The more observant may notice that there are two different bars in the photo above. They are both made by Danish bean-to-bar chocolate maker Mikkel Friis-Holm. They are both 70% dark chocolates made from the same Nicaraguan beans, sourced directly from the farmers. Neither bar has any added vanilla or soy lecithin. The ingredients are exactly the same: cocoa beans, sugar and cocoa butter. Nothing more, nothing less.
There is just a single, seemingly tiny difference between them. The bar on the right has had the beans turned twice during the fermentation process. The bar on the left has had the beans turned three times.
For the uninitiated, when cocoa pods are harvested, they are cut open and the cocoa beans and surrounding pulp are fermented for a period of days in large containers. Every few days, the beans get turned to ensure an even fermentation.
After the fermentation process has completed, the beans for both bars are processed in exactly the same way. So why on Earth has Friis-Holm gone to the trouble of creating two chocolate bars that to all intents and purposes are exactly the same?
You could consider it a simple experiment, but I like to think it’s to illustrate a simple point; namely that every single step of the chocolate making process has a tangible effect on the finished product. Some people may consider that factors like terroir, cocoa bean genetics or roasting time have only a minimal effect on taste, but Friis-Holm has made two quite different chocolates by changing the simplest of parameters.
The flavours of the two bars are quite noticeably different. The tasting notes on the twice turned bar describe it as
“Full body, nutty, black olives, spicy and complex. Very smooth finish.”
This turned out to be my favourite of the two bars. I’ve never been good at articulating flavour notes, but this certainly had the more complex and interesting flavour.
The triple turned bar’s tasting notes say:
“Straight, almost simple, classic chocolate flavour. Good pronounced acidity. Distinct notes of black olives and citrus peel.”
This is an accurate description. The flavour is much simpler and more gentle than the twice turned bar. The underlying deep, chocolatey flavour notes are present in both bars, but the chocolates themselves are quite different.
Both bars have an ultra smooth texture and are very approachable. I would happily buy either of them, but they are most interesting when purchased together. Tasting both bars together, you can really appreciate the difference that a single change in the chocolate making process can have.
It also serves to emphasise the skill of the chocolate maker, and the importance of having a direct connection with the cocoa farmer. Without that connection, Friis-Holm would never have been able to make these bars.
For another interesting comparison to this chocolate, take a look at Simon’s review of Duffy’s Chuno bar, which is made using the same beans.