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Our Top 5 Coconut Chocolate Bars

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Our Top 5 Coconut Chocolate Bars

By Cara Curtis

Chocolate and coconut is a classic combo which go together perfectly. There are many health benefits that coconut brings to the table. This fruit which is used to flavour our favourite chocolate bars are highly nutritious and rich in fibre, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6. Unlike cow’s milk, coconut milk is lactose free meaning, the bars featured here are suitable for vegans as they’re all 100% dairy free.

ENDORFIN

DARK MYLK

The bar has a slightly grainy fudge-like texture, and a slow, viscous melt. The Dominican beans create a rich, but still intense flavour for a milk chocolate. Hints of fruit mix with molasses. The coconut milk and sugar lend the chocolate their unmistakable flavour.

For Endorfin founder Brian Wallace, his first taste of fresh cocoa beans was a pivotal moment. A few months later he quit his job to travel the world, learn about chocolate and find the best possible beans.

CHOCOLATE TREE

55% COCONUT MILK

This is a very unusual milk chocolate bar as it actually contains no dairy.  Rather than using cow’s milk, this is a milk chocolate bar made with coconut milk.  What’s more, rather than using traditional cane sugar, Ali has used an organic coconut sugar in this bar.  As a consequence, this bar has a very distinctive aroma and flavour profile.

Coconut is undoubtably the dominant flavour here.  Furthermore, the bar doesn’t have quite the same creaminess as many other milk chocolate bars. Instead, it has a slight graininess.  All in all, a very pleasant dairy free milk chocolate.

FOREVER CACAO

COCONUT MILK 55%

This is a vegan ‘milk’ chocolate that has been crafted using coconut milk instead of dairy. The sweet flavour of the coconut comes through giving the bar a refreshing floral note. The unroasted Peruvian cocoa beans have an earthy, grassy profile, that mixes with the much lighter sugared flavours of the coconut.  Both rich and cooling, the chocolate bar finishes with an earthy sweetness.

Pablo Spaull crafts his unroasted chocolate deep in the Welsh countryside. For all his bars he uses Peruvian beans that, with the help of Ecotribal, he buys directly from Ashaninka co-operatives. They live in the rainforest and on the banks of the Rio Ene. Growing cacao and coffee gives the Ashaninka a sustainable income and helps them preserve the rainforest.

SOLKIKI

BALINESE COCONUT WHITE

Madagascan vanilla melds with the sugared coconut to create a flavour reminiscent of Nice biscuits. Solkiki has added a sprinkling of pink salt that helps to bring out the white chocolate’s sweetly floral notes.

Solkiki’s white chocolate bar is completely dairy free and vegan friendly. Instead of using cow’s milk Solkiki has mixed in Balinese coconut to create a sweet and silky texture.

We’re sure that anyone who enjoys white chocolate or has secret soft spot for Bounty will love this distinctive but decadent white chocolate. The bar has a candy sweetness and creamy coconut profile.

MAROU

COCONUT BEN TRE 55%

This bar uses cocoa beans from Ben Tre, the southern coastal province of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. The chocolate is made in Saigon by two French chocolate makers, Samuel Maruta and Vincent Mourou, with a small and dedicated local team by combining these beans with coconut milk. The Marou name – a combination of Samuel & Vincent’s surnames – has rapidly become synonymous with quality, ethically produced Vietnamese chocolate.

To taste, we found the bar to have a deliciously rich and fugdy mouth feel. The coconut milk beautifully compliments the spicy flavour profile of the Ben Tre cocoa by adding a fruity layer with added notes of raisin.

New Bars We’re Enjoying this Month

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Five of The Best New Chocolate Bars

By Cara Curtis

Every month, we allow you to discover four new chocolate bars with our monthly subscription. The chocolate world is a big one, with makers sourcing beans from all around the world from Peru to Africa to Papua New Guinea and the Dominican Republic. We’ve tasted chocolate from every corner of the globe and we love to try new bars, whether it’s dark chocolate or milk. Each bar tastes different in its own unique way and it’s surprising how different each bar cam taste and it’s all dependant on the beans used and how the bar has bean created from the tree to the shelves.

Here at Cocoa Runners, it’s our job to discover the world’s best chocolate bars. We have tried thousands upon thousands of chocolate bars; some we’ve disliked, some we’ve liked and some we cannot live without. We have carefully rounded u our favourite new chocolate bars that we think everybody should try.

GEORGIA RAMON

R.A.W

This special addition bar is made with unroasted Trinitario cocoa beans from Peru, and at maximum temperature of 55.55° C, it tastes incredible. This chocolate gives notes of fruity acidity with the aroma and taste of an earl grey tea with a hint of orange.

