It’s a staggering five months since I reviewed anything from Artisan du Chocolat, and what better way to get back on the saddle than with this bean to bar chocolate that they created for Chocolate Week 2010. I know, I’ve had this bar in my collection for near on two years and it’s a month past it’s ‘best’, but I’m sure it’s perfectly fine to review. It does, however, bring the term ‘bean to bar’ into sharp focus.
The reverse of the packaging states that ‘Gerard and a team of chocolate fans have transformed 300kg of the finest beans every step of the way from beans to these rich dark chocolate bars.’ It continued: ‘The Trinitario beans, cultivated in small plantations around the parish of St Mary, are fermented and dried at the Richmond Fermentary before being shipped to Gerard’s Kentish atelier‘. To me there’s a sliding scale of ‘bean to bar’ there’s those chocolate bars that are fermented, dried, roasted, cracked, winnowed, conched, possibly matured, tempered, moulded and packaged in the same place such as The Grenada Chocolate Company or Menakao, and then there’s the rest.
The problem is that only the most fortunate of people can possibly produce in this way. It’s simply not cost-effective or practicable for a chocolate marker in this country to have a direct, hands-on relationship from the instant the bean is first handled to the moment it is consumed. It’s certainly well within the realms ‘bean to bar’ to take a fermented and dried bean from the country of origin and transport it to a far-flung land to be processed – this is the typical concept of ‘bean to bar’, but the more beautiful version entails being there at the birth.
That all being said I loved the uniqueness of this bar. The aroma is richly intense. Despite being a ‘slight’ bar it packs some interesting aromas that are very much akin to walking through an autumn wood after a long hot summer. It’s dry, earthy and perhaps even a touch musty. In terms of flavour it’s relatively mellow. There is more of that earthiness with dried leaves and a fresh log fire, along with roasted hazelnuts and wafts of whisky.
I wouldn’t call it special, however, well not in terms of flavour. In terms of effort and trying to break from the ‘chocolatier’ label. For that reason alone, I hope that Gerard and the gang down in Kent give the whole chocolate making process another whirl.
What I did like was the packaging. Having been on factory tours in the past I know how many people it takes to produce a bar of chocolate. What they’ve done here is highlight the role and importance of people, along with the ingredients into making a fine bar of chocolate – which is far too often lost on the people that whimsically crack open a bar and consume with little thought of the extreme effort that is expended for their pleasure. This message was certainly a nice touch.