Origin: Dominican Republic
Region: Reserva Zorzal
Type: Hispanola - Trinatario
Certs: Certified Organic and Direct Trade
This year is yet another glorious fruit bomb. It is a touch more restrained and elegant the previous years but still big and beautiful. The aroma is saturated with cherry and raspberry and a sweetness that is on the verge of cloying. It makes me think of Magnolia. It is mouth wateringly intense. It is big and bold but also very well rounded and not sharp at all.
The flavor of cherry comes charging out of the gate with the cherry liquor Kirsch right on its heels. Overall it is a low acidity, or maybe it is simply that the fruit is so high that is seems lower than it is. The cherry is tart cherry. Once all that starts to fade away there are touches of apricots and peach.
The cherry turns to notes of sweet, heavy burnt sugar on the end that does an admirable job of balancing the sweetness and fruit. It is a balancing bitterness. The flavor ends on a lower note with just a little earthiness and just the barest hint of light toast. That smell just after you melt and caramelize the sugar on a Crème Brule.
Oh, the chocolate. Sorry, I was distracted by the fruit. Yep, chocolate there. Pretty typical of Hispanola, but missing that very dry tannic note and dustiness I often see. This is clean and has a great clarity of flavor. The mouth feel is unsurprisingly full.
This is a cocoa bean you can feel really good about.
First, it makes wonderful chocolate. Fine bean-to-bar makers like Blue Bandana, Hummingbird, Dandelion Chocolate, Raaka, Parliament, Cacao Sante Fe, and ChocoSol, make signature bars out of it.
Second it’s direct trade. We buy it directly from Zorzal Cacao with no middlemen. Charles Kerchner is a consulting forester who worked in the DR in the Peace Corps. He fell in love with the landscape, and at the time also fell in love with cocoa (he was a Chocolate Alchemy customer back in our early days). Working with partners and landowners in the DR, they formed a team that initiated the first private reserve in the Dominican Republic, as part of the National Protected Area System. Reserva Zorzal has become a model for private landowners to participate in landscape-level conservation.
Third it’s organic. Zorzal Cacao has a story that goes well beyond just being organic and direct trade. Reserva Zorzal has set aside 70% of its 1,019 acres as “forever wild”, devoted to the wintering grounds of Bicknell’s thrush, which of course benefits biodiversity and many other species. This rare and threatened bird breeds on remote mountaintops in the Northeastern United States. Seeing or hearing one is a rare treat even for experienced birders, and its habitat in dense hemlock forests makes even getting the chance of seeing one or hearing its nasal trill the thrill of a lifetime. It winters in the DR, where it is called the Zorzal de Bicknells, in the dense cloud forest, and because its habitat is shrinking both in its wintering grounds and breeding grounds, cooperative efforts between conservation organizations in the United States and the DR are forging real progress in maintaining populations of this rare songbird.
This is a versatile bean. Roasts taken to 240-245 will have fewer caramel notes but may lack chocolate notes. 250-255 F brings out the chocolate. 260-265 really allows this bean to sing. There is fruit enough to carry through whatever you do.
I personally like this bean roasted a touch heavier than many. In general, try giving this bean an extra 2-3 minutes roasting at a slightly hotter (10-15 F) temperature than you normally would for many beans and see what you think. I wait until I hear a few beans popping, and still give it a 2-3 minutes.
I've used this oven roasting profile to good success:
Pre-heat your oven to 370 F. Put a pound of beans into a heavy corning ware type container, about an inch deep. Put them in for 15 minutes, stirring at 5 minutes (and every 5 minutes after this). At 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 330 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 medium roasted bean. Compare the two sets and see what you think and adjust your roasting from there.
If roasting in the Behmor, roast 2 lbs and use P1 on the one pound setting, for 19-20 minutes or until you hear a pop or two. Then take it longer. 2-3 minutes. It is virtually impossible to over roast in the Behmor with 2 lbs in there.