Taza Chocolate is one of the newer chocolate makers here in the United States, and they have a really impressive idea and method behind their chocolate. Taza obviously takes great pride and care in their work, so the chocolate is not only organic, but it’s also made bean to bar using traditional methods from Mesopotamia America, where chocolate originated. How cool is that? Each bar is handmade in Somerville, MA where the factory headquarters are located. They even have a virtual tour on the website so you can see exactly how your chocolate is made. If that’s not interesting I don’t know what is, as I’m fascinated with everything chocolate and I love how they allow a peek into their processes.
I found these three bars, er, one bar and three discs in Chelsea Market on a recent trip to New York City. I was pretty excited to have found them, as I’ve heard so much about Taza chocolate and I meant to talk with them during last year’s Fancy Food Show, but missed the opportunity. Now at least I have some experience with their chocolate, so I don’t feel so out of the loop anymore.
I want to mention that the process of Taza chocolate that makes this chocolate taste like how our ancestors probably ate it for centuries before the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s. It was at that time machines were made to create enough pressure in the making of chocolate to fully pulverize the sugar crystals in the chocolate to give it that silky, extremely smooth texture we’re used to today. Taza grinds it by stone, so that the chocolate has a more gritty texture than what we’re used to. It didn’t matter much, as chocolate was still consumed as a drink before the advent of machines.
Taza Stone Ground 70% Dark Chocolate:
The bar comes in a simple, yet smart bright red wrapper. On the back there’s a batch # number and location of the cacao beans’ source, in this case it’s Dominican Republic. The ingredients read as: beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole vanilla beans. So simple, I love it.
The chocolate is wrapped beautifully in sturdy silver foil and wax paper. The bar is very dark with a gorgeous red undertones and a very, very subtle gloss. It smells extremely fruity of red berries, citrus with hints of coffee and vanilla.
The break is hard, but not clean, which is expected due to the unique conching process. The chocolate looks very gravelly and evenly textured.
The flavor is awesome. It starts off a little mild and dry, but very sweet with dominant notes of vanilla. Then the flavors creep out toward the middle with strong cherry and strawberry notes, none of which get too strong or powerful, but instead deliver a good tartness that balances with the sweetness. These flavors remain constant until the finish, where you get one last burst of tart from the berry and then a kiss from the sweetness to end it all. The aftertaste is fruity and lingers a little before disappearing.
The texture doesn’t seem too odd for me. Yes, it is a teeny bit sandy in my mouth, as I do get a little grain from the sugar. Overall, I didn’t pay much attention to it since it feels really natural, smooth and creamy to me. Nothing at all like Ibarr or Don Puglisi, which are two other chocolates that have this traditional texture. It’s very nice, but again, not terribly noticeable.
Taza True Cinnamon Chocolate Mexicano Disc:
This disci is just like the Mexican classic Ibarra chocolate. Chocolate mixed with cinnamon and sugar that’s formed into tablets for hot chocolate or eating. Even the style of the tablets are similar, as they’re split into pie wedges with the letters of the Taza name falling onto each.
It smells deep and roasted with notes of cocoa and coffee and a little earthiness. Then comes the spice, with the cinnamon smelling fresh and strong. The color of the chocolate is very deep with beautiful red tones and a attractive gloss.
The break is not as hard as most, and the texture is quite sandy, but not anywhere near as textured as Ibarra, where the sugar granules were as big a the ones in your mom’s sugar jar.
The flavor is very complex: it starts of sweet with notes of caramel and cream, then blossoms into extremely fruity flavors of red fruits and citrus. The finish is very tart from the fruit notes, yet mellows a little with some sweetness. All along this ride, the cinnamon delivers a constant sweet spiciness that compliments, rather than overpowers, the chocolate.
Oh, and as a drink, it’s lovely too.
Taza Vanilla Bean Chocolate Mexicano Disc:
Same signature texture here as the other two bars. The flavor is lovely, as it’s very earthy with a strong cocoa flavor with notes of caramel, strawberries, cream. Surprisingly, I don’t get much vanilla flavor in here at all. It’s horribly addictive, so much so that I ate it all as is, and didn’t get to test it as a drink. Oh well, guess I have to buy another!
I loved these bars and the textural differene the stone ground method really keeps this chocolate fresh and exciting. It was like eating a piece of history for me. I am really eager to try the rest of their product line, but I’ll have to be patient as I can’t find them in stores around me. Let the hunt begin!
Rating: Will Buy Again
Links Taza Chocolate
Continuing on with my reviews of all the Japanese Kit Kats I’ve acquired in the past couple of months. I’ve been following (and tasting!) the Japanese Kit Kats for a few years now (since 2006) and I have to say I’m impressed with the new and fun flavors they keep coming out with. When I began it felt like I was limited to green tea, red bean, strawberry and maybe soybean thrown in there. Now the flavors reach all over and I really can’t say what to expect next. I like that.
