The manifestation of Original Bean’s ethical stance is beyond reproach. The difficulties they wilfully encounter such as military hostility in the Democratic Republic of Congo, environmental conservation, the desire to preserve ‘heirloom cacao’, farmer welfare … If there was a maker that typified not taking the people and the product for granted, it has to be Original Beans. But for those of us with a desire to consume chocolate that doesn’t harm the environment, the grower economies and take advantage of those that harvest and prepare the cacao, the ethical stance contributes to how the chocolate tastes. But for those less aware of the raping of our environment and the slave-like conditions of those at the sharp end, how would this chocolate taste?
For those sort of ‘high street’ chocolate lovers the notion that this cacao is grown in a troubled locale will mean nothing. The concept of cacao from the Democratic Republic of Congo, too, will not conjure up a desire to know if it was grown on the west or east side of the country, or what particular strain of cacao is it – or even if it is a bit of a mongrel of a bean. To these guys then it will all be down to the flavour. Although it is difficult for me to put those other factors to one side, try I must.
The fact that this chocolate also won a ‘Gold’ in the Great Taste Awards in 2011 should also be put to one side. Purely on the flavour I see it as ‘pretty good’ chocolate, but not exemplary. It stands proud amongst the chocolate that makers have produced from unconventional sources because they want to try something new or support an unfashionable origin – it doesn’t reach the heights of a good few makers I’ve tried. And here’s why: although the flavours are clean cut, pronounced and uncluttered, they are unremarkable. There is no ‘wow’ factor; there is no instant and uncontrollable grab for some more. All there is a ‘so that’s what DR Congo chocolate tastes like’ or a ‘so I can tick that origin off my list’.
True chocolate lovers, those that immerse themselves in all facets of the ethical, economic, environmental and social side of chocolate will approach it in a different way. Their, and my, approach is likely to be: ‘so this can be achieved by making life difficult for yourself’ and ‘I’m glad I gave that ago, what else do Original Beans do’.
The autumn-like flavours of slight spice, orange, walnut and dates are pleasant – and they grow on you – but no more. There is no rapture. No astonishment. Just good chocolate.
You can pick up this chocolate at Freego (I have a business relationship with those guys).