that it was an impossible mission. Over the last nine months, I’ve been very fortunate to find kindred spirits and genuinely supportive camaraderie within the chocolate community! Just last week, Sophia from Projet Chocolat generously overnighted me a bar from her stash in the nick of time to ensure that this letter of the alphabet would be covered!

So, a few days ago, at the beginning of “Q” week, I excitedly pulled the bar from my wine fridge storage & started my Monday morning routine. The filtered light was perfect for taking pictures of the packaging. There I was happily taking photos, getting on the internet to locate the company’s website + other articles that I could use to further research their backstory and then…WAIT a minute…am I seeing things correctly? Both the company URL and their Instagram account referred to the company name as “Chocolate Q” instead of “Q Chocolate.” I immediate sent my boyfriend a couple of panicked text messages. He tried to assure me that it’s just the translation from Portuguese to English…I wasn’t convinced. Maybe I’m the only one that’s really concerned (“obsessed” might be the better word) with strict adherence to the alphabet. In my mind, this was “Naive Chocolate” vs. “Chocolate Naive” all over again…so it was with a heavy heart that I had to return this bar to wine fridge storage until today.


Just looking at the copper stamped logo and the Claudio Novaes artwork that graces the outside of the packaging, you can almost feel the shimmering heat and hear the sounds from the fauna that dwell at the Fazenda Leolinda in the Amazonian rainforest in Brazil where the Trinitario and Forasteiro cacao beans are grown. The Aquim family is passionate about chocolate and has a very hands-on approach to all aspects of “the Q process.”


Despite Brazil being one of the top growers of cacao, there was a time when Brazilian chocolates were not note-worthy, since local tastes tended toward mass-produced chocolates. Since 2011, the Aquims’ goal has been to preserve the true taste of cacao (their tagline translates to “chocolate in its essence”), so their bars are made with just 3 ingredients: cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and a pinch of sugar. The Q Collection includes 6 dark chocolate bars of successively intense cacao content, starting with 55% and increasing by increments of 5% to 85% (interestingly, 70% is not one of the percentages offered).


In addition to the chocolate itself, I received a bar-sized piece of wood imprinted with the phrase that translates roughly to “sublime and revealing experience.” I’m not quite sure of the board’s true purpose, since I certainly wouldn’t want to get it dirty with chocolate stains! Nevertheless, I’m sure that it helped keep the bar intact during shipping between Nashville, TN and Southern California.

The simple design of the outer packaging has a notch to help keep the box closed after being opened.



Once you open the outer cardboard packaging, you see the bar wrapped in a sealed shiny gold foil pouch. Since the bar is slightly smaller than the outer packaging, I wonder if this contributed to the blemishes and chocolate “dust” that appeared on the unwrapped chocolate bar.


This bar may have been my first encounter with Brazilian chocolate. Upon opening the foil wrapping, the aroma of olives was surprising. The bar’s mold is comprised of several rectangle sizes – all the better to choose how much you want to enjoy in a given sitting. While there was a medium to dull snap to the bar, I was surprised to see some “striation”: part of the piece looked smooth, then there was a dividing line and then the rest of the piece looked a little gritty.



The visual textural appearance seemed to vary a bit from piece to piece, yet this did not affect the taste; each morsel was smooth, creamy and melted relatively quickly.



What started off as a bitter taste (earthy/woody/leathery), changed to fruity with hints of peppercorns. After trying the 65% bar, this makes me curious to try the other percentages as well.

Honestly, I’m still not clear if the company name is “Q Chocolate” or “Chocolate Q.” Regardless, this has definitely been a revelatory experience, just like the wooden board predicted.

To learn more about the various chocolates available + exclusive collections, check out: http://chocolateq.com/

Q is for Q’uma Chocolate

It wasn’t until I started putting together the “wish list” for Eating the Chocolate Alphabet that I discovered that some letters were much less readily available than others. Many people assume that “X” and “Z” would be problems…but really “Q” and “Y” were what stumped me!

Back in late May (at least a week before publishing my first blog post), while I was sitting in my friend’s kitchen savoring Belgian chocolates & treats he had acquired on his recent trip to that country, I mentioned how impossible it was to find a “Q” chocolate. Unbeknownst to me during that tasting, he surreptitiously located and purchased some “Q” chocolate bars online! (Have you ever noticed that sometimes the best way of getting something done is to say that it can’t be done?) A little later, the secret purchase was revealed to me, but I had to curb my enthusiasm since I knew that my friend would be traveling overseas again soon for more than a month. Visions of melted chocolate languishing in a neglected box in the brutal summer sun plagued my thoughts. For months, I heard nothing about the status of the shipment and then one day I received a text message from my friend letting me know that the Peruvian “Q” chocolates had been delivered safely! He had intentionally delayed the shipment/delivery until someone would be at his house to receive the package 🙂 (Did I mention that I have the most supportive friends ever?!)

