November 16, 2005
I'm a chocolate enthusiast new to this site, and I love reading through all the reviews! While I am not yet the chocolate connoisseur (I certainly do not know the "language" that some of the members on this site are using when reviewing chocolate), I do have an interest in learning more about and tasting the latest in chocolate. Last week I attended the annual Chocolate Show in NYC, and aside from eating lots of chocolate, I noticed a lot of single-origin bars, some of which are mentioned frequently on this site. A lot of these are from brands I really have not heard of before. What's the deal with these? Are they becoming more popular? Can we expect a big mass brand like Hershey's to come out with this type of chocolate?
August 1, 2006
Check this thread briefly:
Single origin is a rather broad term, which on the vaguest scale means that the beans are sourced from a single country. For example, Marcolini's Venezuela bar is a single origin chocolate because the beans were sourced from Venezuela. But even within this country, huge differences exist between plantations and regions, so that a Carenero chocolate will taste different than a Maracaibo, and so on. And in the case of Marcolini, it is clear that he sourced the chocolate from Sur del Lago, and once you taste more single origins, you will be able to discern these differences as well. The path to enlightenment is fun, though, so don't rush it! In my reviews, I try to put in as much information about this as I can because I want everyone to know what exactly defines an Arriba, for example, or how Chocolate A should taste this way instead of that...and so on.
Back to single origin. Each region has a specific flavor profile and characteristics that set it apart from the rest, but due to close proximity of some areas, there will be several similarities. For example, I found Felchlin's Maracaibo to be remarkably similar to Carenero cacao, but given the fairly closeness of the two areas, it is fairly understandable.....fairly.
This single origin craze has been around for a while, at least since the 80s and maybe even sooner, but it has really flourished in the last decade or so. Yes, I think you can expect to see more origin chocolates because there's so much untapped resources out there. Chocolates will taste different each year, like vintage wine, so even in this respect, there is still something new to look forward to, even in familiar chocolates.
Also, don't get caught up on only the "best" chocolates either, because it is quite instructive and valuable to try the "bad" chocolates reviewed here as well. This will allow you to discern the differences between bad and good and what to look for in a chocolate overall. For example, a bad Arriba can be an utterly disgusting experience, yet the finer interpretations can be sheer bliss. In other words, just because it's single origin doesn't mean it's good. Case in point: Plantations 90% vs. Slitti 90%. Two Arribas, the former being a disaster, while the latter being divine.
And to address your Hershey's comment, they actually bought Scharffen Berger...I don't know if you're aware. And they're (Hershey's) supposedly going to release a new 60% bar (with safe ingredients, i.e. real vanilla, no milk solids). I tried this at the Fancy Food Show this past July, and it was surprisingly good and strong for what it is. Look out for it in the near future.
November 16, 2005
Hi - thanks for the great response! Looks like I have lots of chocolate tasting to do! I really had no idea that this craze has been going on for so long. I'm first getting into it now, and quite honestly, I never even heard of this type of chocolate until recently. I'm not sure if I will ever be at the point where I can distinguish the regional tastes that precisely, i.e. become a real chocolate connoisseur. Are the connoisseurs who these chocolates are really for, or will there be a day when I can talk to many people about the Marcolini bar from Venezuela (for example)? Also, I did know that Hershey acquired Scharffen Berger, but I still think of them as two separate companies/two different types of chocolate. I know the 60% bars you are talking about. I saw them out in stores about a month ago and tried them, but I just don't consider those bars good chocolate.
August 1, 2006
Well, like any business, if the demand is there, then hopefully so will the supply, so in this respect anyone can try them. And plenty of different people do too, but I would say that it's more likely that it's the connoisseurs who are more likely to try as many different varieties as they can. A lot of the chocolates that manufacturers produce can be enjoyed by anyone at anytime, regardless of how much a person likes chocolate. It's just that a lot of them are so complex that to consume them mindlessly with total disregard to its characteristics is a bit wasteful and probably more of an overly expensive "diet" than anything. So, I would say that in order to maximize your experience, take time to distinguish the characteristics. I'm not a wine enthusiast, nor do I regularly buy bottles of wine just to know every little thing about a Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, but I do know how to fully enjoy a glass and to maximize the experience. The important thing is to at least appreciate what makes each variety unique, whether it's chocolate or wine. No one ever said you have to be the expert about it, but if you enjoy it every once in a while, then that's perfectly fine.