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!

50 States Collaboration – Nebraska / Sweet Minou

Last week I was awaiting a delivery from Sweet Minou, Nebraska’s only bean-to-bar chocolate company; so, when a box sporting several Cultiva Coffee Roasting labels arrived, I was a little confused. However, after discovering this informative article from 2015, all the puzzle pieces have fallen into place and things make much more sense to me now! Turns out that when the Cultiva owners opened a new location (called Cultiva Labs), they carved out some space for bean-to-bar chocolate production!

A big thank you to Rebecca Ankenbrand, Sweet Minou’s chocolate maker, for generously sending me an assortment of chocolate bars (and a couple of other goodies you’ll hear about later) for “research purposes” after I contacted her about this “50 states” collaboration project!

Rebecca mentioned to me that Sweet Minou recently rebranded their logo + packaging, so I feel privileged to be among the first to see this round of the artwork and screen printed thick paper wrappers. As you’ll see below, each bar’s sleeve + the informational sticker keeping the fold closed has a different color that seems to tie into a flavor component of the bar. Additionally, the company logo (a cat’s face) is printed in a similar or complementing color. When I first saw the Sweet Minou logo, I assumed that the name was chosen to honor a beloved pet. Maybe my guess wasn’t too far off, since “minou” is the French word for “kitty” and the company name was inspired by Rebecca’s years in France where she taught English and enjoyed tasting many gourmet chocolates.

First up is Bolivia Alto Beni (70% dark chocolate)

This small bar (0.8 ounces) is made from only three ingredients: organic cacao, sugar and cocoa butter. Just removing the 5-rectangle bar from the wax-lined silver foil inner wrapper released a lovely malty and roasted/coffee aroma. While the “top” surface was marred by some air bubbles, chocolate dust and a little scuffing, the vertical and horizontal lines from the mold were crisp and well defined.

Breaking off a tasting morsel, there was a sharp snap and an earthy aroma where the rectangle had been separated from the rest of the bar. During the slow, even melt I tasted light citrus/fruity notes, while “chomping” brought out more vibrant and tangy red fruit notes. Bolivia is my current favorite country of origin and this bar was a fine example, though less earthy in flavor than others I’ve tried.

Next is the Signature Blend + Walnut (70% dark chocolate)

The foil wrapper was bulging out from the paper sleeve, barely able to contain the plentiful inclusions.

My eyes were immediately drawn to the #chocolatetopography comprised of different sized walnut pieces dotted with glistening chunks of amber-colored caramelized sugar that crunched like toffee.

Thankfully most of the inclusions remained intact when turning over the bar to discover that a different mold was used for this larger (1.35 ounce) bar. Despite slight cosmetic imperfections (some ghosting and air bubbles), the “top” surface was mostly glossy and shiny.

Though it was a little difficult to isolate the chocolate from the featured inclusion ingredients, the signature blend was smooth, creamy, not-too-sweet and seemed to have a tang that reminded me of tart cranberries. Don’t judge me too harshly, but there is only a bite or two left of this bar…really, I don’t know what happened! 😉 It was one of those cases where you take a bite, try to pinpoint what you were tasting and then need to repeat the process multiple times since the flavor was a little elusive.

Last of the bars is the Signature Blend + Pistachio (70% dark chocolate)

The colorful purple rose petals and contrasting distinctive green and brown pistachios were sprinkled over the center of the bar. Taking a closer look, the chocolate seemed to change color at the edges of the inclusion ingredients, I suspect this was the oil leeching from the nuts rather than dissolving/deliquescing salt.

Regardless, it was easier to isolate the creamy, smooth chocolate and this time the signature blend was still fruity, but less tangy than the previous bar. To me, the salty nuts added more than the papery rose petals; though when the petals were tasted alone, they were flavorful and aromatic.

But wait…there’s more!!

As an unexpected treat, I also received Mango & Vanilla Bean Cups decorated with a dash of ground turmeric and a few large salt crystals.

My only complaint is that I was unable to remove the dense cup out of the brown paper liner unless I cut the chocolate in half first. The flavorful, creamy, smooth, tropical mango purée flecked with tiny vanilla bean seeds contrasted with the medium-thick chocolate shell (which I assume was made from the same 70% cacao signature blend as the inclusion bars).

Last, but not least, some dark chocolate dipped Chili Mango slices which won Best Dessert Curry at the Lincoln, Nebraska Asian Community & Cultural Center Curry Clash fundraiser event.

The baggie arrived with 4 pieces, but one of them disappeared before the photo session! 😉 There is just the right amount of chocolate to enhance the moist and chewy dried fruit – salty, sweet, savory & lightly spicy. This finger food snack has it all…no wonder it was an award winner!

While Sweet Minou is just starting out, in the two years that Rebecca has been in business, it’s clear that she has a passion for experimenting with different flavor combinations and different bean-to-bar origins. What a thrill to learn that she will be traveling to Haiti later this week for cacao sourcing! I’m grateful that I was able to try so many of her creations & look forward to staying in touch to discover what is next on the horizon!

