Tuesday, January 17, 2017

DAR Chocolate: Bean to Bar Chocolate in Denver, Colorado

Gila and Joel Dar learned the craft of chocolate making in Costa Rica, while living there on the Caribbean coast a few years back. Many of us chocolate makers taste chocolate here in North America and are inspired to create our own. And others, the lucky ones like Gila and Joel, are inspired directly by the cacao - a key ingredient in chocolate - while visiting or living in the countries that produce cacao and its resulting cocoa beans.

They now use the skills they learned in Costa Rica to make chocolate from bean-to-bar in Denver, Colorado. They focus on crafting single-origin chocolate, with a line-up of bars made from cocoa beans grown in different countries, including Costa Rica.

The chocolate bar that I tasted last week was a 72% dark chocolate made from 'Camino Verde' Ecuadorian beans. It is sweetened with coconut sugar. So it has a slightly bitter taste, as is the case with many chocolates made with coconut sugar. And it has hints of nuts, some walnut and pecan, a slight black liquorice taste, and to me, an upfront taste of baked coconut. The chocolate has a nice smooth texture and thin shape, ideal for a refined chocolate tasting.

Gila and Joel chose coconut sugar for a variety of reasons, but nostalgia is a big part of that choice. When they lived in Costa Rica, a friend of theirs was extracting coconut oil in his backyard, with an open fire. That memory is brought on by the smoky notes of coconut sugar in their dark chocolate.

They are also using coconut sugar as an alternative sugar, with a lower glycemic index to cane sugar, to make their chocolate healthier. Many chocolate makers are using coconut sugar these days as a way of reducing the blood sugar spike we experience from cane sugar. It does change the chocolate flavour in some ways, often with the effect that brown sugar would have when replacing white cane sugar - slightly more bitter in taste. It also often leaves behind a coconut flavour in chocolate. As people switch, many are becoming used to this taste. Others using coconut sugar include Hexx Chocolate of Las Vegas and the Chocolate Alchemist.

DAR also offers a 90% dark Ecuador bar, as well as other origins in the 70% range, such as a 76% Costa Rica, 72% Vietnam and 72% Venezuela. A blend bar is also available, as well chocolate with inclusions. Buy these in a handful of local Denver stores or online at: http://www.darchocolate.com/shop.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Ultimate List of Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Makers in the UK : Craft Chocolate in Britain is at an all-time high

Bean-to-Bar chocolate or 'craft chocolate' has been steadily increasing the U.K. for some time now and it seems that all sorts of amazing chocolates are being launched, produced and celebrated regularly.  In fact, I wonder at times if it is out-shining the American craft chocolate movement, but yet I don't see the same number of articles about its seemingly rapid growth or status as a 'movement'. The Academy of Chocolate Awards and International Chocolate Awards seem to be growing steadily in popularity. And so, I think a list will help all those interested in tasting the amazing bean-to-bar chocolate coming out of the United Kingdom these days.

I have split the list of UK bean-to-bar chocolate makers it out into regions by country (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), but if this is somehow not a correct way to divide, please tell me in the comments below. I`ve been to the UK only once or twice, so my awareness of what is politically correct may be limited.

Only Northern Ireland is included below, since The Republic of Ireland is a part of Europe and will be included in a future list of European chocolate makers (description is needed for us North American folks who are regularly confused about which Ireland is being discussed).

This list is not yet complete, but I will add to it as I learn of others. Please feel free to add your favourites or your chocolate company in the Comments feature below, and I will update the list with them as soon as I can.

So let's enjoy some British chocolate!

