One of the highlights of last year was finding Ara Chocolat and their collection of utterly fantastic chocolates. It would be easy of them to sit back and allow their wonderful Porcelana bar to lap up the attention and not innovate. Thankfully they keep moving forward and have recently introduced a delightful Guasare 72% but also a Belize 71% and an Agua Fria 70%.
The comes from cacao grown between the eastern shores of Lake Maracaibo and the famous town of Puerto Cabello which many may know from the creamy output of Bonnat. I have to admit this area is new to me, but obviously not Andres who is a native of Venezuela and can work the local bureaucratic system to bring these beans to their facility in France. As I’ve come to expect, the texture if fine, but not over-processed. It is more aux naturale than many other makers. It sticks to the teeth more than others, but that’s their style. The flavours that jump out are predominantly of orange. It smacks of Robinson’s Squash but then followed up with salted toffee. Just at the very edges there’s a tart acidity – almost of lemon rind.
The Belize, soft gem – at first. The flavour then builds and builds and doesn’t stop. It’s like being submerged in a vat of Cornish clotted cream and then somebody throwing handfuls of real honeycomb at you and then some strawberry coulis. There’s no sharpness. No acidity. No power or presence. It’s luxurious with a strange twang of salmon. Yes, I know, it must have been a long week to come out with that. But it’s certainly there.
Ara do make some fantastic chocolate in a variety of styles, and this is exactly how I feel chocolate makers should operate. Bonnat is great, but its increasingly hard to differentiate their chocolate. Not so with Ara their chocolate elicits a profundity and variety of emotion that chocolate makers should strive for.
Agua Fria bureaucratic