Zotter Redux

In addition to their hand-scooped bars, Zotter Chocolate also has a line of single-origin chocolates called Labooko. Typically, there are two 35g bars in one packaging. In this case, I chose a dual tasting “contest” bar containing a 72% Belize bar (which was conched for 21 hours) and a 72% Panama bar (which was conched for 22 hours).


However, upon opening the uniquely folded informational outer wrapper, I came to the realization that both bars were wrapped in IDENTICAL gold foil and did not have any distinguishing labels to indicate which was which (unlike the Sirene tasting bars that I reviewed a few weeks ago).



Maybe a “blind” tasting was the intent of the packaging? Maybe I was oblivious to some crucial clue that would help to identify each bar? Feeling perplexed, I decided to call Zotter’s customer service line and had a very pleasant chat with Barbara Dolleschal, co-owner and manager of the Cape Coral, Florida location. She mentioned that, unless things had changed at headquarters in Austria, the Panama bar was on the left side and the Belize bar was on the right (when looking at the packaging as if it was an open book). Prior to my call, as I opened each chocolate individually and placed them on a plate for ease of comparing & contrasting, I tried to pay attention to which one came from the left side of the packaging and which one from the right side. In my excitement, I *may* have lost track…oops!

So, below I’ll provide my tasting notes, but will only be able to refer to the bars as “top” and “bottom” based on this photo:


Each bar is imprinted with, what looks to me, two cacao pods. The pod in the foreground is plain and the pod in the background has writing etched into it, though I can’t make out the words.


The bar on the bottom looked a little darker in color than the top bar and had a stronger roasted aroma. In segmenting the bar, it produced a sharp snap and seemed to break apart in a smooth, even chunks.


The mouthfeel was smooth and creamy (probably due to the additional cocoa butter) and had a rich, warm, nutty flavor. My guess is that this is the Panama one.

The bar on the top produced a brittle snap and broke apart in jagged, uneven pieces, sending little shards flying every which way.



This one looked a little drier in texture and had a less creamy mouthfeel. Overall the flavor was multi-layered: starting off earthy, turning to fruity (reminding me of berries) and finishing a bit like toasted bread or malt. Based on prior experiences, my guess is that this is the Belize bar.

While I enjoyed both bars, I’m still curious about which was which. I may never really know. Next time I’ll pay more attention, but it would also be helpful for Zotter to provide a label on each bar to minimize confusion. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to determine the meaning of the word “Labooko” that is imprinted on the bars and the packaging, so please let know if you have additional information!

One thing that I forgot to mention in my last Zotter post is how well the chocolates were packaged for transit. They wrapped the bars in a cocoon of silver thermal bubble wrap and added a cute ice pack just in case.



There is a warning in three languages advising people not to eat the contents of the squishy square! I love the English translation 🙂

It’s hard to believe that 26 weeks ago I embarked on this journey to alphabetically sample new-to-me chocolates A through Z. This is a proud moment for me as I post the last entry for this year. THANK YOU all for your support and encouragement throughout this process!

If you’ve come to enjoy the weekly stories, never fear, “Round 2” of Eating the Chocolate Alphabet is in the works! My goal will be to feature unique inclusion ingredients (think A is for Amaranth and B is for Bay Nut) and all brands/makers are fair game. If there is an unusual inclusion ingredient that you think I should try, please send me a note! I’m pretty sure that “X” is going to be challenging since I don’t want to feature Xanthan Gum or Xylitol. I wonder if there is a chocolate that incorporates XO sauce?! If not, hopefully this will inspire someone to do so 😉

Until the new year, I wish you all Happy Holidays starting with Thanksgiving tomorrow!

Z is for Zotter Chocolate

Honestly, I’m not sure how or why I began following the Russian Zotter Biochocolate Instagram account. Before Instagram introduced the “translate” button, I certainly couldn’t understand their Cyrillic posts, but I was always mesmerized by their mouthwatering chocolate photos. It was only recently that I discovered the U.S. (Cape Coral, Florida) version on Instagram and continue to follow both accounts to this day. In case you’re curious, there are even more Zotter accounts that I could follow: Austria, Brazil, Hawaii and Poland…each one with unique content!

According to their website: “Our bean to bar chocolate, created in-house, is spread and rolled out very thinly on 15 meter tracks while at the same time, assorted fine fillings and ganaches are prepared using over 400 organic ingredients. As soon as the chocolate has cooled down, it is topped with the filling. Before the next layer is applied, it has to rest. Depending on the recipe, this process will be repeated several times. Lastly, a thin chocolate coating is spread on top and then, this gigantic piece of chocolate is cut into our classic 70g Zotter bars.” Can you imagine a chocolate bar measuring almost 50 feet long?! Next time I visit Austria, I would LOVE to visit their factory for a tour!

As you might have guessed, based on my love of unusual inclusion ingredients, the chocolates that captured most of my attention were the “hand-scooped” (filled) bars! Frequently I see delicious close-up photos of the multi-layered bars and have lost count of all the ones I wanted to add to my wish list. Visiting their website recently didn’t make the choices any easier…if money were no object, I would have happily ordered one of each (from weird to classic, there are 300-400 to choose from)! 🙂

Alas, I narrowed down my selections to these three unique bars:


Pumpkin Seeds with Marzipan

Aside from the bars themselves, it’s hard not to be captivated by the colorful wrappers with art by Andreas H. Gratze, as well as the eye catching embossed gold foil used for the company name.


In addition to the wrapper being printed on environmentally friendly paper with environmentally friendly colors, I like being able to easily slip the wrapped bar from the outer sleeve. Minimal adhesive was used to keep the sleeve closed, so that you could easily unfold the wrapper to read what was printed on the inside and then re-close the wrapper, as needed.


