It wasn’t until I started putting together the “wish list” for Eating the Chocolate Alphabet that I discovered that some letters were much less readily available than others. Many people assume that “X” and “Z” would be problems…but really “Q” and “Y” were what stumped me!
Back in late May (at least a week before publishing my first blog post), while I was sitting in my friend’s kitchen savoring Belgian chocolates & treats he had acquired on his recent trip to that country, I mentioned how impossible it was to find a “Q” chocolate. Unbeknownst to me during that tasting, he surreptitiously located and purchased some “Q” chocolate bars online! (Have you ever noticed that sometimes the best way of getting something done is to say that it can’t be done?) A little later, the secret purchase was revealed to me, but I had to curb my enthusiasm since I knew that my friend would be traveling overseas again soon for more than a month. Visions of melted chocolate languishing in a neglected box in the brutal summer sun plagued my thoughts. For months, I heard nothing about the status of the shipment and then one day I received a text message from my friend letting me know that the Peruvian “Q” chocolates had been delivered safely! He had intentionally delayed the shipment/delivery until someone would be at his house to receive the package 🙂 (Did I mention that I have the most supportive friends ever?!)
Stay tuned later in the week to hear the story about another “Q” chocolate “miracle”!
Q’uma Chocolate – Quinoa 70%
I don’t know about you, but Q’uma quinoa is a “double word score” in my book!
According to their website, q’uma comes from the Quechua word q’umara, which means “healthy.” Quechua was the official language of the Inca Empire (1438 through 1533 – source: Wikipedia), but is still used by a little more than 10% of the population of Peru today. I really wasn’t able to corroborate this definition with online translation services, but I did find that q’uma translates to “crime” in English. Also, interestingly, in K’iche (the indigenous language of mesoamerican Maya peoples in Guatemala), the word q’uma’r translates to “rotten” – maybe the more accurate word is “fermented” since that is a major step in converting cacao beans into edible chocolate? I’ll leave it up to you to decide which meaning to accept.
One thing that caught my eye on the outer box was what appeared to be an iguana at the bottom left corner. Its spiral design reminds me of Maori tribal tattoos. However, I’m sure that this graphic pays homage to the animals that live in the Peruvian rainforests, where the single origin, Criollo varietal cacao beans for this bar are grown.
Inside the colorful outer box, is a sealed black foil pouch – the front mimics the design elements of the outer package and the back provides information about Q’uma in both English & Spanish.
Upon opening the inner pouch, I stuck my nose into the opening and detected a raisin or dried fruit aroma. Unfortunately, the bar itself (comprised of 8 squares) wasn’t glossy/shiny and had a few blemishes + almost looked a little bloomed – probably due to the summer heat endured during shipping.
There was a medium snap when segmenting the bar & a slightly “industrial” smell. This chocolate doesn’t melt in the mouth easily, despite having cacao butter as an ingredient; besides, in my opinion, the crunchy/nutty quinoa begs for the chocolate to be “chomped.”
While tasting the chocolate, there was no raisin or dried fruit notes. I was overwhelmed by a bitter roasted flavor and an astringent/funny after taste – I wasn’t sure if this was attributable to the added quinoa or the chocolate itself…so, as they say, there is only one way to find out!
Q’uma Chocolate – Extra Dark 70%
One thing that I didn’t notice as much on the quinoa packaging, is that there is a tree in the background behind the logo – probably since Q’uma refers to themselves as a “tree-to-bar” chocolate company (which, I suppose is a step beyond just bean-to-bar). It was fun to discover the variety of animals hiding amongst the branches.
Upon opening this inner packaging, the bar smelled heavily roasted + almost a bit ashy. Like the quinoa bar, this Extra Dark 70% bar also had some blemishes + a matte finish. Thankfully, this bar appeared less bloomed.
Even though both bars are 70% cacao content, the quinoa one appears to be lighter in color…is that because of the inclusions?
Like the quinoa bar, it had a medium snap & was slow to melt. I noticed a slightly gritty mouthfeel, though not like one attributed to stoneground cacao (aka Taza or Olive & Sinclair).
There was no odd after taste & this bar was much less astringent, so my guess is that the quinoa had somehow compromised the taste of the chocolate. While I admire that Q’uma strives to maintain the original taste of the beans through minimal processing and that their bars usually have only 4 ingredients, free from artificial flavors and/or emulsifiers, neither of these bars were complex and both lacked the bright fruity notes that are typically a characteristic of Peruvian chocolate. My friend kept 2 chocolates for himself (a milk chocolate + a 70% dark Maras salt chocolate), so hopefully his results will be better than mine!
If you’d like to purchase bars for yourself, here is the link to a U.S. company that imports and distributes these chocolates: http://www.makigourmetorganic.com/
To learn more about the Q’uma product line & philosophy, check out: http://www.qumachocolate.com/