April 25th, 2008 by Rosa
Every once in a while, you’re fortunate enough to experience something so eye-opening that it changes the way you frame your worldview. After falling in love for the first time, or tasting your first Jelly Bellies, schoolgirl crushes and plain old generic jelly beans will never be seen the same way again. Amano’s trio of single-origin bars have changed the way I look at tasting chocolate. In the interest of full disclosure, these bars were sent to me from Amano’s press office. I try my best to not favor samples. In fact, I’m probably more willing to give extra negative reviews of free samples than I am to shower them with praise to prove to myself that I’m not being bought out, so when I wax rhapsodic about a manufacturer’s sample, it has to really go above and beyond.
I tasted these bars in one sitting and without reading any tasting notes from the press releases or from the boxes. My chocolate tasting skills have definitely improved. Hooray! It helps to taste similar chocolates together, as you can really pick out the subtle differences then. All three of these bars were marked at a minimum of 70% cacao and will each run you about $7 for a 2 oz. bar, making them extremely not-cheap.
Cuyagua Premium Dark - “The remote valley of Cuyagua near Caracas is surrounded by cloud forest-covered mountains. It is home to some of Venezuela’s oldest cocoa plantations. The chocolate made from this valley’s beans have rich chocolate overtones with notes of spice that produce an incredibly complex flavor.”
The Cuyagua had a crisp snap that broke cleanly across the pre-segmented lines. It had a spicy, earthy smell that hinted at its complex flavor profile: spicy with a slight fruitiness in the middle. The melt was smooth, but not creamy.
Madagascar Premium Dark – “Madagascar has long been known for producing fine cocoa beans. This chocolate has strong, fruity flavors with hints of citrus and berry.”
The Madagascar had a slightly softer snap than that of the Cuyagua. This bar was extremely fruity, with a sweetness that I decided matched those of ripe berries.
Ocumare Grand Cru Dark – “The cacao from the Ocumare Valley is considered some of Venezuela’s finest. The Ocumare bar has rich chocolate overtones and a well balanced, fruity component with hints of plum and other red fruit”
The Ocumare had a strong earthiness to its flavor that I think could be called tobacco (I don’t smoke and avoid those that do, so I’m hesitant to casually toss around that flavor description) that gave way to a sweet finish. Texturally, it was the softest of the bunch, and had a thicker and creamier melt than the other two.
I usually taste candies in the morning before I head out to class. I take good notes in a little notebook, which I then refer to when I’m writing up my reviews days and sometimes even weeks later. The Amano line was so good that I just had to write it immediately after tasting (my political psych reading can wait). These bars fall into that rare category of candy that’s so good I want to share it with others but can’t bring myself to because I want to eat it all myself. Amano will now be my go-to bar for savoring and indulging in pure dark chocolate deliciousness, and after reading My Last Supper (and meeting the author/photographer!), I think I want a trio of Amano bars for my last dessert. But it needs to be the trio, for most of the fun is in their contrasting flavor profiles. An unabashed ZOMG! for the lot.