To learn more and order goodies for yourself, please go to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sweet.minou.chocolate/

Remember to follow the Time to Eat Chocolate blog to hear about the next stop in the “50 States” project!

NOTE: If you know of any other bean-to-bar makers in Nebraska, please leave a comment or send an email…we like to keep our resource lists as up-to-date as possible!

50 States Collaboration – Illinois / Ethereal Confections

This chocolate adventure has been an eye-opening experience in so many ways! Over the past year, it’s been my privilege to taste an eclectic variety of chocolates, expand my knowledge of ingredients/processes/places and “meet” people connected to the chocolate industry/community. One of the things that I most enjoy is seeing how brands change and evolve over time. Such is the case with Ethereal.

Ethereal Confections opened in 2011 by co-owners, Mary Ervin (formerly a graphic designer) and Sara Miller (formerly an interior designer) who met through Mary’s brother, Michael Ervin. When I tried one of their bars last year, the packaging left me wondering if they were still using other people’s chocolate. However, after recently receiving some sample bars from Michael Ervin (who is married to Sara), it’s now very clear that the focus of these two very creative and talented women is producing craft chocolate from the bean. By the way, they have been bean-to-bar since 2013 when they moved from a tiny shop to their current location in the Historic Woodstock Square area of Illinois, ~60 miles north of Chicago.

**While I received the following three bars free of charge, I did not receive any compensation for reviewing their products. The opinions are my own.**

Instead of a cardboard outer sleeve, the bars are now wrapped with thick, textured paper adorned with artwork that remind me of watercolor prints. On the front is a white rectangular informational sticker which peels away easily, such that I will probably re-purpose the colorful wrappers once the chocolate is gone. The folds are kept closed with a thin strip of double sided tape which makes it easy to open and re-close the packaging (another improvement from last year!) The single origin bar weighs in at 2.25 ounces, while the “chubbier” inclusion bars are 2.5 ounces each.

Single Origin – Haiti (70%)

Removing this three-ingredient bar from the light blue foil inner wrapper, I was surprised to see yet another change from last year: an intricate mold with the company logo prominently featured in the center, despite some chocolate dust and air bubbles marring the overall finish.

There was a roasted aroma and a sharp snap, which revealed more air bubbles at the “breaking point.” Rather than a completely smooth texture, the mouthfeel reminded me of melting grainy brown sugar.

Initially, I experienced a sweet, dried fruit flavor (like raisins) which then transitioned to an earthy and lightly astringent finish with a long-lasting, back-of-the-throat, tart taste.

66% Dark Chocolate with Caramelized Almonds, Cocoa Nibs & Sea Salt

The light blue inner foil wrapper could hardly contain this bar’s generous amount of inclusions! Nearly every surface of the back of the bar was covered with crunchy roasted nibs, caramelized almond chunks and enhanced with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Gently turning the bar over to segment into tasting morsels, a few of the inclusions came loose, but the majority remained intact. Again, there were some air bubbles marring the “top” surface, though there were far fewer air bubbles in the chocolate itself.

While it was difficult to isolate the creamy chocolate from the rest of the ingredients, the overall flavor was citrusy, leading me to wonder if Dominican Republic cacao (or a blend) was used.

66% Dark Chocolate with Caramelized Pecans, Smoked Sea Salt & Scorpion Pepper

In 2012, New Mexico State University identified “Scorpion Chili” as the hottest pepper in the world with a heat of 1.2 million Scoville heat units (it’s now considered the second hottest behind the “Carolina Reaper” which, according to some sources, has 2.2 million SHUs!) For comparison purposes: ghost chili is rated at 1 million SHUs, habaneros has between 100,000-350,000 SHUs & jalapeños have a mere 2,500-10,000 SHUs!

I’ve been both curious and apprehensive about trying this bar since I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy foods. Well, let me tell you, this bar is NOT for the faint of heart since the scorpion bourbon spice blend packs a punch! Popping a few errant “crumbs” of chocolate from the dark green foil into my mouth and (wow!) my lips + tongue were already starting to get numb from the building heat! Being daring, I followed that by “chomping” on a small chunk – now the back of my throat and even ears were feeling the burn. I decided to melt a piece on my tongue to try to isolate the chocolate by itself, I was unsuccessful; but at least the sweet, sugar-coated pecans seemed to tone down the intensity just a tiny a bit.

Next time I’m fighting a cold, this will be my remedy! Thankfully the immediate burst of heat slowly faded to a warm (yet long lasting) tingle at the tip of my tongue and back of my throat. A little goes a long way & I can see adding bits of this bar to a plain vanilla ice cream or a sipping hot chocolate for a kick. I’ve been known to test out chocolate on unsuspecting friends; this time I’ll be sure to give an upfront warning :-0

While researching Ethereal a little more today, I was intrigued to discover that 5-10% of their business over the past few years has come from a growing popular niche market: craft breweries. Here is a link to a 2016 article with more details.

