Category Archives: Pacari Chocolate

And the Winner is…Valrhona Gran Couva

I’ve been teaching a chocolate appreciation class here in Boston in order to raise awareness on the virtues of fine chocolate and have some fun tasting the good stuff.  The most recent class was held last week for an enthusiastic bunch.  After starting with a warm-up tasting, I asked the class to do something somewhat unfair – taste, compare and rate a number of premium dark chocolate bars.  Unfair because this was, by definition,  not a group of experienced connoisseurs since they had come to learn.

Valrhona Gran Couva Single-Estate Chocolate

Valrhona Gran Couva Single-Estate Chocolate

So for mostly entertainment purposes, I’d like to share the results with you.  For the first round, the class went on a chocolate tour of the world as we tasted five single-origin chocolate bars – each made with cacao grown in a different country.  This was a great opportunity to see if the terroir of the beans is actually expressed in the flavor and aroma of the final chocolate bars.  Here’s the line up:

To rate each one, we used a 1 to 100 scale  composed of individual scores for Aroma, Initial Impressions, Middle Taste and Finish, with most weight on the middle taste.  Surprisingly all scores fell in a tight range of 35 – 39 and technically, there was no statistical difference between them [1].   What does it mean? When it comes to chocolate, people have widely differing tastes, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that there was no consensus.  But it also means that they were still navigating their way through how to rate chocolate and this was surely most difficult for the 2 or 3 milk chocolate lovers in the room.  Still some were able to clearly pick out the citrus – floral character of typical of Arriba in the Pacari Manabi and the earthy, nutty character of the Amano Jembrana.  Plums and raisins came to mind for the Amedei Venezula.

I know you want to believe there must be winner, so I will tell you that Pacari had the highest score of this first round at 39, but the Amano won both the highest single score from any individual (76) and the lowest (18) telling me that people just couldn’t agree on this chocolate.  Some thought it was too earthy and others really loved the nutty, buttery smoothness.

So, I gave them a second chance with four more bars that couldn’t be different from each other.  These were chosen to represent greatly diverse styles of chocolate making:

  • Smooth and refined – Valrhona Gran Couva single-estate chocolate from Trinidad (limited edition).
  • Rustic, Stone GroundTaza 70% Stone Ground Organic Chocolate.
  • Raw, minimally processed – Pacari Raw 70%.
  • Belgian Chocolate with inclusions – Chocolove Crystallized Ginger in Dark Chocolate.

This time, the opinions were more pronounced with Valrhona Gran Couva taking the highest score, but statically speaking it tied with Taza and, yes..sorry, Chocolove Ginger.  I think after having eight pure dark chocolates, the lively ginger blended in with the unobtrusive Belgian dark chocolate was a welcome change of pace [2].  Taza was the most hotly disputed of the bunch [3].  I find that people who like Taza LOVE Taza and those that don’t just don’t go there.  Tasting Taza as a group is a great way to gain insight in to the chocolate making process — how minimal processing and lack of conching results in vibrant fruit-forward flavors.  Finally, you can’t argue with the verdict on Valrhona – smooth and luscious with herbal, date and citrus notes.  An exquisitely well made bar.

In the end, it was not really about which chocolate was inherently better; it was about experiencing the differences.  So another group left with increased enthusiasm and newfound appreciation for fine dark chocolate.

[1] The standard deviations ranged from 13 (Grenada) to 22 (Amano).

[2] Yes, a purist wouldn’t put Chocolove and Valrhona together in the same tasting and try to compare them, but the purpose was to demonstrate the basics of what can be done with a humble chocolate bar.  I find the people really like this ginger bar even if it isn’t bean-to-bar or in the ultra-premium category.

[3] Taza had the highest standard deviation of 25 – more than 50% of the average of the data.

[4] The cost of the bars was included in a materials fee for the class.

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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.