I was immediately interested in this Kit Kat when I first laid eyes on it online. I think the only other Kit Kat that got me so excited were the Pumpkin ones that came out for the past two Halloween seasons. I love sweet potatoes, so I was horribly curious as to how they’re lend themselves to this candy.
First, the sweet potatoes shown on the box is a type of dish called daigakuimo where Japanese potato/yam chunks are fried, then covered in a sugar glaze and black sesame seeds. If you ever get the chance to try this, and you’ll often see it in bento boxes in Asian markets, I do recommend it.
Ok, back to Kit Kat. The fingers have a wonderful light orange creamy color. They smell sweet and very strong of vanilla and cream. I’m reminded of thick homemade custard or pudding. The flavor mimics the aroma perfectly, as it’s very creamy, sweet and heavy on vanilla and caramel flavors. I’m sad to report I get no official sweet potato flavor here. I could get really disappointed by this and let it drag my whole experience with this Kit Kat. Yet, I find myself enjoying it for that really rich custard taste, so much so that I don’t care if it’s supposed to be sweet potato. It’s tasty just as it is. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the packaging that lied to me, not the flavor elements of this one.
White and Yellow Peach:
This bag of minis are white chocolate based peach flavored Kit Kats. The packets inside are colored either pink or yellow, yet I haven’t been able to taste a difference between the two.They certainly look different from one another though. The pink one is a creamy white, and the yellow a light orange color. For some reason slices of cheddar and American cheese come to mind. They both smell very juicy and peachy. I take a bite of one then the other, and I repeat the process a few times to just say they taste basically the same. The flavor is sweet, lightly of peach which is very juicy and floral with a perfumey smell. The flavoring isn’t too strong, and just enough ti cut the sweetness of the white chocolate.
Passion Fruit Kit Kat
This is an interesting little Kit Kat, as it was included as a bonus in a box of Nestle flavored coffee drinks. I’m guessing they’re some sort of Valentines Day release, as the packages are covered in hearts. This have a dark chocolate outside with a passion fruit creme between the wafers. The bitter dark chocolate compliments the intensely fruity, juicy tartness of the passion fruit. It’s nice with notes of pineapple, apple, cherry, plums, peaches. The bar is beautifully bright and fragrant and really, really tasty. I’m reminded on one of the old regional Tokyo Kit Kats that came out a few years ago that was also stellar.
The bar is has a milk chocolate base, nice and looks like a normal Kit Kat. It’s the smell that tells you there’s something different about this one. It’s a very bright smell of citrus with a strong tart note, and a kiss of hazelnut. It tastes like a normal milk chocolate Kit Kat, and despite the added flavors, and the chocolate remains the main flavor in this. It’s supplemented by very nice tart citrus note, it’s neither orange nor lemon. I also get a hint of hazelnut there too, which I find confusing as there’s no hazelnut in this Kit Kat. Very interesting. I really like it and overall I’m reminded of the flavors of Manner Biscuits that my Mom is crazy for.
Two thumbs up Japan! Keep ‘em coming!
Rating: Sweet Potato:
Will Buy Again
Links Kit Kat Japan Website
Guittard is one of those chocolate companies you start to hear more about one you dive into the chocolate and candy world a little more than your average candy eater. I didn’t really become aware of them until my love of candy went from “enjoy” to “enthusiasm”. Guittard works a little more behind the scenes than most chocolates, in a sense, as they don’t really produce a mass produced chocolate bar like Godiva, Ghirardelli, Lindt, Mars, Hershey’s, etc. yet you can find their chocolate most anywhere. For example, See’s uses Guittard chocolate to make all their confections, as does many other companies and bakers. You just gotta look for it.
Guittard also is a very groundbreaking company. They did a lot of work to establish themselves into Single Origin chocolates, Fair Trade chocolates, as well as the fight to “Keep It Real” when the FDA wanted to allow mockolate to take the same identity and the pure stuff. I admire them immensely for this.
I’ve been meaning to do a review of their work for some time and wanted to really express what wonderful chocolate work they do. I’m going to try and not overdo any of the tasting with too much information. Sometimes simple is best.
65% Madagascar Criollo: A delight to look at with it’s gorgeous temper and hard, clean break and classy red/brown color with a subtle gloss. The taste is nice and chocolatey, with flavors of red berries, raisins, coffee and caramel. Like many Madagascar chocolates, it’s not very acidic. It has a beautifully clean finish.
55% Hawaii: One of Guittard’s newest chocolates, using beans solely grown in Hawaii. It has a nice chocolate color that’s a rich brown. It has a beautiful snap and temper, and it smells of fruity, roasted coffee and berries.
