As their name would suggest, Cacao 70 makes several excellent single-origin 70% bars, in addition to several tea-inspired flavored bars - matcha white, chai dark milk, and early gray dark milk. Their bars have won several International Chocolate Awards prizes.
Based in Massachusetts, Chequessett Chocolate makes a range of single origin bars - Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Tanzania, Madagascar, Dominican Republic - plus a variety of interesting inclusion bars such as ghost pepper chili and white lemon and thyme.
Bolivia Beniano 70%
Aroma: Very soft anise, wintergreen, starch, slightly astringent
Flavor: Classic creamy and mellow Bolivian flavors – vanilla, marshmallow, corn masa, rice pudding, atole, blue corn. The flavor develops and releases soft red fruit and dark fruit flavors – blackberries, plum as well as soft spice notes - licorice, root beer. Some smooth, rich chocolate flavors emerge a bit more at the end – fudge, brownie. Sweet and slightly nutty – almost like the filling of peanut butter cups. A melting texture like butter mints.
Recommendation: Highly recommended.
Batch info: Lot 001180320, Best by May 29, 2020
Ecuador Costa Esmeraldas 72%
Aroma: cinnamon, dark roast, not particularly distinct, cocoa powder, fresh earthy like a cut raw potato, root cellar
Flavor: cinnamon, woodiness, some muddy/soil notes, toffee, intense fruitiness like fruit punch, candied mango, pineapple juice, lime zest, cherry, also faint green flavors – seeds, green banana but astringency is very slight. It starts out simple but lots of fruitiness develops as you taste.
Batch info: Batch no. 10123032
Madagascar Ottange Farm 74%
Aroma: umami, spices – anise/fennel
Flavor: some red fruit, earthy – dry soil, anise, caramel, cherry, slightly sandy texture, dark beer. Bright red fruit and caramel blooms nicely, especially when you let it melt fully and really develop the flavor.
Batch info: Batch no. 1; best before July 2020
The Chocolate Tree
Belize Black 100%
Flavor: dried wood, some dry toasty tannins, a little sweetness right at the end
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations. It’s not particularly exciting as a plain eating chocolate – there are better 100% bars if you are looking for something to taste on its own. However, it made fantastic drinking chocolate and chocolate mousse. The flavor pairs well with heavy cream – it is pleasantly mellowed but maintains a rich flavor - and the smooth texture ensures a velvety dessert.
Batch info: Best before March 18, 2021
Venezuela Porcelana 85%
Flavor: The richness of the cocoa butter comes through pleasantly, with notes of raw macadamia nuts, heavy cream, Brazil nut with skin, wood, cinnamon, hazelnut, cocoa powder, faint orange zest, biscuits, slight astringency. Some sweetness expands at the end. Some bitterness – not excessive, especially for an 85%, but slightly unpleasant.
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations.
Batch info: Best by March 20, 2021
Based in Łomianki, Poland, Chocolate Story (Manufaktura Czekolady) is Poland's only bean-to-bar chocolate maker.
Aroma: brownies, slightly mineral/ash note
Flavor: cinnamon, teddy grahams, chocolate cookies, toasty, coffee with milk. Little bitterness or astringency.
Recommendation: Recommended. This is a pleasant bar, not super complex but with a nice rich chocolate/brownie flavor. Also, exciting to try a bar from a Polish craft chocolate maker, the only bean-to-bar maker in the country!
Batch info: Best by January 21, 2022
Based in Amsterdam, Chocolate Makers sources beans from Peru, the DRC, and the Dominican to create their range of milk and dark bars and couverture chocolate. I found this bar in a chocolate shop in Amsterdam in 2019 but haven't tried them since.
Peru Awajún – 80%
Aroma: licorice, cornstarch, cinnamon, dry soil, toasted coconut,
Flavor: Satisfyingly bold and rich flavors: the kind of slightly cinnamon-y/woody bark flavor typical of Peru, orange rind, toasted almonds or macadamia nuts, black olive with a hint of fruitiness, a bit of a red wine bite in the back of the throat. Some bitterness and slight astringency. Faint fruitiness near the end. Good texture.
Recommendation: Recommended. It also makes marvelous drinking chocolate – it highlighted the toasted nut flavors and brought out a little tanginess.
Batch info: Batch 476, Best by April 10, 2020
Terreiro Velho Planation, São Tomé and Príncipe 75%
After everything we’d read about Claudio Corallo, we were super excited to taste his chocolate. Unfortunately, the experience was extremely disappointing. The aroma is reminiscent of tire rubber and erasers, with flavors like erasers and stale chocolate cookies and is inedible. Absolutely awful. Definitely do not recommend.
Batch info: Lot no. 167; Best before September 2021
Aroma: dusty earth, pleasant, toasty, malty, dark beer
Flavor: caramel, soft coffee flavor, overall mild. Very little bitterness, astringency, or acidity.
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations. Pleasant but very mild to the point of lacking character.
Batch info: Lot no. 667
Based in Montreal, Canada, Christophe Morel makes a wide range of decent chocolate bars, truffles, and more; note that they are not bean to bar. I tried them in 2019 and I wasn't impressed.
Aroma: toasted coconut, wood, cinnamon
Flavor: cinnamon, coconut oil, tropical fruit, dark roast, pudding-like texture when melted
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations. This bar has a homogenized flavor quality of mass-market chocolate with relatively few distinct notes. There are better examples of Ecuador’s unique terroir. However, the flavor is not unpleasant, and it made a good drinking chocolate.
Batch info: Best by July 2020
São Tomé 70%
Aroma: smoked meat, grape
Flavor: Rich chocolate pudding, some fresh wood notes – pine, juniper. Some tannins, slight grapefruit bitterness. Similar to some Nacional cacaos. Also an odd flavor like old flax seeds.
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations. Overall pleasant with a rich chocolate flavor, but relatively little complexity and distinctiveness.
Batch info: Best by July 2020