Opening the lightly waxed shiny gold foil inner wrapper, I noticed some discolored patches, which I assume come from pumpkin seed oil that may have seeped out during storage. Matching the outside of the wrapper, the company name was lightly embossed into the chocolate on a diagonal at evenly spaced intervals across the entire back side of the bar.


This 60% dark milk chocolate is filled with marzipan and pumpkin seed nougat (24%), which is a Styrian classic. Slicing a thin rectangle from the bar, you easily see the distinct layers: chocolate sandwiching equal rows of thick pumpkin seed nougat & moist marzipan studded with almonds.


It was fascinating to learn that Styrian pumpkins produce hull-less (“naked”) seeds, meaning that the bright green seeds don’t need to be “shelled” like the standard pepitas that I’m familiar with. The black fleck at the top left of this close-up is part of a caramelized pumpkin seed.


The flavors were well-balanced, with no one ingredient overshadowing the other. There was the nutty sweetness of the marzipan and the earthiness of the pumpkin seeds. One ingredient that surprised me was apple brandy, though this seems to gives the bar a touch of holiday warmth. Until now, I never realized that there could be severe anaphylactic reactions to celery, so it’s a good thing that Zotter includes that their bars might have traces of the vegetable as part of their allergy warnings on the back of each label, given that they use many uncommon and unexpected flavor combinations in their hand-scooped bars.

Goji Berries in Sesame Nougat

Surprisingly, this wrapper was written mostly in German rather than English, so I had to refer to the online description. This vegan bar uses a soy couverture and is filled with goji berries and sesame nougat (25%).



Cutting into the bar, you can see the stripes of each layer: soy/cocoa mass couverture (flavored with coriander, vanilla, star anise and cinnamon), homemade sesame nougat, a green tea ganache and a generous handful of dried whole goji berries. Goji berries have been nicknamed “happy berries” because of the sense of well-being they are said to induce.


The soy couverture had a dull whitish sheen that retained fingerprints very easily, but produced a moderate snap when broken apart. The taste of the slightly dry and dense white sesame nougat reminded me of halva without the associated grittiness. While I’m not typically a fan of green tea, the earthiness was somewhat offset by the chewy sweet goji berries.

Typically Austria

This bar is described online as Mountain Milk Chocolate (40%) filled with caramelized grey poppy cream (32%), homemade walnut nougat (28%) and a thin layer of cinnamon.


Unwrapping the bar, the aroma reminded me of an Almond Joy candy bar even though there is no coconut in Zotter’s bar. I was also intrigued by the tank tread pattern on the back of the bar, which makes sense based on the company’s description of their bar production process mentioned earlier. Since the ingredients are all part of the brown color wheel family, the straight/even layers are harder to distinguish from each other.


There was a mild snap when segmenting this bar into tasting morsels. Overall, the piece was buttery and nutty, but there was also a sour “tang” that reminded me of yogurt or sheep’s milk.

Unfortunately, this was my least favorite of the bunch, but the tiny, crunchy, caramelized poppy seeds started to win me over at the end.


One of the things that I want to learn more about (and potentially experiment with) is the “Mi-Xing bar,” an online tool that allows customers to choose from 99 different ingredients to create their very own favorite chocolate. Just imagine the endless possibilities!

As an added bonus, Zotter sent a tiny plain chocolate bar with my order. The wrapper provide me with a 20% discount coupon code for a future purchase, which I promptly used to order an advent calendar filled with mini hand-scooped bars. In December, I’ll be counting down the days until Christmas with 24 new-to-me flavors…I can’t wait for it to arrive 🙂

To learn more and order your own unique assortment, check out: https://www.zotterusa.com/

Y is for Yes I Do Love

Each time I sat down to write a blog post, I thought about the letter “Y” and dreaded that the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project might have to settle for a York Peppermint Patty since it seemed like there were no chocolatiers/chocolate makers out there with a company name starting with “Y” making bars. Then one day in September, I happened to read a comment from Yes I Do Love on a fellow Instagrammer’s post. I was THRILLED to have finally found a “Y” company! So, I eagerly sent off an email to their headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and anxiously awaited a reply to determine if they could ship to Southern California.

Aina Osman, Founder and CEO of Yes I Do Love, wrote back quickly and agreed to send me some of her chocolates at no charge, as long as I covered the freight/shipping costs. While the $67 (USD) price tag caused some “sticker shock,” no other options seemed to be available to feature a bar for the second to last letter of the alphabet!

Aina forewarned me that, unfortunately, the package could not be shipped with any cooling/ice packs, so we all hoped for the best during the 2-day transit amidst a heat wave in late September. She generously sent me four boxes (2 of each flavor) since the freight cost was based on the dimensions rather than the weight of the UPS pouch. Monitoring the shipment from the time I received the tracking number, I was disappointed to learn that the package would be delivered after 6 PM when I would be away for the evening. Upon returning home, despite the late hour, I just HAD to check out my shipment! The boxes were very well packaged within a zip lock plastic bag and additionally padded with bubble wrap, but there seemed to be an overwhelming “industrial” odor emanating from the packaging that was off-putting. What had the shipment been subjected to during its almost 9,000 mile overseas journey to me?! At that point, I decided to open one of each of the boxes to smell the chocolate bars themselves and they too had the same odd smell. Since my “policy” is not to pre-taste any chocolates until their designated week, I simply placed the still-wrapped bars into a quart sized freezer bag and then put the bag in my wine fridge for storage until this week. My hope was that the odor would lessen or disappear. During the almost 2 months that the bars have been in storage, I have periodically checked the chocolates and thankfully the smell did lessen, but it is still present. My guess is that FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified recycled paper packaging printed with vegetable ink has a distinctive “wet newspaper” smell since it reminded me of Tony’s Chocolonely packaging and annual report booklet.