The bite is slightly soft, as it’s only 55%, which is the range of all my favorite chocolates. The flavor is stunning. Strong flavors of milk, cream, and caramel at first. Then the main taste shows and it’s of sweet raisins. There’s a slight fruity crescendo in the middle of red berries, and the chocolate finishes lightly and completely clean on the palate.
And the texture? It’s so smooth and slick. It’s completely decadent. I love it, love it, love it.
Guittard Tasting Kit:
Sur Del Lago: A very “green” flavor of vegetables and mushrooms. There’s a cream flavor in the middle and has very sour notes at the end of citrus and spice.
Quevedo: Smells deep with floral, spice, woody and fruity notes. The flavor is lovely, notes of cream that evolve into fruity notes, with hints of dates and raisins. The aftertaste is slightly dry, but clean. I really liked this.
Chucuri: This one smells peppery and very strongly of “green”. Asparagus jumps to mind. The flavor is dry, yet sweet. Again, such a bright green flavor of asparagus, mushrooms, and some light herbal notes that remind me of tea. The aftertaste is a little musky.
Ambanja: The lightest of the four in color. The aroma is light, floral and fruity/citrusy and a little spice thrown in. It starts lightly fruity with woodsy notes that emerge into prune plum flavors with some cinnamon and allspice.
Overall, Guittard’s chocolate is just stellar. I buy the bars whenever I come across them, and I made some stellar truffles with them recently. Whether for just cooking, baking, or eating, you can’t go wrong.
Rating: Will Buy Again
Links Guittard Website
Another winter limited edition made by Dolfin. This one is “Cranberry and Maple Syrup in Dark Chocolate”. Out of all the flavors that were released, I looked forward to this one the most. I’ve always wondered how maple would work in chocolate, and I was hoping this bar would appease my curiosity.
The chocolate’s color is deep with purple undertones. It smells very sweet with notes of caramel, coconut, coffee, and cranberries. It’s extremely pleasing. The snap is firm and crisp with a clean break, save a few air bubbles.
The flavor is dry and earthy at first. It tastes of cocoa and caramel at first. Then the chocolate melts a little more on the tongue giving a thick, slippery mouth feel and a more intense flavors. I get pine and cream as the next big flavors. The cranberries and maple are chunks in the chocolate. The bits of cranberry are chewy and fresh with a nice tart kick. The maple flakes are crunchy and deliver a sweet hit, and sadly the chocolate washes out the delicate flavor so it becomes more of a crunch and texture.
Rating: Might Eat Again
Links Dolfin’s Website
There’s a lot to be said about intention, especially if it is positive. I’ve heard so many times that how we go through life is all about attitude and how we intend to see things. If we keep a positive outlook, we experience positive things. I’ve always considered gifts of sweets and chocolate to be good examples of positive intent. Gifts are an act of kindness, and chocolate is something that makes everyone happy (If it doesn’t, you must be an alien or something…). I was presented with these beautiful chocolates, these Intentional Chocolates, by my boyfriend. A very positive experience overall.
So what makes these chocolate specifically intentional? Well, these chocolate are created and, get this, prayed upon by Buddhist monks with this intent:
“Whoever consumes this chocolate will manifest optimal health and functioning at physical, emotional and mental levels, and in particular will enjoy an increased sense of energy, vigor and well-being for the benefit of all beings.”
Now I hear you chuckling at this hippy mumbo-jumbo. But these chocolates were researched and tested in labs, and have been proven to make people happier, less stress and a myriad of other good things then those who ate normal chocolate. You can read all about it here. I’m not one to argue with science, or with chocolate.
I was gifted a box of the Chocolate Raspberry Triangles. They come in a beautiful long, red box, one that I often see necklaces encased in. It’s simply packaged, with the box sliding from under the label and a snugly fitting top. The shapes of the chocolates is just as the name implies: triangles. They’re arranged beautifully inside the box, and they sit just so that nothing sifts or gets damaged. On top of each chocolate is an image of a stick figure in lotus position holding a flower. I find this terribly fitting and cute.
The shells are nice and solid. There’s some weaknesses in the shells, some have corners that are cracked and exposed. Usually that’s something I look down upon, but here it gives a nice, hand-made quality to the bonbons. Taking my first bite, I find the shell cracks easily releasing a smooth, creamy ganache interior.
The flavor has light raspberry notes that blend into the wild and fruity Hawaiian chocolate. notes of red berries, raisins, caramel, cream and a nice sour notes of raspberries and citrus toward the end. Very smooth and silky.
Ah, and I’m sure you’re all curious if I felt all the possible health benefits that these chocolate declare they give. Well, lets say I’m keeping a positive outlook and feeling good about how my past few days have gone. I don’t feel any more optimistic than normal, but when you look at it, that’s not quite how intent works. These chocolates provide a nice little nudge of motivation to be happy and feel good about what’s going on in your life. And I certainly do.
Links Intentional Chocolate Website