Category Archives: Ecuador

Pacari Dark Chocolate with Andean Blueberries

Pacari Andean Blueberry Dark Chocolate

Pacari Andean Blueberry Dark Chocolate has plenty of blueberries to fill the bar. The color is less reddish than in this photo.

I came into this review with a preconception about chocolate plus fruit bars:    chocolate makers probably use lower-grade chocolate to blend with fruit because the flaws in the chocolate will be obscured by the flavor of the fruit.  Or, more likely, the nuances of the best chocolate would be lost among the more dominant fruit flavors.  My bias was quickly blown away upon tasting Pacari’s bar.  They’re clearly using the best of Pacari’s single-origin Ecuador dark chocolate with its soft floral and citrus notes.  But before I dive too fast into the review, let me remind you of who Pacari is, just in case you havn’t been keeping up.

Pacari Chocolate is making certified organic chocolate in Ecuador from fairly-traded beans grown in Ecuador’s most famous cacao regions.  When Santiago Peralta and Carla Barboto created Pacari, they wanted to build a business based on socially and environmentally sustainable principles to ensure that their products supported the Ecuadorian eco-system as well as local communities.  It’s no surprise that all of their products are certified organic and made from fairly traded beans.  But Pacari takes it further by taking on a number of community outreach programs including programs focused on supporting agricultural education, special needs education and portable lighting for rural areas.

WHAT:  Pacari Andean Blueberry Dark Chocolate.  65% Cacao. 50 g (1.8 oz). Ingredients:  Cacao beans, evaporated cane juice, wild blueberries, sunflower lecithin.  Dairy and soy free. May contain traces of nuts.  Kosher Parve.

Where to buy Pacari Andean Blueberry Dark Chocolate.

WHEN:  January 8, 2012

OVERALL RATING: 91.

AROMA:  Potent.  Honey, cloves, roasted ham, dark rum, leather, almond, burnt grapefruit peel.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Warm caramel, honey, malt.

MIDDLE TASTE:  Pie crust, grapefruit, florals, lavender, raspberry.  The chocolate and fruit somehow interact to create a satisfying wave of flavor in the middle that’s more like cherry and raspberry.

FINISH:  Tart, concentrated blueberry balanced with the sweetness of the chocolate. The very end is a nice smoke / leather note.  There’s something about the Andean blueberries that’s more concentrated and bright that allows it to harmonize well with the chocolate.

TEXTURE: Chewy with good play between dried berries and chocolate.

LAST BITE:  When I recently reviewed another fine chocolate plus fruit bar, Amedei’s Toscano Red, I concluded it was a good choice for those who want to go slightly off the beaten path.  Pacari’s Andean Blueberry Dark Chocolate bar is a great choice if you want to go far off the beaten path.  Some people may want to lounge on the grass of a Tuscan hillside (Amedei) while others want to hike through an Ecuadorian rain forest (Pacari).  Both are great, but the Pacari chocolate has more single-origin character and the the berries are more exotic with thier tart, concentrated fruit.

Pacari Blueberry Dark Chocolate Package

Pacari uses a sealed foil envelope to package their chocolate. I 'm a proponent of this approach since I feel it keeps the bars fresher so you get more of the full aroma and flavor.

The best way to enjoy the bar is to quickly chew it a few times rather than wait for it to melt. This will get the berries and chocolate together in an intimate mix – the complex interaction is fantastic.  You end up with something perceived more as raspberry than blueberry.  Most impressive of all was that the chocolate does not play second fiddle to the berries – the assertive roasted notes come through as well as the prized floral and citrus that characterizes the best Ecuadorian chocolate.

Finally, I realize that the rating of 91 puts it on par with some much more expensive chocolates that I’ve reviewed.  The rating scale is about what is enjoyable, not what is an ideally structured or the “perfect” chocolate for all people.  This was a very enjoyable chocolate and that’s not saying it’s candy.  No, this is dark chocolate with antioxidant-packed dried fruit; something I wouldn’t heasitate to enjoy daily.

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Notes:

[1] I paid for this bar myself.

