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 gold in the best flavoured bar category of 2013’s Academy of Chocolate awards and a further gold in 2015’s British International Chocolate Awards, 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 voatsiperifery pepper. Tasting the bar, at first it feels complex, but it isn’t, it’s more that the flavours have a huge depth and dimension, the flavours aren’t many they’re just incredibly developed, long, rounded and rich with variance. For a bar with inclusions, it’s almost as if the pepper and the chocolate merge to make one new flavour, if it weren’t for the prickly pepper in the mouthfeel you might not realise that these were two separate products being melded to together. This is a high quality chocolate bar, with high quality inclusions and there is no mistaking that.
Ingredients: Organic cocoa, pure organic cane sugar, pure organic cocoa butter, emulsifier (GMO free soya lecithin), voatsiperifery pepper (2%)
Colour: Medium brown, light purpling
Mould: Big Å Åkesson’s mould
Notes: Floral herbs, pepper, rosemary, thyme, balsamic
Quality: Pungent, fresh, Authentic
Length: Long, hard, slow
Evenness: Very even
Texture: Smooth, with prickly inclusions
Quality: Refined, consistent
Notes: Red berries, citrus
Quality: Balances the heat, uplifting
Notes: Gin, red berry jam, ripe citrus
Quality: Balances flavour, uplifting
Type: Sweet, salty, pungent
Notes: Pepper, rosemary, wood, red berries, grapefruit, milk
Quality: Refined, rounded, distinctive
Bar begins with subtle flavours, which build and seem to last without end
Notes: Heat, sweet berries, spice, pepper, wood,
Quality: Bar stays with you after the finish, subtly melting away over time
All attributes are scrambling to balance with the dominant flavour of the bar, but do a worthy job in their attempt. Structure is heavy but needs to be to anchor the big flavour of this bar
Huge depth and dimension of refined flavour could be confused with complexity, but isn’t, structure is uniform and expression is distinctive and individual, bar is well developed
Åkesson’s Tasting Notes: Part of the 2300 ha Åkesson family estate, the plantation is located in the Sambirano Valley, in the North-West of Madagascar. Since 1920 we have produced world-famous aromatic criollo and trinitario cacao. This chocolate has a very expressive cocoa aroma with subtle fruity-sweet tartness and pleasant flavour notes that evoke citrus and red berries. We combined it with the finest and rarest pepper, the voatsiperifery from Madagascar, whose earthy and woody taste is completed by intense flowery aromas bringing freshness to the palate.