Happy Halloween! Let’s Eat the Best Dark Chocolate!

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When Did You Fall in Love with Dark Chocolate?

In honor of Halloween—the day that long ago introduced the wonderful world of chocolate to many of us pretending to be ghouls and goblins, let’s celebrate dark chocolate.  Not sure what your first memory of dark chocolate was, but we remember the bitter Hershey’s Special Dark bars found at the bottom of our Trick-or-Treat bag.  That taste memory seems to still drive some of us to veer away from the mysteries and amazing taste of a delicious piece of dark chocolate.  But for others it was the day the love affair began.

Best Dark Chocolate Bars

Thanks to the website, seventypercent.com, we are honoring the following bars with the best dark chocolate designation.  Seventypercent.com is a community website devoted to new chocolate taste experiences.  Keeping a weekly tab on scored reviews of solid chocolate bars containing 70% or greater cocoa solids, these are their top choices for this scary Halloween week.  Don’t be afraid of the dark!

Bonnat Apotequil 75%

Established in 1874 by the great-grandfather of the current master chocolatier, Stéphane Bonnat, Bonnat is an exceptional chocolatier. They have produced bean-to-bar chocolate from their establishment in 1884, and they have not stopped. Today, they are one of only five chocolate-makers in France to purchase raw cacao beans and grind, roast, and blend them into chocolate.

Bonnat has also been a pioneer of single-origin chocolates. While most chocolate is made from a blend of beans from many different places, single-origin chocolate consists of just one kind of bean from one country or plantation, thus highlighting the flavor notes of that particular bean and its terroir–the specific nuances stemming from the location where it’s grown–and allowing the differences in beans to shine through, just as with fine wine.

“This Porcelana type cocoa is harvested in Peru. Long neglected for its strange appearance (olive shaped and pale,) lack of reliable quality, and difficulty in processing to bring out its full taste spectrum. In the past, the Porcelana tress were frequently pulled and destroyed due to their difficult handling properties and poor yield. But the quality of chocolate is unmistakable. The chocolate produced from these beans is not only a rarity, but it brings taste sensations hardly ever encountered. A very large palette of fragrances and flavors will be revealed as the tasting progresses, from floral sweetness to powerful Peruvian earthiness.”

Valrhona Ampamakia 2010 Vintage 64%

The story of Valrhona begins in 1922 with the creation of the first factory by a pâtissier named Albéric Guironnet. Building on its reputation for tradition and  its strong commitment to pâtissiers, bakers and confectioners, and the quality of its products, in 1947, the company changed its name to Valrhona. In 1984, Valrhona turned its attention to non-professional customers by offering a range of delicious creations.  Five years later into the 1990s, the company expanded its offerings of exclusive products and services to professionals from the culinary world.

Like great wines, Single Origin chocolates bear the name and sensory signature of their specific terroir. Highly anticipated by connoisseurs, Valrhona’s Vintage Single Origin chocolate bars are produced in limited quantities depending on the crop.  Single Origin Chocolate is a unique chocolate made from carefully selected cocoa beans of a single harvest purchased directly from one exceptional plantation.

On the island of Madagascar, the river Sambirano snakes its way through a magical landscape where delicate perfumes blend with the shimmering colors of the vanilla and ylang-ylang fields. For the people of this plantation where cocoa has been grown for more than 200 years, Ampamakia rings out like a chant of aromas and color.  The yellow fruit flavors combined with the citrus notes offer a unique tasting experience.  Only limited quantities of each vintage are available.

 Amano Madagascar 70%

Madagascar has long been known for producing fine cocoa beans. The beans from Madagascar are primarily of the Trinitario and Criollo varieties. The soil and climate produce beans that are particularly fruity and our Madagascar bar is a fine example of this. This chocolate is perhaps a bit untraditional with its strong fruity flavors that include hints of citrus and berry and shows the wide range of flavors possible in cocoa. It is absolutely delicious and one that you will remember for its incredible flavor.

 The beans are grown on a single family owned estate in the Sambirano valley of Madagascar. The bit of magic that gives these cocoa beans their unique flavor is Madagascar’s unique combination of climate and soil combined with the way that the cocoa is fermented and dried by a family who truly cares about quality. This all comes together to create a cocoa bean that has true potential to make an exceptional chocolate.

When Founding Member of the Craft Chocolate Makers of America, Art Pollard, first found the cocoa beans he uses to make their Madagascar chocolate, he knew he was on to something special. They have well-balanced flavor as well as natural citrus and raspberry notes — something truly unique in the world of cocoa.  Since its release, this chocolate has quickly become a favorite among pastry chefs. They love its assertive citrus and raspberry flavor notes.

 Original Beans Beni Wild Harvest 66%

 The idea for Original Beans was born when a German conservation entrepreneur, a Dutch fair trade pioneer, and an American organic food marketer met in 2006.

The company’s vision follows in the footsteps of founder/CEO Philipp Kauffmann‘s family heritage. His direct forefather, Georg Ludwig Hartig, helped coin the term sustainability (“Nachhaltigkeit” in German) and in 1791 wrote that “any wise forest management must use the forest in such a way that generations thereafter can draw at least as much advantage from it as the presently living generation has.”

Original Beans has been actively involved in the conservation of this rare source of 100% Bolivian wild cacao for several years. Now, genetic research has shown that this ‘original bean’ is a distinct endemic variety, genetically independent from all known cacaos. Extraordinarily, the cacao grows on “chocolatales” or “cocoa islands” dating back to a pre-Columbian civilization. During the wet season, the expert collectors from several indigenous tribes go out, for weeks at a time, in canoes to collect the wild beans in spots only they know about. The wild beans are so small that they require specially modified roasting.

 This 66% dark chocolate bar has a rich, dark brown color with a beautiful glossy sheen.  Under the chocolate aroma is a faint fruitiness.  The bar has a super crisp snap and it takes some force to break a piece off.  The bar is not creamy, but melts cleanly with a silky feel.  Delicate red and orange fruit, not overpowering or flashy–like enjoying a mellow tropical drink.  Wild or not, Original Beans has tamed these cacao beans to make a brand new bar that shows off a lighter, fruitier side of Bolivia.

 Patric Madagascar 67%

The finest chocolate makers have a vision of the best that chocolate can be – its potential power and hidden beauty. For some it is a chocolate modeled after a brilliant 150-year French tradition. For others it is a product of innovation, tied to organic, fair-trade and other new movements or methods of the 21st century.  Patric Chocolate envisions chocolate making as more than a continuation of tradition or an adoption of the latest innovation, but as an opportunity to make each bar a revelation.

Thus, the goal of chocolate maker Alan “Patric” McClure, founder of Patric Chocolate, is nothing less than to create micro-batch chocolate of such quality that it becomes a flavorful work of art in itself, like the finest wine or Scotch – a magical sensory experience. To achieve this goal, McClure has embarked upon an in-depth examination of every step of the chocolate-making process, seeking to retain only what leads to excellence, and to discard or revise what would harm this goal – in a never-ending search for a chocolate whose components are flawlessly tuned, together, as one complex and magnificent instrument.

 Patric Chocolate created this beautiful chocolate to showcase the naturally occurring notes of plum preserves that intermingle with fruits rouges and enticing hints of butter-hazelnut toffee in the amazing single-estate Madagascar cacao.

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