I’ve only recently discovered Zotter, the quirky and creative Austrian chocolate maker. Maybe I’ve been too busy tasting other bars or maybe it’s because Zotter is a bit hard to find here in the USA. Either way, I’m now furiously tasting everything that I can get my hands on. What’s captured my attention with this guy and his factory set in the village of Riegersburg, Austria? First of all, he’s doing all fair trade certified and organic bean-to-bar chocolate – an important factor for the planet and the people of the world growing cacao. What’s more, Zotter’s approach to chocolate-making is simply a whole lot of fun – from the award-winning package art to the one-of-a-kind Labooko bar sets. Labooko is two bars in one. You can enjoy and compare two bars from a different region or two bars from the same country using different beans.
So let’s start with the Labooko Peru 60% / Peru 80%, what I simply call “Peru-Peru” because I’m too impatient to spit that all out. The 80% bar is comprised of 40% Porcelana Criollo from the Aprocap cooperative. A rarity among cacao varieties, Porcelana grows in striking porcelain white pods and is known for its subtle and complex flavor profile. For the 60% bar, they start with a blend of Peruvian cacao from the Acrapogro Cooperative and do an unusually cool roast at only 130°C. How this translates into the flavor of the chocolate, we’ll see.
WHAT: Zotter Labooko Peru 80% / 60% Dark Chocolate. 35 g each bar, 70g total. Ingredients: cocoa mass, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter, salt. Where to buy Zotter Labooko.
WHEN: November 27, 2011
OVERALL RATING: 85 (the 60% actually scored an 84 because it got dinged a point for aroma, but let’s call it all the same since I enjoyed the 60% bar at least as much as the 80%).
AROMA: 60%: Very closed. Some nuts. 80%: More berry than the 60%, very light blueberry and nuts, light leather.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: 60%: Light blueberry 80%: Cherry, blueberry, cream cheese.
MIDDLE TASTE: 60%: Moves quickly into a burst of subtle fruit; honey, light butterscotch, custard. 80%: Blueberry, cashew, caramel, brown sugar.
FINISH: 60%: One of the most unaggressive finishes I’ve ever tasted – low acid, no bitterness. Light pistachio, honey, malt blueberry, and strawberry. This is where the complexity appears – moving between flavors and then fading into a super long honey finish. 80%: Creme fresh, waves of spices – clove, ginger, cinnamon and black tea. All pretty subtle with a bit less fruit than the 60%.
TEXTURE: 60%: Melts slowly and smoothly. 80%: Similar – butter smooth.
LAST BITE: If this Labooko was just two bars of the same cacao made the same way, one with more sugar than the other, that wouldn’t be very interesting. Instead Zotter goes to the trouble of sourcing two different cacaos and roasts and conches them to bring out their separate potentials. Sure, there are some clear similarities in the flavors, but there is no doubt you can easily distinguish the two.
I fully expected to like the 80% better since I prefer higher cacao chocolate, but the 60% brought on a surprise ending with all that complexity suddenly appearing after being so closed at the start. It gets my vote as #1. The low roasting of the 60% beans translates into more fruit, something I prefer. The 80% is one of those paradoxical bars, like Pralus Le 100%, that has high cacao, but subtle flavors owed to the use of Porcelana Criollo. If you are into high-cocoa bars, but don’t want to get hit with astringent bitterness, the 80% is for hits the mark – a soft and round delicacy that you would expect from Porcelana.