Review: Manoa 69% Goat Milk Chocolate

Goat cheese on crackers

I recently watched a very cute video by one of my favorite chocolate bloggers, Estelle Tracy of 37 Chocolates, who was reviewing Mast Brothers’ Dark Goat Milk Chocolate. I’m linking to Estelle’s full video here and encourage you to watch it if you have time, as it’s quite informative. But to sum up her review, she thought the chocolate tasted a little TOO much like goat cheese for her taste (truth be told, it’s not the first time I’ve heard negative things about that Mast Brothers bar, although I haven’t tasted it myself).

That said, I did recently try a 69% dark goat’s milk chocolate made by Hawaii-based bean-to-bar chocolate maker Manoa and LOVED it. I couldn’t put it down.

Before I say anything else, it’s worth noting that I actually love goat cheese. Be that as it may, I never thought cheese and chocolate went well together (there are exceptions, like this salty Parmesan dark chocolate by chocolatier Xocolatl de Davíd, and this tangy blue cheese milk chocolate by chocolate maker Lillie Belle Farms).

But back to Manoa.

First, a brief description of the bar: this is a VERY DARK dark milk chocolate bar. Because of that, I’m guessing the percentage of goat’s milk powder in this bar is quite low. Even so, it packs quite a flavor punch — the bar is tangy and a little sour, in a pleasant way. While the bar did have the characteristic mouth feel of a milk chocolate — that awesome milk fat melt — it’s a surprisingly uncreamy (that really should be a word) milk chocolate bar, bordering on chalky.

What I LOVE about this goat’s milk bar is that Manoa doesn’t use extra sugar to camouflage the sour goat’s milk flavor. Instead they let the potent astringency of their beans balance the lovely, funky, earthy goat’s milk. The overall effect is an addictive umami deliciousness.

I highly recommend seeking out Manoa’s 69% Goat Milk Chocolate bar, which you can buy on Manoa’s website or at specialty chocolate retailers. If not, I know you can sometimes buy it here on The Meadow’s site (and in their chocolate shops in Portland and New York). If you do end up trying it, please email me or post in the comments section of this blog and let me know what you think.

And as always, happy nibbling.

Welcome to Chocolate Disorder (the new In Temper)

You may have noticed that I’ve updated the name of this site.

Why? Truthfully, I changed the name because I was tired of having a long wordpress domain name that nobody would ever remember. And the shorter version of my old domain name, intemper.com, was already taken.

Also, whether or not it’s true, I’ve heard that search engines favor blogs with domain names that explain what they’re about. So I wanted my new domain name to include the word chocolate.

But why Chocolate Disorder? Well, I thought the name reflected the somewhat obsessive nature of my preoccupation with chocolate. And it’s a bit tongue in cheek, not meant to be taken TOO seriously — just like the blog.

Also, as you may have guessed, I’m pretty sure I have one. A chocolate disorder, that is. And if you’ve read this far, you probably do too. 😛

Review: Chococurb’s Nano Subscription

Seattle Chocolate's birthday cake confection

I have something awesome to share with you today.

One of my (other) favorite chocolate delivery companies, Chococurb, has a brand new offering that, as far as I know, is unique among the competion: a MINIBAR delivery service. Dubbed the Nano subscription, each delivery contains five minibars for $10. $10!! That’s the price of one Mast Brothers chocolate bar in some cities.

Here’s how it works. You either buy one shipment for $10, or a 6-month or 1-year subscription for slightly less. Each shipment contains five chocolate samples, each of which weigh between 0.2 and 0.9 oz (at least in the shipment I received). Which means you are basically paying $10 for 2 oz of chocolate. Which admittedly is a lot. But you get to sample five new hard-to-find chocolate makers for the price of one Mast Brothers bar. And shipping is included.

This may give you a better sense of the size of the bars:

I think the Nano subscription is a great deal*. Especially for lazy people like me who are happy to pay an extra few bucks to sample lots of hard-to-find chocolate brands without leaving the house.

I also think it’s a great idea from the Chococurb team. As far as I know, Choco Rush, Cocoa Runners and Cococlectic aren’t offering comparable minibar subscriptions — at least, not yet.

Btw, the 6-month and 1-year subscriptions make great gifts. And if someone close to you isn’t a chocoholic (which, frankly, I would find hard to believe), well… it was my birthday last week. Just sayin.

*UPDATE 8/19/16*

Get 10% off your Nano box subscription until September 19th by using the discount code INTEMPER at checkout.

Was Seaforth inspired by Mast Brothers?

http://www.chocolatereviews.co.uk/seaforth-cows-milk-60/
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode
Photo credit: Garrett Ziegler via Flickr
http://www.chocolatereviews.co.uk/seaforth-cows-milk-60/
Photo credit: Lee McCoy via Chocolate Reviews

First, a disclaimer: I’ve never tasted Seaforth Chocolate. I have to assume it tastes better than what Mast Brothers was putting out the last time I tried their bars. I also have no reason to doubt Seaforth is (and always has been) a true bean-to-bar chocolate company.

