Some letters provide more of a challenge than others (“Q” & “Y” have been particularly elusive, so far)! So, when I noticed Izard Craft Chocolate on the feed of a fellow Instagrammer, I jumped at the opportunity. The company was unfamiliar to me + I was intrigued by both the name and the fact that they were located in Little Rock, Arkansas. (I’m sure that there is chocolate made in every state in the Union, but this was the first time I had heard of a bean-to-bar maker in that state.) That elation turned to concern when I visited their website & saw “sold out” on most of their products. Undeterred (you will never know if you don’t ask), I sent off an email inquiring if there might be 1 or 2 remaining bars that I could purchase. I was thrilled to quickly receive a note back from owner Nathaniel Izard asking which of their 4 flavors I would like to purchase. Below are the two that caught my eye the most.
First off is Chimelb Microlot Guatemala (72%)
The motif of the outer wrapper makes me think of cacao beans that have been split in two for a “cut test” – though, as far as I know, beans don’t come in turquoise/aquamarine! 😉 The paper that was used is luxuriously thick, reminiscent of the packaging used for Mast Brothers Chocolates. The informational “sticker” keeping the flaps closed in the back also has great woven texture…my only complaint is that it’s hard to unwrap the bar without destroying either the sticker or the outer wrapper. Upon opening the wrapper, I noticed that this paper is double sided/reversible! Is it wrong for me to want to keep this wrapper to use as a background for future photos?! It’s as if the gold foil wrapped bar is wearing a kimono, though the pattern calls to mind India or the American Southwest.
Finca Chimelb Microlot is a private farm located in Lanquin, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala (“Finca” means ranch or estate. “Chimelb” seems to be a word in the K’iche Maya language of Guatemala; though try as I might, I wasn’t able to find a translation).
Upon opening the wrapper, I encountered an earthy, almost leathery, aroma. It was also a bit wood-like, reminding me of a barrel or cask. I was surprised to see a lighter brown color, since this is a 72% dark chocolate.
The Izard label says that they roast the beans more lightly, so maybe that accounts for the particular hue of reddish brown. There were no imperfections to be seen on this matte finish 24 rectangle bar.
This 3 ingredient bar (cacao, sugar & vanilla) was easy to segment, though there was a dull snap & it didn’t really break apart evenly along the “score” lines – but that makes for abstract art in its own way.
The mouthfeel was extremely smooth, likely due to the longer conching time. The flavor started off woody, was sweet/fruity in the middle and then ended on a slightly astringent note. Definitely a unique taste, one that grows on you over time.
Next was the Icelandic Sea Salt (70%)
This outer wrapper reminded me of a 1900s era men’s bathing costume or a sailor’s striped shirt (it’s too bad this wrapper wasn’t double sided too). It was a nice “nautical” touch given that the flake sea salt is hand harvested from the icy waters of the Norwegian Sea and then evaporated using the heat from nearby geysers in Reykjavik, Iceland. This type of salt grain seems to dissolve very quickly while enhancing the flavor of the chocolate without overwhelming it. I think it also provided a nice crunch element and a hint of briny aroma.
This 24 rectangle bar also had a dull snap, but was easier to segment evenly along the “score” lines. There was a pleasant grassy, almost hay or grain-like scent. Although neither the packaging nor the website lists the country of origin for the cacao used, another source indicated that the beans came from the Maya Mountain Co-op in Belize. Belizean beans are known for their naturally fruity taste. It was hard for me to pinpoint a particular flavor, though peaches, plums or cherries came to mind while savoring this chocolate. I was pleased that it was less astringent than the Guatemala one and had a smooth, creamy mouthfeel despite this being a vegan/dairy-free chocolate.
Izard started out in 2014, so I can’t wait to see what is in store for the future based on my initial experience with them. Check out their website for more details: http://www.izardchocolate.com/