VCT: Dominican Republic

I am strongly of the opinion that my world-geography knowledge will be vastly increased by the time I have completed this Tour.

I will admit that I had no idea where the Dominican Republic was, but I didn’t think it was where it is. Which is in the Caribbean, on one side of the island which is also home to Haiti. Which I did know was somewhere in that direction.

Named after St Dominic, patron saint of astronomers and the falsely accused, the Dominican Republic (according to Wikipedia; I know, how terrible a source) is home to the first cathedral, monastery, castle, and fortress built in the Americas, and the Colonial Zone, where they are to be found, is now a World Heritage Site.

My image of the Caribbean is one of rum, and spices, and warm beaches, and cool cocktails. It’s also coloured by a recipe I have for a Creole Christmas cake that puts my alcohol-soaked cakes to shame…

However, the chocolate this week is another Moser Roth bar from Aldi, so there’s a description on the back. It reckons this 75% plain chocolate has “fruity notes in combination with rich dark nuances”.

As with the other Moser Roth chocolates, this uses FairTrade ingredients, and is 99.5% FairTrade.

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I’m not sure about the fruity notes – so far all I’m getting is a nutty flavour, kind of like a walnut with that brown skin left on – but this is certainly a very rich, dark chocolate. It breaks cleanly and melts smoothly on the tongue and it tastes, very definitely, of cacao.

In fact, it reminds me of a Death by Chocolate cake made by a lady in the parish where I grew up, and which was just the best chocolate cake ever. I continue to regret that I never got the recipe from her before she died.

It was the sort of chocolate cake which made no allowances for the taste-buds of small children. You know how chocolate recipes often say to use milk chocolate if making for youngsters? This cake was chocolate, through and through; a rich, dark, sticky, cake with dark chocolate fudge icing. It was, actually, the colour of this 75% Dominican Republic.

I think it sits at level pegging with the Peruvian 62%, for the memories of Sylvia’s Death by Chocolate alone. But it is a good chocolate, which tastes how chocolate should.

VCT: Ecuador

I was going to remain in Africa for my Chocolate Tour, go to Ghana this week, but I changed my mind. The Ghanian 35% I found was too floral, too perfumed, for my liking, and I want to find a darker chocolate before I pass judgement.

So, instead, I’ve gone to Ecuador via Marks & Spencers, who offered a 72% bar. They also had an absolutely delicious 52% Peruvian with Clementine. (NB: I haven’t received anything from M&S. Or from anyone with regards this Chocolate Tour.)

So, Ecuador. It lies to the west of Peru; indeed, it used to be a part of the Incan Empire before Spain and the Europeans arrived with their nasty foreign white-man diseases. The name, the Republic of Ecuador, is the Republic of the Equator, and the official language is Spanish.

Given how much I enjoyed the Peruvian bars, I’m hoping the relative closeness of the two countries will offer similar chocolates. It comes in a handy, indulgence-friendly 35g bar. Almost as helpful as the Moser Roth packs of 25g bars.

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Like Tesco, M&S hasn’t bothered with fancy packaging or a wine-like description. Just a simple, brown wrapping. Unlike the Tesco Côte d’Ivoire, this M&S Ecuadorian bar is a decent bar of chocolate.

This is a smooth, rich chocolate with undertones of coffee. I dislike drinking chocolate, but I’ve always liked the combination of coffee and chocolate. A family ritual when I was growing up was a monthly treat of cappuccino chocolate from the FairTrade stall at church.

I’ve always liked the Hotel Chocolat cacao-nibs (so good for energy levels), but I’ve had a harder time finding them recently. With its coffee flavours, I’d say this Ecuadorian chocolate makes quite a good substitute. I can just feel the caffeine flooding my veins…

 

 

VCT: Côte d’Ivoire

I think I might have said that I was only going to ‘travel’ to one chocolate-country per month. Well, scratch that. I shall ‘travel’ as I find the chocolate.

Today, I’m off to Africa. To the Ivory Coast. Currently, the world’s largest producer of chocolate, and a place riven with war, which is bad news for chocolate-lovers. Tends to push the price of cocoa beans up, particularly when the outside world imposes tariffs and what-not in sanctions.

As the name suggests, originally the major export in this part of West Africa was not chocolate, but teeth. Tusks. Ivory.

Colonised by the French, this is still the official language, and it trades mainly in chocolate and coffee. Two things which go so very nicely together (not that I’m a huge fan of drinking coffee).

My chocolate is a 74% plain bar from Tesco. In its bid for plain packaging (I presume), Tesco doesn’t bother with any advertorial blurb on the back, no flowery description of how it will taste. I’m going to hazard a guess that whoever produced the packaging doesn’t much care for chocolate. Or they think chocolate is chocolate is chocolate. Doesn’t matter where it comes from. How wrong they are…

This is darker than the Peruvian bar from last time, by 12%. It has an earthier taste; one which I could almost describe as “dirty”, in the sense that it’s a grainier chocolate with a dusty sort of taste.

I feel, really, like I need another bar of Côte d’Ivoire chocolate of the same strength to compare it against. I have suspicions given that it came from Tesco. My experience of Tesco basics chocolate (compared against, for example, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, even Aldi or Lidl) is that there is no comparison. I avoid Tesco basic chocolate at all costs. It made some of the worst truffles I have ever made, and it is difficult to screw up my truffle recipe. I feel that someone who can’t manage basics chocolate probably can’t manage more expensive chocolate.

On my running score-board, Peru is top. Unless I find a non-Tesco Côte d’Ivoire to be a better experience. Anyone know where I can find one easily?

The Virtual Chocolate Tour

Before one embarks on any journey, one must prepare.

For a journey of this magnitude – I hope to take in as many of the chocolate-producing countries as I can – one must make a lot of preparations. For one thing, off the top of my head, I can only think of a handful of countries which grow cacao trees. I’m sure there are more. For another, because I will sadly not be visiting the countries in person, I will need to source as many different single-origin bars of chocolate as I can.

A brief search of the internet offers me at least twenty chocolate-producing countries. A quick trip to the nearest supermarket offers me four single-origin bars: Peru, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, the Dominican Republic. Finding bars of the rest might take some time – Mexico, Madagascar, Ecuador, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brazil, Cameroon, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Granada, Cuba, Somao (among others).

I look forward to my tour, beginning, I think, in Peru. I think it is time for me to find my favourite chocolate. I’ve been a fussy sort of chocolate-eater since I was about eighteen, when I first started making truffles, and began reading labels.

When it comes to tasting chocolate, I know that you can tell a good bar by the sound of its snap. It should be a quick, clean sound. And then you let the chocolate melt, slowly, on your tongue to let the flavours release.