Additionally, it seems that their cafe has something to appeal to everyone. Want tea or coffee beverages? – They’ve got that. How about drinking chocolate? – Yep, that’s covered too! There is even an extensive list of craft cocktails!?! What really had me salivating while reading their menu was the extensive list of chocolate pairings and tasting “flights” that they can provide. Imagine the seemingly endless possibilities sampling from among their more than 20 truffles + wine, beer, cider, whiskey or other spirits. If I lived even remotely close, they might as well forward my mail there, because it would be my 2nd home (or I’d beg them to adopt me as part of the family!) 😉

To check out Ethereal’s extensive product line for yourself, go to: http://www.etherealconfections.com/

Remember to follow the Time to Eat Chocolate blog to hear about the next stop in the “50 States” project!

Other chocolate makers in Illinois:

Noir d’Ebene Chocolat et Patisserie

NOTE: If you know of any other bean-to-bar makers in Illinois 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!

 

50 States Collaboration – Delaware / Double Spiral Chocolate

Back in November 2016, I attended the NW Chocolate Festival in Seattle, WA. While waiting for one of the Saturday educational workshops to begin, I casually chatted with another attendee who just happened to bring samples of chocolate he had recently made and was eager to get feedback from fellow chocophiles. Fast forward 5 months later…imagine my surprise as I was doing online research on the first and only bean-to-bar maker within the state of Delaware, to recognize the face of that same man looking back at me from the “About Us” page on Double Spiral Chocolate’s website! A big thank you to Stuart and Mhairi Craig (co-owners of Double Spiral Chocolate) for sending me samples of three of their bars after returning from one of their origin trips!

At first glance, the light brown outer packaging appeared very plain to me and I assumed that it was just paper made from post-consumer recycled materials. However, in keeping with Double Spiral’s goal to make a global impact not only with their chocolate making process, but also with other aspects of their business as well, the wrapper is actually tree free, carbon neutral, unbleached, biodegradable and compostable paper made from bagasse which is the fibrous matter that is left over after sugarcane or sorghum stalks are crushed to extract their juices. Almost all of the text is printed in black ink, with some spot color (blue on the back for the batch number and orange on the front when there was a 3rd ingredient used for flavoring). Though it doesn’t say so, I’m sure that they are using vegetable based-ink for the printing.

Removing the glossy one ounce bars (which they believe is an ideal daily serving of chocolate) from the wax-lined silver foil wrappers, the first thing I saw was the custom double spiral logo facing me. The back of the outer sleeve wrapper explains the reason why this symbol was used.

The first two bars that I tasted were made with just two ingredients: cacao beans and unrefined cane sugar (also called rapadura, panela or jaggery, among many other names). Since Double Spiral strives to use as few ingredients as possible and ones that are minimally processed, they sweeten their chocolate with raw sugar that is made by evaporating water from sugarcane juice (in contrast, white sugar has a centrifuge step that strips away the naturally brown color and the nutrient rich molasses).

First up: Tanzania 75% (Kokoa Kamili)

This bar exhibited the most amount of “scuffing” as well as some chocolate “dust,” though it was the only one that appeared to be free from any surface air bubbles.

Try as I might, I was unable to do justice when photographing the bars side-by-side. You’ll just have to take my word that this bar was slightly more reddish brown in color when compared with the other two bars. Upon opening the wrapper, I encountered a fruity aroma and a semi-crisp snap when segmenting pieces from the small bar. The not-too-sweet fruity flavor was muted while melting a piece in my mouth + the mouthfeel during the melt seemed a little dry and grainy. However, when chomping on a tasting morsel, there was an immediate vibrant tart/tangy, almost juicy, raspberry flavor explosion that hit my tongue and a lingering finish at the back of the throat.

Next up: Haiti 75% (Pisa)

The appearance of this bar was marred by some “ghosting” and tiny air bubbles. Simply unwrapping the bar produced an earthy aroma. There was a crisp, dry snap and a nutty scent at the “break point.” Surprisingly, the nutty (almost chalky) flavor hits at the back of the throat rather than the tongue or palate. I struggled to put a name to the specific nut until reading the tasting notes: brazil nut. This was my “ah ha” moment!

Last, but not least: Haiti 75% (Pisa) with Freeze Dried Ginger

The two Haiti bars are nearly identical in color when compared side-by-side. The unflavored Haiti is shown at the top and the ginger Haiti is at the bottom of this photo.

Again, the bar’s finish was also affected by some “ghosting,” “scuffing” as well as some tiny air bubbles. Straight out of the packaging there was a muted ginger aroma, which became much more prominent once the bar was broken into pieces. For me, the ginger flavor hit the roof of my mouth/palate first and then there was the spicy “zing” lightly burning the back of my throat.

Maybe it’s me, but it almost looks like this bar is more “close-textured” (to borrow from baking terminology) since I didn’t notice any air bubbles within the tasting morsel like the other two.

