No Longer in Production
Sadly, not all chocolate making endeavors last forever. Sometimes they were never intended to be a long-term project; people get busy with life, family, or other jobs; or the economics prove too challenging. These bars are not longer available, but the makers are worth mentioning.
Based in the lovely city of Madison, Wisconsin, William Marx makes bean-to-bar chocolate with fairly traded cacao and unrefined cane sugar. Sadly, Will stopped making chocolate at the end of 2022, but his range of interesting origins and unique style made his bars some of my favorites.
Nicaragua Tenor 85%
Aroma: Pleasant. Coffee beans, cocoa powder, cocoa shells
Flavor: Mostly earthy but a tiny bit of fruit. Ripe avocado, dry red wine with slight tannic notes, unsweetened cranberry juice, vanilla, wood, coffee beans, heavy cream, cocoa butter, flavor is light and fades quickly, leaving a clean feeling on the tongue. Relatively little inherent sweetness, slight bitterness, slight tannic dryness. Perfectly smooth melt.
Recommendation: Recommended. Unusual, unique beans, and Wm does a beautiful job bringing out their distinct character – you can tell the chocolate is well-made. I enjoyed this bar and would definitely recommend incorporating it into a tasting line-up. I can also highly recommend the Ghana and Venezuela Porcelana bars from Wm – some of the best iterations of those origins that I have had.
Batch info: Batch 263, 2018 Harvest, Best by September 25, 2020
Venezuela Porcelana 70%
Aroma: raisin, dried figs, butter, molasses
Flavor: Lovely unique, distinct but subtle fruit notes – peach, raspberry, honeydew, raisins, dried figs, grapes. Smooth and creamy chocolate flavors – hot chocolate, Nutella, and complex sweetness – molasses, crème fraiche, butter, honey, marshmallow, very slight licorice, hazelnut. Criollo mellowness but more towards the fruity side. No astringency, not bitterness. Great smoothly melting texture.
Recommendation: Highly recommended. The distinct but mellow fruit notes in this bar are really unique and it achieves a beautiful balance of complexity and mellowness.
Batch info: Batch 249; 2018 Harvest; Best by November 2020
Aroma: cocoa mulch, hint of cinnamon sticks, cinnamon cookies, woody
Flavor: Deep chocolate flavor like chocolate pudding, dark chocolate peanut butter cups, cinnamon sticks, cinnamon teddy grahams, soft lemon, malt, some brown fruit sweetness – raisins and fig jam. A soft pudding-like texture when melted. Very mellow – not bitter, not astringent, not tangy.
Recommendation: Recommended. A nice example of the distinct classic chocolate flavors of Ghana, with additional flavor notes skillfully brought out. A very pleasant chocolate to snack on or to include in a tasting.
Batch info: Batch no. 246, Harvest year 2016, Best by December 2019.
Honduras Wampusirpi 100%
Flavor: Super smooth, with a buttery, macadamia-nut texture. The tasting notes of avocado, walnut, and gruyère are right on point; also notes of graham cracker, pecan, and dry leaves. Very little bitterness or astringency, especially for a 100% bar.
Recommendation: I wish he was still making this so I could highly recommend it! Truly a wonderful 100% bar, so smooth and flavorful with no unpleasant bitterness. Instead, look for some excellent 70% Honduras bars from
Dandelion, Seahorse, and Crow & Moss make excellent bars with this origin.
Batch info: Batch no. 206; Best by December 10, 2020
Based in Spencer, Tennessee, David and Leslie Senk of Areté make bean to bar chocolate with beans from around the world - Uganda, Ecuador, Vietnam, Fiji, Belize, India, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, and Haiti. They have received several awards including from the Good Food Foundation and the International Chocolate Awards. They paused chocolate making in 2020 - hopefully they'll be back someday!
Madagascar Sambirano 70%
Aroma: soft, raisin
Flavor: An overall light, delicate flavor, brown fruit - raisin, red fruit, dark caramel, slight acidity, soft green flavors, a hint of walnut skin tannins on the finish
Recommendation: Recommended, a pleasant mellow Madagascar bar. This would be an interesting contrast to a more intensely tangy/red fruit forward bars such as Valrhona's Manjari.
Batch info: Enjoy by May 27, 2020
Based in New Orleans, Acalli sources beans directly from farmers to make a range of single origin bars, blends, and drinking chocolate. They stopped making chocolate in late 2021. This was one of the first bars I reviewed! I'm sad I didn't have a chance to try more of her chocolate.