The disclaimer is warranted because I’m about to compare certain marketing choices made by Seaforth to those of Mast Brothers. And, as many of you may know, Mast Brothers recently fell from grace after being outed last December for misleading consumers by selling remelted Valrhona as their own bean-to-bar chocolate. While the chocolate community was well aware that Mast Brothers had once made their bars out of industrial couverture chocolate (the texture of Valrhona is not something a bean-to-bar start-up company can reproduce without hundreds of thousands of dollars of specialized equipment), consumers were taken aback when they learned the truth.

So I don’t make the comparison between Seaforth and Mast Brothers lightly. And in all fairness, the similarities are almost entirely superficial. But that said, the similarities are significant. It appears that the new UK-based company is attempting to fill Mast Brothers’ big, hand-crafted shoes.

Let’s start with the less obvious similarities — the ones I would normally chalk up to mere coincidence. First, like the famous brothers, Seaforth’s chocolate has a maritime theme. And like Mast Brothers, the company claims to have sailed its beans from the Caribbean on a wind-powered schooner in an attempt to reduce its carbon footprint.

But I probably wouldn’t have noticed these similarities had it not been for the striking resemblance of Seaforth’s  packaging to classic Mast Brothers bars. The wallpaper style wrappers and square stickers are incredibly similar. And even Seaforth’s font choice perfectly mimics Mast Brothers. Take a look for yourself and tell me if you don’t agree.

Seaforth’s mold design:

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjchdzPs9XLAhVBJB4KHf5ACA8QjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.chocolatereviews.co.uk%2Fseaforth-cows-milk-60%2F&bvm=bv.117218890,d.amc&psig=AFQjCNGCR3rwOpJ_rJmrXoiNblYEcIS5EA&ust=1458774193299303
Photo credit: Lee McCoy via Chocolate Reviews

vs.

Mast Brothers’ packaging:

https://bluebergitt.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/choosy-about-chocolate/
Photo credit: Blue Bergitt

If you still aren’t convinced, compare these blurbs from the two companies’ marketing materials.

Seaforth’s sail boat:

The cocoa beans for this bar were transported from the Dominican Republic on board the Tres Hombres. This traditional wooden sailing boat has no engine but relies on the wind and the waves (to be specific the currents) to deliver its delicious cargo across the world. As a result, this bar is not only Fairtrade but almost carbon neutral as well.

vs.

Mast Brothers’ sail boat:

In May 2011, the Black Seal, a 70-ft schooner built by its Captain, Eric Loftfield, sailed down to the Dominican Republic to retrieve a shipment of cocoa bean for Mast Brothers Chocolate. In 14 days, the schooner sailed back to Mast Brothers’ headquarters in Brooklyn using only wind power. The Mast Brothers later boasted that they were the first since 1939 to sail cargo into New York City.

The Mast Brothers directed by Brennan Stasiewicz, from The Scout on Vimeo

So, what do you think? Inspiration or coincidence?

And, perhaps more to the point, does it matter that a smaller, newer company is borrowing to such an extent from a more established company? Chocolate makers and chocolatiers are often inspired by the marketing choices, packaging, chocolate styles, and flavor combinations of other industry participants. Maybe that’s okay. What do you think — when does inspiration cross the line?

Raaka’s 60% coconut milk bar

Raaka Coconut Milk Chocolate Bar

Raaka Coconut Milk Chocolate Bar

This, my friends, is what milk chocolate tastes like when it’s all grown up.

The other day I posted about my latest obsession: dark milk chocolate. But it wouldn’t be fair to write a whole post about dark milk chocolate without giving credit to the chocolate bar that opened my eyes to all this deliciousness in the first place.

Ironically, the bar in question is dairy-free.

Raaka’s vegan 60% dark coconut milk chocolate bar blows my mind. The texture is just… indulgent. I won’t go into a long flavor soliloquy full of words like “floral” and “fruity,”

Raaka Coconut Milk Chocolate Bar

because, well, I’m not training to be a sommelier. The company thinks it tastes like strawberries (it’s certainly fruity, but, seriously… strawberry?). To avoid being obnoxious, let’s just say it tastes awesome.

Note that this rave review is coming from someone who, until recently, hadn’t bought a milk chocolate bar in, I don’t know… a decade?

Funny thing is I’ve actually been avoiding Raaka for years too. I bought one of their super dark bars back in 2012 and wasn’t impressed with the texture or strong vegetal taste (if you’ve ever tried unroasted bean — or “raw” — chocolate, you know it’s a bit of an acquired taste). It seems like Raaka has upgraded their production equipment since then and are now manufacturing some really refined, top-rate chocolate. I’m glad I gave the company another taste.

Also, I appreciate that Raaka has the integrity to market its bars as “virgin,” not “raw.” But I’ll save my diatribe about “raw” chocolate for another post.

 

 

 

Obsession: dark milk chocolate

Chocolat Bonnat Surabaya Milk Chocolate

So, last night at around 11:30 p.m., this happened:

Cocoa Runners Invoice

What stands out right away as you look at this invoice?

Ok, other than the expensive shipping. And that it’s priced in British Pounds (thanks a lot, Cocoa Runners). And, yes, it’s weird to order ten chocolate bars in the middle of the night. Ok ok, besides all that.