British Bean-to-Bar Chocolate


Akesson's Chocolate (London, UK) - Delicious chocolate with many bars being made from tree-to-bar, since Bertil Akesson owns plantations in Madagascar, Brazil and Indonesia. This chocolate is a must-try! http://www.akessons-organic.com/

Artisan du Chocolat (London, UK) - Bars, truffles and other products made from bean to bar. Follow on Twitter at: @artisanchocolat  www.artisanduchocolat.com

Aztec Gold (Oxfordshire, UK) - Makes organic, raw, vegan, bean-to-bar chocolate bars. Follow on twitter: @AztecGoldChoco1 Website: www.aztecgoldchocolate.com

Beau Cacao (London, UK) - crafting chocolate from Malaysian cacao through direct sourcing of cocoa beans, to ensure 'full transparency' of their products and ethical practices in chocolate making. Currently offering dark chocolate bars in the 70% range made from single origin cacao. www.beaucacao.com

Blackboys Chocolate (Blackboys, East Sussex) - This chocolate maker is concerned about using organic and pesticide-free ingredients, as well as donating 5% of income to bumblebee conservation. Website: www.blackboyschocolate.com Twitter: @BlackboysChoc

Bullion Chocolate (Sheffield, South Yorkshire) - crafting single origin chocolate from bean to bar. Twitter: @OfficialBullion Website:  www.bullionchocolate.com

Damson Chocolate (Islington, London, UK) - Chocolate blogger, educator, and judge Dom Ramsey teamed up with chocolate enthusiast Tom Millson in early 2015 to create Damson Chocolate, after both had been experimenting with bean-to-bar chocolate making at home for some time. Already winning awards, Damson is producing interesting selections such as three different percentages of Buffalo milk chocolate bars with high cocoa solids, barrel-aged whisky milk chocolate, blended and origin dark chocolate bars.  Twitter: @damsonchocolate www.damsonchocolate.com

Doble Bignall (Cheltenham, UK) - making artisan, fair-trade, single-origin chocolate Follow on social media at: @DobleBignall Website: www.dobleandbignall.co.uk

Dormouse Chocolates (Manchester, UK) - "Manchester's first and only bean-to-bar chocolate maker." Also making bars and truffles with their "favourite single origin chocolate". Twitter @Dormousechocs www.dormousechocolates.co.uk

Duffy's (Cleethorpes, England) - "Single origin artisan chocolate bars made from cacao sourced from different regions all over the world." I've tasted two of Duffy's chocolate bars and they were excellent. Twitter: @duffyredstar  http://www.duffyschocolate.co.uk/

Ekuma Chocolate (London / Ecuador) - The web page is under construction, so waiting on more info for this listing now. Follow on Twitter: @EkumaChocolate Website: www.ekumachocolate.com

Hotel Chocolat - Not so sure this brand can be called 'craft chocolate' given the growth in size and popularity of Hotel Chocolat, but they still make chocolate from bean-to-bar that Brits seem to love. I dream of tasting it someday. http://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk @HotelChocolat

Hygge Chocolate (East, England) - Coming Autumn 2016: "Bean to bar chocolate maker from single origin sustainable cocoa beans". www.hyggechocolate.co.uk 

J. Cocoa "chocolate crafted in West Sussex from bean to bar stone ground and hand tempered" @JCocoaChocolate www.jcocoa.ca.uk

Land Chocolate (London, UK) - "Award-winning bean to bar chocolate in the heart of Bethnal Green." Twitter: @land_choc Website: www.landchocolate.com

Lucocoa Chocolate (London, UK) - Making bean to bar chocolate with no refined sugar in a variety of single origins,  as well as blonde chocolate and dark milk chocolate. Twitter:  Website: www.lucocoachocolate.com

Maza Chocolate (United Kingdom) - 'nutritious handmade chocolates sweetened naturally' with Palmyra nectar. www.mazachocolate.co.uk

Ottar Chocolate (Welbeck, Nottinghamshire, England) - Chocolatiers and pastry chefs who are now embarking on a bean-to-bar 'adventure'. www.ottarchocolate.com

