50 States Collaboration – Massachusetts / Goodnow Farms Chocolate

Maybe I’m developing a “knack” for reaching out at the perfect time? Maybe “fate” is intervening to guide my path? Either way, these moments of serendipity, when things fall into place, make me the happiest 🙂

Just last week, after months of waiting for a CSC (community supported chocolate) subscription allocation to arrive, I decided that particular Massachusetts maker, who shall remain nameless, really didn’t need additional hype since there were lesser-known makers in that state deserving of recognition. Late at night, looking at the Goodnow Farms website under “Retailer Locations,” I saw California listed as “Coming Soon” – this was a good omen! So, I sent an email asking if there might be an update and wouldn’t you know it, the very next day I received an email from Tom Rogan (co-owner of Goodnow Farms Chocolate) advising that, later that afternoon, a delivery of chocolate bars was scheduled to arrive to a shop near me!! The two bars I’ll be featuring below had only been in the shop’s inventory for 2 days by the time I visited, so it’s no wonder that the employees there weren’t familiar with them yet!

The gold foil stamped & embossed thick, textured paper sleeves of each bar feature watercolor landscape paintings of idyllic country life, which I assume reflect Tom & Monica Rogan’s 225-year old farm where the small batch chocolates are made. A quick search on the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce website revealed that Goodnow was the last name of one of the first settlers of that town from back in the late 1600s. I also discovered that there is a Goodnow Farm Historic District in Princeton, Massachusetts…but I’m not sure if the two are related since the two towns are about 30 miles away from each other.

70% Asochivite Guatemala with Maple Sugar

The unique name caught my eye as I was selecting which of their 4 bars to sample. In case you’re curious too, “The remote Guatemalan village of San Juan Chivite is perched on the side of a mountain, reachable only by foot. Part of the journey requires crossing a long, narrow wooden and steel cable footbridge across which all harvested cacao is carried by hand.” / “The Q’eqchi Maya farmers of Chivite, Guatemala harvest cacao from the wild trees surrounding their village.” What a journey for these beans! :0

The gold foil-wrapped bar slides easily from the paper sleeve and reveals an envelope-like fold kept closed with a small round sticker.

[As a side note, whoever thought to use an informational sticker is a GENIUS! I struggled to refold the foil as neatly as it arrived to return the bar to its appropriate sleeve. Without that sticker, I wouldn’t be able to tell which flavor was which for future tastings…thanks packaging designer!]

Simply peeling back the origami-like folds, there was an immediate aroma that reminded me of freshly toasted raisin bread spread thickly with sweet butter. I also really liked that the custom logo mold was the first thing you see upon opening the package.

The bar had a near flawless matte finish, though I did encounter some errant flakes that looked like “fuzz” sticking to the “top” surface. Thanks to Tom for explaining the cause of that phenomenon:

…[this] is actually tiny chocolate shavings caused by the bars being handled prior to being opened. The reason these shavings happen is that the chocolate contracts a bit as it cools in the molds, and it ‘sticks’ to the sides of the mold slightly, leaving a bit of a ridge on the edges. This ridge is what ends up flaking off a bit when the bar is handled in the wrapper. 

Upon turning the bar over, I noticed 8 squares with concentric rings. I’m intrigued and would love to see a video of their molds being filled since the still photo online from Step 6 of “Our Process” (Tempering and Molding) only showed chocolate being pumped out from one spout?!

Update from Tom on June 6th: “…the 8 squares on the back of the bar are formed by the depositing head we use on our tempering machine. The head is custom made for each of our different size molds, and it allows the mold to be filled more evenly. It attaches to the single spout that you see in the pictures in the ‘Our Process’ section. The depositing heads are a pain to deal with but they allow the chocolate to fill the molds more quickly and the result is a better looking bar.