I was hoping you might notice that eight of the ten bars listed above are of the dark milk chocolate variety.

But, what IS this dark milk chocolate stuff she speaks of?

A little industry background here will help. The FDA mandates that any bar labeled “milk chocolate” must contain at least 10% cocoa mass (btw, guess how much cocoa mass is in a Hershey’s Bar: 11%). In contrast, anything labeled “dark chocolate” must contain at least 35% cocoa mass (“bittersweet” chocolate usually contains >50%), and no more than 12% milk solids.

So, what happens if a chocolate bar contains more than 50% cocoa solids (cocoa mass + cocoa butter) AND more than 12% milk solids? Well… that’s dark milk chocolate. It’s a hybrid chocolate style that straddles the line between dark and milk without truly belonging to either category.

I know, TOTAL CRAZINESS. Mind blown!

I realize I might be the only person on earth who thinks the concept behind dark milk chocolate is so fricking cool. I know most people don’t sit around geeking out about chocolate for multiple hours a day. But if you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you like chocolate a lot. So do yourself a favor and pick up a bar the next time you get a chance. And for vegans out there, coconut dark milk chocolate is a real thing, and it’s delicious.

So, what should I expect from a dark milk chocolate? 

It will not be as sweet as a typical milk chocolate, since some of its sugar has been replaced by cocoa solids. But it will be creamier and smoother than most dark chocolate of comparable cocoa percentage (and do try to find the highest percentage of cocoa solids you can when you hunt for a dark milk bar — 60% is about right, higher is better).

Think about coffee — also a naturally bitter and acidic substance made from roasted seeds. When you add cream to coffee, the dairy fat and milk solids in the cream cut a lot of the bitterness and acidity of the coffee, allowing other flavor notes to shine through. Similarly, milk powder acts as a flavor modulator in chocolate, bringing out some flavors and muting others.

I’m hopeful that the dark milk chocolate fad will eventually improve the range of quality chocolate products available to consumers and spur the development of a new market for intense, flavor-forward milk chocolate. While we’re waiting for that to happen, I’ll be happily nibbling my way through the massive stack of chocolate bars arriving on my doorstep any day now.

 

 

 

Review: chocolate delivery services

Cococlectic Bean-to-Bar Box

Cococlectic box with Cao Chocolates

I lived in New York City for 12 years… and in New York, everything you can imagine can be delivered to your doorstep at any time, day or night. Online delivery services were such a staple of my life (breakfast delivery, dry cleaning delivery, grocery delivery) that the absence of even decent restaurant delivery services here (Seamless, get your act together!) made my move to D.C. more traumatic than it should have been.

But recently I discovered the holy grail of online delivery services: craft chocolate delivery. Several new companies are now providing chocoholics everywhere with doorstep delivery of hard-to-find, small-batch bars from craft chocolate makers all over the world.

I immediately signed up for two: Cococlectic and Cocoa Runners. Here’s what my experience has been like so far.

Cococlectic is a San Francisco based company that markets itself as a “craft bean-to-bar club.” Members receive four different bars of dark chocolate from one chocolate maker each month, with prices starting at $35.99 for one shipment (which comes with a $20 gift certificate towards a monthly subscription plan).

  • Cococlectic is for pure dark chocolate lovers only! They currently don’t provide the option of receiving milk chocolate or chocolate bars with stuff in them (inclusions).

    Cao Single Origin Chocolates
    Cao Single Origin Chocolates
  • They’re marketing themselves as a way for curious chocolate connoisseurs to find out about new, little-known or hard-to-find American craft chocolate makers. They do the leg-work and vetting, providing customers with a curated selection of bars.
  • The cost is reasonable, and I like being able to buy a no-strings-attached gift box without committing to a monthly subscription.
  • My gift box came VERY fast (in just a couple of days) and included four bars of different single origin chocolates from one chocolate maker: Cao Chocolates, from Miami, Florida. Since I’d never heard of Cao, Cococlectic did deliver on its promise of introducing me to a new chocolate maker that I probably wouldn’t have found on my own.

Cocoa Runners is a UK based company that delivers globally. Cocoa Runners costs about the same as Cococlectic (~$30 a month, plus a ~$5 shipping fee if you live outside the UK).

  • Unlike Cococlectic, Cocoa Runners doesn’t seem to provide the option to buy a single box… it appears you have to sign up for a monthly subscription to receive your first shipment. However, their subscriptions are cancellable at any time, so it’s not much of a commitment.
  • Cocoa Runners is more customizable: you can choose to receive either a mix of dark and milk chocolate, or only dark chocolate (they carry dark milk chocolate, which I adore, so I was very tempted to check the “milk chocolate” box). And when you sign up, Cocoa Runners will even ask you about your preferences for inclusions — do you like chocolate with nibs? berries? bacon?
  • Unlike Cococlectic, Cocoa Runners appears to provide customers with bars from multiple chocolate makers in each shipment.
  • Shipment is a tad slower than Cococlectic. Cocoa Runners ships the third week of each month, so I haven’t received my first box yet. But I’ll let you know what’s in it when it arrives.