Tag Archives: Milk chocolate

Askanya Haitian Chocolate Review

Askanya three chocolate bars

Askanya single-origin bars from Haiti – (L to R) Paradis Milk Chocolate, Minuit Dark Chocolate and Wanga Neges Milk Chocolate

I know some of you have done it too – chosen an obscure and completely unfamiliar bottle of wine only for its label.  This happens to me sometimes, as if some subconscious emotional response is triggered – “if they are clever enough to dazzle me with their art, they may be smart enough to make good wine.”  And so it was when Les Chocolateries Askayna sent me some samples of their milk and dark chocolate bars.  I get a decent number of chocolate samples sent to me throughout the year and while I eventually taste them all, I don’t have the time to do a proper thoughtful tasting and review of everything.

But the label art on Askanya’s bars moved me with its striking, intricate patterns which are apparently inspired by the local flora and fauna of Haiti.  Besides, this is Haiti’s only premium bean-to-bar chocolate.  How cool is that?  It’s a good thing that the wrapper opens from the back since I aggressively tore it apart, preserved the artwork and began my tasting.

Askanya Minuit Dark Chocolate Review

Askanya Minuit CorrWHAT: Askanya Chocolates Minuit 60% Cacao. 55 g. Ingredients: Haitian Cacao, Sugar, Vanilla Bean.

Where to buy Askanya Minuit Dark Chocolate.

WHEN: January 3, 2016  OVERALL RATING: 85.

AROMA:  Prune, raisin, fig, melon, ham.  A bit meek and delicate. Its aroma reminds me of Costa Rican chocolate with its warm tropical softness.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Wine and the first hints of licorice.  It takes time for the flavor to develop on your tongue.

MIDDLE TASTE: Red fruit runs all the way to the finish floating on a wave of pleasing sugar.  Strawberry notes turn into blueberry turn into apple.

FINISH: Creamy. Pudding, marshmallow.   I normally choose chocolate with a higher cacao content, so the sweetness left me looking for something to drink.  Fortunately I do my tastings with copious amounts of sparkling water on hand and sometimes green tea. Still, This is a happy way to end a good ride – nothing bitter.

TEXTURE: Yields to the bite slightly rather than being completely snappy.  No fatal flaws.  There’s a pudding texture at the end the heightens the pudding taste in the finish.

The bright fruitiness is the star of this show for the Minuit bar. I don’t know which bean variety they are using, possibly a mix, but the flavor is characteristic of high quality Trinitario with somewhat less biting acidity.  Even better, the chocolate expresses several other completely different notes such as licorice and pudding.  In other words, some balance and complexity.

Askanya Wanga Nègès Milk Chocolate Review

Askanya Wanga Neges Close CropWHAT: Askanya Wanga Nègès Milk Chocolate 50% Cacao. 55 g. Ingredients: Haitian Cacao, Rapadou (Artisan Cane Sugar), Milk, Cacao Butter.

Where to buy Askanya Wanga Nègès Milk Chocolate.

WHEN: January 3, 2016    OVERALL RATING: 85.

AROMA:  Floral notes, butter, pistachio, molasses, lavender, yogurt, apricot.  More forward in the nose than Minuit.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Rum, tequila, anise. Slightly tart.

MIDDLE TASTE: Tea, tartness, and tons of licorice.

FINISH: Nuts, dairy, cashew, walnuts, banana, all ending in licorice.

TEXTURE: Smooth and creamy.

I don’t normally eat milk chocolate, so it’s always a bit of a challenge for me to review it.  The Wanga Nègès bar was much easier. With its high cacao content, it almost had me fooled as a dark chocolate bar.  The milk acts more as a flavoring than a base for the chocolate so that the cacao itself is still the main event.  The licorice notes, although absent at the start, were dominant once they got going.  The bar had a very interesting flavor profile and an impressive amount of complexity for a milk chocolate bar – definitely worth trying.

Last Bite:  Like Art for Chocolate

Askanya is buying their beans from an organization of nine cooperatives called Federation des Coopératives Cacaoyères du Nord drawing on cacao farms from the north of Haiti. Each of the nine cooperatives does their own drying and fermentation which may explain the somewhat complex range of flavors found in the chocolate. I like that they are making the chocolate in country, visit the farms where the cacao is grown and establish “local” relationships.

