S is for Surabaya

Focusing on “origins” for this round of the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project has provided so many opportunities to improve my knowledge of world geography. Until today, when I thought of Indonesia, the first thing that came to mind was a unique “rijsttafel” (rice table) meal that I experienced in Amsterdam several years ago. After researching this Willie’s Cacao dark chocolate bar, I have a new mental picture of the Indonesian island of Java and the port city of Surabaya (which also happens to be the second largest city in Indonesia, after Jakarta).

Curious about the etymology of the word Surabaya, I discovered that “sura” means a shark, while “baya” means a crocodile. So it makes perfect sense that Surabaya would use these two animals as part of their coat of arms above a motto that translates to “bravely facing danger.”

Source: Wikipedia

On the back of the foil stamped and embossed small square box, chocolate maker Willie Harcourt-Cooze is quoted as saying “This Javan Dark Breaking bean stopped me in my tracks. It’s an adventure in taste with its criollo characteristics and soft caramel and toffee flavours, born in the volcanic soil of Surabaya.”

The phrase “Dark Breaking bean” was new to me, so I decided to research further. Typing those words into a Google search engine, I discovered that every single entry referred to a Willie’s Cacao bar, so I had to dig more!

Luckily, a PDF version of a 2001 document from the International Trade Centre entitled “Cacao: A Guide to Trade Practices” provided the explanation I was looking for:

“When cocoa beans are examined in the laboratory or during grading, they are cut lengthways and the interior of the bean is examined for colour and defects. If the colour is light brown, the bean is considered ‘light breaking’. If the colour is dark, it is ‘dark breaking’. Light breaking beans are generally of the Criollo variety (some are Trinitario or Nacional-based), i.e. fine or flavour beans. Basic cocoa beans of the Forastero variety are generally dark breaking.”

This left me a little confused since the above information refers to Forastero beans being dark breaking, even though Willie’s label mentions Criollo, which seems to be the type of bean that the Dutch planted in Java/Indonesia according to this source from Bali (an island and province in Indonesia).

“Java became the first region outside the New World that began producing these heritage [Criollo] beans commercially and as these genetics acclimated to their new surroundings they took on their own terroir. Today these beans are called ‘Light Breaking Javas’ for the fact that they still exhibit the famed Criollo low pigmentation when the cacao beans are cut in half.”

Hmmm, I still have questions about the precise genetics of the beans used for this bar! But enough about that, let’s see how this bar tastes!!

Willie’s Cacao Surabaya Gold Indonesian Dark Chocolate Single Cacao 69%

Removing the bar from the gold foil inner pouch emblazoned with an offset cursive capital “W,” I noticed that the bar was lightly frosted and/or had a bloomed appearance as well as a coating of “chocolate dust.”

Lightly buffing the surface with a fingertip, returned the bar to its original shine. Below are the “during” and “after” shots for comparison purposes.

Breaking off a tasting morsel with a brittle/sharp snap, there was an earthy/mineral smell to the bar. The piece had a lightly textured (not completely smooth) mouthfeel during the slow/even melt. Almost immediately, there was a smoky flavor that seemed to cumulatively increase. Sadly, no soft caramel and/or toffee notes for me!

Curious about the cacao drying practices in Indonesia, I did another search and discovered this from a description of a Bonnat chocolate bar:

“The intemperate climate on this large Indonesian island means that, as with Papua [New Guinea] chocolate, the beans are dried using large open fires. The result is a chocolate infused with a little hint of smoke.”

Seeing this description made me remember that I had that exact Bonnat bar in my stash!

What a difference in color between a 65% dark milk (Bonnat) shown at the top of the photo and a 69% dark (Willie’s Cacao) at the bottom:

This made me understand “light breaking” and “dark breaking” beans much more clearly!

Have YOU tried bars from Surabaya, Java and/or Indonesia? Let me know your thoughts in a comment!

For more information on Willie’s Cacao, please visit: https://www.williescacao.com/

You can find additional information on Bonnat, here: https://bonnat-chocolatier.com/en

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *