One of the great pleasures of single estate chocolate is the way that different makers and farmer can coax out so many flavours from their beans. It’s the antithesis of mass produced chocolate where the aim is – to be kind – uniformity and sameness. Single estate is all capturing the essence of the bean. It’s about craft and art.
But it has to start with the bean. From the soil conditions and climate to the fermentation, drying and roasting processes; every small difference will subtly affect a bar’s final taste. The craft makers are determined to showcase the unique flavour notes of each harvest’s beans, rather than masking the differences with artificial flavourings. These little inconsistencies are one of the great things about small batch chocolate: no two batches, even of the same bar, will ever taste exactly the same.
To demonstrate these differences in taste we’ve curated a Vintage and Beans box. This collection lets you discover Cocoa Runners’ first two vintage bars. Both 70% bars are made exclusively from Trinitario beans produced on the Roxborough Estate, Tobago by Duane Dove. Harvested from the same single estate, fermented and dried in the same facilities – and then crafted to the same recipe in the same factory and in the same machines. Both have won awards galore. Yet they taste very different.
A single year’s difference has a huge impact on the taste of these two bars. 2014 is smooth and rich with malted, almost biscuity notes – we detected molasses with just a small hint of tobacco. 2015 is still smooth and rich, the initial flavour is far sharper and sweeter and we think is more citrusy before giving way to dusky, earthy notes. Just like wine (and cheese), you can taste the “terroir” and you can also enjoy the subtleties of different harvests
Having grown up on a small cocoa estate on Tobago, Duane Dove always aspired to make his own chocolate from the cocoa beans he helped grow. Duane got the idea of establishing his own cocoa estate in 2003. But the process of producing a chocolate bar from the beans he found – what he endearingly calls getting from ‘bean to belly’ – was harder than expected. Nevertheless, Duane persevered. Staggeringly, it took ‘5 years, 150 people, 1600 days and 56000 hours’ to make his very first chocolate bar.
For Duane, quality is the very top of his priorities. After deciding from day one that he wanted to create the very best artisan chocolate, he collaborated with friend and chocolatier Francois Pralus who is not only a chocolate expert, but understood the hard work needed to produce the very best chocolate. With these two bars, we can’t help but feel Duane’s incredible hard work really is paying off.
So in this box we’ve picked two very different bars made from the same Madagascan beans from Bertil Akesson’s plantation and his 2014 harvest. Both are amazing. Both have won awards galore. Both have distinct similarities. But they are also very, very different in the way they bring out the beans’ flavours.
The first is Bertil’s own signature Madagascan bar, crafted in France. Bertil is one of the true heroes of the bean to bar market; over the last decade he pioneered the direct sale of his single estate beans to newly emerging chocolate makers. This bar has much more of the typical rich and fruity taste of a great Madagascan bar.
The second, from Icelandic maker Omnom, has a balance between acidity and jammy notes that you would expect from Madagascan beans. However, we detect a slight sharpness with hints of cherry instead of the more familiar sweet red berry notes. These more unusual notes reflect the maker’s originality, also apparent in the bar’s stunning packaging. Omonom is Iceland’s first small batch artisan chocolate maker, and has one of the quirkiest chocolate making spaces we know of – a converted petrol station.
The Vintages and Beans Collection