There is no definition of raw, there is no get hold of raw. How are the fermented beans? That’s handiwork and the temperatures can be very high. How the beans are dried, that there is quite a difference, or it is on a concrete slab in the burning sun, or on grates in a tunnel with shade cloth. And if cocoa butter is added, this component is by definition not raw.

MORIN

LAIT JAMAÏQUE MARAVIA MILK

Jamaican beans have a history of being one of the first cacaos to be imported to the United Kingdom, though at the time chocolate was primarily a drink rather than a bar for eating.

These beans from Jamaica carry natural flavours such as fruit, nutty hints and sometimes, even an earthy tone all at the same time. A relatively hard to get hold of origin, the beans are primarily Trinitario. This classic milk chocolate has a fresh cream quality and a gentle pannacotta note which deepens into caramel with every bite.

 

FRUITION

CORAZON QUINOA CRUNCH

This bar made by Fruition is limited edition. Using beans from San Martin and Maranon in Peru. Fruition have created a truly delicious milk chocolate bar with a surprising crunch. With every bite, you will notices notes of passion fruit, berries and lime salt.

Fruition is a small batch bean to bar chocolate workshop located in the Catskill Mountains of New York. With tremendous attention to detail, they slowly roast and stone grind carefully selected cocoa beans to accentuate their inherent flavour. Sometimes being a perfectionist really pays off when the chocolates tastes this good.

DUFFY’S

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC TAINO 65%

This bar is made from fine organic “Hispaniola” cocoa beans. The cane sugar and cocoa butter are also completely organic, with the latter coming from the Dominican Republic. When Duffy’s are making this chocolate the whole factory smells of pineapples!
Duffy’s produce single origin artisan chocolate bars made from cacao sources for various different regions located all over the world. Duffy’s have complete control of their roasting and processing of the cocoa beans they use because they do it all themselves in Lincolnshire.
Damson

DAMSON

BUFFALO MILK BLEND

Before founding Damson in 2015, Dom Ramsey was a prolific chocolate blogger, as well as a founding member of Cocoa Runners. In between crafting bars in Islington, Dom managed to find time to write his own book. Simply titled Chocolate, the book covers everything from the history of cacao to how you can craft your own. This bar combines cocoa beans from Ingeman in Nicaragua, Akesson in Madagascar and buffalo milk from Laverstoke Farm in Hampshire.

This bar gives rich dark milk notes with sweet flavours of dark caramel and fudge. There is also a subtle hint of red berries which adds depth.

Father's Day 2016 Header

Father’s Day Competition

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To help you celebrate Father’s day this year, we are excited to announce a special Father’s Day giveaway for you. Together with a few of our favourite small businesses, we have created the ultimate Father’s Day gift bundle for you to win.*

Included in this prize are host of wonderful goodies to delight your dad.

 

Quiet Rebbellion SocksQuiet Rebellion Socks

First for the fun yet fashion conscious father, we’ve three pairs brushed cotton socks from Quiet Rebellion. Quiet Rebellion puts colour back into the soles of office workers around the world! Office attire needs to look professional but this often feels dull. Quiet Rebellion injects fun into your weekdays through socks hidden patterns so you can still look serious yet feel mischievous!

Pushkin Press BooksPushkin Press Books

If your dad’s a bit of a bookworm, he will love Pushkin Press’ beautifully bound books. Pushkin Press publishes the world’s best stories, to be read and read again, and they’ve got the ultimate reads for any dad this Father’s Day. From Sand, a darkly sophisticated literary thriller from a star of the German literary scene, Clinch, a visceral, compulsive read about a boxer on the run that packs a punch and will leave you reeling, to 1917, a collection of passionate voices from the Russian Revolution and finally, Stefan Zweig’s exquisite Montaigne, an account of the French philosopher’s life which asks how we ought to think, and how to live.

Honest Brew BeerHonest Brew Beer

And since Father’s Day is a celebration, it seemed only right to add in a tipple or twelve. In this prize we’ve also included Honest Brew’s 12 Beer Mixed Case for Father’s Day. This super gift box includes a selection of the world’s finest, freshest and most delicious craft beers, an official HonestBrew glass, an extremely handy bottle opener, and an exclusive Father’s Day card designed by London-based illustrator HATCH. No nonsense, no naff novelty, just great beer and gifts.

 

Cocoa Runners HamperCocoa Runners Hamper

Of course, no Cocoa Runners giveaway would be complete without chocolate! The lucky competition winner will also receive a Cocoa Runners Chocolate Lover’s Hamper. The wooden hamper is bursting with the finest artisan milk and dark chocolate bars. What more could your dad ask for?

 

 

How To Enter

In order to enter our giveaway, simply click on the button and fill out the form. We will contact the winner on Tuesday 13 June so make sure you check your emails. Good luck!

 

ENTER NOW

 

*Terms & Conditions apply. One entry per person. You must be 18 or over to enter. Prizes can be sent to UK addresses only. Entry closes at midnight Monday 12 June and a winner will be notified by email before 10am on Tuesday. The winner will have 24hours to contact us or we will redraw a new winner on Thursday. By entering, you are agreeing to receive marketing materials from all companies, but are welcome to opt out of mailing list at any time.

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HEADER - DARK CHOC BLOG POST

Five of the Best Dark Chocolate Bars

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Five of The Best Dark Chocolate Bars

By Cara Curtis

There’s something about dark chocolate that makes everyone indulge slowly a piece at a time. It’s more of an experience than a midday snack, whether the dark chocolate has fruity and citrusy notes or if it’s more smokey and earthy treat. It all depends on the bean quality, the skilled maker and the process the bar goes through from starting as a bean to then being shipped around the world.

Here at Cocoa Runners, it’s our job to discover the world’s best chocolate bars. We have tried thousands upon thousands of chocolate bars; some we’ve disliked, some we’ve liked and some we cannot live without. We’ve travelled from one side of the world to the other to bring you the best chocolate of the world from exotic places such as Madagascar, Peru, Dominican Republic and many more countries.

We have carefully rounded up our favourite 5 dark chocolate bars so take a look and let us know what you think – have you tried them before?

Here’s our picks from our Chocolate Library of some of the best dark chocolate bars:

BLANXART

72% DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

This Dominican Republic bar is quite remarkable and completely incomparable. It’s as if the bar melts on your tongue and you’re suddenly met with wave after wave of chocolatey pleasure. This bar, made by the Spanish chocolate maker, Blanxart have nailed the art of dark chocolate in this bar alone. It gives notes of cream and intense chocolate. It’s simply a must-try.

MENAKAO

SEA SALT AND NIBS

Whilst we are normally purists when it comes to single estate dark chocolate, we make an exception for this Menakao dark chocolate bar. This is an example of chocolate with inclusions done exactly right. This bar is jam-packed with fruity and berry notes that work perfectly alongside the intense chocolate flavour. The added salt serves for double purpose, whilst adding texture with the crunchy nibs, the sale also brings out the roasted fruity and raisin notes whilst reducing the bitterness. It’s simply perfect.

PUMP STREET BAKERY

SOURDOUGH AND SEA SALT

This bar is an intriguing dark chocolate treat, with the sourdough adding an interesting inclusion and a gently crunch with a pleasant yeasty taste. It surprisingly works like a dark chocolate dream. It easily surpassed our expectations and earned itself a rightful place in our top five dark chocolate bars because of it’s unique yeasty and salty flavour which leaves you wanting more and more and … more.

OMNOM

MADAGASCAR

This deliciously fruity, dark chocolate bar is the perfect example of what a Madagascan bean can do. This bar has a perfect balance between fruity and jammy notes which give for a sweet treat which is common for Madagascan bean bars. But, this bar didn’t make the 5 best dark chocolate bars for just been the best of its kind, it’s deserved its place by the slight sharpness of the cherry hints that break through the bar with every bite. For this, it has been awarded a Silver at the International Chocolate Awards 2015. Alongside this success, it also took home Bronze at the Academy of Chocolate Awards 2015.

BONNAT

SELVA MAYA

This bar uses rare cacao from south-eastern Mexico which gives it a distinguished and unique taste. With every bite, there are floral and creamy notes that gives for a delicious and smooth mouthfeel. But we’re not the only ones that love this bar, the Chocolat Bonnat Selva Maya bar won World Gold at the International Chocolate Awards 2016 World Final, in London.

Chocolate Tasting

Chocolate Tasting With Lucocoa

By | Tastings, The World of Chocolate, Uncategorized | One Comment

On Tuesday 16th May we hosted our monthly Chocolate Tasting Evening at Prufrock Coffee. This time we did something a little different. Lizzie from Cocoa Runners invited Ama of Lucocoa to share the stage with her and talk about her experiences of chocolate making.

Among the guests was Terese Weiss. Terese is as keen about bean-to-bar chocolate as we are and is currently on the Teacher Training Programme at the International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Training (IICCT). If you’ve taken one of the IICCT’s courses in the UK you might just have had the good fortune to have been taught by Terese.

After attending the event, Terese was kind enough to write an account the evening, which we are delighted to share with you below.

A ‘Hakuna Lucocoa matata’ kind of chocolate event

An evening of learning, tasting and a meeting a chocolate maker – 16 May 2017

When was the last time you met the maker and personality behind a product you eat pretty much daily?  Living in a big town like London, that in itself is rather uncommon, even in a time when specialty and craft are increasingly celebrated.  That is what made the most recent Cocoa Runners’ ‘meet the maker’ event so enticing and intimate: to hear and taste the story with the maker – in this case Lucocoa, aka team Ama and Andy.

To make an unusual start, let me tell you that as a professional interpreter, this would be my favourite kind of assignment.  What’s there not to like?  A relaxing yet informative evening with guided tastings of 14 quality chocolates and peppered with entertaining titbits.  (Who by the way knew that the UK chocolate market is bigger that the book and music industry combined!). But why is that relevant to interpreting – and how is that the reason the Cocoa Runners’ gig is one to keep looking out for.  Well, hear me out.

Interpreters are often regarded as semi androids, a hidden button somewhere is switched on, A language goes in, B language comes out.  Not quite so.  Language is just the top of the iceberg.  We look below and listen for meaning, intention and delivery – how well they align… or not.  I have interpreted many good and not so good presentations, so I can tell you: Cocoa Runners’ event was aligned, like a string of cocoa beans.  They speak fluent chocolate, no interpretation needed.

The evening was mainly hosted by Cocoa Runners’ staff Lizzie who did a deft job in giving sizable insight into the world of chocolate.  Although we covered a lot, (beyond the tasting itself – recognising quality, ingredients, the surge of the craft bar, how it is made and personal stories about every sample and maker, the size, shape and make up of the industry as a whole – and much more), I didn’t feel overwhelmed.  And that on a hot Tuesday evening after a long day’s work.  It takes a skilled and knowledgeable presenter to do that – and probably some of the most visual and entertaining slides I have long seen, which kept the evening light and engaging.  Who would have thought that a picture of chicken nuggets or a baby donkey could perfectly exemplify just about anything chocolate.  If you don’t believe me, go see for yourself!

Lizzie was seconded by Ama in a gentle duet, partly to hear Lucocoa’s story, partly to get a maker’s perspective.  If you don’t know Lucocoa, they are London’s first bean-to-bar maker, having set up in 2014.  She and Andy still juggle day jobs and have turned their spare room into a small chocolate factory, (doesn’t that sound like pure bliss), although plans to upscale elsewhere are on the horizon.  Ama’s background as a nutritionalist and the couple’s discovery of the Amazonian ‘super food’ lucuma fruit, (looks like a cross between a tennis ball and a granny smith) gave birth to Lucocoa’s name and signature ingredients: coconut sugar and lucuma powder.

There was something quite disarming in Ama’s ‘down to earth-ness’ and admittance of the teething problems she and Andy went through as new kids on the chocolate block.  Like how they leaned the hard way to navigate import and export, having travelled and found the beans they wanted to buy from a local woman in Belize and thinking it would just be a small matter of shipping them back to the UK.

We tried 4 of Lucocoa’s bars from Belize, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala showing us a fan of different flavours – and a delicious ‘natural blonde’ white bar.  However, for Ama it seemed more important to tell the story behind the bars, about the 3 different women, (Minni, Idelsa and Yasmira), who grow the beans, how they met and their relationship.  Aptly, the range is called ‘celebrating our women farmers’.  The direct trade and connection is, as summarised by Lizzie, exactly ‘what we love about craft chocolate’ namely ‘that you get really close to the individual farmer’.  The emerging availability of beans from these and other unique origin growers is also what is making the craft market and Cocoa Runners’ library boom these last few years – and what you get a select taste of at their events.

Listening to Lizzie and Ama it mostly felt like a couple of friends were sitting me down and telling me about their jobs and area of expertise.  There was no lecturing, no sleek marketing spiel, just nice people and a good atmosphere, with a pile of fine chocolate samples.  Indeed, what is there not to like?!

 

You can find out more about Lucocoa’s chocolate here.

You can find out more about the ICCTT here.

Craft Chocolate London

Craft Chocolate Makers in London

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The London craft chocolate scene is booming.

When Cocoa Runners started in 2013 there were no small-batch craft makers in London. Back then you could pretty much count all of the UK’s bean-to-bar craft chocolate makers on one hand.

Fast forward less than four years and London has now got a growing handful of dedicated and talented craft chocolate makers. While fantastic small-batch chocolate makers are also appearing in cities such as Manchester and Sheffield, London truly is the capital of British craft chocolate.

More and more artisan makers are appearing in London. Each of these makers has a unique style but they all share a desire to craft the best possible chocolate straight from the bean.

In small workshops spaces, or even their spare rooms, they use the smallest number of ingredients possible to make chocolate with distinct flavours. The focus is not on flavourings or novelty ingredients but on the complex characteristics of the cocoa beans.

Discover the incredible pioneers crafting small-batch chocolate in London…

Lucocoa

ama andyThe first maker to officially launch in 2014 was North London’s Lucocoa, founded by Ama and Andy. As they recently told the Times, Ama and Andy have two objectives. First they want people to eat purer, better chocolate with good simple ingredients, and to that end their bars never contain anything more than five ingredients: cacao beans, cocoa butter, coconut sugar, milk and lucuma (a Peruvian superfood). More than that, Lucocoa is trying to encourage people to savour chocolate as one would a fine wine.

For International Women’s Day this year, Ama from Lucocoa has created a series of chocolates celebrating the achievements of female cocoa farmers and growers. We’ve partnered with her to bring you her International Women’s Day Limited Edition Belize dark chocolate bar.

The special wrapper depicts Minni Forman, Managing Director of Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize. Minni is key to all aspects of Maya Mountain’s operations. She oversees everything from Maya Mountain’s research farm to its post-harvest facilities and relationships with local farmers. Ama has used beans from Minni and Maya Mountain to craft this special bar.

DISCOVER LUCOCOA

Damson

Damson ChocolateNext is a maker very close to our heart. Before launching Damson Chocolate, Dom Ramsey was a prolific chocolate blogger and founding member of the Cocoa Runners team. In his very first year, Dom received two awards for his chocolate at the Academy of Chocolate Awards, as well as a prestigious ‘One to Watch’ Award.

Based in Islington’s Chapel Market Damson describes itself as ‘fanatical about quality’. Crafting bars in its modest Islington kitchen, every stage – from roasting the beans to wrapping the bars – is carried out with meticulous attention to detail. In celebration of the local area Dom even created a special dark chocolate, the Angel Bar.

DISCOVER DAMSON

Land

Land ChocolateBased in Bethnal Green, Land is London’s latest exciting chocolate arrival. Land was founded in 2016 by Phil Landers. Phil was previously a radio producer, but looking for a change, he went travelling around Central America where he discovered cacao.

Returning to London with his new-found passion, Phil trained with well-known chocolatier Paul. A. Young and then American chocolate makers Mast. Branching out by himself Phil is now crafting his own beautiful single-origin bars in an old furniture maker’s workshop. Currently a one-man show, he does everything himself, from hand-sorting his beans to hand-wrapping his bars.

His packaging is as stylish as it is informative. On the back you can discover exactly where the beans for each bar have come from. Focusing on South and Central America, Phil is keen to explore lesser-known origins and create bars with more unusual profiles.

DISCOVER LAND

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How to taste chocolate

How To Taste Chocolate

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We believe chocolate and wine have a lot in common. As with the finest wines, in order to really get the best out of our craft bars you need to know how to taste chocolate properly. It’s not just about  satisfying your sweet tooth, but uncovering the complex flavours of the cocoa beans that have been lovingly coaxed out by the artisan chocolate maker.

Just as the altitude, climate and soil will affect the grapes in a fine wine, the same factors can affect the flavour of the cocoa beans in your chocolate bar. Combined, these different environmental factors are known as the ‘terroir’. The finest wines are created when the finest grapes are in the hands of a talented vitner (or wine maker).  And the same is true for chocolate. When the best cocoa beans are given to a skilled maker who takes the time to hand craft every stage from bean to bar, you find yourself with a chocolate that deserves to be savoured. And in order to truly savour these fine bars you first should learn how to taste chocolate!

There’s just one problem for the chocolate aficionado in training. While whole books have been written about how best to enjoy a fine wine, very little has been written about how to enjoy a bar of chocolate.  Most of us reach for a chocolate bar for a mid-afternoon pick me up and end up eating it without much thought.  But when a maker has taken the time to directly source their beans, and painstakingly draw out their flavours, we think the same care should be taken when eating it.

