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Tasting Exclusive Chocolate: Cacao Review Collection #1

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Practice what you preach. Hammered into my head as a kid, this advice had lead to me making many questionable choices in the name of fine chocolate.

Just last month I spent $20 on a cheap hostel for the weekend, and then a few hundred dollars on fine chocolate around Seoul. It was all in the name of research, of course. But my chocolate love does have its limits; I wouldn’t buy something just because it’s made of chocolate or drop rent money on chocolate. When I invest in chocolate, I make sure that the rewards are not just on my palate. Other perks of craft chocolate include supporting re-forestation, increasing the wages of cacao farmers, and funding creative endeavors around the world. Enter: Cacao Review.

The chocolate education site & the people behind Cacao Review are Emily & Dayton, a chocolate couple based in Utah. They’ve long since been enrobed in the American chocolate scene, but only recently have they come out with their Underground Chocolate Club Collections (soon to be re-named). Each one of the bags is full of one-of-a-kind bars & confections. Only 200 of them were created, so it doesn’t get much more exclusive than Cacao Review. Check out the line-up below.

Eat Chic – Hazelnut Buttercups

Ingredients: 71% Raaka Chocolate (*unroasted cacao, *cane sugar, *maple sugar, *cacao butter), chocolate hazelnut butter (dry-roasted hazelnuts, *powdered sugar, brown sugar, pink himalayan salt, *cocoa powder, bourbon vanilla extract [water, alcohol, sugar, vanilla bean]; raw blanched hazelnuts; gold luster dust {* = organic}

[easy-image-collage id=8494]

Note that when I tried these hazelnut cups, they were nearly two weeks past the “best by” date, an unavoidable side effect of living in South Korea. This would explain the off, powdery texture of the hazelnut butter inside.

I’ll also freely admit that as pretty as these were, I was not all that impressed with the flavor. It was good, but there were so many sharp, astringent and bitter notes that it distracted me from enjoying the sweet and salty tones I was looking for. Actually, the mixture inside the chocolate was saltier and sweeter than the entire cup together, and enjoyable on its own— the use of Raaka’s strong-flavored unroasted chocolate may have been the downfall of these cups. It would be great to try something made with chocolate from another NYC maker, maybe Sol or Cacao Prieto. If they switched chocolate suppliers (no offense, Raaka!), I’d be willing to try a different variety of filled chocolate by Eat Chic, in the future.

Solstice – Marshmallow Drinking Chocolate

Ingredients: organic cacao, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, powdered sugar, gelatin, vanilla extract, corn starch

solstice drinking chocolate s'mores

Solstice is a Utah maker to look out for. I first tried their bars a few years ago, and they’ve been in the back of my mind ever since. This is actually a drinkable version of their bar featured immediately after this one, and honestly, it’s good.But once you mix it with milk, it’s just another good hot chocolate that I’d serve with a dollop of whipped cream. Its s’mores flavor becomes lost in the shuffle of milk & milk chocolate, and it settles into an enjoyable medium.

Solstice – S’mores Bar

Ingredients: organic cacao, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, whole milk, vanilla bean, non-GMO sunflower lecithin, gluten-free graham crackers, marshmallows

solstice chocolate s'mores bar on drinking chocolatesolstice chocolate s'mores bar closeup

This bar must have looked so appealing and seemed so out of character for me that on the flight to Korea, while bringing me these bars + some others, my sister ate half this bar. She snacked on the plane and miraculously managed to stop herself from scarfing down the whole bar, but honestly I couldn’t have blamed her. This bar is amazing. I’m only a little surprised that this is my favorite out of all the bars in this collection, but apparently my sister is. I’m a sucker for quality inclusions and a quality dark milk chocolate.

The sweet snickerdoodle smell wafting from this chocolate screams “quality inclusions,” and it’s only a surprise if you haven’t yet peeked at the ingredients list. The bits of gluten-free graham cracker & home made marshmallows dotting the bar contrast with crunchy and chewy goodness. The dark milk chocolate almost seems to have a cinnamon flavor in it, but that likely comes from the graham, which itself is not very sweet. This reminds me of sneaking an extra piece of chocolate onto my s’mores at camp, and eating it open-faced as the thick chocolate slowly melted in the top. The bar’s only downside is that it’s so munch-able, I ate my half in just 2 sittings.

Maybe if enough of us beg for it, this could become a regular product!

