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?