B is for Bachelor’s Hall

What’s in a name? If you’re not deterred by some genealogical sleuthing and enjoy immersive hours falling down one “rabbit hole” after another, with each historical source linking to yet another one, you’ll be surprised by what you can discover.

After reading this Pump Street Bakery article describing how the Bachelor’s Hall farm in Jamaica changed hands several times between the 1960s (when the 300+ acre estate belonged to current owner Desmond Jadusingh’s grandfather) until Desmond reclaimed it from government and private ownership in 2002, I wanted to learn more about its history.

Through the University College London (UCL) Legacies of British Slave-ownership webpages, the earliest instance I could find was from 1763, when this was a sugar estate with a cattle mill. Not surprisingly (since the records were transcribed from handwritten ledgers), the name has not been consistent from one source to another: Batchellors Hall Penn; Batchelors Hall Pen; Batchelors Hall; Bachelors Hall; Bachelor’s Hall. I wish I could have delved deeper into the etymology of the farm’s unusual name. Sadly, the UCL archives only traced the owners of this property through 1839, so I wasn’t able to determine when or how Desmond’s grandfather acquired it.

Equally fascinating was reading about Desmond’s struggles after a tropical hurricane in 2004 devastated infrastructure and damaged the plantation. Financially unable to rebuild after years of receiving less-than-market-value for his wet cacao beans, which were sold by the bucket to the Jamaican Cocoa Board and then taken, along with the beans of other Jamaican farmers, to a centralized location for fermentation and drying, he received some welcome assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). After their training and funding for equipment, Desmond was able to take control of the fermentation, drying and selling of his beans such that he is the only direct trade supplier / farm-traceable cocoa exporter in Jamaica. Both quality and consistency improved due to quicker post-harvest handling, additionally his chemical-free farming creates a healthier ecosystem. He is quoted as saying that the fermentation method initially was “40% textbook, 40% experimentation and 20% sheer luck.”

Bachelor’s Hall, which is situated between the John Crow Mountains on the Northeast coast and the Blue Mountains of St. Thomas Parish on the Southeast end of Jamaica, has fertile terroir and rich soil due to natural springs and small rivers running through the property. The Jamaican government introduced Trinitario beans in the 1980s to the already present Criollo and Forastero varieties that were brought to Jamaica in the 1800s from Trinidad. Those Trinitario beans are what SOMA Chocolatemaker used for this particular award-winning, three-ingredient, 70% dark chocolate bar.

As always, I was mesmerized by the impeccable glossy finish and the intricate details of the mold. Can you spot the bird wearing high top sneakers and the distinctive Canadian maple leaf?

Removing the frame-worthy, thin, rectangular bar from the re-sealable plastic wrapper, there was an enticing fruity aroma. Due to the warm California weather, I encountered a soft to medium snap when segmenting tasting morsels instead of the sharp snap that would be possible in cooler conditions.

Pieces melt slowly on your tongue with a smooth and lightly creamy mouthfeel. The flavor started out like an herbal tea and then it evolved to an almost juicy sensation (like biting into an apple). To me, the tart, raspberry notes were muted rather than vibrant, though there was a lingering finish at the back of the throat long after the chocolate was gone from my mouth.

Earlier this year, SOMA Chocolatemaker owners, Cynthia Leung and David Castellan, visited Desmond and Bachelor’s Hall for the first time & recounted their experience on their blog. Toward the end of the post, I was surprised to learn that Desmond also grows coconut trees alongside the cacao, which is apparently uncommon, but his cacao trees seem to love it. This provides a secondary income as well as a natural beverage for his jungle workers. Hopefully one day, when Desmond sets up to create his own bars on-site, he’ll consider adding some coconut to his chocolate – I can already imagine the taste! ?

For more information on Toronto-based SOMA Chocolatemaker, please visit their site: https://www.somachocolate.com/

In parting, we should all live by these words of Desmond Jadusingh:

I cannot really own this farm. I think it’s in my trust, and my duty is to leave it better than I came and saw it. I want to ensure the land I hand down is not worse but better, and I think that once I have done that I have done my duty.”

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 😉


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


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!



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!


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.


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/