Segmenting the bar into tasting bites, there was a soft snap; the chocolate had some elasticity and bent a little before breaking apart. I assume that this was due to the maple sugar used as sweetener. From the packaging and website: the maple sugar is sourced locally from family-owned and operated Severance Maple in Northfield, MA. Milt Severance and his family tap the trees surrounding their sugar house and do every step of the process themselves to produce granulated maple sugar (chocolate makers can’t use maple syrup since moisture and chocolate don’t mix!)

There was a refreshing + short-lived tingly sensation at the tip of my tongue during the smooth, creamy, even melt. A fruity, yogurt tang hit me at the back of my throat and the finish reminded me of roasted coffee.

Limited Edition 77% Nicalizo Nicaragua

According to the packaging, Nicalizo is the first Nicaraguan bean awarded Heirloom Cacao status (last year I tried samples from the “D7 Series”) – the Nicalizo beans are the 8th out of 13 varieties to earn this designation.

Again there was a sticker holding the gold foil folds closed, this one shows a “scarecrow” in a garden, in addition to the flavor’s name.

The toasted bread aroma was more subtle upon opening the inner wrapper; though I also encountered lightly earthy/woody scents. Tiny “fuzz” particles appeared on the top surface of this bar too, marring the otherwise pristine finish (you might have to zoom in to see below). As you would expect from wispy, thin chocolate shavings, they disappear as soon as you touch them lightly with your finger or tongue.

The same 8 squares appear on the back; I’ve adjusted the camera’s color settings to make them “pop” (the photo next to it was “undoctored”):

This bar had a sharp snap as well as a smooth, creamy, even melt which brought out nutty, grain-like, and wood flavor notes and ended with a lightly astringent, grape wine finish.

Goodnow Farms Chocolate is a relatively new company, established in 2015. This article provides interesting details about how Tom & Monica got started in creating single-origin, 3 ingredient, bean-to-bar chocolates and their continued efforts to improve the lives of the farmers at origin. One thing that especially caught my attention is that they press their own cocoa butter from the same beans as are used in the chocolate bars!

Please check out their website to see their full line of bars: https://goodnowfarms.com/

We’re nearing the end of this “50 States” project, so remember to follow the Time to Eat Chocolate blog to hear about the last few stops!

Other chocolate makers in Massachusetts:

Chequessett Chocolate

Equal Exchange

Rogue Chocolatier

Somerville Chocolate

Taza Chocolate

Vivra Chocolate

NOTE: If you know of any other bean-to-bar makers in Massachusetts that aren’t mentioned above, please leave a comment or send an email so that we can keep this list as up-to-date as possible!

J is for Juniper Berries

Growing up, there was a tree in my parents’ backyard that produced a small, edible, grape-shaped, fuchsia colored berry. Those were the days before the internet, so we consulted encyclopedias and asked neighbors for ideas on what this tree and berry were called. Up until a few years ago, I was convinced that these berries were juniper…but, just today, I discovered that these are actually “Lilly Pilly Berries”!

Why am I telling you this story? Well, when I thought of a juniper chocolate bar, I naively imagined that there would be plump, still somewhat chewy berries featured prominently on the inclusion side. My bubble was burst, but that’s OK…read on to hear more about my experience with chocolate paired with juniper berries!

One of the current masters of the photogenic “chocolate topography” inclusion bar is Violet Sky Chocolate from South Bend, Indiana. I featured them during “round 1” of the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project and you can read more about them here. When you read about the first bar featured in that post from 2016, you’ll better understand why my mental picture included lots of berries poking out from the chocolate! 😉

Anyway, today’s bar is called “Forest Spirits” – a barrel aged dark chocolate with raspberry, juniper berry and maple sugar.

The outer packaging features a colorful, thick paper with a grosgrain ribbon like texture and a color-coordinating construction paper band letting you know a bit about the bar. The folds are kept closed with an informational sticker that peels away easily.

