So I’ve tasted chocolate from the country’s only small bean-to-bar chocolate producer in the form of Willie Harcourt-Cooze and now I’m trying the chocolate from a new kid (to chocolate) on the block: Duffy Sheardown and is Red Star Chocolate brand.
When it comes to chocolate I’m torn between loving the rustic flavours of the smaller producers and the more expansive chocolate of the larger players who have more budget and time to experiment. The way I’m leaning to now is the really natural, unadulterated chocolate such as the Beschle Carenero Superior 70% which only has three ingredients. Now I’ve found another bar, this Red Star 72% Ecuador Dark Chocolate which also has just Cocoa bean, organic sugar and cocoa butter going into it.
Duffy tries to source the beans from those as close to the harvest as possible, if not the actual plantation owners themselves and ensures that the cocoa is organic (not certified) and single origin. To my mind the finest chocolate has to be single origin if you really wanted complex and unique flavours and wish to consciously taste the chocolate rather than have it as a snack.
It’s not just the hours of harvesting and fermenting that goes into these bars, but it’s also the over 50 hours of grinding that allows the flavours to develop and create the surreptitious properties.
For me, a good proportion of enjoying fine chocolate is to learn about the origins of the cocoa and its ingredients. The great thing with the Red Star Chocolate is that Duffy tells us that the cocoa beans are from the area surrounding the town of Calceta, on the banks of the river Carrizal in central Ecuador:
Duffy has gone his hands on a small fraction of the 116,000 tons of cocoa a year produced in Ecuador to make this bar. Now I’m going to have to guess here that the bean that Duffy has used is the Forastero not only because it appears to be the most popular bean grown in the region because of its hardiness, but also because it’s not overly acidic. Although, this could have been reduced in the conching process, so I’m none-the-wiser.
Not only is there a lack of acidity, but there’s a well-rounded tone that comes from the use of cane sugar. Personally, I love the extra dimension this gives it seems to enhance flavours just as salt does with caramels. I didn’t, however, pick up the banana flavours that I’ve seen mentioned, I did, however, pick up the slightest cherry and marzipan nature, although this was limited in character. This bar is a “safe” bar. Now some people may take this the wrong way. I, however, think its chocolate at its best: made from natural ingredients; heaps of effort, love, affection, graft, trial and error all go into this bar and can be tasted. Thankfully none of the perspiration that goes along with starting micro-chocolatier business from scratch can witnessed with the taste buds, just appreciated from researching what Duffy has achieved to date.
I’ve been to the Thorntons Factory and it was nice to see how chocolate is made at near the other end of the scale. But, similarly, it was nice to try chocolate made with relatively crude equipment, and not ‘created by committee’ (as I know is the case with all the big producers). The chocolate Duffy makes is like art. Art is the personal choice of the artist. It’s not an advertising campaign, scientifically produced to a determinable effect on the consumer. For my mind, you can taste the rustic nature of the chocolate and the ingredients. It may not be bold, it may not be the Vivienne Westwood of the chocolate world, but it’s a bloody good start.
The texture was crumbly and did break apart slightly during delivery, but this is expected, given the lack additives such as emulsifiers. If you wanted shiny, glossy chocolate – buy a Galaxy bar.
I also loved the packaging. The mountainous pictures and the information give were great. I’ve got another three bars to review, including some milk chocolate, so I just can’t wait to see what they’re like!