Stay tuned later in the week to hear the story about another “Q” chocolate “miracle”!

Q’uma Chocolate – Quinoa 70%


I don’t know about you, but Q’uma quinoa is a “double word score” in my book!

According to their website, q’uma comes from the Quechua word q’umara, which means “healthy.” Quechua was the official language of the Inca Empire (1438 through 1533 – source: Wikipedia), but is still used by a little more than 10% of the population of Peru today. I really wasn’t able to corroborate this definition with online translation services, but I did find that q’uma translates to “crime” in English. Also, interestingly, in K’iche (the indigenous language of mesoamerican Maya peoples in Guatemala), the word q’uma’r translates to “rotten” – maybe the more accurate word is “fermented” since that is a major step in converting cacao beans into edible chocolate? I’ll leave it up to you to decide which meaning to accept.

One thing that caught my eye on the outer box was what appeared to be an iguana at the bottom left corner. Its spiral design reminds me of Maori tribal tattoos. However, I’m sure that this graphic pays homage to the animals that live in the Peruvian rainforests, where the single origin, Criollo varietal cacao beans for this bar are grown.


Inside the colorful outer box, is a sealed black foil pouch – the front mimics the design elements of the outer package and the back provides information about Q’uma in both English & Spanish.



Upon opening the inner pouch, I stuck my nose into the opening and detected a raisin or dried fruit aroma. Unfortunately, the bar itself (comprised of 8 squares) wasn’t glossy/shiny and had a few blemishes + almost looked a little bloomed – probably due to the summer heat endured during shipping.


There was a medium snap when segmenting the bar & a slightly “industrial” smell. This chocolate doesn’t melt in the mouth easily, despite having cacao butter as an ingredient; besides, in my opinion, the crunchy/nutty quinoa begs for the chocolate to be “chomped.”


While tasting the chocolate, there was no raisin or dried fruit notes. I was overwhelmed by a bitter roasted flavor and an astringent/funny after taste – I wasn’t sure if this was attributable to the added quinoa or the chocolate itself…so, as they say, there is only one way to find out!

Q’uma Chocolate – Extra Dark 70%


One thing that I didn’t notice as much on the quinoa packaging, is that there is a tree in the background behind the logo – probably since Q’uma refers to themselves as a “tree-to-bar” chocolate company (which, I suppose is a step beyond just bean-to-bar). It was fun to discover the variety of animals hiding amongst the branches.


Upon opening this inner packaging, the bar smelled heavily roasted + almost a bit ashy. Like the quinoa bar, this Extra Dark 70% bar also had some blemishes + a matte finish. Thankfully, this bar appeared less bloomed.


Even though both bars are 70% cacao content, the quinoa one appears to be lighter in color…is that because of the inclusions?


Like the quinoa bar, it had a medium snap & was slow to melt. I noticed a slightly gritty mouthfeel, though not like one attributed to stoneground cacao (aka Taza or Olive & Sinclair).


There was no odd after taste & this bar was much less astringent, so my guess is that the quinoa had somehow compromised the taste of the chocolate. While I admire that Q’uma strives to maintain the original taste of the beans through minimal processing and that their bars usually have only 4 ingredients, free from artificial flavors and/or emulsifiers, neither of these bars were complex and both lacked the bright fruity notes that are typically a characteristic of Peruvian chocolate. My friend kept 2 chocolates for himself (a milk chocolate + a 70% dark Maras salt chocolate), so hopefully his results will be better than mine!

If you’d like to purchase bars for yourself, here is the link to a U.S. company that imports and distributes these chocolates: http://www.makigourmetorganic.com/

To learn more about the Q’uma product line & philosophy, check out: http://www.qumachocolate.com/

Bonus “P” bar – Pump Street Bakery

What does your ideal breakfast look like? Mine is a warm piece of fresh bread with unsalted butter + a milky, rich sipping hot chocolate! Seems that I just found that winning combination in a chocolate bar made in England!!

Family-run Pump Street Bakery might best be known for their delicious breads and pastries that are made with minimal machinery use; but in 2013, they decided to take their obsessive attention to detail and start producing small batches of single origin chocolate bars in their shop between baking loaves of bread. Here is the link to a recent article about what happens when a baker decides to start making chocolate.

