Tag Archives: Food Reviews

Tasting the Mysterious and Elusive Amano Cuyagua Dark Chocolate

Amano makes two exceptional limited edition dark chocolate bars:  Cuyagua and Montanya.  Both use relatively rare cacao beans of the Criollo variety from Venezuela, a place that has achieved the reputation of producing the world’s best beans.  The Cuyagua bar starts with cacao from the secluded Cuyagua Valley not far from the Caribbean sea.  Amano Artisan Chocolate then transforms the beans into small batches of incredible chocolate.
Since Amano takes their chocolate seriously, they have made it easy for us to taste and compare their bars by keeping the cacao content at a level 70% for all of them.  This allows you to focus on the pure flavor that’s derived from cacao origin, bean variety and the skillful chocolate making that Amano does best.  The Cuyagua bar included a mini tasting guide that provides suggestions on how to taste fine chocolate.

For an introduction to Amano, see this earlier chocolate review on Amano’s single-origin Bali chocolate, Jembrana.


















The box art on Amano Cuyagua Dark Chocolate is a painting of a cacao flower

WHAT:  Amano Cuyagua Single-origin Dark Chocolate.  70% Cacao. 56g.  Ingredients: Cacao beans, pure cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole vanilla beans.  Kosher Dairy. Where to buy Amano Cuyagua Dark Chocolate.

WHEN:  Jan 8, 2011


AROMA: Honey, yogurt, herbals, ham, vanilla.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: cloves, licorice, butter.

MIDDLE TASTE:  Cantaloupe, cloves, blueberry, raspberries (elusive), grapes, cacao fruit, marshmallow.

FINISH:  Coffee, watermelon, caramel, banana, nutmeg, plantain, light cedar at very end.  This dark chocolate continues to evolve and show a different facet with each bite.  I could go on and on with more flavors, but I’ve finished half the bar and that’s about my quota.

TEXTURE: I’ve decided to coin a new term: Amano Smooth.  There is a particular smoothness to this bar with no discernable particles – the chocolate just melts away as you chase every bit of flavor slowly from your mouth.















A chocolate tasting in progress:  Amano's tasting guide, a notebook, and, of course, the chocolate.

The ingredients for a chocolate tasting: Amano's tasting guide, a notebook, and, of course, the chocolate.

LAST BITE – Cuyagua  can be summed up as dark, mysterious and elusive.  It’s also a late bloomer of sorts – starting off more closed in the initial taste then evolving into complexity that’s worth waiting for.  Each piece seemed to produce new flavors not experienced in the first.  The raspberry notes I found on the first bite disappeared until much later when I had given my pallet a rest and cleanse with a lot of soda water.  The of depth of flavors I found with each bite was really amazing.  If you try this, experiment with how long you wait between tastes (if you can stand it) and see if you can’t recapture some of the earlier flavors or if it just evolves into something new.  Have fun, but don’t be surprised if half the bar is gone before you have a grip on the flavors of this elusive chocolate.

Disclosure:  A distributor was kind enough to send me this bar without knowing what I would do with it.  I’m happy to provide my objective and unbiased review using the same methods that I’ve applied to the previous reviews on Koko Buzz.

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Dagoba Organic Chocolate – Lemon Ginger

Dagoba Lemon Ginger Organic Chocolate Bar

Dagoba Lemon Ginger Organic Chocolate Bar

Dagoba makes a fantastic cocoa powder that I’ve been enjoying immensely for drinking chocolate and iced-chocolate drinks over the last couple of years, so I was interested to see what they could do with a chocolate bar. Dagoba was one of the first small companies to bring organic chocolate into the United States in 2001 and should be given a lot of credit for creating a vision that others have followed. They also have an active Full Circle Sustainability™  program where they “strive to achieve high standards in quality, ecology, equity and community.” They have since been acquired by a larger corporation, but I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon and trash them for selling out. Let’s let the chocolate speak for itself – and I’m telling you up front that the organic hot chocolate is excellent with its little bits of chocolate dispersed throughout the organic cocoa powder. So, clearly a corporation is capable of getting it right.  But how about the bars?

The Lemon Ginger bar is one of a series of flavored bars including Superfruit, Lavender Blueberry and other exotic mixes.  Knowing that other ginger-chocolate bars on the market such as Chocolove’s have a strong fan base, I decide to start with Lemon Ginger.

WHAT:  Dagoba Organic Chocolate Lemon Ginger Bar.  68% Cacao. 56g.  Ingredients: Organic dark chocolate (cacao beans, cane sugar, cacao butter, cocoa, non-GMO soy lecithin); ginger, cane sugar, natural lemon flavor, milk (less than 0.1%).  USDA Organic.  Certified Kosher (KSA).   Where to buy:  available at small natural foods stores and some Whole Foods Markets.

WHEN:  Tasted numerous times throughout 2010

OVERALL RATING:  <50. I stopped at 50 as a minimum rating.  It scored the highest points for texture and less for finish, but that’s not saying much.

AROMA:  Minimal, sour creme.


MIDDLE TASTE:  Clay, straw, black tea, green apple.

FINISH:  Walnut and, of course, lemon, ginger.

TEXTURE:  Crumbly.  Crispy bits of ginger were nice.

A Bit of Ginger in Dagoba's  Organic Dark Chocolate

A Bit of Crispy Ginger in Dagoba's Organic Dark Chocolate

LAST BITE – This was clearly not a premium chocolate experience – the bar seemed tired, the underlying chocolate had no personality and it all seemed to be just dressed-up by the ginger and lemon flavors.  However, I need to defend Dagoba a bit here since I suspect that the New Jersey-based distributor that I got these bars from had mis-treated them.  I got another case of Dagoba Superfruit bars from the same distributor that was completely bloomed – every single bar was virtually inedible!  At the same time, these bars were not bloomed at all and I’m not sure the lemon-ginger combination works all that well for me.

As for the Distributor, I’ve changed to one that is closer and has their act together.  Still,  I will stick to Dagoba’s rich cocoa powder for my drinking chocolate and stay away from the bars…for now, at least until I have time to evaluate the rest of their offering.  As for the rest of the Lemon Ginger bars in my stash, they’re going into my morning oatmeal which I am enjoying just fine…like turning lemons into lemonade or lemon-ginger bars into, …well, you get it.


[1] I paid for this chocolate myself.

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