Even though Java (Indonesia to you and me) is the third largest producer of cacao beans in the world, behind the Ivory Coast and Ghana, and produces 90% of the total output of Asia, I’ve hardly reviewed any chocolate from the islands. This single estate dark chocolate from Pierre Marcolini originates from the originates from a government-owned plantation of the same name (well it’s actually “Kendeng Lembu Une locally) which, so I’m told, produces Criollo Porcelana cacao, although I can’t independently verify that. Often I can find a wealth of information about a plantation or estate, but not with this one.
I’ve actually seen Pierre Marcolini make chocolate from the bean at his factory and saw the bags of beans all lined up in his warehouse so it’s actually great to get a chance to review some bars that start the process there. In the near future I’ll also be reviewing these other bars: Sambirano, Madagascar 78% Domaine d’Ambanja (I’ve reviewed three other bars from that area); Bahia, Brazil 78% Fazenda Sao Pedro and a Los Rios , Ecuador 72% Hacienda Puerto Romero. These four bars were delivered in a very sturdy box with a vast amount of protection from the elements. One of the important draws to the Pierre Marcolini brand is the great importance Emmanuelle and the team place on the condition that the chocolate arrives in. Off the top of my head I’d say only Madre Chocolate in recent months have wrapped their chocolate in foil padding.
I do absolutely adore the packaging that Pierre uses for his bars and is very consistent with how he presents his filled chocolates. In effect it gently asks you to judge the chocolate on it’s the experience the senses offer of the chocolate itself and sees the packaging as purely a medium to inform true chocolate lovers by giving them the pertinent information required. As you can see you have the name of the estate, some tasting notes: “acidité soutenue, aromes d’epices, de poivre et de fruits” or “sustained acidity, aromas of spice, pepper and fruit” in English and the bean group (as mentioned, I found this out to be Porcelana). As lover of real chocolate this sort of information is crucial to me and leads me on a merry online journey of discovery – I wish that this sort of information was offered by many more chocolate makers. People do want to know.
I first tried this dark chocolate a few days ago and I found it a touch uncouth. This was, however, after reviewing a good number of smooth, delicate bars and it just stuck out like a sore thumb. After leaving it out for the duration of a hectic week, gently nibbling as I needed some distraction from my travails it started to win me over. It now resides in the mildly rustic category. That being said, the aroma is utterly beautiful. It’s almost caustic as my nasal passages recoil as the sent rises up. But with that it has a mild mango and ginger tone that, if you can look past the acidity is most delightful.
The texture of the bar is very interesting. It’s not the smooth, in fact it’s almost fractious with a granular undercurrent to a smooth top layer. This separation also seems appear in the flavour as well. The first time I tried it was fairly bitter, with an almost mustard sensation but after that work-induced interregnum it’s more balsamic vinegar and red wine. These flavours are very long lasting too as the chocolate takes an age to melt – it seems it almost has a centre made of heat-resistant chocolate as it just refused to melt.
It’s far from a sophisticated bar of dark chocolate, instead it’s exactly what fine chocolate should me: an exploration of what can be achieved with any given harvest. Some purists may criticise the use of soya lecithin or vanilla (from Tahitian pods), but for all of its brusqueness it’s a bar that quite evidently has had a great deal of thought gone into it. It’s certainly not chocolate making by numbers – regardless of what Pierre’s detractors’ state.