Region: Saposoa (San Martin)
Certification: Organic and Fair Trade
Jam is the word of the day here. In the raw beans, in spades while roasting and in the finished chocolate. For me it brings me back to childhood, putting up grape jam and that thick, warm, tangy aroma that fills the room. The intensity is nearly unbelieveable.
The solid chocolate backbone has a clean cane sugar sweetness, a slightly higher bitterness over astrigency but with a great balance. No particlar low tones but not misbalanced for having delightly soft fruit tones. Some of the bitterness is tannin and that dry spice of warming spices like alspice and clove. Just a little.
Ok. Do I have you hooked? That really isn't why I started that way, but I need to bring something very important up.
Sorting. Do you know my stance? Don't do it. I'll lay out why shortly.
Have a look at the two spider graphs.
Sort and unsorted. No, they are not reversed.
Basically I went through and picked out the beans that obviously needed to come out. The dark ones. The odd ones. The flats and doubles. Mostly the not light ones. Although I have always advocated taking beans as they come, I'll admit even these gave me pause. I honestly thought I would have any exception to my rule.
Except it did nothing but reinforce what I've always said.
Hands down the chocolate from the unsorted beans was better. But a wide margin. You read the review above.
How did the sorted beans taste? The spider chart really tells the story. First and foremost it was astrigent. Unplesently so. The fruit was greatly diminsished. The chocolate was reduced. And overall there just was not much there. Sweetness was completely gone. And it tasted of bitter almonds, scorched walnut skin and grapefruit. Why? Of course I don't know for sure, but to my mind there are solid hints.
Perfumers have known this for some time. Great perfumes are not just flower extracts. They are not all rainbows and butterflies and unicorn kisses. They also have the tang of ozone, a little dirt under that rock and unicorn farts! Life is full of complexity and it is nothing short of pompous to think we know how to better it blindly based on nothing more than what we think it should look like. It is the same way that a masterpiece painting isn't just primary colors. It is exploding with nuance, variety and if you look really closely, some pretty unattractive colors.
I see no reason flavor should not be the same as smell and sight.
And remember. There is no one compound that smells like chocolate. It is a mixture of aromas that once combined makes us say Chocolate. What if some of those dark beans contributed to the cooked cabbage or potatoe chip compounds? No more chocolate!
I'll grant that beans that are fermented evenly and look nice that don't look like they need sorting are more often than not better than those that you think would benefit from it. But my issue is that once you have a mixed fermentation, by eye sorting just does not reproducabley correlate to better flavor. It unbalances it. It strips it of nuance. Or it does nothing.
Look, if you want to sort, knock yourself out. And if you do, and you like the chocolate better, more power to you. I'm just saying I personally have yet to find a bean that benefited. And any review you see here is based on unsorted beans. If you like the review, why would you sort?
Give it a try and keep your mind open. That's really all I'm asking.
These are a blend of beans (pretty obvious) from the San Martin region.
If you oven roast, I suggest the following. Pre-heat your oven to 350 F. Put a pound of beans into a heavy corning ware type container, about an inch deep. Put them in for 10 minutes, stirring at 5 minutes (and every 5 minutes after this). At 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 300 and roast another 10 minutes. Pull out a handful of beans for comparison. Turn off the oven and let the remaining beans set/roast for a final 10 minutes in the cooling oven. Remove them and let them cool. This should give you a nice light delicate roasted bean. Compare the two sets and see what you think and adjust your roasting from there.
For the Behmor 1600, load 2 lbs on P2 or P3 (1 lb setting) for 18 minutes. That should also give you a nice roast. If at a point it starts to smell sharp, you most likely are done or roasting too hot (if it's early in the roast).
From bean probes in a drum roaster, I like anywhere from 245-265 F. The lower temperature favoring brightness, the upper savory.
If ordering Brewing cocoa - it has been roasted and ground, with the husk, for the purposes of making a hot brewed chocolate drink, and is not suitable for making chocolate.
There has recently been a lot of buzz about various brewing chocolates. Choffy and Crio Bru are the two big ones that come to mind. I've received more inquires than I can count about what makes them so special, if my roasted cocoa beans will work and how one can make their own hot chocolate drink with minimum fuss.
Up until this point, I didn't have any really good answers. Now I do and am offering a selection of cocoa beans roasted and ground (with the husk) for the expressed purpose of making hot brewed chocolate.
Your tastes may vary but I recommend starting with the following proportions and times:
4 T/8 oz boiling water
Steep 5 minutes Press (assuming you are using a press pot - drip works ok too)
Enjoy straight, with milk (or cream) and/or sugar.
I have only included the cocoa beans that I found made a good brewing chocolate. Some like the Papua New Guinea for instance, where it is great as a piquant, smoky chocolate, simply comes through sharp and acidic when brewed. Finally, keep in mind this will not give you classic 'hot chocolate'. Brewed chocolate is a different, yet very enjoyable, animal - enjoy it for what it is, not for what it is not.