The hexagonal black boxes are very visually elegant and look like jewelry cases. The removable lid appears to have an intertwined heart design imprinted with glossy, textured spot UV coating so that no additional wrapping would be needed if you wanted to provide this as a hostess/party gift. The 110mm square wrapped chocolate bar is nestled in a custom holder within the 8.5” x 7.25” x 1.25” box. While, the bar itself weighs about 70g (2.5 ounces), the filled box weighs about 5.25 ounces, so there is slightly more than twice as much packaging than chocolate, something to consider when shipping.



Sorry for the long preamble, now for the chocolates themselves!

From the Single Origin Collection – Pleaser (69% Mexico Criollo Cocoa)


Opening the box, the first thing you see is a multi-page page booklet + the company motto imprinted on the inside of the lid: “For some, there is therapy. For the rest, there is Chocolate. For Goodness Goddesses, there is YES I DO LOVE.” The term Goodness Goddesses refers to women who are interested in health and well-being and choose foods that are pure and natural. Yes I Do Love caters to these women since their chocolates are free from refined sugar, soy, gluten, dairy, preservatives, artificial flavorings and colorings. Additionally, the imported cocoa mass and cocoa butter that are used to produce their bars are made from organic, unroasted beans. Coconut flower sugar, known for its low glycemic index and other health benefits, contributes to a natural sweetness while 100% pure ground vanilla beans from the Kingdom of Tonga adds even more flavor nuances.

Once you remove the booklet that is covering the chocolate bar, you immediately see the suggestive phrase “undress me” imprinted on the patterned charcoal grey outer wrapper. This sexy vibe continues with the bright red lipstick and nail polish on the model in the two-page spread on the first page of the booklet.


This outer paper wrapper is held closed with double sided tape at each of the three folds, which seems to heighten the anticipation of “undressing” the bar. Slipping off that layer, you see a pink and white gingham check wax paper wrapper held closed with a round sticker with an motivational phrase and more double sided tape.


Finally you reach the chocolate bar itself…9 squares spelling out the word chocolate in raised block letters. Yes I Do Love suggests eating one square per day of the week & 2 squares on each weekend day! It’s a pity that the chocolate bar had a dull, chalky finish since I’ve seen gorgeous glossy bar photos on Instagram and the company’s website. Additionally, chocolate “dust” and air bubbles marred the surface of several letters.



As an experiment, I rubbed gently on an “O” and the “E” – my body’s heat was able to make them shiny, turning the color to “black coffee” (as indicated on this tasting sheet from Projet Chocolat).



However, the back looked like a starry night sky, dotted with fat bloom.


Using a knife to cut off one corner of the bar, the chocolate square broke apart with uneven, jagged lines even where I wasn’t applying pressure. To make tasting sized morsels, the pieces had a satisfying sharp snap. The aroma of each piece was very earthy and reminded me of experimental samples that I tasted over the weekend at the NW Chocolate Festival that were made from under (or poorly) fermented beans. As expected with minimally processed stone ground cacao, the texture was quite gritty.


Though the pieces didn’t melt easily, my initial first tastes were bitter and nutty. In my opinion, the bar tastes better when “chomped” (chewed) since that produced caramel notes.

From the Fusion Collection – Allure (66% Mexico Criollo Cocoa + Pink Himalayan Salt)


Underneath the same “undress me” grey charcoal outer wrapper, this bar was wrapped in plain white paper with a round sticker and the folds were also held closed with sticky double sided tape.


While the flat portion of the bar looked less chalky, the letters were marred by chocolate “dust” again.


The back of the bar was much less bloomed than the first one, though there was hardly any evidence of the pink Himalayan salt inclusion which seems to have all but disappeared/dissolved into the chocolate itself.


I experimented with rubbing one of the letters and it took more effort/time to clean the surface.


This bar broke apart more cleanly, but had a brittle snap when being segmented. The smell reminded me of wet pumice stone or earthy minerals. Placing the chocolate on my tongue I could immediately taste the salt and it felt abrasive as I tried to melt the gritty morsel. Once more, this tasted better when “chomped” as it produced fruity/sweet and caramel flavors that are distinctive to coconut flower sugar.


Aina Osman’s mission to encourage women to be self-loving and to empower underprivileged children through education is admirable. Three percent of the RRP (recommended retail price) of 69 Malaysian Ringgits (equivalent to about 16 US Dollars) goes to the “Chocolate for Compassion Movement” which aims to eventually give out scholarships to learn Food Science since “education is the gateway to change one’s life.” Aina’s own backstory is also inspirational: rather than allow the auto-immune disorder of psoriasis to hold her back, she felt that natural foods could be a healing antidote. With her knowledge of Food Science (having worked for the Barry Callebaut Group for many years) and a degree in Chemical Engineering, she created the Yes I Do Love artisanal chocolate company and she was blessed with a remarkable recovery in October 2015.

It’s really too bad that international shipping was not kind to these chocolates. Hopefully next time I’ll be able to try this brand in more ideal conditions. Even though I’m not personally a fan of unroasted chocolate, the 66% with strawberry pieces + shredded coconut sounds tasty.

To learn more, please check out: http://yesidolove.com/

X is for Xocolatl de David

During the initial planning stages of the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet series, most people assumed that “X” would be a difficult letter to find. Thankfully in the Aztec language Nahuatl, “chocolate” is “Xocolatl”: the combination of the words “xococ” for sour or bitter and “atl” for water or drink, so while “X” chocolatiers and chocolate makers aren’t plentiful, it was a relatively easy letter for me!

