Theo Chocolate was the first to make fair-trade, organic bean-to-bar chocolate in the United States. Still a relatively small operation out of Seattle, they continue to expand their offering of bars in three lines: Classic, 3400 Phinney, and Origin. The classic bars include plain and flavored bars as well as a collaboration with the Jane Goodall Institute. 3400 Phinney is a collection of innovative flavor combinations such as Bread and Chocolate packaged in a whimsical wrapper designed by a local artist. The Origin bars specify the origin of the cacao and attempt to capture the distinct growing environment and terroir in the flavor of the finished chocolate. As we will see next, Origin doesn’t necessarily mean, single-origin. The Ghana – Panama -Ecuador uses cacao from all three countries to make an intriguingly complex blend of flavors. Did they succeed?
WHAT: Theo Ghana / Panama / Ecuador blend – 75% Cacao. 3oz / 84g. Fair Trade certified by Transfair USA. The Panama and Ecuador beans are organic, but the Ghana beans are not. Price range: $$
WHEN: 16 September, 2009
OVERALL RATING: 86
AROMA: Banana, cinnamon, leather, distant bacon (like when you’re camping and someone starts cooking bacon in a distant campsite early in the morning and you start to smell to faint aroma permeating your tent), buttered toast, hay. I haven’t come across such complex aroma profile in a while.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Apple peel, unripe pear, butter, chardonnay wine.
MIDDLE TASTE: Bread, bananas, prunes, butter, cinnamon, slight clove, un-smoked ham.
FINISH: Apple peel, bread, cut hay, milk. Flattens out smoothly to a buttered bread at the very end for a long finish. Very pleasant ending – no astringent despite the high cacao content. Not a remarkable finish, but very good.
TEXTURE: Smooth, creamy.
LAST BITE – The aroma was the best feature, I rated it a 9.5, but this is not to say the taste was less than wonderful. It’s just that the complexity of the aroma was like nothing that I’ve tasted recently and outshined everything else. This complexity did, indeed, carry through to the flavor. With the jet-black color, I was afraid the beans might be a bit over-roasted. It wasn’t. I tasted this one twice over a week’s time and on the first tasting, it was more intense, feeling more like 85 or 90% cacao, but on the second tasting it seemed more mellow and balanced. It “ate” more like 70%. Great job Theo! My only request for improvement would be to try to source organic cacao from Ghana to make the trio complete. I know this is not simple, but it would make the bar more consistent with the rest of the Theo line and philosophy. In the end, it’s not a major complaint since two out of three ain’t bad.
Sorry for the long delay since my last tasting. I’ve had a cold. To be fair to the chocolate and catch all the nuances I wanted to be fully symptom-free before tasting again. I’m back in the game now and should have more posts to come soon.
Disclosure: I was given this chocolate for free by Theo Chocolate.