Bertil Åkesson owns cacao plantations in Brazil, Indonesia and most famously in Madagascar and chances are that if you’re eating single origin Madagascan chocolate from craft bean to bar makers, it’ll be his beans that you’re eating. Ambolikapiky is one of four cacao growing estates in the north western region of Madagascar located in the Sambirano Valley near Ambanja, but it’s the main one Bertil uses to make his own Madagascan bars. Åkesson’s only grow about 2 tonnes of criollo every year, but this bar comes from the fruitier trinitario of which there is 300 tonnes to pick from. In exhibition of the biodiversity featured on Åkesson’s Ambolikapiky Plantation Bertil likes to make bars with inclusions, showcasing the other crops that grow alongside the cacao and combining them together as a reflection of the flavours available on the farm. Not only are these inclusions responsible for the flavour of the chocolate bar, but they are also in part responsible for the flavour of the cacao itself, having been used as canopy for the shade grown cacao pods.
I’m not usually a fan of bars with inclusions, preferring instead to experience single origin chocolate as simply and absent of additives as possible, but a gold in the best flavoured bar category of 2013’s International Chocolate Awards, a silver in the best flavoured bar category of 2013’s Academy of Chocolate awards and a further silver in 2015’s British International Chocolate Awards (incidentally Åkesson’s won gold in both these categories with his Voatsiperifery Pepper bar), has me inclined to leave my prejudices behind in favour of experiencing quality in all of its forms. I’ve also tried Madagascan bars made from Åkesson’s beans before and I’ve really enjoyed them, owing no doubt to the precision and passion that’s encouraged on the plantations to grow great cacao. In terms of my expectations for flavour I’d expect a trinitario variety from Madagascar to be particularly fruity and acidic, with strong red berry flavours coming through and in particular with this bar I’ll be expecting this to be tempered somewhat with the heat and spice coming from the black pepper. After trying the bar it was a lot like I expected, it’s worth noting though that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a black pepper with such a degree of flavour and quality flavour at that. This is a powerful and prickly bar that will open up all of your senses, its fruity and warming with depth of flavour and it’s intense, but in a relaxed way. I feel this would pair well with a citrusy hops lager offering balance between the heat and the refreshing tones of the beer.
Ingedients: Cocoa, organic cane sugar, pure organic cocoa butter, non GMO soya lecithin, organic black pepper.
Colour: Med/dark brown light purpling
Texture: Smooth granite
Mould: Consistent, smooth big Å Åkesson’s mould
Snap: Fairly crisp snap
Temp/Shine: Matte sheen, highly smooth and consistent
Notes: Spiced red fruits, Italian strawberries with black pepper, light rose floral
Quality: Aromatic, fragrant, refined fruit
Length: Soft Med/long
Evenness: Consistent melt, with well spread pepper, texture remains consistent
Texture: A little gritty from the pepper, almost fizzy
Quality: Texturally exciting
Notes: Red Berry acidity, pepper mash
Quality: Well balanced and controlled acidity, uplifting, complementary
Notes: Red berry jam
Quality: Incredibly sweet for 75%, well developed
Type: Sweet, salty
Notes: Spiky pepper, raspberries, heat, strawberries, sweet cherry, jam, pine
Quality: Unusually complementary flavours, high quality pepper
Heat stays for a lifetime and floats on after the finish, deep red berry jam flavours round off well
Notes: Red berry jam, peppery heat
Quality: Peppery heat stays with you through and after the finish, red berry jam rounds off nicely for the finish and disappears cleanly
Given the volatility of the pepper, this remains a consistent and well balanced bar, both cacao and pepper work in unison to create something different. Strong structural backbone holds up the fruit and spice
Huge depth of flavour, strong simple flavours hiding complex notes, well developed with good dimension
Åkesson’s Tasting Notes: In this subtle combination, the fruity-sweet tartness of the cocoa and its pleasant flavour that evoke red berries collide with warm notes of pine kernel and fresh hints of green fruits that are so characteristic of Madagascar black pepper.