If there was an example of what you can do with the much maligned Amelonado cocoa (and varieties thereof) this is it. I was planning a post about who it’s just down right stupid to write-off 80% of the cocoa produced. The inaccurate conventional wisdom goes that if it’s not Criollo or even Trinitario then you shouldn’t even bother trying to make world-beating chocolate. Firstly this distinction is acutely inaccurate because there are so many different strains of cocoa that it makes such a generalisation moot. But it also seems to infer that skilled chocolate makers aren’t actually skilled to turn what are traditionally seen as uninspiring cocoas into ‘fine’ chocolate.
This Barba chocolate is made with naturally cross-bread Amelonado cacaos and takes its name from the Spanish for beard – now we haven’t explored why, but given that the cacao is originates from Spanish speaking Nicaragua we can only guess.
Also on my desk I currently have the Bahen & Co. Brazil 70% and if you wanted two bars to define the two ends of the flavour or texture spectrum then you can’t go far wrong with these two. The Bahen & Co is tart, harsh, fairly rustic and can only be consumed in small doses. It’s even tarter than many 100%s.
The Barba, however, is an almost perfect dark red appearance and has been crafted in such away that there are no physical defects either on the surface or within the chocolate. The snap is similarly exquisite and just brings you further and further into the experience. The texture, too, is immense. Silky smooth, luscious and sumptuous. This is exactly how I like chocolate to feel in the mouth.
The flavours take a while to get going. They’re very much like Cornish clotted cream ice-cream with a dash of grated ginger. But as the melt progresses the acidity builds up. This tartness isn’t as refined as many “fine flavour” cocoas. But from the starting point Mikkel had I think he’s done a great job. Much of his chocolate offers a meandering journey of flavours intermingling and going their separate ways – just as the various Amazon tributaries do. This chocolate is more of a Dutch canal system. Regimented. It gets you from A to B, but offering a multitude of interesting vistas on the way.
Because the cocoas were of limited supply, I seem to recall 400 kg from my conversations with Mikkel; the price goes up – economies of scale and all that. The retail price at Salon du Chocolat in London was £15. I snaffled a bar for £10. For that sort of price I could have bought one of his other fine bars like the Chuno Double Turned. I liked it, but I do expect more from the Medagla of his I also bought.