Every day affords us the chance to learn something new if we maintain an open mind and embrace the opportunities that are placed on our paths!
As I was putting together a list of bars to feature for this round of the Alphabet, Nicalizo kept popping into my mind, probably because I’ve tried this “origin” a couple of times already this year. What I didn’t realize until today was that Nicalizo is NOT an origin, but the trademarked name of a Trinitario-Acriollado variety of cacao that grows in the northern mountains of Nicaragua near the Honduras border which was identified/propagated by Ingemann Cacao Fino (Fine Cacao) located outside the capital city of Managua. Also, Nicalizo® was the first Nicaraguan cacao to be awarded Heirloom Cacao Preservation status; they are number 8 of 13, so far.
For a while now, I’ve been envious of my fellow chocolate bloggers who have been posting about Lithuanian Chocolate Naive’s nano-lot bars, so (of course) I had to get one for myself. When you hear the term “nano-lot,” what comes to mind? That the maker produced a very small number of bars? That the grower’s yield was limited? Both of these are certainly plausible! According to the packaging, it sounds like the “nano” designation comes from the fact that chocolate maker, Domantas Uzpalis, was able to “secure the very last 60kg [approx. 132 lbs.] of this special lot that was supervised and preserved by mad cocoa fermentation scientist Zoi Papalexandratou PhD. in mid-2015.” A quick look on LinkedIn shows that Dr. Zoi is the former Head of Research & Development + Post-Harvest Management for Ingemann Fine Cacao and that she specializes in cocoa fermentation as it relates to flavor development.
Are you sufficiently intrigued?! Well, then let’s get to tasting the chocolate!!
The plain black and white cardboard box with the embossed logo of a man riding a unicycle (which will be repeated on the chocolate bar itself) is in stark contrast to the vibrant packaging that I’ve seen from Chocolate Naive recently! The only pop of color comes from the double-sided informational insert that holds the wrapped bar in place within the box.
Taking a closer look at the insert, you learn what makes these beans special:
As you might expect, the bar is a light brown, almost like a mocha or café au lait. It surprised me to discover milk powder as an ingredient since I was expecting this to be a dark chocolate bar (though I wasn’t able to find any cacao percentage listed either on the packaging or the company website).
Even though the front of the bar sports a near flawless, textured, matte finish, the back of the bar looks a bit lumpy by comparison.
In the photo below, I’ve used a silver tone filter and zoomed in to what appears to me as a friendly dragon or partially decorated Christmas tree. What do YOU see?! 🤔
Earthy and freshly-ground coffee bean smells greeted my nose upon removing the bar from the sealed pouch. Breaking off a morsel with a sharp snap, there was a dairy/milky aroma at the break point.
While there were initial quick bursts of fruit flavors as the chocolate melted on my tongue, those evolved to honey/caramel/nutty notes and ended with what I can only describe as a “dusty” finish (imagine papery walnut skins). Subsequent tastes brought out lightly smoky notes. The texture seemed a little crumbly when chewed, resulting in a thick mouthfeel which coated the tongue + palate. There was certainly a long lasting chocolate aftertaste, though I didn’t use a stopwatch to confirm if it matched the 9 minutes quoted on the packaging insert!
As a parting thought, I wanted to share that prior to tasting the bar this morning, last night I listened to episode 17 of the “Unwrapped: A conversation about chocolate” podcast which discussed microlots, exclusives, scarcity and rarity. While Sunita & Brian’s 50 minute chat was rambling at times, it certainly made me consider whether terms like “nano-lot” are just clever marketing tools to hook those of us with a FOMO (fear of missing out). I’d like to think that wasn’t my (subconcious) motivation! 😲
If you’ve tried this bar or have an opinion on the term “nano-lot,” I’d love to hear from you. Send me a message or leave a comment below.
Stay open to new learning experiences each day & early Merry Christmas!