Pump Street Bakery (Orford, Sufolk): Award-winning bean-to-bar chocolate, along with a rather famous bread and pastry shop. I have tasted this chocolate, and I LOVE it.  The quality is truly there. BBC Best Food Producer 2012. Twitter: @pumpstbakery www.pumpstreetbakery.com

Solkiki Chocolat (Dorset, UK) - Twitter: @SolkikiChocolat www.solkiki.co.uk

Tadzio Chocolate (London, England) - Bean-to-bar chocolate maker in London. Twitter & Instagram: @tadziochocolate www.facebook.com/TadzioChocolate

Willies Cacao (Devon, UK) - Both cacao farmer (in Venezuela) and chocolate maker in Devon, also sourcing beans from around the world.  I have tasted about three of this chocolate makers' bars, and I have enjoyed them thoroughly. We can purchase in Canada at www.latablette.ca. Follow on Twitter at: @WilliesCacao Website: www.williescacao.com

Rococo Chocolates (London, UK) - they own their own cocoa farm in northern Grenada and sell all sorts of luxury chocolates and chocolate bars, as well as chocolate-related items on their website. Follow on Twitter at: @rococochocs Website: www.rococochocolates.com


Baravelli's (Conwy, Wales) - Bean to bar chocolatiers with "multi award winning confection" and a Twitter description that includes: "nice people" (I love that!). Making chocolate in the beautifule market town of Conwy, wales. www.baravellis.com or follow on Twitter at: @Baravellis

Forever Cacao This Welsh chocolate maker focuses on stone-ground, raw chocolate from Criollo beans of Peru. The chocolate is sweetened with organic coconut sugar, for maximum health benefits. Twitter: @ForeverCacao  Website: www.forevercacao.co.uk


Chocolate Tree (Edinburgh, Scotland) - "Scottish craft chocolate made from bean to bar using premium heritage cacao from Madagascar, Peru and Venezuela." Also, cacao is directly traded. Milk chocolate, dark-milk chocolate, coconut milk chocolate (dairy free, no cane sugar) dark chocolate and 100% available.  Twitter: @ChocTree Web: www.choctree.co.uk

RavenFoodie (Glasgow, Scotland) - making luxury vegan chocolate in Scotland. Twitter: @RavenFoodie Website: www.ravenchocolate.co.uk

Northern Ireland

NearyNogs Stoneground Chocolate  - "N. Ireland's first Stone Ground Craft Chocolate Makers! Small-batch Bean to Nar Adventurers!" Website: www.nearynogs.com Instagram: @NearyNogsChocolate


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Where is all the chocolate and cacao in Cuba?

I arrived back just yesterday from a week-long trip to Cuba. And if you know anything about me, or this blog, I usually travel for chocolate. But this was a family trip, so I went with the group on our tour destinations in Cuba. In fact, when booking the trip, Sunwing Vacations gave us a list of the tours we could take, and none of them included a trip to a cacao plantation (our resort was about 300 km away from the nearest one, so that was understandable). So we booked a 'Taste of Cuba' day trip, and I simply hoped that cacao would be a part of the foods that we explored.

When we arrived at the resort, I learned there was, in fact, an overnight trip to Baracoa, the region where cacao grows. But by then we had our plans made and I didn't want to make changes. I figured, surely if cacao grows in Cuba, there will be some chocolate or cocoa beans available at the tourist shops, especially since Holguin was close to Baracoa (comparative to the other destinations most people visit in Cuba). But I was very, very wrong.

The "Taste of Cuba" day trip had less to do with food than I thought. There was a moment, on a Cuban farm where I thought I saw some cacao cut open on a table with other regional foods. But as I got closer, I quickly realized it was another fruit that looked similar to cacao when cut open, called Guanàbana. Although I was disappointed it wasn`t cacao, I learned about a new fruit, and discovered how delicious Guanàbana is. The fruit flavour is so potent, it reminded me of the strength of flavor in Guava juice, but brighter and almost bolder, which was unexpected from a fruit so white in colour (I`ve tasted the white pulp from cacao and it was very mild in comparison to Guanàbana). The seeds were also black and only slightly smaller than cocoa beans, but apparently nothing is made from Guanàbana seeds (that I`ve learned anyway).

So back to Cuban cacao.... According to cubanagriculture.org, cacao entered Cuba in 1540, but didn't boom until the late 1770's. And by then, it had become the main drink for breakfast and other occasions. Cuban cacao production went up and down over the centuries and years since, but after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, cacao was included with new plants of development to improve the country`s agriculture. The best conditions for growing cacao are in the eastern provinces of Cuba, with Guantanamo and Baracoa bearing the best fruit. There is also a factory that makes chocolate in the same region.

Apparently there was Cuban cocoa liquor (solid, unsweetened chocolate) in the airport Duty Free store after check-in.  Unfortunately for me, I was stuck in a line-up for three hours to simply check-in, then immediately had to board the plane and had no time to visit the store.  Boy was I disappointed when I learned from the woman sitting near me that she had found some there. I almost offered her $100 Canadian for it, but thought the better of it. I'd best spend that money on Chocolat Chapon's, Willie's, or Pralus's Cuban-origin chocolate bars.

So based on my mistakes on seeking out Cuban cacao during my vacation, I can give you a little advice if you are also heading to Cuba, and on the path to find Cuban cacao or chocolate in Cuba.

Number One: Plan to visit Baracoa (and ask your travel agent directly, even if they send you a list of excursions off your resort that has no cacao included).

Number Two: Visit your Duty Free store after check in at the airport. There was some at the Holguin airport, and likely at other airports in Cuba as well, so just be sure to give yourself time to check.

Number Three: Get to the airport early. Like 6 hours early. Don`t take the Sunwing Vacation bus, or you may not arrive on time for your Sunwing flight. Seriously.

Number Four: Watch out for Scorpions. This has nothing to do with chocolate, but there was one in my bed. If you want to live to eat another chocolate bar, I highly recommend shaking out the sheets before going to sleep. The photo on the right is the dead-by-squishing scorpion that we found in the bed, after it bit my husband twice in the middle of the night. Sleep did not happen much after that. And thankfully my husband had no complications from the incident. The hotel staff said it doesn't happen often, but the surrounding woods makes it not uncommon to find scorpions on resort property. Don't let that deter you from visiting, but just be aware of such deadly little creatures while traveling to warm, tropical destinations.

If you have been to Cuba and explored Cuban cacao and chocolate, please share your experiences in the Comments section below. I'd love to learn more about other vacationers' experiences with finding chocolate and cacao in Cuba.

If you are traveling to Cuba some time soon, for cacao or just some fun in the sun, enjoy your trip!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Sweet Tanzania Dark Chocolate by Solstice

I was running low on cash. I had already spent hundreds of dollars on chocolate. That's my excuse for not buying more Solstice Chocolate (said with tears in my eyes). But I did purchase one chocolate bar made by Solstice at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in November: The Tanzania 70% Kilombero dark chocolate. And now my curiosity is peaked and I will definitely be tasting more of Solstice Chocolate someday.

Light, sweet honey and fruit. That's the best way to describe this chocolate bar. It has sweet tones, no astringency, whatsoever, and very mild acidity.  It is like honey on toast with a hot cocoa aftertaste. The chocolate is also quite smooth, with a nice balance of cocoa butter added for creaminess. And it is pretty, with simple little suns imprinted into the squares of the bar. If you like a sweet, dark chocolate, this one is for you.

