Menakao – Dark Chocolate 72%
  • Our rating: 76.5% (1 review)
  • Company:
  • Cacao solids: 72%
  • Guide Price:
  • Description by: Alex Rast
  • Production: Produced directly from beans by maker
  • Certification:
    • None
  • Ingredients:
    • Madagascan cocoa beans
    • sugar
    • pure cocoa butter
    • emulsifier: GMO-rfree soy lecithin

A dark chocolate sweetened with measure, just enough to release the deep cocoa flavour and clear notes of red fruits and citrus. An intense, elegant and bright chocolate with a long, rich, and subtle acidic finish.

Menakao – Dark Chocolate 72%—Chocolate Review Rating: 76.5% out of 100 based on 1 reviews.

Menakao – Dark Chocolate 72%

Madagascar keeps on throwing up local chocolate manufacturers…with a reputation for inconsistency. Here we go with another one whose long-term results will have to be tested in time but who show that the Madagascans are determined to try to get it right. As usual the questions focus around the processing choices at manufacture; no one doubts the ultimate potential quality of the beans and so this is very much a presentation of the state of development of chocolate production in the country. With the 72% Menakao presents a classic percentage that should suit a broad variety of tastes – and an ideal reference test case for their products.

Reviews

Alex Rast: 29-Jul-2012

Posted: July 29, 2012 by
SCORES Score/10 Weight
Aroma: 10%
Look/snap: 5%
Taste: 35%
Melt: 5%
Length: 15%
Opinion: 30%
Total/100: 100%
INFO
Best before:
Batch num:
Source:
Supplied by:

While a reasonable effort from a young manufacturer, this bar demonstrates a certain lack of sophistication that shows that local production in Madagascar still has a long way to go if it would compete with the Cluizels and Praluses of the world. By going for a dark style, Menakao appears to have tried to emulate the successful Pralus model, yet this very approach is perhaps the riskiest processing choice a manufacturer can make; it’s so easy to overdo things and diminish the chocolate’s flavour. Here the outcome is a bit more subtle, the effect being more of rusticity and wildness than of heavy-handedness, yet still the chocolate shows that Menakao has a lot to learn.

Although lighter than some chocolates, out of the box, this bar is dangerously dark for Madagascar origin, and a rough, dry-looking finish without sheen suggests tempering, while adequate, is not exceptional. The effect is of something primitive, something rough-cut. Aroma instantly reveals that Menakao is opting for a dark style; it’s rich and bold, with mahogany and blackberry predominant early, brown sugar late. Hints of chocolatey in the middle have promise, but other hints of vanilla and smoke (even without vanilla actually present), are rather more ominous.

The flavour is fine but doesn’t really reveal much not already hinted at in the aroma, starting out with brown sugar and blackberry, almost a signature Ecuador-type. Chocolatey and treacle dominate the middle, and then then things start to get tannic with blackcurrant and woody along with hints of red wine. The classic citrus note expected in a Madagascar doesn’t appear, or rather is to be suspected has morphed through aggressive roasting into the blackberry and currant notes so obviously present. It’s a chocolate that belies its origin; in a blind testing, one would almost certainly assume an Ecuador Arriba.

Menakao don’t help themselves with the texture but neither do they harm themselves; it’s as the appearance would suggest, fairly average, medium smooth and with decent but not unctious creaminess. As a fine chocolate, it’s passable but it doesn’t really excite; reminiscent of many an Ecuador, its a chocolate whose interest lies more in the origin than the flavour per se. Which is less than what Menakao should strive for. An effort to generate their own style, rather than the generic, Pralus-influenced one they have at present, would enormously boost their appeal, and as a young company, they have the latitude to do so. Experimentation and practice are called for; in a few years perhaps they will be producing really interesting chocolates from an unique source. For the moment, though, it’s a bar that can be tried for reference or safely ignored, as desired.

3 Comments

  1. Kevin July 30, 2012

    What are you actually reviewing here? Twice in the body of this review you refer to this bar as “Madecasse”. Huh? Maybe they share they same factory but they are different brands. Please get it straight.

    Other than that, I tried Menakoa 72% and like a few other online reviewers from other chocolate websites, I think it is quite good and pretty unique for Madagascar. “Balanced”, in a word. It appears you like your chocolates to follow the script of how they should taste according to tradition rather than how they might be interpreted in an unconventional sort of way.

    Reading this review of yours above, whether referring to Madecasse or Menakao, if you in fact tried this chocolate in a blind-taste, the odds are pretty good I suspect that you might give it a high rating for being “signature” Ecuador Arriba.

  2. Alex Rast July 31, 2012

    I tried e-mailing this comment directly to you, but it would appear the e-mail address that you gave is old. Do you have a usable e-mail? I’d love to continue the discussion off-line if you have more comments.

    > What are you actually reviewing here? Twice in the body of this review >you refer to this bar as “Madecasse”. Huh? Maybe they share they same >factory but they are different brands. Please get it straight.