Dick Taylor – Vanilla Raspberry

Ingredients: *cacao, *cane sugar, *raspberry, *coconut palm sugar, *vanilla bean {* = organic}

[easy-image-collage id=8497]

Of everything in the collection, this is definitely the most visually striking bar. Although everything arrived to me in varying conditions of brokenness, all the raspberry powder and the Dick Taylor logos have maintained their rightful places. This special creation was actually made using Dick Taylor’s signature 73% Northern Blend as a base, with the freeze-dried raspberry & vanilla coconut sugar forming its own special blend on top. It transported me back to my first taste of French Broad’s raspberry truffles, in 2013, and the strong flavor that has somehow stuck with me.

Tasting raspberry side-down, the bright acidity hit first, and then the grassy berry flavor, with the lighter chocolate flavor carrying out the back. It brings a hint of bitterness before smoothing out, and everything blending together nicely. It’s like the raspberry chocolate fun dip of my childhood dreams. Even though you can’t taste any of the coconut or vanilla, the balanced raspberry and chocolate brings honor to my memory of raspberry truffles. This is a bar I hope to see become a regular, as well.

Map – Yellow Brick Road

Ingredients: cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic whole milk, Icelandic sea salt

Map is a maker I’ve had my eye on for awhile now. Fiji is a cacao-growing region I’ve been wanting to try for awhile now. The stars simply must have aligned with this bar. Mackenzie, the founder of Map, has been selling her creations since 2014, and her design-and-ethics focused products have rightfully taken over the internet. They’re beautiful and delicious, and this bar is aesthetically in line with expectations, though I was disappointed by the earthiness I got from the dark side. You see, this dark & light piece is a base of 72% dark chocolate made with cacao from Fiji, and caramelized white chocolate made with Icelandic milk powder.

Making sure to break off a bit of the middle, I smelled a milk chocolate but heard a dark chocolate. The salt hits first, and then earthy cocoa comes in and I’m reminded of a bar by Pacari. The white chocolate mellows out the thick cocoa flavor of the dark chocolate, but in the end you’re left with a gummy and lightly astringent finish. I want to really like it, but this Fiji cocoa was not up to par, for me.

Durci – Piura Peru

Ingredients: unlisted

durci piura peru underground chocolate 70 front of bardurci piura peru underground chocolate 70 closeup of bar

The final Utah maker on this list, Durci has put years of effort into turning this bar into a reality. Piura is a region of Peru known for having a high percentage of trees with criollo cacao in them, a rare white cacao with aromatic, delicate flavors. This bar unfortunately shattered in transit, but that didn’t stop my co-workers from oooohing and ahhhhing over it before I even had a bite. A few shards were left after it made the rounds, and after tasting it, I think I should have passed around a different bar.

Durci’s creation has a light apricot and milk chocolate aroma, with earthy cocoa undertones. The flavor is spicy and light with colorful acid in the middle, and a touch of bitterness on a short finish. With a good melt and a beautiful temper, this mild fruity chocolate should have probably been stuffed deeply into my bag. I’m saving the last couple of shards for a special occasion. Unfortunately, Durci ceased operations in 2019.

Raaka – Roasted Haiti

Ingredients: organic cacao beans, organic cane sugar, organic cacao butter

Known to most chocolate people as the un-roasted chocolate company, Raaka has released their first ever bar made with roasted cacao under the Cacao Review label. This bar is made with cacao from the PISA cooperative in Northern Haiti, the same cacao used by The Smooth Chocolator. In this bar I detect strong cocoa and subtle spice on the nose, and shortly after, the robust cocoa melts in your mouth.

I’m struck by a milk chocolate sensation with this bar. Although this is actually the company’s first time making a chocolate for sale using roasted cacao, I would have never guessed. The moderate finish leaves your mouth a little dry, but since you probably went right in for another bite, you won’t even notice until the end. The strong cocoa and creaminess seem to be characteristics of the beans from this cooperative, lending a positive reputation to both the makers and the farmers. I look forward to trying more bars from PISA, and more bars from Raaka.

Each of these craft chocolates was made specifically & exclusively for Cacao Review and their chocolate subscribers. I purchased my collection through their Kickstarter campaign last November, but the couple aims to release 1-3 of these collections each year. In this first mix they collaborated very successfully with half a dozen skilled artisans, and I feel lucky to have been able to take part in trying each of these bars. I truly can’t wait to see what they put out in the next box.

Tasting Exclusive #beantobar #Chocolate Cacao Review Collection | Dame Cacao

Which bar would you want to try first?

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