March 13, 2011

Soma – Chuao 70%

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Written by: Stuart Robson

In the recent wave of Chuao releases there have been some disappointments set against some really beautiful examples. I had been told this bar from Canadian bean to bar producer Soma was among the best and as such it was with considerable anticipation that I opened the outer wrapper and took a first look at this, another Chuao.

The appearance is unusual for a Chuao, but again this may be more popular perception as a result of Amedei’s previous monopoly on the region than anything else. The colour is medium brown with no trace of the red hints sometimes found with Chuao and gives a generally light impression. The thin 25g bar is well finished overall with a nice shine, minimal swirling and the odd very small bubble.

The aroma really kicks things off:  as the packet is peeled back there is an exemplary display of the typical Chuao blueberry along with plum jam and some bitter almonds. The aromas calm down rather swiftly, pulling back to reveal some interesting and quite citric, winey suggestions with a grassy edge. Prior to the recent deluge of releases from many different producers this might have been considered an unusual nose for the region due the lovely hints of nuts and citrus, but now and with a growing number of different interpretations on offer, these can be considered fairly typical notes where a lighter roast is employed.

On the palette the initial attack is quite acidic with citrus tones that lean towards grapefruit before drifting back to lemon, a hint of the bitter almonds and some red currant. The flavours then slowly pull together into a near perfect blend of blueberry, lightly roasted dusty cacao and fresh figs on a background of soft citrus. This is perhaps the liveliest take on Chuao I have tasted and is really quite beautiful. The finish isn’t particularly long however and sees the arrival of some cedary tannins that, while they are not too aggressively drying, soon put pay to the rest of the flavours and leave the palette clean and neutral. The mouth feel is also rather good, particularly when considering the small scale operation at Soma, and while a little grainer than the very best shows a slow and even melt with only a hint of fudginess.

This is all that I was told it would be and yet I found it quite surprising. It would seem that even with so many examples of this region on the market now it can still be difficult to shake the old idea of what the Chuao flavour profile should be.  It has now been widely shown that beans from this area can display nuttiness, acidic citrus and many more notes alongside the more archetypal descriptors associated with Chuao. Soma has produced the definitive example of this with their interpretation; it shows some of the typical notes but with a much livelier exuberance and wider range than many others.  Fine work from a still little-known producer.

About the Author

Stuart Robson
Stuart Robson is a passionate foodie born in Scotland and based in Hertfordshire whose main expertise lies in the world of whisky and chocolate. He first began tasting fine chocolate in 2005 with Valrhona Manjari and has since developed a particular interest in single origin bars and a desire to highlight skilled cacao farmers and artisan producers all over the world. Stuart previously trained in Paris while working for a fine chocolatier, and has since become a reviewer for Seventypercent. He is still involved in freelance consultation for small companies working with bean-to-bar chocolate producers and chocolatiers.



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