What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. That phrase is not only relevant today, as we celebrate the rebirth of Christ, but also the rebirth of Duffy’s chocolate production. For a while Duffy’s machinery were voluntarily turned-off due to issues outside of his control. After an interregnum, not too dissimilar from the Messiah, we are able to once again benefit from Duffy’s hard work and good intentions.
Turning from religion to cinematography, we’re often told that a sequel is never as good as the first – the New Testament excluded – I’m thinking Ghostbusters, Highlander and Sister Act 2. Can his latest chocolate match the high standard it set before the unfortunate chain of events that caused a halt in production and much head-scratching?
I have his new Sierra Leone Cayenne Chilli 70% plus a Corazon Del Ecuador 83% and a new Indio Rojo at 72%. It’d be unfair to define his entire range on just the one bar, but perhaps we can at least establish the tone of his rebirth.
Firstly, Sierra Leone may not be the first nation that comes to mind when thinking of cocoa production. When the country is mentioned you may think, instead of its civil war and the hardship it caused. But here again the concept of rebirth becomes apparent. There is no finer way to rejuvenate a nation in this region of the world than through ethical agriculture, employment and education.
The cocoa used in this bar is sourced from Tropical Farms Ltd which has an office in Guernsey – presumably for tax and legal purposes, but does operate out of Mozambique and is a symptom of the lack of purchasing power that small-batch makers suffer from. We simply can’t expect a company the size of Duffy to source directly from the farmers on a massive scale or have his own plantation – he’s no Domori – at least in terms of production quantity. We do, at least, have the opportunity to trace some degree of provenance by researching the intermediary. The information provided states that the cocoa is sourced from over 3,500 farmers within the Sierra Leone. Because such a wide variety of farms are involved, and the fact that they’re located in West Africa I’m sure we can be fairly sure that this chocolate is based on a hybrid of the melon-shaped Amelonado variety that is used in the vast majority of the world’s chocolate.
It is important, given the nature of the cocoa used in this bar, to compare it with similar chocolate. It would be unfair to compare with an Ocumare or Porcelena (note I left out Chuao as Domori nabbed much of the fine cacao from the village many years ago and perhaps isn’t the cocoa some claim it to be). But, to be fair, I did find the aroma engaging. There was a decent level of spice in cinnamon form but an absence of the any aggression from the cayenne, which I had hoped for and undertone of leather which is I feel is fairly common of cocoa of this mongrel nature.
Before I researched the origins and cocoa potentially used in this chocolate I found the flavour very muted – even the cayenne was mellow. You can either see Duffy’s approach as paying the cocoa too much respect and not dominating it with added flavours or giving the much-maligned cocoa a chance to impress the prejudiced pallet. Either way, you do have to concentrate the mind on its unadventurous nature. If you can do this you should notice a pleasant cherresque backdrop,. It’s certainly not as refined as finer cocoas, which is clear truism, but still does give the chocolate-lover an opportunity to explore a wider source of origins and give the Sierra Leonese people a much-needed export opportunity.
I did find a deficiency in production that is worth noting. There was a noticeable stratification in the chocolate which produced a slate-like quality. It appears that in the moulding stage the lower (read upper) half of the bar was set first and then a second batch was used to complete the rest of the moulds.
Overall, I did enjoy the chocolate, but not as much as the chocolate Duffy has made with finer cocoas. Exploring chocolate made from a variety of origins does, however, add to life’s rich tapestry.