Of the three that I tasted, the ginger was my favorite, with the Tanzania coming in as a close second! If you’ve had the chance to taste these bars too, please let me know your thoughts!

To read more about Double Spiral’s chocolate making philosophy and process or to order bars for yourself, please visit their website: http://doublespiralchocolate.com/

Remember to follow the Time to Eat Chocolate blog to hear about the next stop in the “50 States” project!

NOTE: If you know of any other bean-to-bar makers in Delaware, please leave a comment or send an email…we like to keep our resource lists as up-to-date as possible!

50 States Collaboration – Montana / Burnt Fork Bend

Every day is a new adventure and, for me, eating chocolate certainly helps smooth out the rough edges! A huge thank you to Jennifer Wicks, Burnt Fork Bend’s chocolate maker, for generously sending me samples of 2 bars/3 origins for this “50 States” project!

Did you know that ~38 of the 50 United States have bean-to-bar chocolate companies and Montana is one of the states that has only one B2B maker? This article from 2012 provides details on how Jennifer got started and the inspiration behind the company’s name and logo, while this article from 2015 provides a glimpse into her chocolate making process.

While deciding which states I wanted to feature as part of this collaboration project with Lori from Time to Eat Chocolate, I visited Burnt Fork Bend’s website and fell in love with the stories behind the bar names, especially the “Bob Bar”! One of Jennifer’s former co-workers wasn’t fond of her original 72% dark chocolate bar and wasn’t afraid to honestly tell her. So, she developed a recipe that he liked & named the bar after him 🙂

The bars come in two different sizes: the 2 oz. package is the “small” and the 2.5 oz. package is the “large.” Origins change every 8-10 months or so (based on availability) to keep things interesting, as well as to introduce customers to as many different flavor profiles as possible.

The “Bob Bar” is made with just three ingredients, using evaporated cane juice instead of sugar.

The outer packaging is a coated paper “envelope” that can be opened and re-sealed easily.

Inside each of these envelopes, the thick bar is wrapped in a plastic pouch kept closed with a small silver sticker adorned with the company logo: the silhouette of heron standing in an idyllic, flowing creek.

The mold is made up of 12 equal squares which reminds me a bit of a Ritter Sport chocolate bar. As I’m looking at the bar now that I’ve easily removed a row of squares for tasting purposes, the remaining 9 squares makes me think of a chocolate Rubik’s Cube!

First up is the 60% Costa Rica Bob Bar

If I’ve deciphered Jennifer’s batch numbering nomenclature, this bar is from batch number 8, made on December 18, 2016! I noticed air bubbles at the corners of several squares, otherwise the matte finish was mostly free from other imperfections.

[update April 5th: Thanks to Jennifer for reaching out…seems I was close, but not completely accurate in my nomenclature deciphering. Rather than denote the batch number, the first two digits represent an internal reference to the beans’ country of origin + the rest of the numbers are the packaging date.]

There was a roasted coffee aroma on opening the package and a semi soft snap when segmenting tasting morsels. While the square’s size makes it a bit difficult to “melt” on my tongue like you are supposed to, I discovered that “chomping” the piece a couple of times made “melting” much easier! It’s not abrasive like stone ground cacao, but the texture / mouthfeel is not completely smooth since the beans are minimally processed.

This may be my first experience with Costa Rican chocolate, so I’m not sure if coffee notes are inherent in this origin. After the first few bites, the flavor mellowed to a buttery/nutty one with hints of honey or caramel. I can understand why Bob liked this “sweeter side of dark” bar!

Next were the 72% Ecuador and 72% Bolivia Blue Heron Bars

Like the “Bob Bar,” these have only three ingredients – though sugar is used for the sweetener.

Looking at the bars side-by-side, it appears that the Ecuador bar is slightly darker than the Bolivia bar, though both have interesting swirls on the “back” side of the bar! Depending on how I oriented the bar, I could see different abstract artwork that I would have otherwise missed if I wasn’t inquisitive!

The Ecuador bar (batch number 1, made December 29, 2016) had a medium crisp/slightly hollow sounding snap and seemed to have less air bubbles marring the surface of the matte finish. There was an earthy aroma upon opening the package, a fruity/berry flavor on the melt and a creamy/nutty flavor when “chomped.”

The Bolivia bar (batch number 3, made March 23, 2017) smelled less earthy than the Ecuador bar and there was more chocolate “dust” on the top surface. It seemed to have a drier mouthfeel when chomped (which reminded me of marshmallows) and a lightly astringent finish.

If you prefer milk chocolate, don’t worry…they have that too! Be sure to visit their website for more details and to order bars for yourself: http://www.burntforkbend.com/index.html

Remember to follow the Time to Eat Chocolate blog to hear about the next stop in the “50 States” project!

NOTE: If you know of any other bean-to-bar makers in Montana, please leave a comment or send an email…we like to keep our resource lists as up-to-date as possible!

