There’s so much about the AMMA Chocolate story that fills me with pleasure. Take Diego Badaró, a fifth generation cacao farmer from Bahia in Brazil who speculatively sent some of his beans to the well-respected Frederick Schilling (previously of Dagoba – now owned by Hershey) which resulted in the creation of the AMMA Chocolate company. Of course, I’ve been light on the detail – I could have mentioned how Diego moved his farms into organic cacao production and pretty much revolutionised the tastes of the domestic Brazilian market. I know I have a tendency to get side-tracked when I find a new, exciting chocolate company, so I think I’ll look at bit closer at AMMA.
I love how AMMA views their chocolate business as being a collaborative one based on sharing their successes – all 20 of their workers share 50% the profits of the company – and that’s exactly how I feel all business should be run. Further combine that with the fact that the cacao is grown in one of the most beautiful (and under great environmental pressure) areas in the world – the Atlantic Forest, then you have the most interesting back-story to this bar.
The visuals of the packaging unfortunately doesn’t reflect the wonderful environment the cacao is grown in, only the text on the reverse introduces you abundance and varied natural history of the location. Instead this “Lush Bouquet” bar is deemed worthy enough just to be encased in bright red packaging which, I’m afraid, doesn’t do the contents justice at all.
On the inside you’ll find some text in Portuguese that does the job of setting the scene that the outer visuals somehow should (perhaps in a more Chapon kind of way). When translated, it reads:
Very early in the morning, men travel on carpets of leaves, trees, paths marked by yellow-red fruits in the shadows of the great and generous Atlantic Forrest.
The typical crackling noise that could be the crackling of wood burning, humans are the steps to reap the gold of nature.
The fruit of the gods: TheobromaCacao
The same rustling sound echoes through the ages, a tabor universal vibrating the eardrum of the people.
Spanish, Portuguese, Aztecs and Mayans toasted with the sacred liquid that Montezuma, the emperor, drink in vessels of gold, so the sky of the New World.
The fruit of God has come to install the folds of the European desire more subtle and virtue and liquid transformed into bars, by Dutch chemicals, confectioners Swiss, English and French, all for the sake of pleasure that the Queens and Kings said to be as powerful and seductive as the awesome champagne.
In Brazil, cocoa, and wild native plant, abundant in the dense forests of the Amazon Basin, were being planted in order to express a Royal Letter of 1678 and by 1700 it had reached Bahia where the habitat was perfect: moist forest, sun and shade in good measure.
OK, so how do you reflect that in the packaging? I suppose you cannot distile the majesty of the region onto card measuring just 10cm x 18cm.
The rest of that lengthy text -which stretches onto two sides, discusses how they wish to make the best chocolate in Brazil and let the world know what the forest can produce – a forest which has the highest biodiversity in the world. They also state that the best chocolate comes from the best ingredients and that they can achieve and that because they have their own farms, planted the cacao, talk to the trees (well that’s what the translation states) and select the best beans, they believe they have the most aromatic beans in the country.
They also state that 90% of the elements in the periodic table can be found in the region and when combined with the rain generated from the sea south of Bahia it produces the perfect environment to grow flavoursome cacao. Furthermore, they understand the impact their business has on the environment in that they reuse 90% of the waste water used to produce their packaging as well as only using wood grown specifically for packaging as well as replanting trees to compensate for the carbon released during the manufacturing process.
This sort of ethical stance would be very popular the world over, not least the UK, so I’m sure if they did manage to push their chocolate to a much wider audience it should get a great deal of attention.
Of course it’s now time to review the chocolate itself. The first time I tried the bar I had an absolutely gorgeous, creamy, rich and acidic flavour. Although their website says it wasn’t too acidic I had a great waft of it move though my pharynx to my nose. It was like I was smoking a cigarette as my nasal cavity had the very mildest of burning sensation. This was just after I had recovered from a mild cold so that was probably what caused it.
Having left the chocolate and my taste buds for a couple of days I still get a fairly strong acidic, tobacco aroma but with an underlying tone of caramel. Whilst the flavour itself resembles a journey through the rainforest in that your senses are constantly being tantalised – it changes from an under-ripe banana complexion to over-ripe banana with a background of cranberry and then walnuts near the end. There certainly isn’t one dominant flavour that is consistent throughout the melt. Other passes of the bar I get soft antique wood and more of a mango characteristic.
The bar itself was almost jet black and had Diego’s name inscribed on the bottom right hand corner – much in the same way as François Pralus does. The vast majority experience from the back-story, the appearance of the bar, the aroma, and most importantly; the flavour, were fantastic. I might have preferred more engaging artwork but I suppose it does allow for the brand to be carried across onto separate bars where the only differentiation is the colour of the background. Plus I know there are perhaps a few too many air bubbles in it, but do you expect perfection?
Overall this was a most delightful bar of bitter-sweet chocolate which I hope will become available in the UK shortly.