Inside this, the 28-rectangle bar was wrapped in bright fuchsia colored foil. Honestly, I was not prepared for how the bar looked, since in my mind’s eye there should be juniper berries visible at first glance! Don’t get me wrong, I love the generous amounts of freeze dried raspberries and chunks of maple sugar, but I’ll admit to pouting for a while 😉

I was afraid of turning the bar over to see the “top” side of the bar, but thankfully the inclusions stayed mostly adhered, though some of the raspberry and sugar “dust” had come loose and stuck to the foil to make the other side a little “speckled” – like remnants of confetti after a party.

There was a medium-crisp snap to the bar and a combination of raspberry “dust” and little flecks of chocolate seemed to fly everywhere.

The first bite was tart and acidic. Once my tongue had become acclimated to the flavor, subsequent bites were more mellow and fruity. The aroma triggered a memory, but I still can’t conjure it exactly 🙁 Placing a morsel with the inclusion side away from my tongue, the chocolate was creamy, smooth and there were hints of juniper, though I really thought it would taste more like gin! Some of the chunks of maple sugar were a little tough to crunch on and there was a grainy, earthy sweetness. My only complaint is that tiny raspberry seeds tended to get stuck in my teeth afterwards.

Neither the packaging nor the company website provided information about the percentage of cacao or the country of origin of the beans that were used, but I assumed that something darker than 70-75% had been used based on the taste and prior experience with Violet Sky bars. I wondered how the juniper berries had been incorporated since I knew they can be potent in flavor. Was some sort of infusion used? If so, how?…since most online recipes suggest adding the berries to cream, but I knew that wasn’t the case with this bar. To satisfy my curiosity, I sent an email to Hans, the chocolate maker, to get more information and when I woke up this morning his answer was waiting for me in my inbox!

“Forest Spirits can be on different chocolates, always barrel aged though. That one was a blend of gin barrel aged Brazil 77%, rye whiskey barrel aged Haiti 77%, and a bit of rye Brazil 88%. It’s about 80% after blending.

I use journeyman Distillery barrels from near where I am, they are located in Three Oaks Michigan. Also I age whole raw beans, usually for 2 or 3 months. Usually I use the barrels two times because after that the flavor becomes milder and more woody. 

The juniper berries are simmered in maple syrup to extract some flavor into the maple, which is then cooked down and crystalized. Then the berries that came out of the maple are crushed and sprinkled on the bar also. So basically it’s candied juniper powder. Perhaps bigger pieces of the juniper berries would lead to a more evolving flavor, but I was a bit worried about an overly tough texture. The juniper berries I have are pretty chewy/crunchy on their own, not freeze dried, but just dried like a spice. What do you think?”

After reading his message, I remembered that years ago I had used whole, dried juniper berries to flavor a meaty stew, so I searched through my spice pantry and, lo and behold, I still had a baggie of them.

They smell a little like licorice and look a bit like large peppercorns with a chewy, papery skin concealing the tough, hard seeds inside. They taste woody and astringent, but not unpleasantly so.

Did you know that junipers are the only spice derived from a conifer and aren’t really berries at all…they are the female seed cone from a juniper tree? All species of junipers grow berries, but some are too bitter to eat.

Armed with new knowledge and with my tongue “primed” from having chomped on a few dried juniper berries, I decided to have a second taste. Biting into a rectangle, my tongue was tingly and there seemed to be a “cooling” sensation as I melted the piece on my tongue. The maple sugar tasted “earthier,” but overall there were fruity bursts of flavor as I chomped on another morsel. It was hard to isolate the chocolate from the rest of the inclusions (especially the tangy raspberries), so I would munch, munch, munch trying to put my finger on the different tastes that I was experiencing and put words to those flavors. It’s no wonder that only half a bar remains! :0 There is a lingering, long lasting, fruity, tart aftertaste.

Knowing the “behind the scenes” process for this bar, I’m not sure that I would change anything. However, if there was a way to “bump up” the botanical flavor of the juniper without it being overwhelming, I’m certain THAT would be delicious! :p

For more details, please check out Violet Sky’s Facebook page as it contains more information than their website.

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/