The origin of the organic beans used for this chocolate bar is Tanzania, specifically the Kilombero Valley. According to Dom Ramsey's new book, Chocolate, Tanzania produces about 9,000 tons of cocoa per year, which is just 0.18% of the world production. The country's "star varieties" are Trinitario and Forastero. I have no idea what type of bean is used for this chocolate bar, but I suspect Trinitario. A better reporter would have asked the chocolate makers, but I think it's best to not bother chocolate makers in the weeks leading up to Christmas - it is their busiest time of year after all.  Perhaps we'll hear from them in the Comments below should they read this article :-)

And speaking of the owners, Scott Querry and Deann Wallin are the people behind Solstice Chocolate, one of the several infamous Utah craft chocolate makers (Haven't you heard? Utah is where its at for craft chocolate!). They supply several restaurants in an around Salt Lake City, as well as sell in local stores. You can buy Solstice Chocolate online at a variety of retailers, including Amazon.com, The Meadow, Caputo's, and a few others, including the Solstice website. Learn more at: http://www.solsticechocolate.com/order-online/. There are several different origins of chocolate bars you can choose from.

Here are the package details of the chocolate bar that I tasted today:

70% Kilombero, Tanzania, 65g (2.3 oz)
Solstice Chocolate (Salt Lake City, UT)
Ingredients: Organic cacao bean, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Cacao Prieto: Delicious Dominican Cacao in Luxurious Chocolate Form

Cacao Prieto is a bean-to-bar chocolate company in Brooklyn that I had only heard of until recently. But when I came across their table at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle, I was astounded by the beautiful packaging, decorative and artistic post cards, and the overall 'look' of their products.

I visited Cacao Prieto at the end of my time at the Northwest Chocolate Fest, at about that moment when I was feeling guilty about how much cash I had spent on chocolate, so I only purchased one bar: Cacao Prieto's 'Original 72%' dark chocolate bar.  This is an organic dark chocolate, made with Criollo-type cacao (for those unfamiliar, that's one of the best kinds!) and is from the family farm in the Dominican Republic, so it's truly a single-origin bar that can be traced back to it's origin. 

Once tasting the chocolate, I immediately regretted not having purchased more. I really enjoyed that thick aroma of the Dominican cacao and all of its earthiness. With a sweet taste and hints of berry-fruit, and more earthiness in flavour, it is a lovely sweet-dark chocolate with interesting notes. It reminded me a little of the sweet taste of Spagnvola's chocolate, which is similarly made from only Dominican cacao from a family-owned farm. This chocolate had a similarly sweet and lightly fruity taste (based on my memory of course, since I had no Spagnvola chocolate on hand to compare directly), but Cacao Prieto's had some earthier characteristics to the aroma and flavour.

Everyone loves chocolate for Christmas!
Think about adding Cacao Prieto to your holiday shopping list
(psst: it's especially a great buy for a dark-chocolate lover!).

I can't wait to try the other flavours some day. Since Cacao Prieto is devoted to making chocolate from the family farm, their line-up of chocolate is mainly about flavoured bars (like Passion Fruit Crunch and Peppermint Mocha) and chocolate with inclusions (chocolate bark bars), cacao & nut spreads, drinking chocolate, and high-end gift boxes. They also make chocolate-based liquors and rums - a product which cannot be purchased on the website store. 

I have now added to my Chocolate Bucket List: a visit to Cacao Prieto's factory in Brooklyn, should I find myself there soon. There are walk-in weekend tours and bonbons on site (which, like the liquors, don't seem to be available for sale online).

If you are looking for more information on Cacao Prieto, visit the website at: http://www.cacaoprieto.com/.

The package details of the chocolate I wrote about today are as follows:

Cacao Prieto Criollo, Dominican Cacao, Original 72% Dark Chocolate, 85g (3oz)
Brooklyn, NY (U.S.A.)
Ingredients: Organic single origin Dominican Cacao & Organic raw cane sugar. Made in a facility that processes nuts.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Organic cacao from the Philippines that makes delicious chocolate

Have you tasted chocolate made from cocoa beans that are grown in the Philippines? I hadn't, until recently when I received some samples of both organic, and non-organic single origin cocoa beans of Philippine origin. I also received fresh coconut oil and a sample of coconut sugar also grown in the same region of the Philippines.