Here at Cocoa Runners, we spend our lives running around the world, trying to find the very best chocolate bars. We have tasted a ever-growing number of chocolate bars. Of the thousands we’ve tasted we only choose the very best to put on our site. So after years of practice we wanted to share our top tips on how to taste chocolate.

Before you read on remember, eating chocolate should always be a pleasure and never a chore. We want to help you get the most out of your fine craft chocolate, but don’t overthink it!

  1. Look at the bar. Carefully take the bar out of its packaging and take a long hard look. Is it shiny and glossy, or does it have a dusty white powder on the surface?  The white powder is the fat in the bar, that has risen to its surface.  This normally happens when a bar has melted and reset, and is a sign that it hasn’t been properly stored.  This is particularly true of dark chocolate. While a little bloom on the surface shouldn’t affect the flavour, you might need to let it melt in your mouth for a little longer.
  1. Break off a piece.  What sound does the bar make and how does it feel when you break it? Does it break with a nice clean snap, or does it crumble?  As well as a wonderfully glossy finish, a well tempered bar should break with ease. A snap that is either too brittle or too soft again suggests that bar either wasn’t stored at the correct temperature or the bar wasn’t properly tempered. Tempering is the process by which chocolate is melted and then set into a chocolate bar at just the right temperature.
  1. Hold the bar for a second.  Does it start to melt?  Artisan chocolate bars contain cocoa butter, and this melts quickly at body temperature.  Most mainstream bars start to crumble and flake into a sticky mess instead of melting smoothly.  This is because of a trick used by many mainstream chocolate makers. They separate the cocoa powder from the cocoa butter and sell it off to the cosmetics industry for use in moisturisers, lipsticks, etc, then replace it with cheaper fats that don’t have the same wonderfully smooth melt.
  1. Smell the bar.  Can you smell citrus, berries, nuts or something else?  As we’ve said, tasting chocolate is like tasting a fine wine. When tasting wine, its standard practice to swirl you drink round in your glass before inhaling deeply.  A good proportion of the flavours in any food or drink comes from their aroma.  A wealth of aromas are released the moment you unwrap a craft chocolate bar. In the same way that swirling your wine helps to release the aroma, holding the piece in your hand (see above) will begin to heat the chocolate slightly, releasing it smell.
  1. Put a piece on your tongue and let it melt, taking care not to chew.  As it melts, different layers of flavour will reveal themselves.A rich Dominican bar might start with a roasted, chocolate ganache note that develops to leave an earthy finish. Or the initial berry notes of a Madagascan chocolate transform into a citrus note.
  1. Enjoy. Eating chocolate should always be a pleasure. These tips on how to taste chocolate should help you get the most out of your artisan chocolate. If you can’t taste the flavours other people have described then don’t worry, as taste is subjective. And remember, the more chocolate you taste, the more your palate will develop.

All told, there are over 400 distinct flavour compounds in chocolate, more than enough to keep even the keenest cocoa bean interested. Not only is taste extremely subjective,  it’s influenced by everything you’ve eaten and drunk throughout the day.  The same chocolate eaten by itself will taste very different when it is matched with a suitable fine wine.

Now you know how to taste chocolate, take a look at how artisan chocolate is made. See our page about it here.

Whittard Tea & Chocolate

Welcome Whittard

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Earlier this year we were delighted to spend time with the expert tea tasters from Whittard, tasting their fine loose leaf teas and sharing some of our favourite bars.  It was fascinating to learn so much about  the origins of different teas, and all the care and attention that goes into preparing the perfect cup.  Perhaps it was inevitable that we would eventually find ourselves trying out different pairings of teas and bars.

Along with the fantastically knowledgeable Bethan Thomas, Tea Buyer & Manager at Whittard, we presented our three favourite combinations at the Chocolate Show London in October 2016. We were delighted to share our pairings and hear other people’s notes on the teas and chocolate. You can also discover each combination for yourself. Read on to find out more. Mao Jian & Marou Ba Ria, £18

Mao Jian & Marou Ba Ria £18

Whittard Chocolate and tea 1For those looking for a more robust taste to their green tea, this famous variety from China’s Hunan Province might be just the ticket.

The elegant blue-grey leaf takes its colour from the silvery buds picked early in the spring, while the infusion itself produces rich, roasted notes and a vibrant nutty complexity. There’s even a floral sweetness to the finish, far from the bitter, tannic taste which you might associate with lesser green teas.

The name itself is a reference to the quality of the leaf: ‘Mao’ refers to the youthful, downy quality of the barely opened buds, while ‘Jian’ refers to the peaked tip of the young leaves, delicately picked and gently rolled by hand.

