Week 12. Chocolate Tree Madagascar Orange & Pink Salt

Cacao: 72%        Type: Dark chocolate w/ inclusions        Origin: Madagascar

Region: Sambirano Valley

Ingredients: cacao beans, organic cane sugar, cocoa butter, salt, orange oil

Where to Buy: online here, on the Cocoa Runners website, or at these locations in Europe

Average Price: $5.00-$8.70  (3.50-6.50 Sterling)        Bar Size: 90 g (3.17 oz)

Cacao Origin Map

Personal Tasting Notes

In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, my lovely assistant chose for me this week a bar made as close to the Emerald Isle as possible: the Cocoa Tree out of Edinburgh, Scotland. This chocolate brings back a lot of nostalgia for me, and grand memories of traipsing through Ireland and Scotland last summer--the trip of a lifetime for me. We were staying in Perth, Scotland, having come across the Irish Sea by ferry to attend Perth's Highland games, and we ended up staying for several days. While there, we discovered a little chocolate shop that carried several craft chocolate bars--I felt right at home. While there, I chatted with the storekeepers and sampled their drinking chocolate and, of course, walked away with a tidy bag full of Celtic-made chocolate and a heart full of song.

Now, I've touched on an idea in my previous reviews that I think really comes to bear here: in my few travels (particularly in Europe), I've discovered that the chocolate palate varies pretty wildly from place to place. Americans expect one flavor and texture experience; Americans with experience in craft chocolate expect something entirely different. Western Europeans expect sweet, milky, Belgian-style chocolate; Western Europeans who are getting in on the craft chocolate movement there are finding new flavor experiences, and that is very different than our own in America. So what I've found is that chocolate from Ireland and Scotland sits funny on my palate; it feels very grainy to me, and the flavors are very different than what I'd expect. It's just a different treatment of the chocolate, based on the particular bent of the chocolate makers and the culture in which they're surrounded. These chocolates tend, then, to not be my favorites, but they enrich my experience so much and they teach me that my standards are not universal; they are, rather, at least somewhat subjective to my culture and my locale and my upbringing, and the peculiarities I find in other places is endlessly fascinating. 

All that said, this Madagascar bar ranged all over the place for me in terms of grading. Its appearance and aroma were gorgeous and very pleasing to me; the flavor itself was less impressive, and the mouthfeel profoundly impacted my personal preference for the bar and I found it gritty and unrefined. 

Flavor-wise, I found notes of beer, cherries, and molasses in the initial aroma; biting into it, I found initial flavors of coffee, and a hoppy, brewy flavor, followed by the sharp bite of that pink salt. Again, this was a blind tasting, so I didn't know I was getting an inclusion bar, so the salt was a big surprise to my taste buds. Towards the middle, notes of cream and cocoa joined in with the salt, and then BAM! Suddenly there was a distinctive pop of orange flavor (I had no idea that this bar actually contains orange oil, so that was  a huge surprise!). As all that faded away and the chocolate melted off the tongue, these flavors were supplanted by a clay/soil afternote that lingered for a bit. These flavors, combined with a gritty, somehwat crumbly mouthfeel and the saltiness, left me less than satisfied at the end of the bar. 

Maker Profile

The Chocolate Tree, out of Edinburgh, Scotland, is one of a relatively small number of bean-to-bar chocolate makers in Scotland. They began in 2009 with a chocolaterie, and from there expanded their offerings until the chocolate-making bug bit and they began making their own bean-to-bar chocolate. With gorgeous packaging and one of the most lovely logos I've ever seen (but then, I'm a sucker for chocolate, Celtic knotwork, AND the Tree of Life, so there you go), The Chocolate Tree offers a variety of unique bars, with and without inclusions, and is making itself known all over the UK. They have core values of preserving biodiversity, utilizing organic ingredients whenever feasible, and providing living wages to cacao farmers in impoverished areas. Visit them on the web to find out more: http://www.choctree.co.uk/.

Grading Rubric

Criteria
Good Characteristics
5
4
3
2
1
0
Bad Characteristics
Appearance
clean, shiny, snappy
  
  
  
  
  
  
bloomed, dull finish, no snap
Aroma
complex, distinctive
  
  
  
  
  
  
neutral, boring, flat
Start
flavors develop quickly
  
  
  
  
  
 
flavors slow in coming, uninteresting
Middle
flavors develop and change
  
  
  
  
  
  
flavors remain the same as the start
Finish
flavors change again and linger well beyond the chocolate
  
  
  
  
  
  
flavor ends abruptly, uninterestingly
Mouth Feel
smooth, velvety
  
  
  
  
  
  
grainy, inconsistent
Personal Preference
love, love, LOVE it!
  
  
  
  
  
  
meh.
Criteria
5
4
3
2
1
0
Characteristics
Appearance
  
  
  
  
  
  
5: clean, shiny, snappy
0: bloomed, dull finish, no snap
Aroma
  
  
  
  
  
  
5: complex, distinctive
0: neutral, boring, flat
Start
  
  
  
  
  
 
5: flavors develop quickly
0: flavors slow in coming, uninteresting
Middle
  
  
  
  
  
  
5: flavors develop and change
0: flavors remain the same as the start
Finish
  
  
  
  
  
  
5: flavors change again and linger well beyond the chocolate
0: flavor ends abruptly, uninterestingly
Mouth Feel
  
  
  
  
  
  
5: smooth, velvety
0: grainy, inconsistent
Personal Preference
  
  
  
  
  
  
5: love, love, LOVE it!
0: meh.

Flavor Profile