Vintage Plantations

Plantations 75% Dark and 65% Dark with Aji

Vintage Plantations 75% Dark and 65% Dark with Aji

Vintage Plantations chocolate is made and packaged in Ecuador from locally grown beans.  They pride themselves on producing a fair-trade product in which the farmer is involved in all parts of the process.  Most chocolate is made by importing cacao beans that have been harvested, fermented and dried by the farmer, but all the later processing transforming it into chocolate happens at the manufacturer – usually in the United States or Europe.  I’m not advocating either model, but I do recognize that if more of the value-add steps occur in the country of origin, then those farmers and the local economy will certainly benefit more.  As far as I can tell, you don’t pay any more for this bar than others, so it’s not like there is some kind of “fair trade premium” to pay, at least not in this case.

All the Vintage Plantations chocolate that I tasted today are also Rain Forest Alliance certified meaning “the cocoa is grown according to rigorous social and environmental standards that safeguard both the environment and the farming communities.  Finally, they don’t use vanilla at all.  Not good or bad, but some chocolate makers will use excess vanilla to mask bad flavors.  On the other hand, vanilla has been a standard part of chocolate making for many decades and is at least an expected flavor as long as it’s not excessive.

The bars were tasted in this order: 65% Dark with Nibs, 75% Dark, and 65% Dark with Aji – leaving the spicy stuff for last as usual.  Nibs are the unrefined pieces of cacao bean taken at the point in the process after the husks have been removed.  There’s been a minor trend in the premium chocolate world to add some chopped nibs to bars in order to provide a glimpse of the almost raw bean (they’ve been roasted still) and provide some interesting texture.  Finally these guys are one of the few producers reporting the antioxidant content of their bars on the label.  It will be interesting to see if others follow suit.  I promise to blog on this topic sometime in the near future, but for now I’ll just report the numbers:  12610 TEAC (Unit mole / Trios equivalent).  Got that?

WHAT: Vintage Plantations 65% Dark with Nibs. Bean origin – Ecuador.   3.5oz (100g).  Price range: $$

WHEN: 20 June 2009

OVERALL RATING: 83

AROMA:  Almonds, tobacco, oak.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS:  tobacco, coffee, earth notes.

MIDDLE TASTE – creme, butter, butter pecan ice cream, coffee, grape skins, tomatoes.

FINISH:  straw, almonds, grape seed.

TEXTURE:  A little soft a pliable.  The other bars in this series were not as soft, so I think this had more to do with the nibs than the room temperature which was about 75%.  The nibs were surprisingly unobtrusive, but I got an occasional burst of nutty-coffee whenever I bit into one.

WHAT: Vintage Plantations 75% Dark.  Bean origin – Ecuador.   3.5oz (100g).  Price range: $$

OVERALL RATING: 80.

AROMA: Brown rice, oak, faint tobacco.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS:  pear, oak.

MIDDLE TASTE – yogurt, pear, American coffee, bread, raisins.

FINISH: very pleasant and long with a touch of fruit acid.  Cream, toasted sesame seeds, cafe-au-lait, butter pecan ice cream.  The finish was the star of the show – very long with nothing at all bitter and no excess astringency. In my experience, the finish is where ugly or undesirable flavors can rise up seeking  attention.  None of that here at all.

TEXTURE:  Smooth.  Nothing notable.

WHAT:  Vintage Plantations 65% Dark with Aji.  Bean origin – Ecuador.  A  blend of Homero Castro and Arriba beans.   3.5oz (100g).  Price range: $$

OVERALL RATING: 80.

AROMA:  Slight pepper nose, cedar, oak.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS:  Espresso, almonds, pepper

MIDDLE TASTE – The pepper somehow brings out a note a fruit that was not as apparent in the other bars. Red grapes, almonds, toasted marshmallows, black tea.

FINISH:  Mild heat comes late, butter, nut butter, Brazil nuts, earthy notes.

TEXTURE:  Smooth.  Nothing notable.

LAST BITE –  As you know, I’m not a big fan of chili peppers in chocolate.  This may have something to do with some handmade (and expensive) chocolates I ate from Santa Fe that seemed to be destined for some kind of  “World’s Hottest Chocolate” contest – more pain than pleasure.  But I think I may have been converted by the Vintage Plantations bar.  The chili seems to play less the role of flavor and more the part of flavor enhancer somehow bringing out nuances that were not otherwise apparent in the base chocolate, but that have nothing to do with hot / spicy.  Nice job.  The Vintage Plantations bars have by far the nuttiest character that I’ve experienced so far.  There was a surprising lack of fruit notes in all but the Aji bar, but this was more than made up for by the long, smooth, earthy finish in every case.  It may be a guy thing, but I really enjoyed the coffee and nut notes in these bars and with 12610 Unit mole / Trios equivalents I’m feeling healthier than ever.  Or was it 12515?  If you’ve been eating stuff on the fruity end of the spectrum, you might want to give these a try and let us know what you think.

Disclosures: I paid for this chocolate myself.

2 responses to “Vintage Plantations

  1. Pingback: The World’s 10 Most Famous or Infamous Aquired Tastes « Koko Buzz

  2. Pingback: Pacari Dark Chocolate Covered Nibs « Koko Buzz

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