Canada’s Soma Chocolatemaker is one of our very favourite bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturers, and their Chuao 70% bar is one of their best creations. Michael and I managed to get our hands on two bars from the same batch, and frankly, we both wanted to have our say.
So we did.
Your reaction to the word “Chuao” is a good indicator of how much time you spend thinking about chocolate. Apathy means you are probably happy with a big bar of Galaxy or Hershey’s every now and again, but a gasp means you are probably writing chocolate reviews for a website on a weekly basis. I would fall into the latter category.
Every year, the Chuao plantation in Venezuela produces a small amount of really, really good cocoa beans, so when they get turned into chocolate, it should – in theory – be really, really good chocolate. Chuao bars aren’t all that common because there just isn’t that many of the beans kicking around, hence things like the limited edition, hand-numbered bar produced by Amedei, but they are out there if you look hard enough.
Or you could just look towards Toronto’s Soma Chocolatemaker because they do all the heavy lifting and make a rather delightful Chuao 70% bar. I must admit before I even start, I’m a big fan of Soma and their Dark Fire bar is right up there in my personal Top Five, but even I wasn’t prepared for this because this is a spectacular bar.
As soon as the foil pouch is opened, the aroma comes flooding out – deep and rich, with lots of fruity tones. The ingredients on the label are cacao beans, organic cane sugar and cocoa butter, in that order; there’s no vanilla or anything else to mess with the flavour. The chocolate is less dark than I’d expected with just a touch of glossiness, but I really wouldn’t care what colour it is because it tastes so good.
It has layer upon layer of flavour, with the fruit rushing to front and balancing out the bitterness that comes with any higher percentage. And then there’s all those other notes coming in from time to time – the label mentions toasted almonds which I didn’t really get, but I’m more than happy to agree with their suggestion of figs and would toss in blackcurrant and a touch of woodiness too.
It is hard to pin down exactly what it is that makes it so wonderful, but there’s a delicate complexity that turns every bite into an adventure. I really wanted to save some for another day, but I ate it all in one sitting because I simply couldn’t stop. Soma’s Chuao bar comes with the highest possible recommendation – you simply have to hunt this down.
My bar was a gift from the lovely Judith, who was kind enough to bring it back from Toronto after a recent visit. Having previously tried a small sample from a different batch, I was really looking forward to getting my hands on more.
Soma’s foil packaging is distinctive and serves to completely seal the chocolate in. I don’t know if this is actually better than wrapping in paper, but it does mean that the moment you cut the pack open, you’re greeted with the amazing, fruity aroma that Michael mentioned.
As Michael also said, there’s only three ingredients in this bar, which means there’s no emulsifiers in there. This means that the surface maybe isn’t quite as uniformly glossy as some bars, but it does mean you get an unadulterated chocolate experience (as well as one those sensitive to soy can enjoy).
The taste is… well, the taste is divine.
It has all the rich, earthy notes you’d expect from a dark chocolate, with absolutely none of the bitterness. On top of that, there are wonderfully sweet, fruity notes that lift it to another level. It’s sweet and citrussy, but not as jarring as some of my favourite Madagascan chocolates can be. It’s intense, but smooth.
I didn’t particularly pick up on the almond or fig notes the label suggested, but I’ve never been great at describing the individual flavour notes within chocolate. But I do know what works, and this works as well as any chocolate I’ve tasted in the last five years.
Is this the best chocolate in the world? Well that’s entirely subjective, but it’s certainly my new favourite dark chocolate bar. It’s one that every chocolate lover absolutely must try.
We’re hoping to be able to help organise a UK distributor for Soma, but in the mean time, if you have to beg, borrow, steal or sell vital organs to get hold of some, then that’s what you should do.