After discovering that a friend of mine would be visiting Portland, Oregon, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to request that some Xocolatl de David bars return home with him. Knowing those bars were available at any Portland Salt and Straw artisanal ice cream shop location, I hoped that my request for 1-2 unusually flavored bars wouldn’t be too hard to accommodate. When asked to define “unusual,” I mentioned sourdough + olive oil or Parmigiano-Reggiano (in my heart, I really hoped for foie gras and would “settle” for hazelnut + black truffle or one with peppers!) Maybe those flavors weren’t available and these were the most “unusual” ones that could be obtained, though these seem pretty mainstream to me!

Bacon Caramel (72% Ecuador)


The packaging is fairly plain and simple on the front, with the company logo letterpressed toward the bottom third of the beige colored box. The informational sticker that keeps the envelope closure sealed in the back folds over the top of the box to announce the flavor, the phonetic pronunciation of “Xocolatl” + the percentage and country of origin of the cacao. My only complaint is that you can’t open the packaging without destroying the informational sticker (I’ll show you what I mean when I review the 2nd bar later in this post).


One of the ingredients that caught my eye was “invert sugar.” I looked on Wikipedia for a definition, but that only confused me more. Thank goodness for my trusty “Food Lover’s Companion” (a Barron’s Cooking Guide) for simplifying the explanation! From the Third Edition: “Invert sugar is created by combining a sugar syrup with a small amount of acid (such as cream of tartar or lemon juice) and heating. This inverts, or breaks down, the sucrose into its two components, glucose and fructose, thereby reducing the size of the sugar crystals. Because of its fine crystal structure, invert sugar produces a smoother product…” (and some say that it’s also sweeter tasting).

Removing the bar from the foil wrapping, I was surprised to see what looked like three large shapes rising from the back of the bar, which were cracked and oozing caramel on the front. Maybe, in retrospect, buying the bar in late March and having the “best by” date expired by a month by the time I tasted it wasn’t a great idea, despite storing the bar carefully?!


Honestly, I thought I might find a wide strip of smoked bacon underneath the chocolate at each of those square/rectangular shapes, but that wasn’t the case. The bar bends more than snaps when segmented and it would appear that there were “slots” in the bar where the bacon-infused caramel was inserted.



The caramel itself was a bit chewy and amongst the portions that I tasted, I didn’t find any of crunchy caramelized bacon bits that were described online. The caramel definitely had a salty and smoky flavor.


The chocolate pieces that didn’t have any caramel were smooth, but overwhelmingly flavored with vanilla so that I didn’t detect much else.

Salted Caramel (72% Ecuador)


The Salted Caramel packaging is very similar, but this one has a Good Food Awards winner sticker – though this award was received in 2011.


Above you see what I mean about the difficulty of opening the packaging while trying to keep the informational sticker intact. Other suggestions?

Delicately peeling back the thin foil inner wrapper, three whitish (bloomed) shapes appeared on the back of the bar, with caramel oozing from the cracks, making it difficult to remove the foil in places.


The front of the bar wasn’t bloomed, but the cracks were larger.


Overall this makes for a visually “messy” and inelegant bar.


The bar had a dull snap when being segmented and at the place where I bent the bar, there appeared even less caramel than in the previous bar.


So, I decided to segment the bar at a different section to see if there was more caramel elsewhere. Seems the middle of the bar was more plentiful.


Again, the caramel was chewy rather than gooey or liquidy and seemed to have been inserted into narrow rectangular “slots” in the chocolate. The chocolate itself had a more roasted/bitter flavor than the previous bar and though smooth, didn’t melt easily. Perhaps I shouldn’t have tried two caramel bars back-to-back, but this caramel was overly salty and almost had a “gamey” aftertaste.

Next time, I’ll shop for chocolates myself closer to when I plan to consume them (and probably skip the caramel ones). As you can probably tell, most of David Briggs’ creations are on the savory side rather than sweet. Personally, I’m really intrigued by the foie gras bar (which has a “foietella” chocolate spread). Has anyone tried that one yet besides Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods America?!

For more information on their line of products, check out: http://www.xocolatldedavid.com/#main

Bonus “W” bar – WKND Chocolate

Since the beginning of my Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project, I’ve had the privilege of “meeting” (through the virtual worlds of Instagram and Facebook) so many passionate, welcoming and thoughtful people who are either makers or fellow consumers/chocophiles.

Lauren Heineck, founder and chocolate maker at WKND Chocolate, is one of those people! In addition to being skilled at transforming cacao beans into uniquely flavored bars, she hosts “Well Tempered” (a SoundCloud podcast) where she is both storyteller and community builder to elevate the smart, creative and crafty women within the chocolate industry.

I feel very honored to have been gifted a couple of her bars and to be among the first people to taste some of her creations. By the way, it was a GREAT idea to use a strip of a jute bag that once contained cacao beans as shipping “padding” (it made for some great photos too)! Hope you don’t mind that I enjoy the “weekend” despite what the calendar says.


“Spanish Gaucho” (experimental bar with Mate & Saffron)

What a daring move to create a fusion of Argentina and Spain through the use of two ingredients that are the embodiment of those countries!

The 12-rectangle bar is wrapped in a thin, clear, re-closable plastic pouch & inserted into a faux wood grain paper sleeve that is held closed by a small round sticker with an interlocked square pattern.


While I like the prototypes of the stylish new packaging as seen on Instagram recently, I’ll definitely miss the rustic touch of the handwritten description below the rubber stamped company logo.


