Askinosie Chocolate: The “Del Tambo” Bar

August 14, 2007

I’ve now had a chance to test both of Askinosie Chocolate’s bars: the Del Tambo, made from Ecudorian cacao, and the Soconusco, made from Mexican cacao. I only sneaked a nibble of the Soconusco, but have now had a chance to spend some time tasting the Del Tambo alone and in constrast to some other chocolate. Ecuadorian cacao has a bold, very distinct fruity and herbaceous flavor note that hits very quickly, which makes it a dramatic counterpart to the Soconusco bar which is a much more subtle bar which has a flavor profile that starts slowly and builds over time. (The Ecuadorian cacao trade association maintains a very informative site about their product here. Ecuador has had a mixed history with growing cacao, after being devastated by a tree-killing disease in the 1920s.) The Del Tambo bar is the boldest expression of that taste that I’ve found. To my tastebuds, the closest comparison is some Madagascar chocolate, like Valrhona’s Manjari, which shares the quality of having a strong initial taste that changes as the chocolate melts.

The strong initial taste hit from the chocolate is full of plum, maple, and grassy notes and may register as very “unchocolately” to tasters used to tamer chocolate that has it’s initial notes suppressed by intense processing. The sweet aromatic notes transition to a wheaty, toasty middle, which resolves nicely to a finish that is strongly chocolate with a surprisingly floral nose. It’s a very dramatic bar, and packed full of flavors that typical chocolate doesn’t even hint at. As Askinosie is a definite startup, this chocolate can be hard to come by. It can be ordered from the website, and I know some specialty retailers are looking at stocking it. I’ll have a longer review of the Soconusco bar up soon. This bar is especially interesting. Mexico is, in some ways, the ancestral home of cacao cultivation, but in modern times, it is not thought of as an origin for fine cacao. Has Askinosie found a way to bring this heritage back?


Tabasco Co-Ops

April 26, 2007

While today, most of the prized Criollo beans tend to come from South America (particularly Venezuela), it’s thought that the bean originated in Mexico. While Mexico’s modern cacao production is far behind some other Latin American countries, there is an increasing amount of growing happening in the Tabasco region.

We’ve been interested in getting more details about Tabasco cacao, but much of it is grown on small plantations (often part of larger co-ops), so it’s not as though you can find them on Google! Fortunately, doing some digging, I came across a list published by Mexico’s department of agriculture that has information on co-ops in Tabasco, including cacao co-ops. I also came across a website called Tabasco Market that lists a handful of producers.

A few of these actually have e-mail addresses, so we’re going to start there. Hopefully we’ll be able to get some information on exactly what they’re growing and how they’re growing it.

Possible bean source

April 7, 2007

David Mason, a CT classmate that is starting a small bean-to-bar business in Asheville, NC pointed me to ChocoSol Traders, a group based out of Oaxaca City that is working to improve Mexican beans and provide a higher-value market for those farmers. These folks might be a good source for small startup quantities of beans. Apparently the good folks at Taza source part of their beans through ChocoSol.