What I love most about reviewing chocolate is that I get to try chocolate from around the world and sometimes I’m possibly on of the first few people in the country to try it. What I also love is coming into contact with people that like to do things differently or have a wonderful story to tell. Far too often people are blinkered into trying whatever they can find in their local supermarket or from big brands online, but you’re only ever seeing a small fraction of what is available.
I couldn’t even tell you how I came across Manufaktura Czekolady but I eventually made contact with the guys – Tomka Sienkiewicza and Krzyśka Stypułkowskiego and learned a bit more about who they are and what they do. Basically they’re a couple of Computer Science graduates who had enough of the corporate world and decided to make chocolate – and who doesn’t want to do that?
But the bit I’m interested in is how they make their chocolate. They import the fermented and dried beans where they roast them themselves, the best are the selected and shelled, crushed to produce a cocoa mass, conched, tempered, packaged and then dispatched for retail. Ok, so it sounds the same as most, but there are very few small companies making chocolate from bean to bar these days, and certainly the only one from Poland I know about and they’re also the only chocolate producer in Poland to have earned organic certification.
And this whole handmade concept I love. The packaging looks and feels rustic. There’s an amazing photo of the guys on the inside full of passion for what they do and some information on the inside – which I obviously don’t understand.
I’ve only ever spent about 10 hours in Poland whilst in Warsaw when I toured around Europe on my own. But I found it an intriguing place. I may have nearly got robbed there, I may have spent a good few hours in a cold and damp train station, but the city is amazingly atmospheric and that unpolished character comes through in abundance in this bar.
The appearance of the actual chocolate was fantastic too. It reminded me very much of some antique furniture as it had a wonderfully distressed feel to it which added to the uncommercial feel to the experience.
Seeing as they have simple manufacturing process and the complete absence of additives I knew it wasn’t going to be the smoothest bar in the world ever. I’ve tried a good range of dark chocolate from Ecuador and I’ve not yet found one that knocks my socks off, but this 60% version has beautiful, intense nature that is incredibly appealing.
I know the Forastero bean has a bad rap in the chocolate world, because people state that its flavour is less robust and relatively flat compared to the much rarer Criollo, but this bar does have a great nose which reminds me of a coastal walk by Heybrook Bay in Devon because of the sweet floral notes. [I’ve just found out that this bar is a mix of Forastero and Trinitario, so perhaps that might explain it?]
The vanilla does come through which reduced and a strange raw chocolate dimension at which point the granular nature of the texture comes through. Some may not like this aspect of the bar, but I feel it’s always a sacrifice worth paying for the absence of emulsifiers and, most definitely, palm oil.
For those can’t read Polish, this bar is a vanilla and milk bar. It’d be interesting to see if the other bars have the same underlying flavour. And if you’re interested they’re the 70% Ghana, the same with fleur de sel, a 70% Ecuador with Chilli, a 70% Dominican Republic with cranberry, and the same but with ginger – they should be good!