50 States Collaboration – Washington DC / Harper Macaw & Chocotenango

The cross-country chocolate swap and collaboration project continues! Sometimes you can get complacent about things that are familiar to you; so, from the start, Lori & I thought it would be fun for each of us to review chocolates from the other’s hometown to get a “fresh perspective” on them. She reviewed three chocolate makers from the Southern California area yesterday, so today I’m writing about two chocolate makers from the Washington, D.C. area.

Harper Macaw Chocolate Makers has been on my “wish list” for a while now, so I’m very grateful to Lori for choosing these 3 bars from the Rainforest Origin series for me. Check out this link from their website to learn more about the Brazilian cacao sources and conservation efforts to turn chocolate into a force for tropical reforestation.

Each of the thick white cardboard boxes is decorated with a brightly colored kaleidoscope imagery featuring a different endangered animal. Additionally, there are thin gold foil stamped & embossed lines accenting the box and these are repeated again on the chocolate bars themselves. One of my favorite gold accents is the company logo, which looks to be a stylized face of a macaw parrot, with plumage framing its beak and eyes.

Each of these chocolate bars was made with just three ingredients: cocoa beans, cane sugar and cocoa butter. Instead of utilizing the perforated “tear strip” on the back panel of the box, I decided to keep the packaging intact by easily lifting the flap from the double stick tape, which could then be used to “re-seal” the envelope-like closure.

Though not pictured, each bar was wrapped in a crimped heat sealed, metallic plastic pouch. Additionally, each bar of chocolate had a dull matte finish with varying degrees of chocolate “dust” marring the surface. I’m surprised that none of the boxes had any tasting notes listed, though the company website does mention the flavor notes there. I didn’t consult the website until just now, so we’ll see how “close” I was able to get during my “unbiased” tastings 😉

First up is the 74% Atlantic Forest / Single Estate Vale do Juliana bar, featuring a Golden Lion Tamarin Monkey.

Removing the bar from the inner packaging, the aroma reminded me of dark roasted coffee.

There was a brittle, dry snap to the bar which revealed some air bubbles and a few unusual white flecks at one section of the tasting morsel (see the upper left corner of the photo below):

Initially, the piece tasted like mocha and then evolved into an earthy flavor during the smooth and even, slow melt. This did not have a creamy mouthfeel and was lightly astringent on the finish. According to the website, the tasting notes are listed as: Toffee, licorice, peppercorn… This one’s a bit of a mystery

Next up is the 77% Amazon Rainforest / Single Estate Tomé Açu bar, featuring poison dart frogs.

This bar had a grassy, hay-like aroma which then transitioned to a dark roasted smell once it had a chance to “breathe” a bit. I’m always fascinated by the “shear pattern” upon creating a tasting morsel.

However, subsequent pieces looked completely different / no “shear”!

This one was the darkest in color and had a sharp snap with an earthy, herbal, almost black licorice flavor. The mouthfeel was more “juicy” than the last bar and also had a smooth, slow, even melt. The website’s tasting notes describe the bar as: Earthy with dried fruit such as raisins

You can also read about Lori’s impressions about this bar here.

Originally I was only going to try two of the three Harper Macaw bars that Lori had sent me, but I just couldn’t resist trying all of them!

Next up is the 75% Atlantic Forest / Single Estate M. Libânio, featuring Agrias claudina butterflies.

Sadly, this bar had the most chocolate “dust” marring the surface.

The aroma reminded me of dried figs and had a brittle, almost hollow sounding snap.

Surprisingly, there were sour, tangy notes to the chocolate and a chalky astringent aftertaste despite the smooth and even, slow melt. The website lists the flavor as: Malt, tart cherries, white fruit

Here is a photo of all three bars side-by-side to show the differences in colors even through the cacao used only varied by a few percentage points. Some of my descriptions were close to the tasting notes, but I still have a long way to go in perfecting my palate!

To learn more about Harper Macaw and see even more colorful packaging, including their political collection, visit their website: https://harpermacaw.com/

But wait, there’s more…I also had the opportunity to taste a bar from Chocotenango! Lori just recently wrote about this company, so check out her blog post to learn more about how they got started.

Cardamom is one of my favorite flavors, so I was thrilled when Lori was able to obtain this 73% Dominican Republic dark chocolate Arabian Nights bar on my behalf!

The royal blue foil doesn’t really go with the cream and green colored outer packaging, but I was fascinated by the way they wrapped the bar on the diagonal, which reminds me of the Japanese Furoshiki technique.

The twelve rectangle bar with a matte finish sustained some damage in transit, possibly because the bar is much more narrow than the outer cardboard sleeve packaging. There was a sharp snap and a creamy, smooth mouthfeel with the occasional crunch from a citrusy cardamom seed.

Overall, I loved the strong green cardamom flavor and aroma! It will be hard not to eat this entire bar within the next few days. To learn more about Chocotenango and see their other flavors, please check out their website: https://www.chocotenango.com/

Remember to follow the Time to Eat Chocolate blog to hear about the next stop in the “50 States” project!