Askanya Paradis Close Crop

Among the most beautiful package art in the chocolate world, Askanya Paradis (not reviewed this time)

Equally exciting is the artwork by Artist Marlie Decopain.  I would put this package art among the best in the chocolate world.  It’s fresh, vibrant and stands apart from some of the other work that has caught my eye in the bean to bar field such as the hipster wallpaper motif of Mast Brothers and Raaka Chocolate.  And, while I’m certainly impressed by the prolific Andreas H. Gratze with his complicated, playful and occasionally seductive characters adorning pretty much all Zotter’s bars, Ms. Decopain’s art seems somehow more relevant to the cacao origin and more moving.  This is not an art contest and I’m no judge, but Askanya’s art rises to the top for me.

How is visual art relevant to chocolate? When you experience chocolate, you should use all of your senses – the art is part of the visual experience of enjoying premium chocolate.  Besides, people give chocolate as gifts and the face of the unopened bar makes the first impression.  Sure, most important is how the chocolate tastes and these bars delighted.

Royce’s Nama Chocolate from Japan

Nama Chocolate – “Maccha”

Royce' Nama Chocolate

Green tea chocolate from Japan – Royce’ Nama Chocolate

I came across these chocolates in a gift shop at Tokyo’s Nartia airport and given my love of both matcha and chocolate, I had to grab a box for myself.  One of the most delicious deserts I’ve ever eaten was daifuku (a “cake” of glutenous rice surrounding sweet bean paste) dusted with matcha (green tea powder intended for tea ceremony)[2].  The sweetness of the daifuku contrasted with the gentle fragrant bitterness of the matcha was incredible. It may have helped a bit that I was eating the stuff among the maple trees in the shadow of kinkaku-ji, AKA the golden pavilion, of Kyoto.  Still I wonder, could the same sweet-bitter balance work for these chocolate treats even if chocolate is already a combination of bitter and sugar?

Tasting and Review of Royce’ Nama Chocolate from Japan

Nama chocolate Maacha

Several layers of packaging protect the chocolate and a miniature fork is included

The taste was definitely milky and dominated more by matcha than chocolate, but it brought me to a different place than the daifuku of Kyoto.  The rich milky sweetness and bitter tea brought me to Tokyo and the ubiquitous Tully’s Coffee.  Yes, Tully’s makes consistently great coffee drinks, but I sometimes get their hot or cold Matcha Latte – some green tea powder whipped up with a bunch of milk and more than enough sugar to get me through a few meetings at the office.  It’s a bit decadent, but I like to treat myself when I travel far from home – throwing the rules out the window since I’m usually enduring some level of physical discomfort pretty much 24-7.

It turns out that this is white chocolate flavored with matcha - something I learned only after finding a translation of the ingredients

Soft tablets of Nama Chocolate Maccha cut in two to expose a creamy interior loaded with matcha

Nama chocolate reminded me of those milky bitter-sweet flavors of Tully’s Matcha Latte and what I like about Tokyo, and there’s a lot to like.  This is a fun and unique confection that’s set up nicely for sharing with pre-cut squares.  I had tasted the chocolate before I found an English translation of the ingredients, but was not surprised to find that this is white chocolate.  This explains the lack of any distinct cocoa flavor – white chocolate is simply cocoa butter and sugar.  Royce’s approach makes perfect sense because the matcha tea brings in the bitter flavor to fill the void left by removing the cocoa solids from the chocolate.

Ingredients: Fresh cream, cocoa butter, sugar, skim milk powder, whole milk powder, lactose, powdered green tea, cherry brandy, soy lecithin, artificial flavor.

I’m not happy to find artificial flavor on the ingredients list, but this chocolate is more about having fun than eating health food.  Still, I hope they can find away to remove artificial flavor from the recipe  even if it adds cost.

Last Bite – Nama Chocolate “Maccha”

I paid about 800 Yen in the airport, but for another 100, they wrap it up in a little cold pack so that it can survive the 14 hour ride back to the US in good condition.   Royce’ makes chocolate on Japan’s northern-most island, Hokkaido, using local cream from the region.   Royce’ has three retail shops in New York City, so check it out if you’re looking for something unique, on the sweet side, but with balance and attention to detail that you’d expect from a Japanese product.

Notes:

[1] I paid for this chocolate myself

[2] The most common roman-alphabet spelling for ceremonial green tea powder is “matcha.”  I assume Royce’ spells it as “maccha” as a stylized product name and indirect reference to matcha.