Chulucanas Peru 70% El Platanal
Aroma: An intense floral smell similar to Arriba Nacional, notes of black or strong green olives, balsamic vinegar
Flavor: Starts out with some creaminess and floral and fruity notes - peach, grape and red wine, some acidity. Then distinct olive flavors emerge along with some woody, walnut-skin tannins. Intense and fairly distinct flavors build and fade quickly; some bitter black olive notes linger along with a little astringency. Overall a bit rustic and unrefined. The texture is very soft and it melts fast.
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations. It seems like the beans were good, but I wonder if the fermentation was a little off. There are certainly interesting flavors but the olive notes are a bit strong. It’s a young company and I will be interested to try some of their other bars and see how their process develops in the next few years.
Batch info: Batch #44, Best by December 2020
Patric, based in Colombia, Missouri, makes award-winning single-origin and flavored chocolate bars such as red coconut curry, mocha, and PB&J. Patric has won 23 Good Food Awards, but can be hard to find due to limited production. Alan McClure now focuses on food and beverage consulting and sadly, I can't find his chocolate anymore.
Salty Cow 58% Dark Milk
Aroma: cooked milk, herbal
Flavor: Very caramelly, pleasant saltiness, butter, toasted almonds, malt, slight tang, slight bitterness, mellow but complex; however, also a distinct musty flavor
Recommendation: Not recommended, with a caveat. There is a distinct mold flavor that detracts from the other pleasant flavors in the bar. It is possible that this was an issue with one particular batch of beans and will not be ongoing , but, I would not recommend it for the moment. Look for Spring Salted Milk from Fruition or Dick Taylor’s Madagascar Dark Milk instead. Or, try Patric's Madagascar 67%.
Batch info: Enjoy by June 23, 2020
Aroma: caramel, raisin, floral, dried fig and spices in the way that figs can have spice notes, anise, licorice, fig jam, powdered milk, mushrooms, brown sugar
Flavor: Complex, with mostly sweet fruit, floral, and dairy/buttery pastry flavors. Notes of grapes, Concord grape juice, sweet fresh dark cherries, Spanish fig cake, a Port wine sweetness, subtle juicy raspberries/raspberry syrup, blackberries. Dairy and pastry flavors range from vanilla and butterscotch puddings, vanilla buttercream frosting, vanilla cake, cookies, and buttery caramel to marzipan and blackberry almond frangipane. A vanilla, cookie/cake flavor lingers pleasantly for a long time. There’s a bit of a creamy floral note, like rose or jasmine green tea. A subdued flavor of damp soil/mushroomy funk like moldy blackberry, but not to an unpleasant degree, appears briefly in the middle but fades away before the end.
Recommendation: Highly recommended. Its nuanced, with many different flavors to pick out which makes it interesting to taste multiple times. It’s also fun to try a Madagascar bar with a different flavor profile, more delicate and buttery rather than bright and tangy.
Batch info: Enjoy by November 11, 2019
Madagascar 67% Dark with Habanero Sea Salt
Flavor: Rich chocolate flavor; the salt brings out a butteriness and pairs well with the chili, plus the large crystals add a pleasant textural interest. The fruity Madagascar cacao is also a perfect complement to the heat and keeps the overall flavor bright and playful, with no bitterness or astringency.
Recommendation: A really well-done chili bar. It’s too bad this was a limited edition! Hopefully they will bring it back.
Tanzania Kokoa Kamili 70%
Aroma: a little grassiness, red fruit
Flavor: Great tangy, juicy red fruit flavors and nice creamy lactic and berry tanginess with a smooth finish and long-lingering fruitiness. Nice round cocoa flavor. Some mild herbal astringency, tanniny – enough to make me wonder if its under-roasted, but not excessive. Texture a little chalky but melts to smoothness.
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations. This is a good bar made with great beans, but the process hasn’t been perfected yet. Several other companies make better bars with the same beans for roughly the same price; for example, Dandelion’s Kokoa Kamili bar is smoother and more refined resulting in a better expression of flavor. However, it’s a relatively new company and the overall experience was pleasant, no doubt due in large part to their care in selected great beans to start with. I imagine they will continue to improve and I will definitely try their bars again.
Batch info: Best by August 17, 2019
Venezuela Sur del Lago 70%
Flavor: astringent, strong raw peanut, unroasted nib flavor, little bit of fruitiness but overwhelmed by astringency, must, grass, sharp leaves.
Recommendation: Not recommended. This could have been an off batch, but it was quite bad. I returned it to the store where I bought it and forgot to note the expiration date but I believe it was December 2018.