Chocolate Tree Madagascar Sambirano Raw 70% 86.5/100

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Located in the north west of Madagascar, the Sambirano Valley is responsible for producing some of the fruitiest chocolate that you’re likely to taste and with this bar being made from trinitario beans, which are also fruity in nature, it has the potential to be indicative of Madagascar’s notoriously fruity terroir. This particular bar however, is different from the usual bars you might find from Sambirano, while using cacao from the same area this one forgoes the roasting process. Better described as unroasted rather than raw, Chocolate Tree came to the same conclusion themselves, having relabelled the bar as unroasted rather than raw. This bar goes through all the same processing as their other Sambirano offerings from Chocolate Tree, except that this one never gets roasted. This lack of roasting can’t help but have a significant effect on flavour, while terroir accounts for a lot in terms of flavour, heating the beans has a significant effect on the organic compounds held within the bean, especially the starches and sugars.

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I’ve been trying quite a few trinitarios and criollos from the Sambirano Valley recently, so I’m interested to see where a raw processed cacao from this region fits. With clear fruit flavours coming from Madagascan cacao, without any real experience with ‘raw’ chocolate, I can’t help but expect some unadulterated and unrestrained acidity. That being said I’m curious to see how a sweetness, which is integral to Madagascan cacao, develops when cacao goes unroasted and how this affects what I would term development in respect to flavour. Opening the wonderful packaging, I’m surprised to see that the bar is quite dark, for some reason I expected an unroasted bar to be a lighter colour, although I suspect the colour has more to do with the beans than it does with the roasting. It begins well with pleasant expected aromas and a smooth confectionary style mouthfeel, before leading onto some new and slightly surprising elements. The bar has what I can only describe as white flavours, a cross between refined sugar, slightly underipe mango and banana with a mixture of lime, lychee and cachaça. Its sweet, but like a mojito, it’s as if there is no sugar browning flavours here, there’s been no heat to create any caramels, it’s all refreshing and lively sweet notes. The problem this creates, is that it leads to a bar with complex and intelligent high notes that lack a base, it’s missing the grounding restraint of caramel, cocoa or vanilla, or the rounded acidity of a strawberry or apricot. For me in the end this bar is an interesting display of cacao in its more natural state, but it’s also an argument for continuing to roast cacao, at least for me and at least for now. Alternatively pair it with white spirits to provide sweet relief.

Ingredients: Cacao beans, organic cane sugar, cocoa butter

Appearance 9/10

Colour: Darker
Texture: Very smooth
Mould: Chocolate Tree flower print uneven blocks
Snap: Crisp, thick
Temp/Shine: Matte gloss, consistent

Aroma 8.5/10

Intensity(0-10): 7
Notes: Cocoa, berries, berry liqueur, balsamic, argan
Quality: Alcoholic, honest

Melt/Mouthfeel 8.5/10

Length: Long, soft
Evenness: Even
Texture: Smooth, sugar paste
Quality: Refined, full

Acidity 8/10

Intensity(0-10): 6
Notes: Raspberry, lychee, mango
Quality: Light, sharp

Sweetness 8.5/10

Intensity(0-10): 9
Notes: White sugar paste, banana chips, lychee, cachaça
Quality: Light, dominant, bright

Flavour 9/10

Intensity(0-10): 8.5
Type: Sweet
Notes: Raspberry, lychee, mango, banana, refined sugar, lime, cachaça
Quality: Complex high notes

Length 9.5/10

Flavours are long and bold and last for an age, rounding comes in waves as other flavours permeate for longer

Finish 9/10

Notes: Lime, banana, cachaça, white alcohol
Quality: Mixtures of lime, banana and cachaça interplay before the finish leaving a sort of lemony white wine flavour to slowly fade while lingering

Balance 8/10

Sweetness and high notes dominate here, acidity and flavour are secondary characteristics of the bright sweetness on display, structure is light providing little restraint

Overall 8.5/10

Bar has a lightweight but large depth and has dimension among the high notes, but lacks dimension anywhere else, structure is uniformly light and expression is bright and fruity but somewhat unrestrained, developed, but lacking direction


Chocolate Tree’s Tasting Notes: Fantastically bright flavour, a light red colour, with green tea, passionfruit, mango and banana notes.

 

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