The Grenada Chocolate Company’s solar–powered factory sits in the Caribbean rainforest among lush cocoa groves. It’s here that the organically farmed cacao is transformed into gloriously complex chocolate. Grenada is able to achieve award–winning results through control and involvement in all steps of the process: from the farms in the cocoa growing cooperative to the bean fermentation process. The results are obvious in the deep complex flavors developed in the bars. The deep espresso, cream and vanilla flavors and aromas are dazzling.
The chocolate is certified organic with every ingredient being organic starting with, of course, the cacao, sugar, biodynamically grown vanilla from Costa Rica, and organic soy lecithin in very small amounts as an emulsifier (see Last Bite below for more on soy lecithin). Grenada advertises: “all of our products are nut free – not a trace.”
Local involvement in this enterprise doesn’t stop with the cocoa farmers. Rather, the factory itself is run and owned by Grenadians. This takes the fair trade model even further and shares more of the benefits with the local population.
The only thing not to like about The Grenada Chocolate Company is they only make two bars: a 71% and a 60% cacao. At the same time, I have to admire focus. The 71% bar won the silver medal at the 2008 Academy of Chocolate Awards for Best Dark Organic Bar. I decided to see what this was all about by tasting a bar… or two.
WHAT: Grenada Chocolate Company 71%. USDA Organic. 85g bar. Ingredients: Organic cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, fresh organic cocoa butter, organic vanilla beans, organic soy lecithin (in very small amounts). Price range: $$ Where to buy.
WHEN: I tasted a number of bars during September and October 2009
OVERALL RATING: 87
AROMA: Coconut, coffee, green beans.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Espresso and espresso and espresso- a real dark, rich, intense bar.
MIDDLE TASTE: Angle food cake, honey-ham, cinnamon, cloves, strawberries.
FINISH: Toasted marshmallows, fresh light coffee, vanilla, whipped creme. No astringency; just a smooth ending.
TEXTURE: Smooth and creamy.
LAST BITE – The dominant themes were 1) COFFEE: first espresso moving into cappuccino moving into light coffee at the end and 2) ANGLE CAKE – starting with a light toast plus berries, then the angle cake, then marshmallows. This is my kind of chocolate – I like my coffee super-dark and without sugar. This had the most potent coffee aromas I have come across in while, but still had the coveted fruitiness that I suppose helped win the silver medal.
Sometimes you’ll find smoky coffee notes in a chocolate that’s made from over-roasted beans. In fact there are two ways to cover up the flavor of an inferior bean – over-roasting and adding extra vanilla. There is no evidence of either evil digression in this chocolate. Instead, the fruit notes of the bean shine through well and the vanilla blends in a complementary way – I didn’t even pick it up as one of the dominant flavors (although it’s probably part of what I sensed as “marshmallow”). Again, judicious use of vanilla can enhance flavor and over-use is abuse.
Now I need to comment on the ingredients a bit. Some people object to having any soy lecithin in their chocolate. It’s there for a reason – to help fill the molds and stabilize the suspension of cocoa particles. I can only speculate that because Grenada Chocolate has some elaborate artwork in the molds, that they are more difficult to fill. I don’t personally object to soy lecithin as long as the amount is small and I can’t taste it. It is a food (vegetable) based material after all. As far as I can tell, the objections to soy lecithin come from a three camps. First, some people have concerns about soy in general because it contains natural phytoestrogens that mimic estrogen in our bodies and may cause hormonal imbalances. But this not soy; it’s lecithin and it’s not like eating a block of tofu. To lump a tiny amount of soy lecithin in with a general fear of soy seems misplaced. I can’t see any reason for concern here.
Then there is the small percentage of the popluation that is alergic to soy. They have a legitimate conern, but fortunately most of these people are not allergic to soy lecithin since it is a by-product of making the oil. The other concern might be that lecithin is often extracted from soy using solvents and these might also pull out and concentrate any pesticides in the soy. Again, no worries, since we are dealing with organic soy lecithin in the Grenada bar. Organic soy by definition doesn’t see any chemical pesticides! On the other hand, the purist in me would prefer that they not use it – not because I have any health concerns at all, but because chocolate making is about chocolate and we know that other producers have done it without lecithin. Although, others may have simpler patterns in their molds, so let’s cut some slack here.
In the end, the taste trumps (almost) all else and this one is a winner. They have the medal to prove it.
Disclosures: I paid for these chocolates myself.