S is for Surabaya

Focusing on “origins” for this round of the Eating the Chocolate Alphabet project has provided so many opportunities to improve my knowledge of world geography. Until today, when I thought of Indonesia, the first thing that came to mind was a unique “rijsttafel” (rice table) meal that I experienced in Amsterdam several years ago. After researching this Willie’s Cacao dark chocolate bar, I have a new mental picture of the Indonesian island of Java and the port city of Surabaya (which also happens to be the second largest city in Indonesia, after Jakarta).

Curious about the etymology of the word Surabaya, I discovered that “sura” means a shark, while “baya” means a crocodile. So it makes perfect sense that Surabaya would use these two animals as part of their coat of arms above a motto that translates to “bravely facing danger.”

Source: Wikipedia

On the back of the foil stamped and embossed small square box, chocolate maker Willie Harcourt-Cooze is quoted as saying “This Javan Dark Breaking bean stopped me in my tracks. It’s an adventure in taste with its criollo characteristics and soft caramel and toffee flavours, born in the volcanic soil of Surabaya.”

The phrase “Dark Breaking bean” was new to me, so I decided to research further. Typing those words into a Google search engine, I discovered that every single entry referred to a Willie’s Cacao bar, so I had to dig more!

Luckily, a PDF version of a 2001 document from the International Trade Centre entitled “Cacao: A Guide to Trade Practices” provided the explanation I was looking for:

“When cocoa beans are examined in the laboratory or during grading, they are cut lengthways and the interior of the bean is examined for colour and defects. If the colour is light brown, the bean is considered ‘light breaking’. If the colour is dark, it is ‘dark breaking’. Light breaking beans are generally of the Criollo variety (some are Trinitario or Nacional-based), i.e. fine or flavour beans. Basic cocoa beans of the Forastero variety are generally dark breaking.”

This left me a little confused since the above information refers to Forastero beans being dark breaking, even though Willie’s label mentions Criollo, which seems to be the type of bean that the Dutch planted in Java/Indonesia according to this source from Bali (an island and province in Indonesia).

“Java became the first region outside the New World that began producing these heritage [Criollo] beans commercially and as these genetics acclimated to their new surroundings they took on their own terroir. Today these beans are called ‘Light Breaking Javas’ for the fact that they still exhibit the famed Criollo low pigmentation when the cacao beans are cut in half.”

Hmmm, I still have questions about the precise genetics of the beans used for this bar! But enough about that, let’s see how this bar tastes!!

Willie’s Cacao Surabaya Gold Indonesian Dark Chocolate Single Cacao 69%

Removing the bar from the gold foil inner pouch emblazoned with an offset cursive capital “W,” I noticed that the bar was lightly frosted and/or had a bloomed appearance as well as a coating of “chocolate dust.”

Lightly buffing the surface with a fingertip, returned the bar to its original shine. Below are the “during” and “after” shots for comparison purposes.

Breaking off a tasting morsel with a brittle/sharp snap, there was an earthy/mineral smell to the bar. The piece had a lightly textured (not completely smooth) mouthfeel during the slow/even melt. Almost immediately, there was a smoky flavor that seemed to cumulatively increase. Sadly, no soft caramel and/or toffee notes for me!

Curious about the cacao drying practices in Indonesia, I did another search and discovered this from a description of a Bonnat chocolate bar:

“The intemperate climate on this large Indonesian island means that, as with Papua [New Guinea] chocolate, the beans are dried using large open fires. The result is a chocolate infused with a little hint of smoke.”

Seeing this description made me remember that I had that exact Bonnat bar in my stash!

What a difference in color between a 65% dark milk (Bonnat) shown at the top of the photo and a 69% dark (Willie’s Cacao) at the bottom:

This made me understand “light breaking” and “dark breaking” beans much more clearly!

Have YOU tried bars from Surabaya, Java and/or Indonesia? Let me know your thoughts in a comment!

For more information on Willie’s Cacao, please visit: https://www.williescacao.com/

You can find additional information on Bonnat, here: https://bonnat-chocolatier.com/en

W is for Willie’s Cacao

Happy Halloween! Hope your day was filled with (chocolate) treats 🙂 Honestly, I’m not sure why October 28th is considered “National Chocolate Day” instead of October 31st given that most trick or treaters prefer chocolate over other types of goodies. As you might imagine, my taste gravitates toward craft chocolates over mass-produced sweets.

Just when it seemed like my dream “W” bar was out of reach, Pashmina and Chris from Choco Rush came to my rescue! The timing of my inquiry was just right since they were shortly scheduled to receive a shipment of Willie’s Cacao straight from the factory in the UK! I don’t know about you, but I get excited every time chocolate is scheduled to be delivered to me by mail. Upon receiving the USPS tracking number, I set up text message alerts so that I could stay informed about the exact whereabouts of my precious cargo 😉 Rushing out the door once I received notification that the package was “left in the mailbox at its destination,” I was eager to see Choco Rush’s distinctive logo on the sealed cardboard rectangular box.


The bar was expertly packed with two mini sheets of re-usable cooling “ice cubes” to ensure that it would arrive in pristine condition despite the warmer weather that is still lingering here in SoCal despite it being Fall.


Recently I discovered “Willie’s Chocolate Revolution: Raising the Bar,” a documentary that chronicles the various ups and downs that Willie Harcourt-Cooze experienced while setting up his production of bean-to-bar dark chocolate bars as well as his attempts to “re-educate” British palates that were raised on Cadbury’s milk chocolate confections. The three episodes (each split into 4 mini episodes on YouTube) first aired in the UK in 2009 as a follow-up to the “Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory” series. One of the bars that was featured heavily on “Raising the Bar” is this 72% Rio Caribe Gold made with Trinitario beans from Venezuela!


There is an elegant simplicity to the black square box emblazoned with gold and white foil stamped and embossed lettering. The blue font draws your attention to the country of origin of the beans and the tasting notes. Inside the box, the bar is wrapped in an easily opened, crimped shiny gold foil wrapper that has many stylized capital “double u” letters imprinted with a contrasting opaque gold so that they will stand out.


Seems that the “W” from the outer packaging matches the company logo that appears on the chocolate bar itself (inside an indented cacao pod).


Despite the chocolate “dust” marring the surface of this bar, there is an overall matte finish on both the front and back of this deep dark brown square. With a little effort, the sturdy bar breaks apart with a sharp snap and releases a roasted/smoky aroma. I was surprised that the edge of the piece looked like mini jagged stalactites and that the color was almost like a reddish mahogany.


The flavor was a bit bitter and coffee-like to me on the first few bites; but upon allowing the morsel to melt easily on my tongue, it seemed to mellow out and become more of an earthy tang. The taste grew on me in a pleasant way. Hopefully when I visit San Francisco later in the year, I’ll be able to locate more of Willie’s bars since I’m especially interested in tasting his flavored bars (like Hazelnut Raisin or Ginger Lime)!

To learn more about Willie’s Cacao, please check out: http://www.williescacao.com/

If receiving a curated collection of craft dark chocolate bars on a monthly basis sounds good to you, check out https://chocorush.co/ to subscribe!