To be perfectly honest, I was impressed enough that there was one place in Scotland making bean to bar chocolate, so I was rather surprised that Stirling also has its own bean to bar company – iQ Chocolate. Founded by Jane Shandley and Kate Hamilton, they’ve been at it for a couple of years and have a couple of more unique aspects to their chocolate to help them stand out from the crowd.
First of all, it is made from raw cocoa which has only been lightly fermented at low temperatures and not roasted. Scondly, they use Coconut Blossom Sugar to sweeten the bar and while that might not have much of an impact on the overall taste, it apparently has a very low glycemic index which makes it healthier and popular with diabetics.
And that is what makes their chocolate a superfood in their eyes – the raw Criollo beans from Peru are high in antioxidants and other nutrients so between that and the sugar, this is one of those supposed guilt-free bars. iQ stop short of making any real health claims, but the wrapper talks about this being “intelligent chocolate” and the bar itself is embossed with their tagline “for real smarties”.
I’m more concerned about the taste than anything else though because I’m not really expecting a bar of chocolate to have magical powers. It would be great if it did, but I’m a realist.
The bar does have that more raw taste to it and has a slightly grainy texture, but not in a bad way. At 72%, it delivers a nice bold taste and a lot of great earthiness, but like the raw Madagascar bar from The Chocolate Tree, the other notes feel a little muted and underdeveloped. There are hints of liquorice and molasses, but they lurk rather than dominate.
And that’s why this wasn’t my favourite bar I’ve had recently although some other people I shared it with were much happier with it. Some of the other bars from iQ have flavours like peppermint or cinnamon and cayenne thrown into the mix and I’m thinking that might be the extra dimension I personally need. But it is wonderful to see more Caledonian bean to bar chocolate.