Sliding the bar from the outer wrapper, I was immediately surprised by both the bar’s olive green color and the generous sprinkling of saffron threads on the “inclusion” side. My initial guess was that the saffron was only included on the outside (otherwise the bar might have been more yellowish) and that dried yerba mate leaves were ground into a powder before being combined with the cocoa butter to create that unique color. To satisfy my curiosity, I put a call in to Lauren to get more information. Thanks for letting me know that whole mate leaves were added to the grinder to help infuse the white chocolate…I’m surprised that adding some saffron during the melanging phase didn’t affect the green hue.

Once removed from the wrapper, there was no mistaking the sweet herbal/grassy aroma of the mate. This transported me back to childhood summers when my grandparents would visit. The smell of the brewing mate would waft from the kitchen in the morning & I would watch their curious ritual of slowly sipping mate from small hollowed out gourds with metal bombillas (straws) dipped first in sugar to take away some of the bitterness of the tea. The gourd has intricate carvings on all sides.


Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world and its complex flavor can be difficult to explain. Words like pungent, bitter, funky and medicinal come to mind; though I’ve seen others describe it as reminiscent of plastic and latex. Given that, I was both intrigued and apprehensive about tasting this bar; additionally I tend to stay away from caffeine and mate has moderate levels compared to coffee.

Biting into a rectangle (which had produced a nice snap when segmented from the rest of the bar), the morsel was a little grainy rather than completely smooth.


It tasted very much like it smelled, but was also surprisingly creamy/buttery during the melt. Overall, it was the right amount of sweetness vs. bitterness and the flavors were not as overwhelming as I thought they might be; however both “main” ingredients are considered acquired tastes and probably won’t appeal to most palates.

In the spirit of brainstorming, I wondered if another traditional Spanish spice might be substituted for saffron…so with apologies to Lauren, I paired it with Pimentón de la Vera (a sweet smoked paprika).


Personally, the smoky, sweet chili worked a little better than the bitter saffron…besides smokiness made me think of the parrilladas (barbecues) that the gauchos (Argentinian cowboys) are known for 😉

72% Cacao Fiji


The image on this bar’s wrapper reminds me of high school biology and looking at substances under a high powered microscope…I wonder if this one depicts dissolved salt crystals? One nice feature is the “wrapped up” (date stamp) on the reverse, letting me know the freshness this chocolate.


This would be my first taste of Fiji chocolate, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Removing the bar from the plastic inner wrapper, I noticed the glossy/shiny finish despite some air bubbles and “ghosting” that can occur when removing a tempered bar from its mold. Overall, the surface was a deep, dark brown with reddish flecks at some corners.


Is it a “cop out” to describe the taste and aroma as “chocolatey”?! Upon opening the wrapper, there was an enticing sweet (and chocolatey) aroma. Each bite produced a thick, creamy, velvety mouthfeel while melting the slightly grainy morsel. To me, the flavor was the perfect combination of fruity and nutty, with a lightly astringent, roasted bitter aftertaste.


Must seek out more Fiji chocolate soon 🙂

If you’re headed to the NW Chocolate Makers UnConference or the NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle next week, hopefully you’ll have the chance to meet Lauren in person…I know I’m looking forward to it!

For more information, check out: http://wkndchocolate.com/

W is for Willie’s Cacao

Happy Halloween! Hope your day was filled with (chocolate) treats 🙂 Honestly, I’m not sure why October 28th is considered “National Chocolate Day” instead of October 31st given that most trick or treaters prefer chocolate over other types of goodies. As you might imagine, my taste gravitates toward craft chocolates over mass-produced sweets.

Just when it seemed like my dream “W” bar was out of reach, Pashmina and Chris from Choco Rush came to my rescue! The timing of my inquiry was just right since they were shortly scheduled to receive a shipment of Willie’s Cacao straight from the factory in the UK! I don’t know about you, but I get excited every time chocolate is scheduled to be delivered to me by mail. Upon receiving the USPS tracking number, I set up text message alerts so that I could stay informed about the exact whereabouts of my precious cargo 😉 Rushing out the door once I received notification that the package was “left in the mailbox at its destination,” I was eager to see Choco Rush’s distinctive logo on the sealed cardboard rectangular box.


The bar was expertly packed with two mini sheets of re-usable cooling “ice cubes” to ensure that it would arrive in pristine condition despite the warmer weather that is still lingering here in SoCal despite it being Fall.


Recently I discovered “Willie’s Chocolate Revolution: Raising the Bar,” a documentary that chronicles the various ups and downs that Willie Harcourt-Cooze experienced while setting up his production of bean-to-bar dark chocolate bars as well as his attempts to “re-educate” British palates that were raised on Cadbury’s milk chocolate confections. The three episodes (each split into 4 mini episodes on YouTube) first aired in the UK in 2009 as a follow-up to the “Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory” series. One of the bars that was featured heavily on “Raising the Bar” is this 72% Rio Caribe Gold made with Trinitario beans from Venezuela!


There is an elegant simplicity to the black square box emblazoned with gold and white foil stamped and embossed lettering. The blue font draws your attention to the country of origin of the beans and the tasting notes. Inside the box, the bar is wrapped in an easily opened, crimped shiny gold foil wrapper that has many stylized capital “double u” letters imprinted with a contrasting opaque gold so that they will stand out.


Seems that the “W” from the outer packaging matches the company logo that appears on the chocolate bar itself (inside an indented cacao pod).


Despite the chocolate “dust” marring the surface of this bar, there is an overall matte finish on both the front and back of this deep dark brown square. With a little effort, the sturdy bar breaks apart with a sharp snap and releases a roasted/smoky aroma. I was surprised that the edge of the piece looked like mini jagged stalactites and that the color was almost like a reddish mahogany.