Other chocolate makers in Washington, D.C.:

Undone Chocolate

NOTE: If you know of any other bean-to-bar makers in Washington, D.C. 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!

50 States Collaboration – Arizona / Stone Grindz Chocolate

Partnering with Time to Eat Chocolate on this collaboration project has provided me with the opportunity to expand my horizons! Since Lori posted about a chocolate maker from her home state yesterday, I thought it would be fun to write about a company that I only recently discovered was near my home state! Honestly, it never occurred to me that there could be a chocolate maker in Scottsdale, Arizona since their summer temperatures are consistently in the triple digits!! It surprised me to discover that there are actually quite a few companies in other parts of Arizona as well (see the bottom of this post for a full list of makers).

As any marketing person will tell you, vibrant packaging sells! When trying to select which Arizona maker to feature, I was captivated by the colorful/eye-catching rustic artwork of the Stone Grindz bars as shown on their website. Seeing that they also carried a Bolivia bar (one of my favorite origins at the moment) “sealed the deal” – now to try to locate it! Luckily their bars are sold by Chocolate Covered San Francisco, so I quickly placed an order and received the bar within two days.

To me, it looks like both a llama and a donkey are depicted on the front of this C1S (coated one side) notched cardboard sleeve since these “beasts of burden” are perfect for transporting supplies in the Bolivian Andes.

Removing the bar from the outer packaging, the clear heat-sealed plastic bag allows you to immediately see the matte finish of the 18-square mold, despite some minor chocolate “dust” marring the overall finish.

Cutting open the plastic wrapper released a deep, rich, chocolatey aroma. Taking a closer look at the bar, I noticed tiny air bubbles at the corners of most of the squares and some slight “ghosting” swirls. I’m always mesmerized by the natural beauty of minor imperfections, if you take time to notice them. FYI, I enhanced the photo below a bit to make it “pop.”

Breaking off a row of squares to make tasting morsels, I noticed that the mold had not been evenly filled since each of the pieces varied in width.

There was a slightly brittle snap to the bar and I detected a nutty aroma at the break. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy – something I didn’t really expect from a name like Stone Grindz. After melting several pieces in my mouth, I noticed a malty aftertaste; however, the overall flavor of this Wild Bolivia bar was mild to me, rather than the distinct earthy flavor profile I have come to expect from other Bolivian beans (Alto Beni, in particular). To my surprise, I tasted mostly green apple rather than the cashew and plum from the tasting notes. Based on my experience, green apple is generally considered to be an “off flavor” in beer, so I’m wondering about the amount of acetic acid produced when fermenting this particular batch of beans which, according to the packaging, grew wild along the Amazon River Basin. [As a side note, I sampled this bar twice with the same results: once in the morning as a “first taste” before having anything to eat & a second time after eating a spicy meal.]

Taste is definitely subjective! Just recently, the Choocolate Journalist published an interesting article about some of the reasons why people taste things differently than others. So, don’t take my word for it…try it for yourself & let me know your thoughts & experiences!!

If you’d like to learn more about the different bars available from Stone Grindz, check out: http://www.stonegrindz.com/

To be sure not to miss any story from this “50 States” project, I recommend that you also follow the Time to Eat Chocolate blog!

Other chocolate makers in Arizona:

Brazen Chocolate https://www.newfangledlabs.com/

Chocofin http://www.chocofin.com/

Desert Indulgence http://www.difinechocolates.com/

Lulu’s Chocolate http://www.luluschocolate.com/

Zak’s Chocolate http://zakschocolate.com/

NOTE: If you know of any other bean-to-bar makers in Arizona 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!

Bonus G – Goat Milk

So far I’ve tried camel milk and donkey milk, so when fellow blogger and chocophile Estelle Tracy from 37 Chocolates suggested a cross-country swap, I jumped at the opportunity to try a goat milk bar from Philly’s own Chocolate Alchemist!

I had heard that Robert Campbell (aka the “Chocolate Alchemist”) uses hand-stitched wrappers made from re-usable Nepalese lokta paper, so I took the time to carefully unstitch one side of the packaging…

only to later realize that I merely needed to lift the round sticker from the back of the packaging to release the foil wrapped bar from the envelope enclosure…DOH! Face palm! :0

The bar had broken in half during transit to California, but that made it easier for me to compare “back” and “front” at the same time:

The “back” looks a little mottled, full of swirls and tiny dots; while the “front” is shinier despite a slightly grainy/flecked appearance with some “ghosting” marring the finish.

Segmenting the rectangles to create tasting morsels, there is a soft/dull snap and the pieces are a little crumbly. I really shouldn’t have been surprised by the amount of nooks and crannies at the break, since that’s the texture you get when cacao beans are minimally processed.

Robert strongly believes in creating blends instead of single origins, using only all-natural, unrefined sweeteners and eschewing the “standard” 70% bar; so this 65% bar is a blend of Dominican and Peruvian beans, sweetened with local maple sugar.

