I have been waiting to get my hands on some Dandelion for a little while now. All my hardcore chocolate fans and fellow reviews have been on to them for a little while now. They would all ask me if I have tried it yet. Finally it's my turn. My turn with a northern Venezuela bar.
Small batch chocolate producers from San Francisco. Bean-to-bar to everything in between producers run by Cameron Ring and Todd Masonis. I recommend reading their blog about getting their factory opening. It's pretty detailed and cool to see how it all came together.A quick blurb here won't do it any justice.
Currently you can't shop on their site. They have had some machine issues and will be back online soon with fresh bars to order. By the looks on their Facebook, it should be any day now.
And most recently in the news, they just won a 2013 Good Food Award in the Chocolate Category for their Madagascar 70% bar.
Spied this video clip on their blog from Cat Trick Films showing handmade chocolate production at their factory in reverse.
Click to enlarge images.
Ocumare 70% 2011 Harvest
Type: Bittersweet, 70%
Bean Varietal: probably Criollo or Trinitario
Ingredients: Cocoa beans and cane sugar.
Sample Size: 2.56oz
Batch #: 3
Appearance: Simple, non-monogrammed molding with individual tabs. Medium dark brown color, a little bit ashy surface with some slight sugar bloom perhaps, but still has a relatively shiny surface.
Snap: Crumbly snap, weak at the mold lines, but strong and firm when broken from the center of a small tab.
Aroma: Very deep and complicated aroma. Deeply roasted cacao, berries, inky, woody, a little earthy mold aromas, note book paper aromas.
Taste: Bold berries and pen ink, deeply bitter, perfect balance of sugars but still intensely bitter, wood, cinnamon toast, clean finish.
Texture: Hard wax at first, dry, chalky and a little bit grainy, once it opens it it does have a medium melt-time, drying finish.
What a mixed bag for my first go with Dandelion. Technically this bar is a mess. Terrible snap, the presence of slight sugar bloom, and a not so great texture. But then the aroma and flavor are fantastic. Clearly they know the flavors they want the drive out of these beans, but I am afraid they need a little help on everything else.
For now, let me just stick to the aroma and flavor. The aroma is quite complex from bold and strong berries and ink, to earthy mustiness and wood. Good hallmarks and signs from coastal Venezuelan beans. The flavor is deeply bitter, it encompasses the entire palate, but the bold berry flavors stand out and mix in with pen ink flavors and wood. There is a nice cinnamon toast flavor towards the end. Although it's incredibly bitter, it's not astringent or acidic. I liked the balance of sugars in this bar too. Not overly sweet. They really nailed the flavor and aroma.
The texture does not do this bar justice. It's drying to the palate, chalky, and starts off really hard. It does open up and have a medium creamy texture but it's sort of a little too late by the time you get there. I would rather melt down the rest of this chocolate and drink it than eat it. Say what you want, but some bars need cocoa butter in there. I would much rather have a soft waxy texture than a hard, surf wax-like texture with excessive dryness.
I feel really bad about this review for some reason. I am really interested in these guys and I loved scrolling through the back logs of their blog to see how they got their factory together and how they got all the working pieces in place. I am just not in love with this bar. Luckily they have different offerings and I will do my best to seek out the Madagascar 70% that they just won an award for. I haven't lost faith, just a very rocky introduction.
Final Score: 81.4