June 15, 2013

The Chocolate Tree – Madagascar Raw 70%

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Written by: Alex Rast

At long last, the raw chocolate field isn’t limited to Pacari when fine chocolate is the goal, and better still, the origin is sufficiently different to make this a genuinely different rather than a competing product. Delicacy is the overwhelming note of this interpretation, perhaps exactly what one might expect. For a product from a very new producer, the result is remarkable (and reminiscent of Pacari itself, in its early days), even if there are some rough edges left to smooth out at this point. But there can be no doubt; here is a chocolate that decisively expands the field of possibility in raw chocolate.

The lightness of colour, out of the wrapper, of this chocolate, is extraordinary, in the same class as the very best Piuras. Unsurprising, perhaps, for a Madagascar but yet in unroasted form presented in even more extreme degree. Moulding does bear signs of unevenness and the temper, it must be said, is only adequate, things to work on as the Chocolate Tree perfects their process. The aroma, though, is almost perfect as it is, lovely and delicate, hinting of floral/orange blossom and cream, with notes of cedar, and that characteristic grassy note one finds with raw chocolate. It’s like the classic Madagascar nose, only made more ethereal, subtle, and feminine.

Flavour is a powerful blend of fruits, initially starting out with tropical fruits and floral notes, then moving towards more sour redcurrant and citrus, again, the classic Madagascar flavours, only brought out with higher resolution but lower intensity. As it evolves it moves towards creamy notes, then the cedar flavour arrives with a characteristic “nibby” taste exactly evocative of munching on cacao nibs. This is a flavour that pushes the boundaries of chocolate; it’s more like a fruit than a roast nut now, and easily reveals all that is within the Madagascar bean. One can also see the benefits and costs of roasting here clearly: a roast interpretation strengthens and emboldens the flavour, but blurs the resolution and loses, inevitably, some of the top notes. So we see with this bar that roasting is a choice, not automatic or necessary, but which trades off one set of characteristics for a different one.

The bar still has significant problems in the texture area, possibly
the result of minor temper issues: it’s rather dry and crumbly, and
only medium smooth. However, this is perhaps rather beside the point;
this is clearly a bar that’s about making a statement about flavour
possibilities. And in this it succeeds admirably, demonstrating
clearly what it means to be Madagascar. It will be interesting to see
how this chocolate evolves, as the Chocolate Tree’s sourcing changes
and they mature in process and handling; already they have a bar with
tremendous potential, and for the future, who knows? But we can now
see a future where roast chocolate is only one possibility among a
spectrum of choices, and raw chocolate might become a standard
offering. When, as here, an origin can prove that it doesn’t need
roasting to shine, all options emerge.

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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