These Arriba Nacional cocoa beans come from west central Ecuador from the banks of the Vinces River in the region of Los Rios. Once harvested they’re shipped to Berlin where Rausch Schokolade turn them into one of their chocolate bars, before rebranding them as J. D. Gross for Lidl.
I’ve tried cocoa from the Los Rios region of Ecuador before and so far to my mind it tends to express mainly archetypal chocolate notes, but with a little finesse and quality. With this bar coming in at 81% though it’s a little darker and my previous experience with Arriba cacao from Ecuador suggests that as the cocoa percentage increases it tends to start losing its more refined attributes, becoming a little earthier instead. I’d expect this bar to display archetypal chocolate flavours all the same with a tendency towards being a little refined, hopefully this bar doesn’t tip over into being distractingly bitter or eathy. Opening the packaging the size of the bar is a little overwhelming, with rather large J.D. Gross squares, still the chocolate work looks like good industrial processing, with the colour on the darker side. Breaking off a piece reveals earthy cocoa aromas with hints are charred oak offering a slightly aged feel to otherwise refined aromas. Placing a piece in my mouth the bar has a distinctly apparent mouthfeel, it’s thick and similar to raw cake mixture, it’s mouthcoating and ever present. To taste the bar has a feel of slightly dry chocolate cake or almond flour tortes with slightly dry cocoa notes that feel familiar in dark chocolate cakes and baking. The sweetness or uplifting side to this bar has a soft pear like feel to it alongside white sugar offering a simple but somewhat dessert like feel to it again. There’s nothing wrong with this bar exactly, but the extra 11% of cocoa has turned some of the refined and more specifically approachable aspects of this cocoa into more generic or less attractive attributes of this bar. That is to say the darker cocoa element here has taken away from rather than added to the bar, it’s less approachable and the mouthfeel suffers a little. All in all though, this bar offers some stereotypical chocolate flavours at a high percentage while still being plenty edible, possibly best used as a baking chocolate still. Best enjoyed with pear tarts and vanilla cream.
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, sugar, fat reduced cocoa powder, emulsifier: sunflower lecithins, vanilla extract.
Colour: Dark brown
Texture: Smooth, dusky, light flake
Mould: 5 x 2 large JD Gross squares
Snap: Very crisp
Temp/Shine: Glossy matte, consistent
Notes: Refined earthy cocoa, charred oak, baking cocoa
Quality: Aged, refined, lightly metallic
Evenness: Fairly even
Texture: Thick, cake mixture, thick buttercream
Quality: Mouthcoating, cakey
Quality: Soft, balancing
Notes: White sugar, natural sweetness, pear
Quality: Baked, balancing, patisserie
Type: Sweet, bitter
Notes: Bitter chocolate cake, cocoa, chocolate torte, white sugar
Quality: Deep, simple, full
Flavours are long stretching out for an age, small rounds come over time through acidity and sweetness
Quality: Cocoa notes fill the end with a big cocoa finish, that’s fairly clean but with lingering mouthcoating cocoa
Bar is intense, deep and full, but remains fairly balanced with attributes working together towards balance, strong structure provides a lot of anchoring and decent stability
Bar has plenty of depth, and has some dimension but is very simple, lack of complexity is easily managed and structure is robust and consistent, expression seems fairly honest, but more cocoa powdery than naturally expressive, flavours seem honest of terroir, with processing adding balance and approachability
J. D. Gross’s Tasting Notes: Ecuador is home to the famous Arriba cocoa variety. Only the ost select plantations in the Ecuadorian province of Los Rios supply us with the premium cocoa which goes into our J.D.Gross dark chocolate, giving it its deep, distinctive flavour.