Manabi is responsible for some pretty fine good cacao and some very good chocolate has been produced from it, not least from Pacari and to a lesser degree Republica del Cacao so when Susana, who I’ve known quite a while let me know about her new venture making chocolate from cacao from her home region of Ecuador then my interest was more than piqued. Interestingly we caught up at the Academy of Chocolate conference about bringing cacao workers out of poverty and, working more directly with the people that actually grow the fruit and seeds.
Generally there’s a massive disparity between the luxurious product we consume in The West and the sheer poverty that many producer communities have to suffer. In fact the difference in the standard of living is utterly embarrassing. And that’s why I try and give as much support as I can to chocolate makers that shift more value down the chain towards the growers as possible. Growing cacao to many of these countries has been a way of life for many generations – more so in South and Central America than Africa, but if these micro-plantation owners cannot even afford to feed their families growing the product then we just won’t have fine cacao in the future – or the plantations will just be owned by multinationals who pay lip-service to ethical production.
The Montecristi video below shows the social and economic change that people like you and I can bring about by buying fine, ethically-sourced chocolate. Many people with think ethical production when they buy a bar of chocolate but not so much when they purchase a ganache or praline from their favourite chocolatier. But you should do. Montecristi was set up to cater for the chocolatier and patissier in that they are only creating chocolate in couverture (pistole) form for these uses.
I’ve already put an order in for Susana’s chocolate to sell on Chocolatiers as I’d like to give people the opportunity to try it and for people to start asking their chocolatier to use it – or even try and making your own cakes or chocolates at home. We hope to have the chocolate arrive within a few weeks. But other than the ethics, why would I want people to try it?
Not only is the chocolate physically well-crafted and suitable for kitchen use as it is a well-structured chocolate but the flavours are very interesting too – and change remarkably through the cocoa percentages. The 63% understandably closer to the caramel tone but also raisin and a touch of floral – which makes it a wonderful chocolate to nibble on. The after taste is fairly sweet and lingering which allows for you to get a much longer ‘chocolate’ hit. The nose of the 70% offers more of the archetypal Arriba Nacional spice but on the taste buds starts off much more mellow but builds up to a fairly strident molasses. The spice isn’t as dominant as I would expect – instead of a pepper-profile it is more cinnamon.
The 85% is much more adult. It’s drier, much closer to tobacco on the nose and a much earthier appeal on the nose. But with that comes coconut and lime and which pushes it more into the pina colada profile. The difference between the 70% and the 85% is stark, however. If you’re in tune with the 70% I doubt you will be with the 85%, and vice versa. For me I feel that the two will appeal at different times of the day when I’ve got different chocolate/emotional buttons that need pressing.
I’m no chocolatier as they would have a greater understanding of how it can be used, but I’ll give what I have left to Julia at Toots Sweets and see what she thinks (I suspect those in the capital may already be approached to try).
I hope for good things for Susana’s (and the team’s) chocolate.
Found out more here.