United Kingdom-based Makers
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
Guatemala Cahabon 72%
Aroma: wood, hint of smoke, ash, acetic acid
Flavor: smarties, coffee grounds, quite citrusy and tangy, with tropical fruit and a slightly underripe note. Starts off a little odd but has a pleasant finish with notes of cookies and shortbread.
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations. It’s interesting, with some pleasant notes, and if you want to try a lot of different Guatemala bars it could be an interesting part of a tasting flight. However, we liked the Guatemala bars from Fresco and Goodnow Farms more.
Vanuatu Malekula Island 72%
Aroma: root cellar, cocoa powder, fruity brightness, cherry soda, tropical fruit candy, grape juice
Flavor: Sweet, with a nice mix of cocoa and fruit flavors. Almost candy-like bursts of fruitiness - juicy red fruit, citrus/tropical fruit, green grapes, pineapple; a distinct tanginess. Creamy and tart at the same time like cacao pulp or cherimoya. Also cocoa powder, chocolate cookies, hazelnut, Nutella.
Recommendation: Highly recommended. Quite sweet with good complexity. This bar could be 80 or even 85% and still be really nice as there is so little bitterness or astringency.
Batch info: Batch no. 0177 92; Best by December 2021
Papua New Guinea Karkar Island 72%
Aroma: cocoa powder, sweetgrass, hay, hazelnuts, a hint of smoke
Flavor: Lots of natural sweetness. Some red fruit, cherry, a little acidity. Also tangy tropical fruit with a nice creaminess, like a strawberry-pineapple-banana smoothie. Rich chocolate flavors – ganache, chocolate buttercream. A hint of earthy funk like mellow pleasant mushroom (note – not a mold flavor; a faint earthy richness that is common in beans from this region).
Recommendation: Highly recommended. A lovely range of flavors melding well, and the best example I have had of Papua New Guinea beans.
Batch info: Batch no. 0236 88; Best by February 2022
Solomon Islands Guadalcanal 100%
Aroma: cocoa powder, hazelnut
Flavor: so good! Very little bitterness or astringency; lots of natural sweetness, red fruit tanginess - raspberry. Macadamia nut/heavy cream richness. Outstanding!! One of the best 100% bars we have ever had. Cocoa powder, a light chocolate cake.
Recommendation: Highly recommended. Good flavor and a notable lack of bitterness.
Batch info: Batch no. 0176 80; Best before Dec. 2021
Philippines Minanao Island 73%
Aroma: wood, spice, earthy, raisin
Flavor: Sweet, fruity, dates, raisins, honey, caramel. A nice mix of fresh red and dried fruit. A slightly flat starchy note, but it doesn’t detract from the overall flavor.
Batch info: Batch no. 9176; Best by June 2020
Montezuma's is based in West Sussex in the UK. Founded in 2000, the husband and wife team make a range of milk and dark bars with unique inclusions such as orange & geranium, rose & vanilla, and lemon & coconut.
100% Absolute Black with Nibs
Aroma: cinnamon, toasted nuts
Flavor: Very nutty with a deeply toasted flavor - dark roasted almonds and hazelnuts. Hints of cinnamon and citrus. Little natural sweetness but also very little bitterness - quite snackable for a 100%, especially with the pleasant crunch of the nibs.
Recommendation: Recommended. It’s a great deal for the price and certainly a pleasant 100% bar.
Batch info: Best by: June 14, 2020
Jamaica Bachelor’s Hall 75%
Aroma: crusty French bread, saltines, graham crackers, a little dusty
Flavor: saltine crackers, seed flavors, stale cocoa powder, faint green and raspberry notes. No bold notes jump out right away. Smooth, low acidity, low bitterness, some lingering astringency.
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations. Pleasant, but a bit bland.
Batch info: 2015 crop
Madagascar Ambanja Criollo 74%
Aroma: toasted grains, malt, nutty, cocoa powder, figs
Flavor: Much milder than typical tangy Madagascar Trinitario, this mellow Criollo bar has soft raspberry, raspberry jam, and dried fruit flavors along with hazelnut, brownie and sunflower or flax seed notes and subtle pine, fresh grass, orange rind, and resin notes.
Texture is very thick, almost waxy but not unpleasant.
Recommendation: Recommended. Mild but pleasant and complex flavors.
Batch info: 2017 crop
Grenada Crayfish Bay Estate, Saint Mark 70%
Flavor: astringent, some starchiness, chalky, some slight brown fruit flavors like raisin but overall kind of unpleasant. Some bitterness.
Recommendation: Not recommended - possibly underfermented?
Batch info: Batch no. 91404, 2016 crop, best before August 2020
Based in England, Tosier makes a range of bean-to-bar chocolate from Belize, Bolivia, Haiti, and Colombia.
Flavor: a little astringent, some fruitiness, but not particularly distinct.
Recommendation: Recommended with reservations. It's pleasant, but doesn't offer much complexity or distinctive flavors. There are better examples of Bolivian beans.