I’ve become a big fan of Taza Chocolate. It’s part loyalty to the only bean-to-bar producer here in Boston, if not the east coast, and part admiration for the innovation they’ve introduced to the world of premium chocolate. These guys innovated not by adding some new complex process to chocolate making, but by simplifying the usual “modern” process. Specifically, they do no conching and less refining than most producers so that the courser stone-ground texture comes through in the final product. But it’s not all about the texture. Rather, the goal is to preserve the natural fruity character of the original bean through minimal processing. By starting with high quality beans and employing a light roast, they achieve thier goal with beautiful simplicity.
To be clear, this is a traditional process, not a new invention in that sense. What is new is the unexpected addition of the yerba mate flavor to the Taza line. They give no particular explanation for why yerba mate, but it seems pretty consistent with their Latin American theme.
Yerba mate is a tropical herb and the tea made from it is considered to be the national drink in many South American countries. It contains both theobromine (the same mild stimulant found in chocolate) and caffeine in levels about half of that of coffee (that is, for the same volume of tea). So, you can expect some caffeine in this chocolate. Some of the compounds in Yerba mate are thought to have beneficial health effects. For instance, recent research shows that saponins have a stimulating effect on the immune system. Numerous studies have found Yerba Mate to have significant antioxidant activity and one Swiss study found that it also had potential as a weight-loss aid.**
But, I didn’t eat this stuff to get healthy, I ate it to see how it tastes, so let’s take a look…
WHAT: Taza Stone Ground, Chocolate Mexicano – Yerba Mate. USDA Organic. 77g bar. Ingredients: organic cacao beans, organic cane sugar, organic yerba mate powder. Price range: $$ Where to buy.
WHEN: 30 September, 2009
OVERALL RATING: 82
AROMA: Seaspray, nori, vanilla, hemlock.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Pine, black tea, caramel.
MIDDLE TASTE: Raspberry, orange peel, black tea with lemon, blackberries covered with sugar.
FINISH: Mint, sweet egg custard, there’s strawberry shortcake flavor that lingers and fades slowly.
TEXTURE: A rustic, coarse texture that we’ve come to expect from this stone ground process.
LAST BITE – What I liked most was the big rise of herbals in the middle – definitely more black tea than green tea. There’s a mix of berries, cake with herbals that somehow works. The finish was unexpected – even though the chocolate was gone from my mouth, waves of berry and herb / mint kept coming.
(**Note: these statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease).
Disclosures: I paid for this chocolate myself.