The flavor was a bit bitter and coffee-like to me on the first few bites; but upon allowing the morsel to melt easily on my tongue, it seemed to mellow out and become more of an earthy tang. The taste grew on me in a pleasant way. Hopefully when I visit San Francisco later in the year, I’ll be able to locate more of Willie’s bars since I’m especially interested in tasting his flavored bars (like Hazelnut Raisin or Ginger Lime)!

To learn more about Willie’s Cacao, please check out: http://www.williescacao.com/

If receiving a curated collection of craft dark chocolate bars on a monthly basis sounds good to you, check out https://chocorush.co/ to subscribe!

V is for Violet Sky

Any day that I get to sample and photograph new chocolates is a good day! Lately, though, I’ve come to look forward to “blog post” days almost as much as I did Christmas mornings when I was growing up. The process of unwrapping chocolates as if they were small gifts and then savoring them fills me with gleeful anticipation 🙂 I’m not sure which drew me to Violet Sky’s Instagram feed more: the eerie and ethereal photos of bloomed chocolate as it ages or the close-ups of their ever-changing, unique inclusion ingredients/flavor combinations. Either way, I hope to make Hans and Alison Westerink proud with this post!

As a side note, this is one of the few posts that carries over a two day period (normally I photograph, taste & post all within a single day, but other time commitments prevented me from doing so this time). I woke up yesterday (Monday) morning to the sound of distant thunder and rain dripping from the eaves, which meant cloudy skies and less-than-ideal lighting for photos. However, I was undeterred!


Eagerly removing the 4 colorful bars from wine fridge storage, I decided to sample the two inclusion bars & keep the “plain” Ecuadorian chocolates for a later tasting. Had I captured the view of the sky from the window near my “desk” with time lapse photography during the photo shoot, you would have seen it change from ominous/gloomy clouds, to the sun playing hide-and-seek, to bright rays of light streaming into the room…I took that as an omen of good things to come!

Colombia 77% with Black Currants, Maple, and Cinnamon


At a quick glance your eye is fooled by the outer wrapping…you think the thick blue paper is textured, but really it’s just printed on one side to look like linen weave! I really like that the featured ingredients are listed on a contrasting colored band as well as the back of the wrapper, though as you’ll soon see, there would be no mistaking this bar if I were to misplace the outer packaging! 😉 Speaking of packaging, my only “quibble” is that I would have liked to open the wrapper without slicing the informational sticker in half…maybe unfolding the top or bottom flap & sliding the foil-wrapped bar from the paper would be more ideal?


What a surprise awaited me as I unwrapped the bar from the bright royal blue foil! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such plump and round black currants in my life (up until now, I thought that the desiccated currants used in scones were the same fruit, I have since been enlightened to the differences!) I’m guessing that the berries were freeze dried to maintain their shape and vibrant taste.


The “top” side of the bar (the side with the mold segmentation lines) had a matte mahogany finish with cinnamon flecks adding to both the overall coloring and the aroma of the bar.


Unfortunately, the bar did not remain intact during transit, but that just made it easier to see the large chunks of maple sugar that were dotted at strategic intervals throughout the bar!



The earthy/roasted dark chocolate flavor itself was secondary for me since it was difficult to isolate the taste aside from the inclusions. Each bite was an explosion of piquant/tart chewy fruit, sweetened by the gritty crunch of the maple sugar. This is an instance where “precision of language” is tricky because certain words can carry negative connotations; I only want to convey that it was “gritty” in the best possible way!

Brandy Barrel Aged Belize 77% with Red Wine Salt


In retrospect, any bar that followed would not be as stellar (if you’ll forgive the “celestial” pun!)

From the packaging, the salt inclusion was created by soaking plain sea salt in red wine and then drying it + the cacao was aged in Journeyman Distillery brandy barrels. For a 77% dark chocolate bar, the color is substantially lighter than the previous one, reminding me of a diluted hot cocoa or mocha beverage.


Removing the bar from the gold foil wrapper, I noticed that a couple of corners and part of the “front” of the bar displayed signs of blooming.



I blame a recent power outage, after which my wine fridge reset itself to 54 ℉ from my “default” temperature of 65 ℉ before I noticed. I don’t know about you, but there is a magical beauty in the fat bloom: swirls that just appear and could not be exactly re-created even if you tried. Where the surface wasn’t marred by bloom, there was an almost mirror shine.


The inclusion side looked like a lunar landscape, evenly sprinkled with light purplish-pink salt crystals which were starting to dissolve in the air.



This bar broke apart with a medium snap and had a woody/tobacco-like aroma on the non-inclusion side. My guess is that the barrel aging process imparts both smell and taste enhancements. The morsel had a smooth mouthfeel, but didn’t really melt easily. Overall, the flavor was a bit bitter and vinegary to me with a tannic, astringent after taste. Perhaps these flavors would appeal more to wine drinkers or should be paired with a brandy and/or some cheese? I see experimentation in my future 🙂

After listening to a recent Well Tempered podcast interviewing Estelle Tracy from 37 Chocolates, I strongly agree that (as consumers) we should celebrate and learn as much as possible about the passionate people who create the chocolates we enjoy. It’s impressive to read that such talent and creativity is coming from 20-somethings + Hans and his wife Alison really only started their bean-to-bar production just about two years ago.

As far as I know, their bars aren’t currently available in Southern California, but hopefully they will be soon so that I can satisfy my “fix” for unique inclusion ingredients aside from just drooling over their Instagram feed. However with Violet Sky’s philosophy of making small-batches and experimental bars, I realize I can’t get too attached to any one flavor…each one is as ephemeral as the company’s name implies.

