One of my most favorite things about this round of the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project (aside from tasting the bars themselves, of course) has been discovering interesting tidbits about where the cacao for those chocolate bars was grown. One esoteric piece of information can easily transport me down more than one “rabbit hole” of research. I have to say that this origin was a little more challenging than most since I found various spellings online (sometimes within the same source document): Matasawalevu, Mataswalevu or even Matacawalevu! I’m a stickler for accuracy, so hopefully someone out there who has personally visited the area can tell me how it SHOULD be spelled!!
Although I’ve seen friends’ beach and surfing vacation photos taken in Fiji, it wasn’t until today that I took time to learn more about the island country that is 1,100 nautical miles northeast of New Zealand. The Republic of Fiji (as it is officially known) is an archipelago consisting of more than 330 islands, though only 110 of those islands are inhabited and just the two largest ones make up almost ninety percent of the total population.
While it might seem that cacao is a recent agricultural commodity for the country, its history dates back to when the British colonized the area in the 1880s. In fact, it surprised me to learn that there is a cacao pod depicted on the country’s flag. Here is a close up of the coat of arms and you can see the pod being held in the lion’s paws!
The cacao industry dwindled during the country’s political unrest of the late-1980s, but has seen a resurgence recently thanks in part by the efforts of Mr. Arif Khan who returned to his native homeland after working as a realtor in California for almost 20 years. You can read more about that story through this link. Mr. Khan’s cacao farming, processing and trading company, Cacao Fiji, has been working closely with the Matasawalevu/Mataswalevu Cocoa Farm located in the foothills, overlooking the Dreketi River in the Macuata Province of Vanua Levu (the second largest island of Fiji, which was formerly known as Sandalwood Island). So far, I’ve only seen this origin used by a few craft chocolate makers: one in California, one in Canada and another in New Zealand.
I happen to have two makers’ bars in my stash, but I’m featuring the one from New Zealand: Hogarth’s Early Harvest 2016 Fiji 73% dark chocolate.
This is personally one of the most highly anticipated bars of the series after seeing fellow chocolate bloggers post pictures of this brand’s other bars. The 3D relief artwork on the textured outer wrapper is both evocative and elegant in its simplicity.
Upon unfolding the lined metallic gold paper inner wrapper from the bar, there was a super intense dried fruit aroma. Sadly that smell faded shortly after the bar was exposed to the air. It was breathtaking to finally see the stunningly detailed mold: the rolling waves from the packaging echoed again on the bar itself with a monogrammed “H” taking center stage.
The relatively thick bar felt substantial in my hand and it seemed to require a bit of effort to break off a tasting morsel without marring the overall aesthetic integrity of the bar. With a somewhat dry/brittle snap, I was able to segment a fairly even rectangle. Splitting that in half with a sharp snap, when I placed the pieces together for a “cross section” photo, it almost looked like a pair of little clogs or low-heeled dancing slippers!
All my tongue could detect during the slow, smooth, even melt were the ridges from the intricate mold design. Overall, the flavor reminded me of a bittersweet dense flourless chocolate cake or a velvety dessert wine. Chewing a piece brought out nutty/roasted notes which finished with a light citrus/acidic aftertaste at the back of the throat & upper palate.
Now that I’ve tried this bar, I’m intrigued to taste other chocolates made from Forastero Amelonado cacao. Do YOU have any recommendations?!
Next time I visit New Zealand, you can be sure that I’ll want to visit Hogarth and stock up on more of their gorgeous bars. Please visit their website for more details: https://www.hogarthchocolate.co.nz/wp/