Pacari Organic Chocolate Covered Cacao Beans

Pacari Chocolate-Covered Cacao Beans

Pacari Chocolate-Covered Cacao Beans are dusted in organic cocoa powder

I’ve come to admire Pacari chocolate not only for their innovative organic chocolate products, but also for their active and seemingly ever-expanding social programs .  I’ve also been intrigued by the fact their chocolate is single-origin Ecuadorian as well as organic, a combination that you don’t see often.  This is reflected in their name – the word Pacari means “Nature” in Quechua, the indigenous language of Ecuador.

In my first review of Pacari chocolate, I tasted some chocolate-covered cacao nibs – little bits of roasted and ground cacao beans that have been coated in organic chocolate.  What I’m writing about today is a completely new product that’s a cousin of those little coated nibs.  These chocolate-covered cacao beans are a bigger, bolder look at coating cacao with chocolate.

Organically grown cacao beans (cocoa beans) are lightly roasted, coated in single-origin chocolate and then dusted in cocoa powder.  If you’re still with me on this, then let’s see how they taste…

 

Parcari Organic Chocolate Covered Cacao  Beans

Parcari Organic Chocolate Covered Cacao Beans

Raw Organic Chocolate-Covered Cacao Beans

WHAT:  Pacari Chocolate-Covered Cacao Beans, Natural.  Single-origin Ecuador.  USDA Certified Organic. 90g. Ingredients: Cacao beans, evaporated cane juice, cocoa powder, sunflower lecithin. Dairy and soy free.  Kosher (Parve).  Where to buy Pacari Chocolate Covered Cacao Beans.

WHEN:  June 20, 2010

OVERALL RATING: Not rated. Since this is not a straight chocolate bar, I can’t really use the same rating scale.

AROMA: Honey, vanilla, rum, raisins.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Dates, wood, light sweetness, faint black pepper.

MIDDLE TASTE:  Fresh fruit salad, apples, blueberries, strawberries. There were actually two middle tastes. The first had the sweet floral notes of the single-origin chocolate coating.  This floral character is typical of Ecuadorian Nacional beans.  The second wave was more powerful  and all fruit with the dominant notes being blueberry.

FINISH:  Mushrooms, sage, wood, paper, and finally the fiber of the bean.

TEXTURE: Never have I experienced so many sounds coming from something chocolate.  Crack! Crunch and then squeak.  It was an adventure in textures with most of it coming from the bean inside.

LAST BITE – These are so cool.  It’s a sign of a great food that you only need to eat a little of it to keep interested and

Organic Chocolate Covered cacao bean

The bean on the inside is lightly roasted and so has a light reddish-brown color

satisfied. I had no desire to eat these quickly.  They are something you eat one at a time and listen and feel what’s going on in your mouth – and there is so much going on.  The two middle tastes – let’s say an “early middle” and a “late middle” were unique, but this makes complete sense because you are chewing through the sweeter, more familiar outer shell first and then releasing the more bitter, but intense, fruity center (remember that when we say “fruity” we are referring to the fruit notes that originate from cacao).

With some help, I ate the whole package over the course of about a week and experimented a bit more.  First, don’t eat these guys with other chocolate.  The sweetness of a chocolate bar will just throw things off.  Enjoy them by themselves or have the chocolate bar as a second course.  I did successfully pair them with some Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage 2003 port and it worked well.  After you get 90% through a bean, the remaining fibrous bean bits are somewhat dry, so wash down the rest with a sip of port and you’ll replace that last bit of bitter wood with sweetness.  Nice.

As you can see in the photo, I cut open a bean as neatly as I could and found them to be a bit lighter in color than expected, but with beautiful veins of reddish-brown.

Pacari’s coated cacao beans are an innovation that brings us about as close to the raw bean as we can get without asking us to chew on raw, naked beans. If milk chocolate is your favorite thing, you’re probably not be ready for this stuff.  If you are truly interested in experiencing real cacao flavors, these beans are a captivating gourmet food.

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Disclosures: I paid for this chocolate myself.