    Thanks for catching that – a typo that I didn’t catch while editing the post. Fixed. Good to have sharp-eyed readers for this, it was just one of those things that I overlooked while reading the post.

    >Other than that, I tried Menakoa 72% and like a few other online >reviewers from other chocolate websites, I think it is quite good and >pretty unique for Madagascar. “Balanced”, in a word. It appears you like >your chocolates to follow the script of how they should taste according >to tradition rather than how they might be interpreted in an >unconventional sort of way.

    Although I note that the flavour isn’t true to type, I’m not actually *criticising* it as such; e.g. some years ago Malagasy brought out a superb Sambirano which was entirely atypical of the region yet I thought excellent. What I do criticise it for is being a bit bland, lacking complexities and with a tannic finish. Also, as you probably see, the somewhat rough-and-ready processing. In other words, considered as chocolate, regardless of origin, it’s good but not great.

    > Reading this review of yours above, whether referring to Madecasse or >Menakao, if you in fact tried this chocolate in a blind-taste, the odds are >pretty good I suspect that you might give it a high rating for being >”signature” Ecuador Arriba.

    Assuming I thought it were an Arriba, in a blind tasting I’m fairly sure I’d give it about the same rating, for being a *rather generic* Ecuador Arriba. It might have a result that’s very typical of the variety but that in itself doesn’t make for greatness. Being typical of the variety/region is neither necessary or sufficient for a bar to be great.

    However, I do think as I believe you are hinting, that there is something to be said for a bar that reveals the classic characteristics of a region or bean; this is part of a growing philosophy called “true-to-bean”. I wouldn’t recommend using it as a *determining* factor in assessing quality, that is, just because a bar’s not “typical” doesn’t mean it can’t be great; one judges a chocolate as chocolate – but if it also says something unique and specific about its origin that’s an additional benefit. In my view, having characteristics that are typical of the bean or region must mean something, otherwise there would be only marginal value in releasing origin chocolates. Where typical characteristics meant nothing, one might as well produce everything as blends designed to produce the most balanced, neutral chocolatey flavour possible. (And make no mistake, I consider a balanced, neutral chocolatey flavour to be an *excellent* character, if such is achieved).

    There is an opposing argument that holds that ideas such as “variety” or “origin” are arbitrary labels having no basis in any factually determinable characteristics. Under this argument, any claim to being “typical” is specious anyway, so one should focus on flavour taken in a general sense rather than as applied to any particular believed origin or bean characteristics. In judging chocolates, I think that the latter point (i.e. that what counts is flavour in the general sense) is well-founded. However, each lot of beans has its own intrinsic potential – and one only need compare side-by-side a typical West African Forastero with a typical Venezuelan Sur Del Lago to appreciate that these differences are manifest. As a result, I think the idea of true-to-bean does have some validity, because ultimately the “best” chocolate would be that which achieves the maximum potential of the lot (which will always be bounded), and this maximum potential inevitably will reveal those qualities that are “typical” of the bean or origin precisely because those potentialities are contained within the bean.

    The ultimate point, though, I think relates to ratings taken in a relative sense. On a site like SeventyPercent, we’ve tasted and evaluated a very great many chocolates indeed. There is a need for discrimination between those that are good and those that are great, admitting we are in the fine chocolate category. Thus a bar is already expected to be well above average. That much the Menakao already is – considerably better than the typical chocolate bar you would find in an ordinary shop. But now compare the Menakao against, say, the Amano interpretation, or the Pralus, and it’s clear that you can do better; much better. I try to make my comments such as to encourage manufacturers to improve, and to indicate, where possible, the directions where improvement is possible, and so it goes here.

  3. Kevin August 1, 2012

    Alex,

    Thank you for your thought provoking response.

    A couple quick replies:

    1. Your opinion is your opinion and I would not want to disarm you of it. The Malagasy Mora Mora bar was quite delightful but the Malgasy Sambirano was a dreadful slab of butter. Amano’s Madagascar have been quite uneven over the years. Some batches are very enjoyable. And some others are terrible. Inconsistent comes to mind. It’s the bugaboo of chocolate. Ratings therefore tend to be spurious.

    2. To your larger point, the reason we embrace these difference in terroir and varietals and want chocolate makers to respect the “bean” in your vernacular is because there are inherent distinctions which, when highlighted, make the experience rewarding. Variety is afterall the “spice of life”.

    If a maker extends the notion of what is typical with a gratifying interpretation, then that is innovative, creative and insightful. If on the other hand a maker does so only to do something different for the sake of the new, the novel or even the shock of it, then that is silly child’s play. A classic case in point might be makers who roast way too high a delicate type like Jamaica whose cocoa cannot support high heat with good results.

    Menakao did not make such a mistake. It IMHO sought to provide a full spectrum flavor, quite rare for Madagascar, and I would say it succeeded handsomely. A very good chocolate, one that several experienced foodies I have shared it with react with comments like “great”, “outstanding”, “terrific”.

    I want to continue this discussion some more but I must get back to work. Sorry.

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