You may have noticed there has not been much apparent activity here lately. I have to tell you it does not reflect what has been going on behind the scenes. I am very pleased to announce that we are now offering four new choices of cocoa beans, all of them Organic and most of them Fair Trade Certified. The full reviews should be up over the weekend and they will be in the shopping cart early next week. If you simply can't wait, email me and I will let you know the pricing and I will happily take orders. The first that I am probably the most pleased about is from the Dominican Republic, specifically the Conacado co-op. If that sounds at all familiar, I am not at all surprised. It is one of the Single Origin chocolates that Dagoba produces. This is the same bean. It has been one of my favorite commercial chocolates and I have been wanting to carry it for some time, partly so I can have some direct comparisons between my chocolate making and a commercial chocolate. It is a luscious bean with a lot of complexity. There is no particular astringency, has a good clean flavor and actually reminds me a bit of the 2004 crop of Carenero Superior.
The next is a fine flavor grade of cocoa from Madagascar. We briefly carried this origin a couple years ago, but sold out very quickly. I had the choice of two different lots this year and choose the one with a little more brightness and slightly better preparation. As I have found characteristic of this origin, there is quite a bit of bright fruit, in particular raspberry. It is a bit more subdued than the 2004 crop. The preparation on this bean is very clean and nice, and has an interesting red tone to the bean. This one is "just" Organic.
I was suitably impressed by a Panama this year. In a similar fashion to Panamanian coffee this has a soft round profile. It doesn't have a huge amount of complexity, but oddly enough it is what I liked about it. There is fruitiness (apple and fig), earthiness (light leather), chocolate (you know this one, but slightly "dutch like") and a little balancing bitterness (just enough to balance). The one thing that stands out is that on first roasting I thought I had either over roasted it, or simply mis-roasted it. But after it rested a few days, the flavors really melded and rounded out. I have mentioned it in passing before that I like to let beans "rest" about 24 hours after roasting before I proceed to cracking or grinding. I would recommend at least 48 on this one.
Finally, I have an origin that I have been per se resisting for some time. It is not really that I have not wanted to carry it, but hands own it has simply been bad every time I have tasted the origin. It seems most places that carry organic cocoa carry this origin, and I have never understood why – it is often bitter, astringent, poorly prepped and quite often just bad , but people buy it in droves because it is (trumpet sounding) ORGANIC. Well, as I have said often enough, I am all for Organic and Fair trade, but what matters to me is taste. Well this year's "Nacional" from Ecuador finally meets my standards of flavor. It is the most fermented Nacional I have seen. It still has a touch of purple, but is not waxing in texture like so many I have tasted. Even roasted lightly it has some "dark" flavors to it. There are some hints of roasted peanut, and the complimentary high notes that go with that. The is some astringency, but it is recognizable as a tannic like flavor, not unlike red wine The preparation is a little rough, a few flat beans, a few overly dried beans (they didn't stir the piles as often as they could have, and the outer beans dried faster) but in general it is ok.
Lastly, I have been receiving a number of requests for wholesale prices. I will be setting up a wholesale page that will be available those of you looking at maybe starting a small cottage industry. Wholesale accounts start at 25 lbs and full 60 kg bags are available at a significant discount off retail prices. I will announce when the page is set up, but in the meantime just e-mail me if you are interested in a wholesale account.