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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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

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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.

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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)

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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/

K is for ki’XOCOLATL

Thus far, the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet series has been a journey of discovery. It’s the impetus to intentionally seek out new-to-me chocolate brands and slowly start to recognize and appreciate the subtle taste differences in bars made from beans of different countries of origin (produced both domestically and internationally). Taste is very subjective, what might appeal to me might not appeal to others and vice versa. But, I digress…more on that later!

What do you get when you take knowledge from two modern, but classically-trained, master Belgian chocolatiers and combine that with tropical rainforest cacao farmers of the Chiapas and Tabasco regions of Mexico who maintain ancestral Mayan cultural traditions? You get ki’XOCOLATL, established in 2002. This collaborative fusion continues with the company name itself, which is an homage to two great pre-Hispanic cultures that dominated the cultivation of cacao: “ki” means delicious or delectable in Mayan and “xocolatl” means chocolate in the Nahuatl (Aztec) language. Even the graphics on the shiny outer packaging pay tribute to both the multi-colored cacao pods as well as the ancient Mayan pottery and intricate stone carvings.

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A unique trait of this company is that they harvest, process and produce their chocolate bars all within the country of Mexico. Many companies source from one country, but produce in another. According to the eye-catching box, this 72% dark chocolate bar is made from 100% organic Criollo beans single sourced directly from the cacao tree grove. Additionally, ki’XOCOLATL seeks to preserve the characteristic aromas of these rare Criollo beans through a low-temperature roasting process.

Upon opening the sealed inner foil wrapper, I was disappointed to find the bar coated with chocolate “dust” particles. I’ve learned from experience that any attempts to “clean off” the surface with fingernails or brushes will only mar the appearance of the bar for photographic purposes; so, reluctantly, I had to leave things “as is”! (Let me tell you that it took a bit of effort to resist the urge to blow on the bar to dislodge the “dust” for fear of introducing any water droplets to the surface!) Aside from the “dust,” the bar was glossy, smooth and free from other imperfections. The 15-segment mold that they used was intriguing – reminding me of an ice cube tray or an integrated circuit board.

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One of the first things that I do after unwrapping a bar is to inhale deeply and get an initial impression of the chocolate that I’ll be tasting. In this case, I was stumped as to how to categorize/describe the aroma. To me, it seemed a little “industrial” (almost plastic-like). This didn’t bode well for me. 🙁

There was a nice sharp snap when breaking off a few segments. Again, I was stumped with the flavor since it didn’t taste like anything I’ve experienced before. It was bitter on the tongue and didn’t seem to melt easily, so I “chomped” the piece without tasting any distinguishable flavor notes. Next, I exercised patience and melted the next segment. This time, it was slightly nutty, earthy (almost tobacco-like) and had an astringent after taste.

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As I said earlier, taste is very subjective. Based on my initial reaction, I decided to do a little more research on the Criollo cacao bean & discovered some fascinating information that I wanted to share:

  • It is generally accepted that there are 3 major types of cacao beans. Of the three, Criollo is considered to be the “original” cacao.
  • Since Criollo beans are susceptible to pests and other diseases, the plants are low-yielding and difficult to grow. Because of this, Criollo beans are considered rare and only make up about 5% of the market.
  • Some say that Criollo beans are the best and have a very distinctive taste…however, there is debate whether “authentic” Criollo beans still exist. Perhaps what we associate with Criollo beans are really just hybrids designed to resist those things that might harm them.

For more information on this subject, here is a link to an article from a well-known chocolate maker: http://patric-chocolate.com/blog/2008/10/27/chocolate-myth-busters-3-criollo-cacao-tastes-better-than-other-types/

Overall, this quote from The Chocolate Revolution website accurately expresses my sentiments: “…the taste might not be everyone’s favourite as it differs considerably from that of the more common Trinitario and Forastero varieties, which define the taste of dark chocolate as most people know it.” You’ll never know, if you don’t try for yourself! So, if you DO try this bar, please reach out & let me know your thoughts!

While this particular bar was a little underwhelming for me, I’d be interested in trying some of their milk chocolate bars with unusual ingredients like almonds + oregano or baked corn chips! Maybe a different region of Mexico will produce beans that appeal more to me?

Even though this website is in Spanish, don’t despair…there is a language toggle button at the bottom right hand corner of the page to switch the language to either English or French: http://www.kixocolatl.com/

Additionally, you can also see more information in English through these websites:

http://www.mexican-chocolate.com/

https://www.cancunrainforest.com/products/ki-xocolatl-chocolate