Hi again! I originally intended to do this as the second part of the Indonesian Chocolate series but after writing a bit about the Indonesian cacao beans and local practices of processing the beans, the post got really long and it was more digestible if chopped up in smaller pieces. Like chocolate! : )
So, now, onto the write-up of the first chocolate tasting we’re doing for the series. I searched for fine chocolate bars made with Indonesian cacao beans and the list was longer than I thought. The chocolate database over at the Flavors of Cacao website listed 21 bars, as of December 2015. From these, I picked half a dozen bars out of a hat; I had some logistical constraints too, not all the bars are widely available in Germany and I had to order some online. I bought some of the bars at my local chocolate shop, Schoko Galerie in Berlin Mitte, and some of them online at CocoaRunners.
The tasting and the bars
The tasting participants were the usual suspects: myself, Astrid from Twindly, my cooking partner Phil from FlavorPhil. Our good friend Ash who runs ChiFan supperclub joined as well; she does wonderful Chinese-Shanghai cooking so if you’re in Berlin, definitely check her events out. We eat together fairly often and love to try new things together, and I know I can get good feedback from them in a food discussion.
- Chocolarder “Javan Milk” bar, 40% milk chocolate
- Domori “Javagrey” bar, 45% milk chocolate with criollo cocoa and grey cows milk
- Chocolate Naive “Java/Papua New Guinea” bar, 53% milk chocolate
- Chocolat Bonnat “Java” bar, 65% dark milk chocolate
- Chocolat Bonnat “Surabaya” bar, 65% dark milk chocolate
- Akesson’s Bali Trinitario bar, 75% dark chocolate
We tasted the first three bars, breaks in between with drinks to clear our palate, discussions and quick ranking, then followed with the next three bars. We did a similar ranking to what we did in the salted chocolate tasting. This time, though, at the end of each tasting, we had to stick coloured dots (green for flavour, gray for aftertaste) on the “Flavour Profile” wheel for each bar, on the characteristics that we felt best described the bar. We did this to establish some kind of Flavour Profile for the chocolate we tried. I also asked my friends to note down other keywords that they felt described their experience of the chocolate bar.
I hope that the more chocolate bar reviews we do, we compile more of these Flavour Profile “cards” to grow a visual collection. It’s still a work-in-progress.
Below are my notes from the tasting.
Chocolarder “Javan Milk” bar, 40% milk chocolate
A 40% milk chocolate bar, this continues the trend of milk chocolate with cacao beans from Java. Strong butterscotch and milk flavours, Phil and I tasted vanilla; for me, it was an aftertaste, and for Phil, it was more of an undertone to the milky butterscotch. A very likeable chocolate, something my handsome-and-talented husband or a ten-year-old me would enjoy.
Domori 45% “Javagrey” bar
The packaging says “milk chocolate with criollo cocoa and grey cows milk”. Phil loved this bar, the rest of us not so much. It’s a good bar, has a crisp snap, good finish, yada yada… It’s more astringent than the Javan Milk with fruity undertones which was a pleasant surprise (wasn’t expecting the fruitiness). So yes, a nice surprise at the end which elevates this bar beyond the Javan Milk.
Chocolate Naive, “Java/Papua New Guinea” bar
A 53% milk chocolate bar, this was the group favourite. After tasting the first two creamy and milky bars, the astringency and tartness of this bar was a nice change. It’s still creamy and smooth in terms of mouthfeel. Sweet raisins followed by a subtle coffee finish at the end. Ash, a Shanghai native, was very specific about the flavour she tasted: “It’s like Asian raisins from Xin Jiang region!” Usually I let friends pick a bar to take home after the tasting, but no, this one I’m keeping.
Chocolat Bonnat “Java” bar
Bonnat has three bars that use Indonesian cacao beans, all 65% dark milk chocolate. This is one of two that I got for the tasting. And what a bar! It’s definitely different, and I couldn’t decide whether I liked this or the Naive one best. The intense smoky flavour was really pleasant with the tobacco undertones. It melted smoothly, leaving a woody aftertaste. One can definitely taste the milk in it too, which I think balanced out the smoky flavour.
Chocolat Bonnat “Surabaya” bar
This is the second bar of Bonnat bar with Indonesian cacao beans, also 65% dark milk chocolate like the previous but the colour is a bit darker, the flavours more mellow, less smoky and less intense than its brother, the “Java” bar. It has more (fruity) flavour layers than the Java (which is all smoky and delicious like a Portishead gig in a small cramped smoky bar while drinking whisky) but somehow the Java tastes more “balanced” to me. I don’t know, I’m on the fence with this one. I might have to get another bar of this and try it on its own.
Akesson’s 75% Trinitario Cocoa bar
Using cacao beans from Bali’s Sukrama family farm, this bar has won the International Chocolate Awards (European) Bronze 2014 and the Great Taste 2014 Award. I had high expectations from this bar since the package came plastered with the awards stickers, a foodie friend had raved about this bar on Facebook, plus I loved their 45% Fleur de Sel and Coconut Blossom Sugar bar (that’s a big deal because I’m a dark chocolate woman).
It doesn’t disappoint! It’s chocolatey and astringent, with a nutty end. I wish it was a bit more creamy, I’ve had 78% that melted better and were “creamier”…
Personal and group ranking
The most favourited bar is Naive’s 53% with 6 points, followed by Bonnat’s Java 65% with 9 points. Domori’s Javagrey and Bonnat’s Surabaya 65% tied for third-place with 15 points. Akesson’s 75% is at 4th place with 17 points. Chocolarder’s Javan Milk came in last with 22 points.
My ranking: 1. Naive 53%, 2. Bonnat Java 65%, 3. Akesson’s 75%, 4. Bonnat Surabaya 65%, 5. Domori Javagrey 45%, 6. Chocolarder 40%.
Phil’s ranking: 1. Domori Javagrey 45%, 2. Naive 53%, 3. Bonnat Surabaya 65%, 4. Bonnat Java 65%, 5. Akesson’s 75%, 6. Chocolarder 40%.
Astrid’s ranking: 1. Bonnat Java 65%, 2. Naive 53%, 3. Domori Javagrey 45%, 4. Bonnat Surabaya 65%, 5. Chocolarder 40%, 6. Akesson’s 75%.
Ash’s ranking: 1. Naive 53%, 2. Bonnat Java 65%, 3. Akesson’s 75%, 4. Bonnat Surabaya 65%, 5. Chocolarder 40%, 6. Domori Javagrey 45%.
For me, it’s always fun to compare the personal rankings with friends. I always learn new things about my friends this way.
As I’ve already mentioned above, the bars we used are mostly from Java and Bali. The next tastings with the bars from Pipiltin, Kakoa and Molucca, we’ll be trying chocolate made out of beans from Sumatra (Aceh and southern Sumatra), Bali and the historical island of Buru. I asked several chocolate experts to come join us for the next tasting so fingers crossed that the stars align and they can make time in their busy schedules to do this with me.