Week 16. ÓBOLO 70%

Cacao: 70%        Type: Dark chocolate         Origin: Peru

Region: Pangoa 

Ingredients: organic cocoa beans, organic cane sugar

Where to Buy: exclusively in Chile (possibly expanding outward soon) at the following locations: - Xoco por Ti, Av. Italia 1634 y Av Italia 1439, Providencia; - Café Kobenhavn, Loreto #5, Bellavista; - Santiago Wine Club, Rosal 384, Barrio Lastarria; - Original Green Roasters, Rancagua 040, Providencia - Nube Gourmet, Av. Italia 1805, local 2, Ñuñoa - Café Diario, Rosario Norte 39, Las Condes - Mi Mercadito, Dr. Pedro Lautaro Ferrer 3086, Providenia - Vinos De Origen, Calle General Urrutia 123, local 6, Pucon - Viña Veramonte, Ruta 68 Km. 66, Casablanca - Viña Undurraga, Camino Melipilla KM34, Talagante

Average Price: $6.30         Bar Size: 50 g (1.76 oz)

Cacao Origin Map

Personal Tasting Notes

I'll be honest: I've had a string of chocolates lately that have disappointed me in one way or another, and was beginning to find myself a little bit jaded about quality chocolate lately. Had my palate become overly critical? Had my taste buds gone wonky and I was missing things? I couldn't be sure. But this week, I reached into my grab bag of bars to review and pulled out the ÓBOLO 70% bar. I didn't know what to expect, because it had been months since I even sampled this rare chocolate, and while I remember liking it, that time was eons ago in my tasting experience, and I've learned so much since then and hopefully refined my palate and understanding of what constitutes great chocolate. 

All that said, my first bite into the ÓBOLO bar was...sheer delight. This chocolate embodies everything I have been missing in my tastings of late: buttery smoothness but great structure, amazing aroma, complex and intricate flavor interactions and developments, a finish like the inside of a spent wine glass: smooth, crystalline, and oozing with residual flavor. As I was ticking off my grading criteria, I found myself astounded to be giving each and every category the highest rating. 

Clearly, I'm in love with this chocolate. And that's a rare thing these days.

Here was the flavor journey, as I experienced it (always bearing in mind, of course, that everyone has a distinctly subjective experience in chocolate tasting and yours could be completely different): The chocolate was beautiful in appearance: the months it has spent bouncing around in a bag of other bars hasn't somehow marred the finish, and it was silken and fine-looking. Full marks for appearance and snap.

The aroma being fantastic, I took my first bite. Vanilla and oats greeted me at the top as the chocolate melted at just the right pace; here, my notes took an enthusiastic and excited turn: "Oreo, honey! Wow! Graham cracker." The graham cracker and honey notes in particular were just incredibly pleasing to me, and gave me an almost indescribable euphoria.  I was dazzled at this point. As the melt continued and the final stages of enjoyment began, the entire personality of the chocolate changed one more time, this time giving way to an indistinct but amazing floral note, lingering above a deeper dark cherry liqueur flavor, which felt like the best possible way to end a good chocolate. Somewhere in there a hint of mango raised its head with a snappy little hello before fading back into the darker finish. That wonderful bouquet stayed with me for a good long while, and the memory of it even longer. 

My final notes, after a series of enthusiastic 5 ratings: "Oh, heck--this is delicious!"  That's a pretty major understatement. It should have read closer to, "I am utterly smitten, and will likely die if I can't find more.

And now, for the great romantic tragedy: this bar and I are star-crossed lovers for the time being. Unless I can find a cheap flight to Chile, this chocolate and I are doomed to be separated by the miles until ÓBOLO is ready to expand their offerings into North America. I'll be eagerly awaiting that day, and I recommend strongly that any great lover of chocolate do the same. It'll be well worth the wait.

Maker Profile

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Mark Gerrits last autumn at the Northwest Chocolate Festival, where he was debuting his ÓBOLO bars, and I happened to meet him just a few minutes before closing time, where we chatted for a bit and he gave me a bar for sample and review. That bar has been sitting in my review rotation stash, just waiting to be discovered again. 

This week, in preparing to write this review, I contacted ÓBOLO and was delighted to receive a swift and personal response, and what's more, an actual dialogue. I judge a chocolate maker by a lot of criteria, but the one I don't talk about out loud very often to my wider audiences is the personal interaction. Many chocolate makers are incredibly friendly, and many are responsive; few will remember one person out of thousands, months later, and be happy to strike up a conversation. That's Mark Gerrits. And for me, that lends a depth to my chocolate experience that I really feel translates directly into my overall enjoyment of a bar. 

Here's what Mark had to say about ÓBOLO's beginnings: 

"Mark Gerrits is founder and chocolate maker of ÓBOLO Chocolate, Chile’s first bean to bar chocolate company. Mark was born and raised in the US, and has lived and worked across South America for the past 20+ years. His first experience working with cacao and chocolate was in Ecuador in the early 2001 with a project called Yachana Jungle Chocolate. Prior to launching ÓBOLO Chocolate, Mark dedicated his time to environmental conservation and sustainable development projects across Latin America, including 10 years working with The Nature Conservancy. Mark currently resides in Santiago, Chile with his wife Annelore and two children Pedro and Emma."

And as for the name ÓBOLO, Mark offered this explanation: 

"ÓBOLO means a gift. A synonym to the word "regalo" in Spanish. The origin of ÓBOLO can be traced back to ancient Greece where it was a coin. Six Obolo´s to a drachma. Fittingly, since...prior to the Spanish arrival to the New World, the cacao bean was used as currency for trade in Mesoamerica."

Join in the ÓBOLO community by visiting their website here, or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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.

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