Chocovic have two new origin offerings, brought in to supplement their existing small origin range. Both bars are a step up in quality for the Spanish bean to bar maker, who are also owners of the Sampaka chocolatier chain and suppliers to upmarket Spanish brands such as Enrico Rovira.
The two new bars have quite different sources and degrees of originality. With Sambirano, Chocovic have followed the path already trodden by most fine chocolate makers, to Madagascar. The choice of name is not exactly original either, Domori, Malagasy and others have already named chocolate after the Sambirano River, which flows through the small cacao growing region inthe north of the Madagascan island.
The other bar is from a more innovative source. Here Chocovic have branched out with a limited edition chocolate using beans from Socunusco, Mexico. A long time ago this was the most famous and prizedof cacao growing groves – the emperor Motecuhzuma had his personal cacao groves here. Mexico scarcely has any good cacao left though, much was lost through neglect and eventually overplanted with iffy forasteros to feed the US confectionery giants – the likes of Hershey,etc.
The possibility of recovering something of quality is tantalising though. Amongst all those imports, hybrids and mistakenly named ‘criollos’ (varieties introduced a mere 70 years ago are often considered by farmers ‘native’ and therefore ‘criollo’), there could just be something left from pre-Columbian times.
Chocovic are not the first to go hunting around the ancient glades though. Bonnat have already released a similar bar,using beans from a project they’ve been working with in the region, as have Askinosie. Meanwhile, south of the border in Guatemala there are other recovery projects going on, as I found out during my visit there last year.
My first try of these new chocolates was on stage at the recent chocolate festival in Sweden with doyen of Swedish chocolate Maja Berthas and the man behind Utah based bean-to-bar maker Amano. We were doing a short piece about the 2009 Academy of Chocolate Awards when Maja (one of the judges in London) surprised us by whipping out the new Chocovic offerings. We tried them there and then, with the Swedish Chocovic distributor Femtorp looking on nervously not 20 metres away, their stand being one of the closest to the stage.
Fortunately, the chocolate turned out to be a pleasant surprise, a definite improvement on previous Chocovic offerings, and making a lot more sense than the confusing Selvática line, released last year and trying to confuse us with stories of rainforests flavours, but mostly made with African forasteros as far as I could tell. Gone was the typical candy / liquorice nose that has up to now made Chocovic easy to identify.
Sambirano has a clean aroma, fruity and maybe hints of ash, but with none of the candy note typical of most Chocovic chocolate. This may be because of the complete absence of vanilla from the recipe, which is probably a good departure. The taste is good and fruity, though with less full citrus than can be expected from some of the best Madagascar bars. (We did try the bar right after Amano’s Gold winning bar though, which was perhaps a little unfair.) There is a hint of ash though, which suggests a lighter and more even roast would help. This is barely detectable though, the chocolate is very smooth, if slightly glutinous. I suspect Chocovic Madagascar will be of interest to many a chocolatier looking for a reasonably priced alternative to some of the popular upper end Madagascans.
Xoconusco is also without vanilla. The nose if full and fruity, with some top citrus, dark raisin, wood and soft leather. There’s possible something a little dry and dusty there, but not off-putting.The initial taste is very much wood, with quite sour fruit evolving into salt, a little cheese, balsa wood and ending in a pleasant cherry and peach. Munching reveals almonds and blue cheese.That might sound a little messy, but the overall effect is fairly good, with a good chocolate length, even if it’s not actually that long. At the back of all this, there’s something very slightly odd and salty (reminds me of the tone of Belcolade chocolate), but this is not off-putting and this is a chocolate I’d reach for to eat. Undoubtedly the best Chocovic so far.
Well this has turned into something more like a review, so don’t be surprised to find this text cut and paste into the review section.
Good progress for Chocovic and I’d very much like to see the other origin bars made in this style.