For many in the wider world chocolate is a black box: something goes in, chocolate comes out – the processes are a mystery and the people unimportant. Bean to bar chocolate lovers often gorge themselves on the process/ They know how about how fermenting, roasting and conching times affect the flavour of the chocolate. They’ll also know about the inordinate types of cocoa bean and even its natural history. But too few are seemingly interested in the “people” part of the chocolate making equation. As I become longer in the tooth I’ve started to see chocolate as a vehicle for social change. Fair-trade has its critics, including myself, so it’s great to see a chocolate company rolling up their sleeves and taking ‘direct action’ – there aren’t enough chocolate makers in that enviable position.
Most of the chocolate you’ll see labelled as “Madagascan” may be made from cocoa grown on the island but it’s more than likely to be made somewhere else. And although there is a big debate about repatriating jobs to one’s own country, wherever that is, wouldn’t it be great if more chocolate was actually made where the cocoa was grown? Despite having an unemployment rate lower than most of the western world, Madagascar is still very much a low income nation and if buying chocolate made by Madagascan hands can help them, then why not? And with only two chocolate factories on the island (Chocolatierie Robert and Cinagra -where this bar was made), I’d love to see others being set up too.
Like, most of the Madagascan bars I’ve reviewed, the cacao in this bar originates from the Sambirano Valley in the north west of the island which have also been used in the Patric 67%, Åkesson’s 75% (their own plantation), Michel Cluizel Mangaro, whilst from Amano also do a bar. You can see that Menakao (which means red – from the colour of the earth) are in very fine company. But can this bar compare with those established and revered names?
I think so. The packaging of each of the seven in total have what looks like people from the local community being represented on the front which further highlights the close connection that bar has with the country of origin. On the reverse you’ll be able to read some tasting notes, a background to the brand, nutritional information, ingredients and the contact details should you have any questions. Compared with most chocolate packaging, Menakao are streets are head of most other chocolate makers.
The aroma is soft, fragrant and fruity with a slight backdrop of all spice with the wider range being of papaya. The snap is crisp and the melt solid at first but quickly turns to nothing with warm vapours rising into your nose. But it’s the flavour that I find most delightful. It’s very much like a gripping classic movie – but most certainly not a black and white one as it’s very fully of colourful tones. I can assure you that if were watching a film whilst eating this bar you’ll have to be rewinding frequently as it does occupy your senses totally.
There’s a great deal of hazelnut that seems to coat your taste buds and gives a strong and continual dose of flavour for an age after it has melted. Larger bites might give more of red fruit which you’ll find during the middle of the melt. At other stages I’ll get wafts of a coastal field and others of smoker’s pipe. If you’re into chocolate that offers a range of flavours during the melt then there are few that I can recall that offer such much variety.
Even minutes after having a bite you’ll still be able to witness the flavour and this is very much to this bar’s credit. I don’t think this chocolate is available in the UK just yet, but if any of you chocolate retailers want to get your hands on some, then I’d certainly recommend stocking it.