We knew the 2022 collection had to be top notch to give our 2021 boxes a challenge. We couldn’t resist some of our favourite beautiful bars. This month we’re tasting breathtaking bars from Californian’s 9th & Larkin (San Francisco), Dick Taylor (Eureka), Hogarth Chocolate Makers (Nelson, New Zealand) and Birdsnake (Melbourne)!
It all starts with the packaging. As you are trying to decide which bar to buy or open first it’s the packaging that will dictate which bar you pick up first. Even the simplest and basic versions of packaging give you a sense of the chocolate maker’s style. They often tell the story of the chocolate maker (or the bar). Sometimes a subtle hint, sometimes in your face obvious (or impossible to ‘un see’ once you know). Packaging often hints to the back story of chocolate. Regardless, holding the bar and exploring the packaging is the first step of your craft chocolate experience. It’s also really interesting to see how a chocolate maker’s packaging evolves over time.
Almost as soon as a chocolate makers can afford it, a custom mould is on the shopping list. Again, this is an opportunity for the chocolate maker to add to the experience. It can tell the story of the chocolate maker but often just a spectacular work of art. An exceptional mould has a side benefit, we end up studying the details and whilst doing so the aromas of the chocolate tease and awaken our senses. So not only are moulds beautiful they often help you taste the chocolate better. Once you become experienced at inspecting chocolate you actually spend just as much time studying a plain mould – there is beauty in simplicity!
To the makers and bars we’re sharing this month…
9th and Larkin chocolate is elegant. The paper wrapping your bar was created using paint-covered cacao pods. The paper literally tells the origin story of the chocolate origin. This time around everyone is trying the Tanzania bar, the mould is a modern artwork. The cacao sings in the nature of Kokoa Kamilli beans, there’s a little bitter punch left in the chocolate but it’s mellowed by the hints of berries, apple and plums?
We couldn’t resist pairing this bar with the Birdsnake chocolate Tanzania bar, it’s a fresh batch also made with beans from Kokoa Kamilli. It’s so fun to compare two chocolates made with the same beans by different makers. Two different yet delicious outcomes. What did you think? The Milk / some mixed subscribers enjoyed Fred’s coco nut mylk bar (all their bars are vegan). The superhero mould is superb but we fell in love with the bird-snake design – it is a trow-back to the central American origins of chocolate “cacao was originally given to humans by a giant feathered serpent“. The design is a work of art and will entertain your imagination whilst you enjoy the chocolate!
It had also been a few years since we had our regional favourite, Hogarth Chocolate makers in our subscriptions. In 2021 we started keeping a regular stock of these bars (we feel somewhat sad when we don’t have any here to include in gift boxes) – The old packaging has been upgraded to a clean shiny box instead of embossed paper. It’s the same design but we love the new rainbow colours whipping the boat along. We imagine the sea off the coast of New Zealand gets wild sometimes and this is a nod to what Karl Hogarth used to do before he started making chocolate. The mould is the same theme and deserves to be framed on a wall (locked in a box so you can’t get to it). We’re tasting the Peru, Ecuador 85% and his world famous Buttered Toast and Sea Salt (not in the photo as the spare bars disappeared too quickly – all good, we have more now).
One of Alison’s favourite bars of all time is Dick Taylor‘s Madagascar, whenever Chris knows she needs something special, these bars are on the shopping list. Adam and Dustin were boat builders before discovering craft chocolate and diving in back in 2010. The Madagascar bar packaging hints back to their past life. The Vanilla Milk Chocolate bar shows the farm where the local milk powder comes from. The box is divine, it is framed and could be the art if it wasn’t for the spectacular mould. Chris calls it the stained glass window of craft chocolate. When we met Adam back in 2018 and did a chocolate tasting with a few of our Sydney Subscribers he said it’s actually a great mould from a production point of view too – chocolate needs shaking to remove any air bubbles but the details in the mould help the chocolate settle and aid it releasing cleanly.