To learn more and order bars for yourself, check out: http://www.violetskychocolate.com/

U is for Undone Chocolate

Antioxidants…flavonoids…trace minerals. We hear these words bandied about every day, but do you really know much about them? (yeah, me neither!) So, with inspiration from Undone Chocolate, I decided to finally look up the meaning of those words today. Had my biology and chemistry teachers associated these terms with chocolate, I just might have paid more attention in high school!

Adam Kavalier (co-founder and CEO of Undone Chocolate) started off in phytochemistry (a fancy name for studying the chemistry of plants) with a postdoc research project on the flavonoids found in the hop plant and how those properties might assist in treating different forms of cancer. During his research, Theobroma Cacao (the scientific name for the cocoa plant) also attracted his attention since it too is a major producer of flavonoids and is rich in antioxidants. His knowledge of plant biology and chemistry have been instrumental in making chocolates that are both healthy and flavorful. To read more about his unusual journey from scientist to food entrepreneur, check out this article.

I think I first heard about Undone Chocolate from a fellow Instagrammer & chocolate blogger when she wrote a series of posts featuring local Washington, DC chocolate makers. Then, when I discovered that Undone was available at the same place as another chocolate that was featured earlier in the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet series, I knew fate had intervened so I could taste this bean-to-bar chocolate for myself too!

One of the first things that you see on the packaging is what looks like a heart monitor reading within an enlarged teardrop (which sort of reminds me of graphics seen on a blood donation poster).


Both of these are health-related images, which tie into to the information on the back of the package touting the benefits of eating this particular chocolate bar.


While I’m glad that their new packaging now lists the country of origin of the chocolate + a batch number, as well as de-emphasizes “two ingredient chocolate” (since this one was actually three ingredients: cacao, sugar & Himalayan pink salt), I miss the single word chocolate bar name that was color coordinated with the rest of the outer packaging.

Slipping the foil wrapped bar from the paper sleeve, you could already see that the inclusion side had left indentations.


Removing the bar from the foil, the 12-rectangle bar showed a little scuffing and small air bubbles marring the dull matte finish.


Himalayan pink salt was a sparsely sprinkled over the bar on the inclusion side. Besides, a little goes a long way in terms of salt…don’t you agree?


Though the photo below might not show it well, there were squiggle lines under the salt that made me think of a fish kissing a small dog with raised ears (I know, I know…I have a very over-active imagination!) FYI – I changed the exposure/lighting to bring out this pareidolia better.


The waxed foil wrapper had certainly done its job well while this bar was being stored in my wine fridge…I know this because the inclusion side started deliquescing before my eyes while photos were being taken.


Since it rained over the weekend, there was higher-than-normal humidity, so the salt started melting/dissolving (some would say “weeping” or “sweating”) by absorbing the moisture in the air. Until today, I didn’t know that the verb form for this phenomenon is “to deliquesce”…you can start using it to impress your friends too! 😉

This bar had a nice sharp snap when being segmented and imparted an earthy, roasted aroma. I noticed a slightly gritty mouthfeel and the portion didn’t melt very easily in the mouth. To me, the aftertaste was a bit chalky and lingered in the mouth for a while. However, when I chomped on a piece that had more of the crunchy salt, the flavor of the chocolate became fruity (I assume this bar was made with beans from the Dominican Republic, where beans are known to be naturally citrusy).


Oh, and those terms that I started the article off with? Well, antioxidants prevent or delay some types of cell damage such as that associated with cancer. Since I’m not a scientist, I don’t want to explain them inaccurately…so I recommend you do some research too! It will be well worth your while to learn about the health benefits of eating chocolate!

To learn more about Undone Chocolates, check out: http://www.undonechocolate.com/

Bonus “T” bar – Tony’s Chocolonely

The more I think I know about chocolate, the more I realize how much there still is to learn and explore!


I’ve seen these brightly colored bars before, but never really paid attention to them…until my boyfriend bought me a set of six large bars, which happen to be all of the flavors that are available from the U.S. headquarters in Portland, Oregon (some different flavors, sizes plus other treats are available from their European location in Amsterdam, The Netherlands).

As you might expect, there is a fascinating story behind the company’s name and origin. A little more than 10 years ago, television journalist Teun van de Kueken launched an investigative report about the use of child slave labor within the chocolate industry for his Dutch consumer report TV show. After being rebuffed by some of the largest chocolate makers in the world, Tony (the English equivalent for Teun) decided to prove that it was possible to produce 100% slave-free chocolate. From the company website: And because he felt like he was the only guy in the chocolate industry that cared about eradicating slavery from the industry, he named his chocolate “Chocolonely.”

Since the beginning, Tony teamed up with the Barry Callebaut Group in Belgium to produce the chocolates from the West Africa-sourced beans. They specifically chose a “screaming red” wrapper for their first milk chocolate bar in 2005 to draw attention both to the bar and the “alarming situation” that they were trying to eliminate. Through awareness, leading by example and inspiring others to act, they strive each day to achieve fully traceable 100% slave-free chocolate as well as work toward the goal of ending the use of slavery in the entire chocolate industry.

Here are the 2 bars that I tasted so far…

51% Dark Chocolate with Pecans & Coconut



Each of the bars is a hefty 6 ounces and they use a mold that has 25 unequal pieces to highlight the unfairness within the chocolate industry. Even though the bar is thick, it segments easily (this one broke in half during transit) and has a sharp snap when broken.



There were generous pieces of pecans and shredded coconut throughout the bar, but the overall taste was a little too sweet for me. Though it’s not mentioned on their packaging, 30% of the chocolate comes from Ghana & 70% comes from the Ivory Coast, so I’m not sure if the sweetness is inherent in the beans themselves or due to the added sugar.