There is a musty, earthy aroma to the bar; but I was completely unprepared for the intense sour, tangy goat cheese flavor. This was sharp, almost like a blue or Roquefort cheese or a yogurt on the edge of going past the expiration date! Honestly, a little goes a long way & this is not a bar that I would recommend eating all in one sitting!

As you might know, if you follow the Chocolate Alchemist on Instagram, he is fiercely outspoken and un-apologetically direct when speaking his mind about subjects near and dear to his heart. While I’ve not had the opportunity to meet him, based on what I’ve seen of his interactions with others online, he is very generous and supportive of his friends and family. Where other chocolate makers might try to tone down or tame the “wild” flavors of cacao to be more universally palatable or accessible to everyone, he unabashedly embraces the brash tastes for what they are.

Melting a piece on my tongue (yes, I was “brave” enough to do so), I felt the abrasiveness from tiny errant pieces of cacao nibs; though, overall, it wasn’t as grainy or gritty as some stone ground chocolate bars that I’ve tried in the past.

Is this chocolate for everyone?! No…but I think that’s OK. If everything was homogeneous, then how could you appreciate or realize when something stands out as being different or unique?

You’ll also enjoy reading Estelle’s article from Edible Philly where she dedicates several paragraphs to describe Chocolate Alchemist chocolate bars, as well as Robert himself…you’ll need to scroll down toward the bottom of that article for the section called “Bean-to-Bar Chocolate in Philadelphia.” Make sure you don’t miss the lead-in photo at the top of the webpage since it shows what a block of un-tempered, aged goat maple chocolate looks like when it is dappled with fat “bloom.”

In the spirit of blending, I just sampled a piece of the goat milk bar with last week’s foie gras bar and discovered it’s a surprisingly well-balanced combination! Dare to be different & stay curious! ;-p

For more information about the Chocolate Alchemist and to order his products online, check out: https://www.chocolatephilly.com/

50 States Collaboration – Ohio / Maverick Chocolate

Little did I know when I selected Ohio for this week’s blog post that there would be a tangential connection to Lori’s Missouri post from yesterday…read on for more details!

I always find it fascinating to hear stories about what leads people to become involved with chocolate. When Paul Picton would travel internationally as an aviation engineer and executive for Comair (a subsidiary of Delta Airlines), he would seek out chocolates to bring back to his wife Marlene. When that job ended in 2013, their stash of fine chocolate quickly became depleted. Paul & Marlene were looking for a business venture in which they could both contribute equally; so, after a visit to the Askinosie Chocolate factory in Missouri, the Pictons decided that entering the craft chocolate movement was a viable option. It’s become a family affair, since their sons Scott and Benjamin are also involved in the company’s operations.

One thing that you will notice when you access Maverick’s website is that each of their bar labels depicts a different 20th Century “flying machine” which pays homage to Paul’s former aviation career. The vintage/historic theme continues at their Findlay Market storefront in Cincinnati, Ohio since that space once housed the Hong Kong Tea & Coffee Company in the 1800s. A “maverick” is defined as an unorthodox or independent person and this bean-to-bar chocolate maker seeks to emulate its namesake by pushing the envelope and trying new things to please those with an adventurous palate.

63% Morropón Dark Chocolate

Immediately upon opening the tab keeping the outer textured cardboard packaging closed, you see a list of things to consider when tasting chocolate (which I try to touch upon in each of my posts).

To feel more connected to the people behind the chocolate, be sure to read the inner middle panel of the packaging which provides the details of Paul & Marlene’s chocolate journey.

Upon removing the reddish brown bar from the clear plastic pouch, my first smell was of roasted coffee. Sadly, many of the shiny faceted squares were marred by chocolate “dust” due to transit to California.

It took me a little bit of effort to split off a rectangle (2 squares) from the thick bar. There was a slightly brittle snap to the chocolate when segmenting the two squares from each other and I noticed several air bubbles at the breaking point, which yielded a nutty aroma.

Each of the 10 squares of their mold comes to a raised point in the center & this extra thickness made it a little difficult to bite into or segment into smaller tasting morsels. Chomping a piece, the initial flavor I experienced was sweet raisins. Then, while slowly melting a piece on my tongue, I could taste tart cherry and citrus (Peruvian chocolate is known to have natural citrus notes). I’m not sure if the additional cocoa butter contributes to the thick (but smooth) mouthfeel; personally, I would have liked the flavors to last longer and for the chocolate to melt more easily.

While researching Maverick Chocolate online, I enjoyed reading this 2015 article and was especially pleased to see a picture of a jute bag stamped with Morropón, Peru, the exact origin of the beans from the bar that I just sampled above! Additionally, from the bar’s packaging: “The Norandino Co-Op in Morropón, Peru unites small farmers with a common goal – to preserve the Piura White Criollo Cacao and to improve the quality of life for their farming community.”

