Origin: Costa Rica
Region: Hacienda Azul
Certs: Direct Trade
This is very much the Yang to the bright, acidic, and fruity Madagascar Yin. Dry, elegantly bitter, nutty and nuanced.
There is an interesting piquant ancho pepper aroma in the roasted beans and finished chocolate. The flavor starts off bracingly earthy and woody. After searching my vocabulary for just the right wood type (oak, cedar, fir?), an associate described it as lignum and I knew that was the perfect term. It is that flavor you get from cutting wood. A touch drying, a little astringent and well, simply well seasoned dry wood. After that there is loose leaf English black tea (no milk), a touch of macadamia nut and a little bit of IPA style bittering hop.
If you are sick to death of sweet this and sweet that, you are going to adore this chocolate.
Oh, the chocolate level - check the spider graph. It’s a solid 3.5. But it may seem a little less due to the bitterness and astringency levels. And the dead on the mark grapefruit acidity. And a note on all three of these characteristics. They are all developed flavors, not defect flavors. If you are not sure what I mean by that you are just going to have to taste it to find out. They are not disagreeable flavors, but they are certainly adult palate flavors. As I write this I realize I’ve finished the 50 grams of chocolate that I had in front of me, which is a complete surprise as I started off thinking I was not sure I liked it. Sort of like my first reaction to a really sharp ripe camembert or dry oaky chardonnay. I recall my first taste of both and was pretty sure I hated them…..only to discover their incessant calling and allure of ‘just one more bite’. I can live with that. I hope you discover the same siren’s song.
Hacienda Azul first planted cacao about 7 years ago in the town of Peralta in the Turrialba region of Costa Rica. Since then they have continued planting and expanding the operation with about 35 hectares planted with 30 of them being mature enough to harvest significant amounts.
The cacao is planted underneath native Spanish Cedar for shade. This provides both the cacao plants and native animal species an ideal environment. Organic practices are used including the application of beneficial bacteria and fungus to control most pests and limit fungal diseases. By reintegrating cacao pods into the soil around the cacao trees, the nutrients are replenished and organic matter is boosted.
All beans are fermented and sundried right on the plantation, resulting in very consistent quality cacao bean. After the beans have been dried, they are baggedin 60kg jute sacks and stored in a sealed and climate controlled containers to ensure they remain in pristine condition.
This is a bean that does not take well to rough treatment. That means no really aggressive ramps, plenty of time in the development phase and finishing phase (3 and 4 minutes respectively) with an EOR not much more than 252 F. The profile I used for the tasting notes was 12.5/3.0/3.5 @ 252 F. One profile at 256 F was overly tannic.
The upside of this is that the Behmor and Gourmia both will give you wonderful roasts, giving sufficient but aggressive profiles.
If ordering Brewing cocoa - it has been roasted and ground, with the husk, for the purposes of making a hot brewed chocolate drink, and is not suitable for making chocolate.
There has recently been a lot of buzz about various brewing chocolates. Choffy and Crio Bru are the two big ones that come to mind. I've received more inquires than I can count about what makes them so special, if my roasted cocoa beans will work and how one can make their own hot chocolate drink with minimum fuss.
Your tastes may vary but I recommend starting with the following proportions and times:
4 T/8 oz boiling water
Steep 5 minutes Press (assuming you are using a press pot - drip works ok too)
Enjoy straight, with milk (or cream) and/or sugar.
I have only included the cocoa beans that I found made a good brewing chocolate. Some like the Papua New Guinea for instance, where it is great as a piquant, smoky chocolate, simply comes through sharp and acidic when brewed. Finally, keep in mind this will not give you classic 'hot chocolate'. Brewed chocolate is a different, yet very enjoyable, animal - enjoy it for what it is, not for what it is not