32% Milk Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt


In 2012, this flavor was part of their lineup of limited edition bars. Since this bar is the most popular bar in the Netherlands, it’s now available in unlimited quantities. The chocolate is creamy and melts easily, though I prefer to “chomp” the bar to better enjoy the crunchy toffee bits.


Unfortunately sugar is the first ingredient listed for this bar & caramel (toffee) accounts for 10% of the content. In trying to transfer the bar from the thin aluminum foil to a more sturdy one, the bar sort of “disintegrated” into more than just the unequal pieces…


Along with the bars, they provided an informative Annual FAIR Report (2014/2015) comprised of 109 pages printed on Paperwise (uncoated Forest Stewardship Council recycled paper made of 100% recycled materials) and printed with alcohol free & vegetable based inks.



The pages were once leaves and cobs of plants like corn and sugarcane, so maybe that’s why there is an unusual smell to the booklet. Since 2012, their bars have been wrapped with the same type of paper, though thankfully they don’t impart the same aroma as the annual report.

To learn more about this unique company’s mission/vision/goals, here is a link to the U.S. webpage: http://www.tonyschocolonely.com/us/

T is for Terroir Chocolate

Variety is the spice of life! When faced with having to choose amongst a large selection of options, my boyfriend prefers the “get one of everything” approach 😉 This endearing “quirk” has been a boon for my Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project. Just as I was planning to make purchases for “T” week, I was informed that this assortment of goodies would be arriving just in time for this post:


As you can see, each one of the bars is wrapped in a different colored horizontal pinstripe paper sleeve with a crisp white sticker listing a quick description of the bar + the company logo (a lower case “t” inside of a larger “C”). At the bottom of that white sticker is an eye-catching, brightly colored half circle with the bar’s name prominently displayed. In case you’re curious, the back of the sleeve is kept closed with another white sticker that lists the ingredients, as well as the “best by” date and a barcode. It was sweet of them to include a handwritted thank you note!

Tasting and writing about 9 different chocolate bars all in one sitting seemed daunting to me, so I narrowed things down to the 3 bars shown below. However, if you follow me on Instagram, I’ll be posting pictures and reviews of the rest of the bars there.


Terroir is an all-encompassing term to describe how the various environmental and habitat factors can affect and/or enhance the flavor of a crop. You might be familiar with this word in relation to wine and coffee, but it also very much applies to chocolate! It makes sense that Josh and Kristin Mohagen, owners of Terroir Chocolate in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, would choose “taste of place chocolate” to be their company URL to pay homage to this concept. From their website: “Each of our organic, single-origin dark chocolate bars have unique taste profiles due to the influence of the soil, the climate and the other vegetation grown around the cacao tree throughout its development…”

Wild Bolivia (76% single origin dark chocolate)

Lately I’ve noticed that chocolate bars made from Bolivian cacao beans have resonated with me, so I was particularly excited to try this three-ingredient bar since they received a Bronze in 2016 at the International Chocolate Awards (Americas division – micro batch plain/single origin bar). Removing the silver foil-wrapped bar from the sleeve, I could immediately see indentations made from their distinct mold of 20 “dimples” and a square logo off to one side.


Upon unwrapping the bar, I was a little disappointed with the chalky appearance and noticed that the finish was marred by tiny air bubbles.


Breaking off the bottom row of the bar, there was brittle, dry snap to the segments and the squares didn’t really melt easily in the mouth.


I wish that the flavor was as bold and robust to match the initial earthy and roasted aroma when unwrapping the bar.

Lavender (60% dark milk chocolate)

This bar was made with beans from Finca Elvesia (which upon further research indicates the Dominican Republic as the origin). Unwrapping the bar from the equally indented silver foil wrapper, there was a noticeable difference in the appearance of the bar! This one was shiny and glossy, though there were several small air bubbles on the surface as well.




The aroma reminded me of dried fruits or olives and the segments melted easily, plus seemed to have a creamy mouthfeel. Using lavender oil is always a bit risky since too much makes it seem like you are eating perfumed soap. However, for a lavender bar, this was at the other end of the spectrum: honestly, I think they used too little lavender oil since that flavor component was very subtle/muted, almost not noticeable until the finish/aftertaste. To me, the taste was like a not-too-sweet caramel, with a slight tang from the whole milk powder.


Salty Nibber (60% dark milk chocolate cocoa nibs & salt)

Even before unwrapping the bar, I could tell that this one was an inclusion bar and would have a different appearance than the other two. Interestingly, the thin foil was not as indented as the other two prior bars!


What a pleasant surprise to discover that this bar was made with beans from Alto Beni… my favorite chocolate region in Bolivia! The non-inclusion side had a slight matte finish rather than being highly glossy.


The same small air bubble imperfections appeared on this bar as well. When tasting the chocolate square with the inclusion side down on my tongue, the immediate flavor note for me was sea salt, followed by roasted crunchy nibs. When melting the segment with the non-inclusion side down on my tongue, I could better appreciate the buttery texture of the chocolate itself before the salt kicked in.


While the packaging doesn’t mention it, their website says that their slow roasted cacao nibs are stone ground for several days. Overall, I was surprised by how smooth these bars were since none of the ones that I tasted so far have exhibited the gritty texture that I generally associate with stone ground cacao (like Taza or Olive & Sinclair).

As a side note observation, their distinct mold made for a very visually appealing and photogenic bar, but my camera had problems focusing on so many “dots” all at once…so it was funny to watch the “auto focus” function in process. Next tasting, I’ll try the scorpion pepper flavor…I hear that is SPICY!! :0

Unless you live in a state where Terroir has retail locations (Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota), be sure to check out their website to place an order since they are offering free shipping within the continental US for orders over $40: http://tasteofplacechocolate.com/