Even though I’m generally a dark chocolate fan, I’d love to try their “Prohibition” milk chocolate with Kentucky bourbon, which won a silver medal from the International Chocolate Awards in 2015. Additionally, within a few months of opening Maverick Chocolate in 2014, they submitted their spicy Fahrenheit 513 bar and won a Good Foods Awards in 2015 (FYI, “513” is the area code of Cincinnati).

To check out the rest of their product line, which also includes nibs and a drinking chocolate mix, visit: http://maverickchocolate.com/

Remember to follow the Time to Eat Chocolate blog to hear about the next stop in the “50 States” project!

Other chocolate makers in Ohio:

fincaChocolate grows their own cacao in Puerto Rico & then makes small batch chocolate in Central Ohio. While their website doesn’t have too many details, they also have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fincachocolate/

Ohiyo

NOTE: If you know of any other bean-to-bar makers in Ohio 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!

B is for Bay Nut

Setting yourself a goal within specific parameters may seem limiting, but I’ve found it to be an eye-opening and fun challenge! Last year I wanted to alphabetically feature new-to-me chocolate brands & I succeeded even though “Q” and “Y” were the most difficult to obtain. This year, I’m featuring unusual and/or unique inclusion ingredients in alphabetical order. If it wasn’t for this project, I don’t think I would have ever known about the existence of bay nuts and that they were edible!

When I visited the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle last November, I wasn’t really on the lookout for unusual inclusion ingredients quite yet (I was just toying with the idea of that theme at that point; but by the time I left the festival, I knew that I had stumbled upon a great idea…still need to find “U” or “X” – so let me know if there are any makers I should try!)

If you’re like me, you like to chat with other festival attendees to compare notes on interesting finds and “not-to-miss” goodies! My ears perked up when I heard someone mention a bay nut bar from Firefly Chocolate. My next stop was to their booth to taste this for myself. I remember it being creamy and unusual; but after eating chocolate for a couple of days, I had a bit of “palate fatigue” (yeah, it’s a thing), so “B” week on Eating the Chocolate Alphabet was the ideal way to savor and fully appreciate it!

One of the first things that you notice about the packaging is the precise percentages and origins of the three (and only) ingredients used in this bar: 40% cacao beans from Belize / 30% bay nuts from Mendocino (California) / 30% coconut sugar from Indonesia.

From their website: Firefly Chocolate buys cacao primarily from Maya Mountain Cacao (MMC) in Southern Belize. MMC works directly with 309 indigenous Maya farming families in 31 communities located in the foothills of the Mayan Mountain Range. Firefly roasts and conches the beans at the lowest temperatures possible, inspired by the raw foods movement. While California Bay Laurel trees are plentiful, they are not cultivated, so all the nuts used in this bar were wild harvested. Traditionally the nuts are roasted in ashes which produces an aroma like popcorn. To learn more, check out this link: https://fireflychocolate.com/product/wild-harvested-bay-nut-chocolate-bar/

After reading that bay nuts are related to avocados, I did some research & found this photo. It wasn’t until recently that I learned you can roast and eat avocado seeds (pits) – maybe other chocolate makers will be inspired?

Upon opening the tri-fold cardboard packaging, the copper embossed sticker on the narrow rectangular glassine pouch caught my eye. Initially I thought it was a bee, but I’m now pretty sure that it’s a firefly (though I’ve never seen one in person, during daylight with their wings outstretched). 😉

Removing the 12-rectangle bar from the inner packaging, I noticed that my fingerprints were easily transferrable to the surface, so I had to be careful not to mar the otherwise pristine finish. I wonder if the low percentage of cacao caused the bar to melt easily in my hands.

The aroma reminds me of roasted coffee, but the taste is reminiscent of slightly burnt popcorn kernels. One thing that really surprised me was the instant refreshing/cooling sensation I get when I put a piece in my mouth. It’s like menthol without the menthol flavor. There is a nice sharp snap to the bar and the mouthfeel is creamy, though a little grainy probably due to the beans being stone ground and the use of coconut sugar. Coconut blossom sugar is a natural sweetener with a low glycemic index that is gaining popularity for those trying to avoid refined sugars.

For years, I’ve been seasoning soups and stews with California bay leaves (though I like Turkish bay leaves too), but I never realized that this tree also produced nuts. I knew about acorns, but bay nuts was something completely new to me. So, as I was taking photos of this bar, I decided to “stage” the chocolate amongst some dried leaves waiting to fulfill their destiny in some culinary creation.

Just this morning, I posted a “teaser” photo to Instagram letting people guess today’s unique ingredient. One person immediately guessed bay leaves, but I don’t think anyone has guessed the bay nut yet!

To learn more about Jonas Ketterle’s mission of “inspiring awe and wonder,” as well as the vision and values for this first bean-to-bar chocolate company in Sonoma County (California), I encourage you to visit: https://fireflychocolate.com/ I certainly like learning something new & hope you do too!