Sometimes chocolate reviewing is like playing the Euro Millions on a Friday night: you wake up on the Saturday morning, glance at your phone and see an email from Camelot entitled “News about your lottery ticket”. You spend the next 30 seconds whilst you find your feet and wipe the sleep from your eyes “spending” the millions you’ve just won – only to find out your account has only increased by £2.90 and that won’t even cover the cost of the morning’s papers and milk. That’s what I feel here with the Mayta Esmeraldas 71%.
I can’t even recall how I found Mayta Fine Chocolate. I spend far too much of my time scouring the internet for new and unusual chocolate makers that may be producing great chocolate, just no-one in Europe would know about it. So I contacted them and with a few emails back and forth with Evelina we eventually decided it was best that I pick up some samples from the Ecuadorian Government’s Trade Office in London. They’re lovely people, engaging and know about their chocolate. I just have the fear that I’ve completely had utterly wasted their time as I got the chocolate home and it’s bloomed with an inch of its life. It resembles Tudor oak floor boards. The issue is when I picked it up it was cold. After a visit to the pub, then out into the cold, I visited a lovely restaurant, and then went out in the cold. The journey home from London was on an intensely hot train, which then resulted in a short walk in the freezing cold. This undoubtedly did the chocolate no good. As I was doing business deals in these locations, unrelated to chocolate, it completely slipped my mind that the chocolate really won’t take to this constant change in extreme temperatures. For that, I feel incredibly guilty. But as a chocolate reviewer it’s my obligation to see past that, look at how the chocolate has changed and estimate how it would have been if I wasn’t such a pillock.
The Arriba cacao used here originates from a similar stock to that of Pacari, Domori, Original Beans and others. Those exemplory chocolate makers seem to buck the light spicy trend of Esmereldas with more earthy creations, whilst some of the less well-known outfits seem unable to push the envelope on this cultivar of Criollo heritage. The ancestry of Esmereldas is still unclear. Some assert it is a cross of Nacional and Criollo whilst others believe it is less of a hybrid, but more of an evolved Criollo from northern Venezuela.
The issue here is that I have so much of a tainted bar that any analysis of flavour or texture seems moot. The aroma does, however, remind me of the spiced 100% hot chocolate Bouga make – intensely acidic, peppery with hints of brandy. Allowing the brittle form to settle in my mouth I can certainly detect a rich creaminess which I believe is why it is typically used to make milk chocolate – in fact, my tongue is still coated with a velvety chocolate solution that is quite beguiling.
I’ve had a nibble at some of the other bars – including a lovely 55% Arriba with Pink Salt and I know I will be putting in an order with the Mayta for my Chocolate shop – just as the madness of Valentine’s Day has subsided.
For an untarnished review, check out this one by Kris.