Harmony 70% Madagascar Sambirano 85/100

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From the famed Sambirano Valley in the north west of Madagascar, this bar is made from some of the fruitiest trinitario beans grown in the world. These beans are from Åkesson’s estate, much like a lot of the Madagascan chocolate that I have had the pleasure of trying is, but this particular bar was made by a young bean to bar producer who only makes chocolate in her kitchen and in her spare time. Infact this was the first batch she ever produced and so it was nice to be able to get my hands on it and experience what bean to bar chocolate is really all about.

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Making a bar at home in your kitchen is always going to come with limited results, without machinery and specialist equipment to aid you, there are going to be some restrictions on what you can do to process the beans. Modern melangeurs have definitely helped to shorten the gap between industrial chocolate factories and the home bean to bar enthusiasts, but it will come as no surprise that well respected chocolate bar producers use machines like refiners to come up with their final products. Given that there are limits on the control you have over production in a home environment, it is still left to the home bean to bar maker to maximise or optimise the quality of their bars through diligent technique and timing. With that in mind, I approached this bar understanding a lot of what to expect, having tried good Sambirano cacao before, I knew what good development of these beans tasted like and having tried chocolate made from a pestle and mortar before, I understood the limitations of the most basic of bean to bar preparation. When I’m tasting chocolate I start with the appearance and the aroma, these observations occur before I put the chocolate in my mouth and so for this bar it was always bound to have a somewhat rocky start, that said this bar while simple or rustic was pretty well tempered and while the texture of the bar could do with some refining the melt was long and even, a promising start. From there on though the bar only got better, with Sambirano cacao being wildly acidic and incredibly fruity, the challenge lies in first developing these flavours and acidities before rounding and refining them into some kind of balance, otherwise the bar is at risk of being tart or sour, overpowering and unbalanced. This bar did a great job of not only being powerful, but of having a roundedness to both the acidity and the red berry flavours, the sweetness was also well developed and reminded me a lot of cachaça, a South American sugar cane liquor. When good beans end up in the hands of good chocolatiers, it’s not that the chocolatier imparts anything special onto the beans, rather it’s that the chocolatier doesn’t do anything to take away from the inherent special nature of the beans, that they don’t unintentionally remove any quality or uniqueness, chocolatiers are preservationists of flavour, rather than the creators of it and if that is the key by which a bar is judged then for all its limitations this bar is pretty much as good as it was ever going to be.

Ingredients: Cacao, natural cane sugar

Appearance 7.5/10

Colour: Lightish brown, light purpling
Texture: Blasted sandstone
Mould: Rectangular block mould
Snap: Crisp, thick
Temp/Shine: Glossy matte, some air bubbles on reverse

Aroma 8/10

Intensity(0-10): 6
Notes: Strawberry syrup, balsamic vinegar, raspberries
Quality: Pleasant, soft fermented acidity, little distant

Melt/Mouthfeel 8/10

Length: Long
Evenness: Very even
Texture: pasty, juicy
Quality: Well produced, requires additional textural refining

Acidity 9/10

Intensity(0-10): 8.5
Notes: Berry, balsamic
Quality: Rounded, bright

Sweetness 8.5/10

Intensity(0-10): 7
Notes: Ripe fruit, cachaça, light colour spring honey
Quality: Complementary, balances acidity

Flavour 9/10

Intensity(0-10): 9
Type: Sweet, sour
Notes: Strawberries, raspberries, balsamic reduction
Quality: Simple but effective, honest

Length 9/10

Flavours have huge depth, are bold and long, rounding off nicely

Finish 8.5/10

Notes: Mixed berries, lemon, balsamic
Quality: A little tart before quite a clean finish, with lingering ghosts of acidity

Balance 9/10

Given the high acidity of this bar it is extremely well balanced. This bar is powerful rather than overpowering and rounded nature helps the bar in transition. Structure is robust and needs to be

Overall 8.5/10

Bar is well developed and expression is honest of terroir, there is depth to the flavour and a good degree of dimension. Structure is uniform and wild acidity has been well tempered. Some additional refinement required


Tasting Notes:

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