Their bean-to-bar production process has been tailored to achieve unique flavor profiles depending on the carefully sourced and selected single-origin beans which are imported from different farms around the world. These beans are roasted in their bread oven, then the ground nibs are conched (refined) for up to five days and the chocolate is matured for a month before being tempered.

Below, is the second in their “Bakery Series” of chocolate bars:

Rye Crumb, Milk & Sea Salt (60%) – made with Ecuadorian beans from the Hacienda Limon farm


As you can see, there is minimal packaging involved…just a flat, re-sealable, foil lined zip lock Kraft paper pouch with a lot number sticker keeping the pouch closed and nothing else. Upon opening the pouch, I stuck my nose into the bag’s opening and immediately thought of fresh-baked pumpernickel bread! That aroma shouldn’t be a surprise since this bar is made with dried 100% rye loaf bread which was ground into fine bread crumbs and added to the chocolate with a pinch of sea salt.

Unfortunately, this small 16-rectangle bar was broken in half during transit, but that just made it easier to start tasting!


As a quick side note, this was the single most cooperative bar, so far, in terms of “posing” for photographs!



There was a medium snap to the bar, but I was surprised that mini chocolate “crumbs” went flying everywhere while segmenting the rectangles for tasting. Though many suggest “melting” chocolate in your mouth for a tasting, I challenge you not to “chomp” this bar! Each bite is a crunchy delight. It was like eating a freshly toasted slice of bread that had been lightly buttered. For me, the creamy smooth dark milk chocolate was secondary to the texture and flavor of the rye bread crumbs.


Originally I was concerned when I noticed that this bar was about 2 months past the “best by” date, but it didn’t seem to adversely affect the taste at all…I can only imagine what it would be like “fresh”! It’s no wonder that this bar won Gold in 2015 at the Academy of Chocolate in London for the Best Flavoured Milk Chocolate Bar category.

Looks like I’ll soon need to visit some of the shops that carry their bars locally so that I can try more from their “Bakery Series”: the sourdough bar which started it all + their Honduras Bread & Butter bar which won multiple awards at the 2016 Academy of Chocolate.

To learn more about this multi-talented bakery & café, as well as see their full line-up of bars, check out: http://www.pumpstreetbakery.com/

P is for Patric Chocolate

Alan “Patric” McClure started his bean-to-bar chocolate company just a decade ago after spending a year in France. Since 2011, his chocolates have annually garnered prestigious Good Food Awards; and since 2013, he has received three or more Awards each year! With 15 Good Food Awards in total, sources say that “this makes Patric Chocolate the all-time winner of more Good Food Awards than any other company nationwide, in any category.”

With a pedigree like that, it’s no wonder that his chocolates are elusive! When you finally find one at a local store, there is no question about whether or not to purchase it, you just do. Then you notice that the label says “Limited Edition” – well, now you feel that you should go out & buy lottery tickets…there’s no stopping your winning streak! 🙂

If you’ll allow me the “artistic license” of re-ordering the words slightly, this bar’s name becomes a bit of an alliterative tongue twister: Patric Peru Piura (I wish I could figure out a few more appropriate words to add so that we can complete the Pa, Pe, Pi syllabic series!) But I digress…

The easy-to-open cream colored packaging made from 30% recycled post-consumer fiber & printed with soy ink sports a large eye-catching fleur de lis on the front.


Ingeniously, this packaging can be used for multiple bars since the specific bar’s information is simply added with a clear sticker in the appropriate spot on the front.


Before getting to the bar itself, you can read some history about the company, as well as the 10 steps that were taken to produce each bar.


The first thing you see when opening the outer packaging, is a pristine matte rectangle wrapped in plastic, with a stylized embossed “signature” facing you. For a 67% bar, the color is a deep, rich brown.


Maybe it’s me, but the “P” almost looks like a ballet dancer or an ice skater in an arabesque position.


Unwrapping the bar, there was no mistaking that the carefully selected, rare Criollo beans from the high-altitude Piura region of Peru had been roasted. After precise roasting at a low temperature to bring out the fruity notes, the ground nibs underwent a long conching (refining) time to ensure a smooth mouth feel. Instead of breaking a bar apart with my fingers (since fingerprints tend to make the bar less photogenic), I generally use a knife. I was surprised that slicing through the bar proved to be a bit difficult since it was denser than I expected.


Despite this, there was a satisfying sharp snap when creating bite sized tasting morsels. The slow melting, not-too-sweet chocolate started out with bright fruit notes that made me think of both citrus and berries. During the melt, it was as if there were little effervescent bursts of flavor and it finished like a warming port or dessert wine for me.

