Cocoa beans go into a box and chocolate comes out. That’s how many people think of the food of the Gods. The rest of us know it’s a magical toy set of levers, dials and switches that can be played with in a seemingly endless variety combinations – much like a song producer’s musical desk. Pete Waterman made a fortune by turning terrible singers into hit artists – but you just can’t do that with chocolate. The cacao you start the process with is the single most important factor in great quality, artisan chocolate, after that you rely on the skill of the chocolate maker to do the rest.
This bar was produced just six days ago from beans from the Morobe district of Papua New Guinea which has had an unfortunate recent past with cacao production and disease. Thankfully they’ve picked themselves up and now produce some wonderful Trinitario cacao – which I’m certain this bar is made from. Of course this isn’t the most revered varietal of cacao as that’s Criollo, Trinitario is used to produce most fine dark chocolate and as such it gives chocolate lovers a great way of comparing the genius required to bring out unusual and pleasing flavours out of this chocolate. When so many other chocolate makers don’t do the bean justice, Art has managed something stunning.
But let’s talk about the visuals. With most people in the creative world it’s the things that aren’t most obvious which sets them apart from others. Many chocolate makers use average, or even poor quality packaging. It’s if they run out of steam when they’ve finally finished playing with the dials and have finally produced a bar they’re happy with. But one thing I’ve learned in business is that it’s the last 5% of what you do that sets you a part from the rest. With this blog I put a great deal of effort and time into the photography, and Art takes the same approach with his bars. It would have been easy to go onto Flickr and get a photo of Morobe if you could find one, or Papua New Guinea if he couldn’t, but with each new bar Art commissions an artist for the picture you see on the front. With this one, Art told me, the artist had just bought a canoe so worked that into the painting. It’s that sort of detail and love for what he does that pushes Amano into the very top tier of chocolate makers.
But peeking your interest with the packaging is meaningless unless you can deliver great chocolate, and if you manage to buy this bar (it’s not on sale yet), you most definitely won’t be disappointed. Well, those that love robust, punchy dark chocolate with a strong citrus character or chocolate that rushes you through a whole lifetime of chocolate sensations within seconds of placing it in your mouth will totally ‘get’ what has been achieved here.
After the appearance, the aroma would be the second thing you notice. Here I get old books and a touch of ammonia. Strangely it reminds me of driving through the ‘hills’ of Barbados – I don’t know why, but it must be that fresh, but slightly earthy tone of the landscape?
But when it comes to the flavour I don’t think my vocabulary is comprehensive enough to describe it. It’s just passing through a food market at high-speed. You’ll have aromas and flavours constantly hitting you, giving you a quick one, two with contrasting experiences. As you let it melt in your mouth you will have those sharp grapefruit and lime flavours lifting off the bar, hitting the side of your mouth. It’s almost like a grapefruit vinaigrette with the acidity and the sweetness combined. But beneath that there is an utterly splendid caramel experience that holds it all together and well after the final melt you should get leather and a slight dusting of tobacco. If that’s not a chocolate journey, I don’t know what is!
Even though I can read the ingredients and see only cocoa beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter and vanilla beans listed, my senses say it must have been adulterated with some magical, previously unknown, sweet fruit that originates from the unexplored New Guinea Highlands. Of course there’s nothing of that sort listed – apart from the vanilla and sugar, this is pure stuff. It’s just that I’ve never known any chocolate to exhibit such a flavour profile. It’s just baffling – but in an utterly intoxicating manner. This most certainly is a bar to be enjoyed for what it is and for the love imbued into every into every bite.