Ba Ria is a rich and fruity chocolate, made with beans from the Bà Ria province of south eastern Vietnam. This bar is a sublime and intense chocolate experience that tastes as good as it looks. This is the kind of chocolate that makes you look twice at the ingredients to see where the intensely fruity flavour is coming from. Of course, there are no added flavours, and the deep, red fruit notes in this chocolate come entirely from the south Vietnamese Trinitario cocoa beans.

When tasted together, they transform the separate flavours in a most unexpected way.  Whittard’s tea expert said “We’d always considered our Mao Jian as a typically ‘nutty’ fired green tea, but it transformed into something altogether more floral when set against Marou’s intense 76% Vietnamese dark chocolate.”

Keemun Mao Feng & Solomons Gold £18

whittard chocolate and tea 2Keemun Mao Feng – aromatic notes of sweet plum and smoked pinewood.

This smokey pairing brings together a Keemun from China and a dark chocolate from The Solomon Isles.

One of our most prized Chinese teas, we’ve sourced this exceptionally high grade of Keemun from Anhui Province, the home of Chinese black tea. While ‘Keemun’ refers to the region of ‘Qimen’ where this tea was first produced using specialist techniques learnt in AnHui, ‘Mao Feng’ gives a clue to the superb quality of the young spring leaves. Skilfully picked and processed by hand, the result is an extraordinarily smooth, plummy sweetness, tinged with a subtlest touch of Lapsang-style smokiness.

Comparable to a fine Burgundy in the tea-tasting world, this is the sort of tea connoisseurs dream about. We’d recommend using slightly less leaf, brewing lightly and drinking without milk to bring out the notes of plum, black pepper and smoked pinewood.

Perhaps one of the most interesting chocolate phenomena, this ‘smoked chocolate’ note is something we are seeing more of. There are a number of cocoa-producing islands in the South Pacific and many of the bars that hail from them have a similar profile. At the same time, each different plantation and islands’ own micro-climate has a huge impact on the beans’ flavour. So far Solomons Gold has the most pronounced smokiness  of any bar we’ve tasted.

This is a seriously intense and savoury dark bar. The chocolate has little to no fruit but instead is infused with a seriously smokey aroma. The flavour is not so much nutty or roasted as a big blast of wood smoke.

Imperial Puerh & Pacari Sea Salt & Nibs £12

Whittard Tea & Chocolate 2Imperial Puerh – Strong and earthy, yet clean and refreshing.

This pairing brings together a fine Puerh from China and a dark chocolate from Ecuador.

Our Imperial Puerh is a particularly fine variety from the home of puerh tea, Yunnan Province in China. Unlike many lesser quality puerhs which tend to be heavy and musty, this is a clear-tasting and richly flavoursome tea, substantially full-bodied without a hint of heaviness. You’ll find the earthy notes are beautifully balanced by a fresh, clean sweetness, and the result is surprisingly refreshing.

There’s no tea quite like puerh. It’s the only tea to be fermented alongside the usual oxidation process using healthy microbes and microflora: the bacteria required for a healthy digestive system. As a result, puerh has long been viewed as an aid to digestion and weight loss – over the centuries, it has been claimed to reduce cholesterol, combat ageing, reduce the risk of heart disease and help with circulation, to name but a few of the reputed benefits. However, a good puerh is far more than just a medical brew.

The unroasted dark chocolate has an earthy green flavour and unusual grainy texture. The Ecuadorian nibs give a satisfying crunch bar and further bring out the wooded vegetal notes in the chocolate. The hints of salt give a distinctive contrast, refreshing the palate.

Ecuadorian cacao is known for its earthy profile, and tasting this alongside the highly aromatic yet earthy Puerh makes for a satisfying and somewhat savoury pairing.

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New Craft Chocolate As Seen On Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch

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On Sunday 10 October, Cocoa Runners co-founder Spencer returned to Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch to share four of the newest & most exciting craft chocolate bars in the Cocoa Runners Library. Click here to buy the full collection or read on to explore the individual craft chocolate bars for yourself.

 

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Original Beans – Cru Udzungwa 70%

Original Beans Cru Udzungwa

First is a brand new addition from Original Beans. Its Cru Udzungwa dark chocolate has been crafted using beans from the edge of Udzungwa Mountain National Park in Tanzania. Locals grow the cacao trees in special village gardens. This gives locals a good source of income and thus supports local communities and their stewardship of Udzungwa National Park which is home to a number of endangered species, including African elephants.

