SOMA Chocolate Maker Birch Bar

Yet again my expectations have been blown away by Toronto-based SOMA Chocolatemaker’s creative artistry. I’ve seen pictures of this birch branch on Instagram, but clearly I didn’t pay attention to the scale. Truly, I thought this would be a “bar” that could fit in your hands. Well, it *COULD* be hand-held…if you were Paul Bunyan or the Jolly Green Giant!

Whenever I go shopping for chocolates during the summer, I always take a mini Igloo cooler with me to ensure safe transit of my goodies. When I arrived at Chocolate Maya in Santa Barbara to pick up my SOMA order, I quickly realized that the over foot-long packaging would not fit into my cooler and I certainly didn’t want to remove the delicate molded chocolate from its secure “nest.” Since the weather was a bit warm that day, I put the plastic bag-wrapped box on the floor of the car on the passenger side & cranked up the air conditioning positioned at the feet so that the chocolate wouldn’t melt during the two hour drive back home.

My next “panic attack” was whether or not the box would fit into my 8-bottle mini wine fridge for storage until the weather cooled down enough for a photo session. 😱 Thankfully the box just barely fit! 😌

So, this week, during a cool mid-August morning, I finally decided to sample the realistic-looking, 12 inch long, thick, 10+ ounce branch.

As mentioned on the SOMA website:

“My Dad recently found a beautiful birch branch in a forest up in Lindsay, Ontario that we made into a mould. Beaver-inspired and perfect for sharing.”

They added more humor with little touches to the outer packaging:

You would think that it would be difficult to slice off a tasting round without shattering the rest of the branch. However, a non-serrated knife easily cut through the thin Jamaican dark chocolate shell.

As you can see, the star of the show is the ultra-creamy & buttery gianduja (chocolate hazelnut paste) studded with a praline crunch that reminds me of feuilletine flakes. The ribbon of cherry jam adds just the right amount of tartness and I love that there are pieces of the fruit skin in the jam for added texture.

As the holidays approach & you consider what to have as a Thanksgiving table centerpiece or are tired of the standard Christmas-time buche de noel/yule log, this Birch Branch is sure to bring a “wow factor” to your festivities (plus, it would make an AWESOME hostess gift too!)

*Note: while this might sound like a sponsored advertisement, it’s NOT! I was not paid for my review and really, truly LOVED this unique chocolate!

For more information on SOMA Chocolatemaker, please visit their website: https://www.somachocolate.com/

P.S. Have you missed seeing my posts during my month-long hiatus?! Don’t worry, next month I’ll be returning to the alphabet – this time featuring origins! Stay tuned 🙂

Bonus “S” bar – SOMA Chocolatemaker

Behind the scenes at Eating the Chocolate Alphabet in early September (you’re eavesdropping on an internal conversation with myself):

  • “S” week is coming up soon and I haven’t selected which chocolate to feature yet.
  • How about SOMA? Everyone raves about them.
  • Bummer that they aren’t available in the Los Angeles area since I’m WAY over budget already.

 Still, I reached out to one of my Canadian resources to determine the possibility of purchasing and shipping a bar on my behalf…my heart was set on getting one flavored with harissa and corn based on an Instagram post that I had seen. Then, on a whim, I checked the website of a chocolate shop within a two hours’ drive from me and discovered that they had two different bars available for purchase…just a couple of bars from their “Black Science” collection: a 70% Porcelana & a 70% Chama (I’ll explain the irony of the “just” comment in a moment). Now I was in a quandary…do I drive up to Santa Barbara to purchase the Porcelana bar to avoid the high cost of hot weather shipping fees or wait to hear about my “dream” flavor direct from Canada?

Several weeks later, I see a fellow Instagrammer post this article. Turns out that Porcelana bar I was dithering about had tied at the International Chocolate Awards in 2015 for the best single-origin dark chocolate bar in the WORLD! Also earlier this summer, the International Chocolate Awards again honored them with a gold as well as “best in competition” for the plain/origin dark bar category in the 2016 Americas & Asia-Pacific competition. Oh and while researching for this post, I discovered that my “dream flavor” is actually a not a bar, it’s a crunchy toasted corn snack tumbled in chocolate and dusted with fiery North African spices! All those weeks of hemming and hawing for no reason…when will I ever learn?!

Originally I wasn’t going to post/publish until receiving a milk chocolate Soma bar shipped by my contact in Canada…but I can’t wait until tomorrow or (possibly) Saturday to tell you all about this multiple award winning 70% Porcelana bar made from Venezuelan Criollo beans!

Do you know how hard it is to avoid taking an accidental selfie when the outer packaging is a sealed shiny mirror polish silver pouch?! A few contortions and strategic angling…I think I managed OK 😉

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The fairly plain exterior packaging truly belies the intricate and delicate mold that was used. The bar was in pristine condition, no cracks 🙂

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To me, it was like looking out a window at a picturesque garden scene with falling leaves; though whose garden happens to have cacao pods, cacao flowers AND a swallow wearing tennis shoes?! Also, don’t blink or you’ll miss the Canadian maple leaf hiding near the bottom right corner!

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As mentioned before, I’m also fascinated with the back side of bars. There are 18 dots plus a symmetrical pattern of lines that remind me of a stained glass window. Each half of the bar has a square with a diamond in the middle and 2 small rectangles on either side which repeats again on the lower half. This makes me very curious to see how the molds are filled!

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Getting back to first impressions…just snipping off the top of the pouch released such an inviting roasted & nutty aroma! Gently removing the bar from the packaging, I then stuck my nose into the now-empty packaging – there was a subtle whiff of coconut. I thought I was imagining things until I referred back to the package’s tasting notes for confirmation.

It truly pained me to break into the cute bar since I might have preferred to frame the chocolate instead of eat it. As a compromise, I broke off the top part with the company name/logo, but left the garden scene intact for later. The bar is thin, but it still gave a little resistance before snapping.

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Putting a bite-sized morsel in my already salivating mouth, the piece melted quickly and easily with a smooth, buttery, creamy, almost juicy mouthfeel. The taste made me think of not too sweet caramel with a slight hint of a floral note. Can’t wait to compare and contrast it to last week’s Porcelana bar during a second tasting.

If you’re curious about the company name, their website says: Soma in Sanskrit means “food of the Gods.” And by coincidence, Theobroma Cacao (which is the Latin taxonomic classification for the cocoa plant) also means “food of the Gods.”

Their website reminds us that the word soma appears in the 1930s dystopian novel “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley as being the mysterious plant used to achieve nirvana. I don’t know about you, but I tend to agree that their chocolate induces bliss like its namesake!

Next on my wishlist is a bar from their “Old School” line…and to finally taste that harissa and corn that consumed my thoughts for weeks!

To learn more about their bean-to-bar process, where the beans come from, the various chocolate bar collections + other offerings, check out: http://www.somachocolate.com/