Richard from Chocolate & Love gave me this bar a while back and it’s been happily sitting in my “review queue” waiting to be scoffed. On Wednesday though, I had the good fortune to meet the man responsible for growing the cocoa, so I thought now would be as good a time as any to tell you about it!
The man in question is Frank Homann, CEO of Xoco Fine Cocoa. They’ve taken a uniquely scientific approach to finding and cultivating the highest quality cocoa beans in Honduras and Nicaragua, with the Trinitario beans in this bar coming from Northern Nicaragua. This video from Xoco’s web site explains a how they go about doing that.
Frank is an incredibly interesting guy with a passion for his work and a strong believe that high quality, rather than bulk cocoa is the way to help the poorest farmers make the most of their assets.
This bar is an example of that. It’s produced in very small batches for Danish chocolate company Friis Holm, and it’s quite unusual both in terms of taste and texture.
But the thing that struck me most when sampling this bar was how different it was from the one I sampled while talking to Frank. The bars looked identical, but were clearly from a different batch. The one Frank brought had an unusual leathery, tobaccoy flavour, whereas this one has a much more delicate fruitiness to it). And that’s despite the bars apparently being made from cocoa from the same trees by the same people.
What that shows is how important the treatment of the beans is after they’ve been harvested. The fermentation process in particular plays a hugely important role in how a finished chocolate tastes, and something as simple as how long the beans are fermented can have a marked effect on the final flavour of the chocolate.
One thing both bars had in common though was texture. The chocolate has a smooth, glossy feel on the tongue that’s quite unusual in itself. It melts quite slowly, meaning the flavours do take a while to come through, but once they do, they hang around and stay with you long after the chocolate has melted – that’s a sign of a great quality dark chocolate.
The Friis Holm bars are not cheap at all. In fact at £12.40 for 100g bar, it ranks up there with the most expensive chocolate in the world. But having had a little insight into the work that goes into just growing the cocoa, I think it may be worth it. If you’re serious about dark chocolate, you should definitely give it a try.