October 3, 2012

Ritual Chocolate – Costa Rica

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Written by: Alex Rast

A splendid chocolate from a new manufacturer. Ritual has found a very unusual process point for this somewhat unusual origin, resulting in an aroma and flavour quite unlike any other chocolate. Exceptionally tart fruitiness is the leitmotiv, and they carry it off very well, without becoming so sour that it verges on inedible. Clearly they have a process here that is quite refined – although it is to be suspected that it might be difficult to achieve at larger volumes. However in Ritual’s case that’s probably beside the point, and this bar can be considered a classic “limited-edition” bar; get it while you still can!

Strangely, the box description doesn’t inspire confidence, the flavour notes seeming reminiscent of bulk-grade Ghana or some of the more basic Ecuador origins. Nor does the appearance particularly improve matters; tempering is somewhat uneven and the colour comes dangerously close to the Dark Side. However, the aroma is like nothing else, initially familiar but very encouraging raspberry mixed with raisin, but then developing an outstanding floral, lilac note and also hints of grassiness. It’s a very elusive aroma that seems hard to capture or quantify adequately, but it certainly compels immediate tasting.

The flavour turns out to be prevailingly fruity and rather sour, initially redcurrant, then more citrus. But at almost the opposite extreme, deep molasses flavours emerge, and the end moves into a much more roasty territory with notes of coffee and biscuit. On their own these finish qualities might suggest overroasting, but taken in context, they merely add balance to what is a most exciting flavour evolution, and it must be said that Ritual is exploring the ultra-fruity corner of the process in a way that seemed to have fallen out of fashion amongst chocolate-makers in the past few years. It’s refreshing (literally) to see this style return.

Melt, meanwhile, is up to snuff, being both smooth and creamy. The snap is particularly assertive; presumably the hinted-at tempering inconsistencies are superficial. Indeed, only superficial flaws, generally, appear in this chocolate, which really is a first-rate achivement for a young company. The way they have brought out the fruity elements of their source is more complete than has been seen for years (probably since some of the earlier Amano chocolates). It is to be hoped that Ritual continues to develop this style; they have the potential to become the standard-bearers for light, fruity chocolates. In the meanwhile, here is a bar to enjoy while the time is ripe; at this level of quality, it won’t be around for long.

About the Author

Alex Rast
Alex Rast is a long-time chocolate experimenter, taster and part-time consultant to chocolate companies. Starting in 1990 with early experiments himself in making chocolate, he quickly moved into evaluating chocolates in commercial production and assisting other companies in improving process. Over the course of many years he has evaluated over 700 distinct chocolate bars. He is one of the earliest reviewers for SeventyPercent and has helped to define and systematise the ratings system. In addition to bar chocolate, he also experiments with chocolate baking and the formulation of "canonical" recipes for classic chocolate items.



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