You can be sure that the next time I find Patric Chocolates in a local store, I’ll be stocking up on more flavors…especially the Triple-Ginger and Red Coconut Curry which won awards in 2016!

Even though the online store is closed until the next chocolate bar release, check out http://patric-chocolate.com/ for more information about the 10 year history of the company + their philosophy on sustainability practices. As a respected leader in the burgeoning craft chocolate movement, Alan also provides chocolate consultation services!

O is for Only Child Chocolate Co.

Several months ago, I saw a “flat lay” of a variety of chocolate bars on someone’s Instagram feed and was captivated by the endearing hedgehog graphic of an unknown-to-me bar. Luckily, the post hash-tagged that chocolate by name so that I could search them out for myself! After reading the “backstory” of each bar on Only Child Chocolate’s website, I knew I had to try their trio of inclusion bars with adorable graphics & even cuter, pun-inspired names!


Since this purchase was made during the summer heat, owner Yana Yakhnes sent me a sweet, detailed email to ensure that I was aware of all the caveats of shipping from Portland, Oregon to Southern California. I assured her that I would be home to greet the mail carrier and that the chocolates would be well cared for once they arrived to me. What a thrill to receive the chocolates just a couple of days later…she had thoughtfully included a few bonus nib-topped solid chocolate heart bonbons + a colorful fringed, party paper blowout (think of a vintage noisemaker toy that doesn’t actually make noise!) Receiving that package brightened my day & was the perfect way to start the weekend 🙂

Hedgehog in the Fog (34% white choc with bergamot & black pepper)


This bar was named after a Russian cartoon where the two animal characters (a hedgehog and bear) would search for each other in a misty forest so that they can have tea together. This particular hedgehog must be drinking an Earl Grey tea since bergamot oil is what gives Earl Grey its distinctive taste.


The thick plain brown cardboard outer box is completely wrapped by a sticker with the eye-catching graphic on one side and the ingredients/informational details on the other. Since that sticker covers the flaps of the box, I needed a knife or letter opener to slice open the package so as to preserve the sticker intact…a minor inconvenience that most people probably wouldn’t notice or care about.

The four rectangle bar is wrapped in a re-sealable plastic sleeve and upon opening that, lemon was the predominant aroma (I’m so surprised that I didn’t sneeze when sniffing the cracked black pepper inclusion side!)


I always thought of bergamot as an orange-y flavor, so I decided to do some research on this citrus fruit. In case you’re interested too, here is a link to an article with more information.

Ordinarily I’m not a fan of white chocolate…this not-too-sweet bar was creamy & smooth, with just the right amount of cracked black pepper to provide a gentle back-of-the-throat lingering heat. While taking photos, I had to remind myself that this was not a savory white cheddar cheese 😉


Rosemary and Ginger Walk Into a Bar (38% milk chocolate with rosemary & candied ginger)

How can you not smile when looking at the slender sprig of rosemary and the ginger rhizome enjoying a cocktail together on the front of this packaging?



Like the white chocolate bar, the inclusion side of this bar is so photogenic, with its mostly evenly distributed clusters of crumbled candied ginger sitting atop rosemary-infused milk chocolate.


During the first couple of bites, I tasted and smelled mostly rosemary (which is a pleasant aromatherapy experience in itself!) The distinctive tangy “bite” of the candied ginger seemed to be cumulative & made itself known soon enough. While ginger might be a divisive ingredient, it is personally one of my favorite flavors. In my opinion, the creamy, smooth milk chocolate flecked with earthy rosemary paired well with the savory candied ginger. There are so many culinary and herbal benefits to rosemary and ginger…maybe this bar should be considered a “health food”?! ;-p

The Sun and the Sea (70% Venezuelan dark chocolate with sunflower seeds & sea salt)

Saving the best for last!



Upon removing the bar from the packaging, it was obvious why sunflower seeds were listed as the first ingredient 🙂 This bar reminded me more of a thin Rice Krispies treat than an inclusion bar!


It seems like generous handfuls of unsalted roasted sunflower seeds were coated with dark chocolate, formed into a bark/slab and dotted with quick melting large sea salt crystals.


I didn’t really notice olive oil, though it’s listed as an ingredient. Maybe this helped to keep the bar shiny and smooth? While it was hard to isolate the chocolate from the seeds themselves, I certainly didn’t mind as I munched away blissfully and tried hard not to eat the entire bar in one sitting!

Paraphrasing from the website, these unexpected flavors seize you by the hand and take you on a joyful adventure. To learn more, check out: http://onlychildchocolate.com/