Scotland joins the club of bean-to-bar countries with this (and other) chocolates from interesting micro-producer The Chocolate Tree in Edinburgh. This is a new experiment for a company previously involved in confectionery and who also sell other-branded bars in their shop. With such small production and so early on in the experiment, one expects inevitably the results might be somewhat uneven, and thus maybe any early reviews will be preliminary. However, by their choices of percentages, origins, and processes, it’s already clear that the Chocolate Tree isn’t producing another “me-too” clone of other manufacturers, so whatever the results may be, they’re providing variety. With its high 82% cocoa content, this chocolate will, almost inevitably, invite comparison to Pacari’s 85%, but again, by varying both percentage and process, they make sure they’re offering a different experience. What will the Chocolate Tree contribute? There’s no substitute for trying and finding out.
Alex Rast: 14-Dec-2012
An exceptionally polished entry from an exceptionally new manufacturer, here is a bar that bodes well for The Chocolate Tree, if in their early days they’re getting results like this. With the hallmarks of classic Ecuador, but with interesting spicy notes as well, the chocolate presents a very different stylistic take from other manufacturers, and offers the Ecuador in a pleasingly high percentage of 82%, the better to show off the bean characteristics. As might be expected, it’s not perfect, not yet: they need to work on the conching and probably the exact blending methods as well, but it’s got a lot going for it and has the characteristic weight an power that high-percentage chocolates, in a sense, ought to have.
Out of the very pretty, if idiosyncratic, wrapper, the chocolate looks very nice, using the same attractive mould as William Curley. As with a lot of Arribas, it’s quite dark, but the tempering has been done competently if not perfectly and swirling on the back isn’t overly pronounced. It all seems rather immaterial, though, next to the mighty aroma. Powerful waves of plum and prune rush in, then hints of floral and honey (as good Arriba should have but so rarely does), and then more full-bodied sensations of grape and earthy. Not only is it powerful, it’s remarkably balanced and displays a favourable evolution, leaving you prepared for a sensational flavour.
As it goes, though, the flavour is excellent but maybe not sensational. Initially the notes are brown sugar and cocoa, a classic Ecuador. Then something unusual hits, a powerful, unmistakeable taste of cinnamon and cream, so potent one would almost imagine it a flavoured bar. A bit disappointingly the floral hints never really materialise; the rest of the flavour is swallowed up in an earthy finish. Not a depressing, utterly flat result, but one is left wanting more. Texture is also in that same category; it’s good, but one is left wanting more at this high percentage; what should be an ultra-smooth and creamy bar has merely good melt.
But at the end of the day, if one is left wanting more, this is a good result for a very new manufacturer. It indicates there’s real potential here, and even as it is the bar is very much worth getting, probably more than once. If the Chocolate Tree are dedicated to improving their bars, we may see improvement on this chocolate. The ways to improve it here aren’t hard to spot: lower the conching time a bit, to get more distinctiveness in the flavour, and maybe very slightly reduce the roast. It’s a chocolate, though, on its way to success, and with an entry like this, there is reason to expect bean-to-bar chocolate may be here to stay in Scotland.