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Georgia Ramon – Philippinen 80%

Philipinen Black 80

 

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Next is a Georgia Ramon’s Philippinen 80% bar. Cocoa Runner’s first German maker, the company was founded by Georg Bernadini and his partner Ramona Gustman. Georg has worked in the chocolate industry for over 20 years and has now put his years of knowledge and experience working for others to good use. The beans are sourced directly from the Puentespina family in the Philippines.

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Luisa Abram – 70%

Luisa Abram 70%

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Then travel to the Amazon with Luisa Abram’s 70% dark chocolate bar. Luisa and her father Andre travel up through the Brazilian rainforests and up the Amazon river looking for rare cocoa beans and long-forgotten or undiscovered varietals. They buy their beans directly from the local communities who harvest, ferment and dry the beans. These are then shipped down-river to Luisa’s workshop where she transforms the precious cacao into incredible chocolate!

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Chocolat Bonnat – Javan Dark Milk

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Finally we have a decadent Chocolat Bonnat Javan Dark Milk from one France’s oldest chocolate makers. Chocolat Bonnat has been crafting chocolate in Voiron, France for over 130 years. The company is currently headed by the sixth generation of Bonnat chocolatiers Stephane Bonnat. Javan cacao has a particularly fine flavour and the island’s cocoa trees are believed to trace their roots all the way back to Venezuela.

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Click here to buy the full collection or discover the individual craft chocolate bars for yourself.

Menakao Cocoa Nibs

What Are Cocoa Nibs?

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There has been a lot of buzz about cocoa nibs recently, but what exactly are they?

Everyone knows that craft chocolate is made directly from the cocoa bean. But did you know that these cocoa beans are a delicious treat all by themselves?

Cacao nibs are pieces of fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cacao bean. Once roasted, winnowed and cracked the nibs are generally made into chocolate. But these crunchy bits of cocoa nib can also be eaten just as they are. This is ‘chocolate’ at its purest – no added sugar, no milk, no flavourings and almost no processing. And just like the chocolate they are turned into, cocoa nibs have been shown to have many different nutritional benefits.

Cocoa nibs naturally contain a significant amount of fibre (about 9g per ounce) as well as magnesium, potassium and more calcium than cow’s milk. Cocoa beans are a plant-based source of iron. On top of this cacao contain high levels of flavonoids, particularly epicatechin which studies have shown to have a beneficial impact on cardiovascular health. Of course all this can also be said of chocolate, but without any added sugar or milk cocoa nibs are the best way to get these benefits.

It’s not just about eating something that’s good for you however, it’s about eating something that tastes good. Cocoa nibs have a slightly nutty texture, comparable to cashews or macadamia nuts. The nibs aren’t as bitter as you might expect as the flavour is less intense and generally fruitier.

Our Madagascan nibs by Menakao have a particularly pronounced fruity aroma with a roasted undernote. Sharp citrus mixes with orange and cranberries. The profile is similar to Menakao’s dark bars but with a raw, unprocessed edge: the same flavours are present but haven’t been focused and refined as in a bar.

So what to do with these delicious and diverse cocoa nibs? Nibs are a wonderfully versatile cooking ingredient that you can use in both sweet and savoury dishes. Below we highlight some of our favourite ways to use cocoa nibs.

  1. Start your day with a crunch. Add a sprinkling of cocoa nibs to your morning porridge, giving it a little more texture and a roasted chocolatey note. For a deliciously fruity breakfast, why not use Menakao’s roasted nibs and add in a handful of dried fruit to bring out the beans’ own flavours.
  2. Bake to perfection. Described by some as ‘nature’s chocolate chip’ cocoa nibs can be added into cakes, cookies, biscuits, brownies, muffins and more! Cooking will soften the nibs a little but they’ll still retain some of their crunch. Remember that while the nibs are bursting with intense flavours, they’ve none of the added sugar that chocolate does. So you might need to adjust your recipe accordingly.
  3. Top everything. Don’t stop at porridge and baked goods. We think a liberal sprinkle of cocoa nibs can improve any number of dishes from your superfood smoothie, to yogurt and granola, to rice pudding or pancakes.
  4. Be bold. Chocolate might be regarded as a sweet treat, but nibs don’t have to be. Just like nuts and seeds cocoa nibs make a great addition to salads.
  5. A simple snack. Instead of munching on dried fruits or nuts, why not try a handful of cocoa nibs to keep you going throughout the day. Keep a little sachet by your desk for when you need a sugar-free chocolate fix.

How do you use cocoa beans? Let us know your favourite recipes.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/02/cacao-nibs_n_3695571.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoa_bean#Health_benefits

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