After spending a lovely afternoon back in October with Robbie Stout of Ritual Chocolate, and Steve DeVries, they sent me home with some goodies to review.
While I was there, I toured their factory, saw the vintage equipment they use, and really marveled at the super small operations churning some of my favorite chocolate. Newish producers on the scene, the are already winning awards and I have listed them in a recent interview as a up and coming name to look out for. I believe in them even more after I met Robbie and Anna in person. Super laid back, down to Earth, hard working, and they are not doing this for the money.
I still have dreams about their Ecuador beans being grinded. We were handed spoonfuls of cacao "butter" right out of the rollers and it was like pure floral jasmine chocolate butter. I wanted to take a bath in. I begged and pleaded for a jar of it.
Instead they kindly and most generously sent me on my way with some bars as a parting gift. And Steve sent me off with some 85% chocolate buttons for the red eye plane ride home. I selfishly saved them and melted them down for hot chocolate when I got home. It was amazing.
Costa Rica 75% 2009 Harvest
Type: Bittersweet, 75%
Bean Varietal: Forestaro, hybrid.
Ingredients: Cacao and cane sugar.
Sample size: 1.5oz or 42.5g
Batch #: 19
Appearance: Simple flat tablet with wide, long tablets. Non-monogrammed, amber medium-brown color, subdued surface.
Snap: Nice clean and crisp snap with a decent snapping sound.
Aroma: Medium roasted cacao aroma, wood and berries, and little musty with some citrus notes.
Taste: Cocoa-y, very bitter, woody, tart and slightly acidic, softer brown sugar notes and molasses, soft hidden floral notes, fruity berries.
Texture: Smooth, creamy, medium melt-time, a slightly silky texture once it opens up.
First thing I want to mention is the appearance. While visiting, they showed me their molds and how they remove the bars. Something about these molds always leaves a sort of thumb print if you will, on the top surface. You can see it in the first picture. Knowing that makes it very superficial in my scoring since they know it's an issue and are actively working to change that. It's not too shiny but then again I have held on to this bar since October. The real points for the appearance is the richness of the amber, medium-dark color on the bar.
This bar really did have a funky earthy quality to it on the aroma. It had a musty moldy tinge to it on top of bright berries and full wood notes. I know that doesn't particularly sound very appealing and the bar is not moldy. It's cool in my opinion because it lends a good balanced earthy note on top of sweet fruity citrus and berries. It makes it weird and interesting. I dig it.
Ritual uses cane sugars, and on the first bar I reviewed from them, all I could taste was big molasses flavors. Black strap molasses. I detected that a little bit on this bar but definitely not in the same capacity. It's a mild flavor hidden underneath the cacao this time and not as up front.
It's fairly bitter chocolate, slightly tangy with some citrus notes and berries. The berries are fruity and definitely present, but not dominating or overwhelming. There is a good balance of fruits and sugars, wood and earthy notes. The sugars were well balanced and not overdone with the molasses taste as mentioned above. But I will say the bitterness is a bit much. It takes over more than it should. I found a nice floral hint in the middle of this tasting and I think it would have been more dominate or more noticeable without the excessive bitterness. Clean finish despite the lingering bitters.
Nice and bold chocolate. Big and robust, good balanced sugars and fruits. Too much bitterness for me personally in then end, but still very worthy chocolate. I think Ritual are very talented people and are the up and comers to keep watching. If you are ever in the Denver area, please contact them and visit their factory. You will learn a lot from them and be amazed at some vintage equipment and just how small their production really is. Anna is an absolute joy, and Robbie is very generous and thorough in explaining his process and passion.
Final Score: 91.4