Having travelled fairly extensively throughout the Caribbean, but not Jamaica itself it was good to get some filled chocolates made exclusively with cacao from the country. Of course Jamaica is responsible for some fine cacao and plantation owners have grown the crop there since around 1680 – with Ecuador largely regarded as the first in the region when the Spanish Capuchin friars who brought the bean there in about 1635. Although, Jamaica certainly does have a strong, and troubled, history of growing cacao, so it’s strange that Black River Chocolates are the first that I’m aware of to make filled chocolates exclusively with chocolate from the island.
The beans are transported to one of the chocolate makers in Belgium, but I don’t know which (perhaps Belcolade?), and then transformed into these Praliné and ganaches in London – chocolate certainly is an international experience these days but along the line it’d be interesting to see if there’s any fun, jazzy, rustic Jamaican influences coming through.
The problem I had was actually working out which where which as some were fairly similar looking and the menu was quite small as it had to fit into the top of the chocolate box – even though there were sixteen in the box and twenty chocolates listed on the menu. The first had was the “praliné with hazelnuts” which wasn’t as sweet as I thought it’d be; instead it was fairly mild but an interesting undercurrent of flavour that had a slightly spicy edge.
The Calvados Ganache most certainly wasn’t mild as the alcoholic tones were very pronounced and lasted fairly long on the palette – the warm mixture of which gently heated my throat as it went down. If you rest a while after this one you’ll witness some delightful and rounded caramel flavours.
I tried the praliné with coffee next but the coffee was only evident at the very fringes of flavour profile. Although I’m generally not a fan of traditional coffee flavours, this was to its credit not over-powering. The white chocolate made it a touch too sweet for me, but that’s white chocolate for you. However, it did offer a good sweet and salt experience.
The pistachio nuts with almond paste was another interesting affair. I love pistachio and did enjoy this one. There was the very slightest element of harshness at the back of the throat though, but this was somewhat mitigated by the sweetness of the filling.
I also tried the ganache with passion fruit which nicely balanced the sweetness of the milk chocolate with the sharpness of the passion fruit whilst the crème brûlée was very enjoyable but did hit the spot. I just wish there were more of these ganaches and fewer pralinés, but that’s my issue as praline isn’t my favourite medium for chocolate and I much prefer sharp, fruity flavours, I silky smooth ganaches.
Although it’s great to see people stepping out and trying something new and different with the origin of the cacao, I would have liked some more flavours of Jamaica and more of fusion approach for which the island is renowned. Of course I’m not talking about curried goat and salt fish, but perhaps coconut, thyme, pimento, black pepper, breadfruit, cassava, escallion, plantain, jerk spice, scotch bonnet, guava, soursop, tamarind and jackfruit. Of course, doing so may be hideously expensive for some of those ingredients. But I know many people in this country and the rest of Europe would respond warmly to those flavours.
Overall I was a touch underwhelmed. In the fiercely competitive chocolate market its essential to offer something unique. With Marvia Borrell’s background I’m sure there’s a great deal of opportunity to do that in the future.