The organic Philippine cocoa beans, nibs and liquor comes from Davao del Norte, a province in the Davao region of the country. The cacao was planted by cooperative members and individual farmers organized into a corporation, which processes the beans by fermenting, drying and in some cases grinding them. The beans are Trinitario type and are certified organic by Control Union, with USDA, EU and JAS certification. Also, the corporation is a member of the Rainforest Alliance.

The organic cocoa beans were some of the largest beans I've seen. The picture to the right shows just how much bigger the organic cocoa beans from the Philippines were (they are the bottom beans in the picture on the right) compared to some fine quality Brazil beans (on top in the picture) that I had on hand.  They were so large, in fact, that I was able to hand-shell the beans myself in no time at all.

When I tasted the Philippine organic beans against several other cocoa beans of different origins, I found them mild, less acidic, and less citrus fruity. Overall, the flavour was nice and the beans easy to palate on their own.

Once made into chocolate, the Philippine beans produced a lovely chocolate with a sweetness that was surprising. It was the sweetness of light cream and yet tasted of aged butter all at the same time. The chocolate also had hints of coconut and banana, and some animal/farm-life character, with some dried fruit, prune and raisin taste. The chocolate also made me think of coffee - although a mild cup with milk (not bold and black espresso). There was a mild roast flavour (that had everything to do with my roast - fairly light at 25 minutes at 325º F).  And overall, I found very little acidity in the beans and the resulting chocolate had no astringency.

It would be a great base to pair with anything - perhaps coffee, and with salt for a 'sweet and salty' combination. I also think, because of the low acidity, it would have made a lovely 85% dark chocolate and perhaps a good 100% dark chocolate (although this is just speculation since I didn't test it) because of the low acidity and mild flavour profile.

If a chocolate maker wanted to have single-estate grown beans, that is a possibility. Use the contact information at the end of this post to make this request.

The non-organic cocoa nibs (broken and shelled raw cocoa bean pieces) that I tried were also of Trinitario-type (with a few stray Criollo beans) from Davao del Sur, which is directly South-West of Davao del Norte where the organic beans were grown. These beans also had low acidity and were quite nice. They tasted wonderfully when roughly ground with no sugar added.

I did make chocolate from the nibs, but used the coconut sugar sample that I also received with the cocoa beans, instead of cane sugar (as I did with the organic beans), so it is a bit harder to speak to the flavour, since the coconut sugar was the predominant flavour. But overall, I found the flavour powerful (in a good way) and also had flavour tones of coffee and cocoa (see pic right of the chocolate).

I also received organic coconut sugar from the Philippines, as I mentioned above, which came from Panabo, Davao del Norte.  It was great because it was dry enough to use in the chocolate refiner. It has a slightly bitter taste (compared to cane sugar), which contributed to the boldness of the dark chocolate flavour.

Since I use a lot of coconut sugar on a regular basis, I could compare this sample to others. I found this to have a fairly strong coconut flavour compared to some store-bought coconut sugars, but certainly a wonderful sugar to use in a coconut-flavoured chocolate bar, and in a chocolate bar where a slight brown-sugar/molasses flavour is desired. In truth, if I made chocolate with this sugar again, I might make a 60% to 65% dark chocolate, or perhaps a bean-to-bar milk chocolate with a caramel crunch or cinnamon-cookie flavour. Also, this coconut sugar would be wonderful for baking in oatmeal cookies, banana bread or coffee cake as a healthier replacement for regular cane sugar or commercial brown sugar.

The virgin coconut oil came from Padada, Davao del Sur and is considered 'fresh' since the oil is packaged within 48 hours of harvesting the fruit. It is fair trade certified as well as Control-Union certified with USDA, EU, Japan and Korea. It certainly has a strong coconut flavour, but a lovely appearance and worked well with chocolate.  I'd recommend using it for a meltaway milk chocolate truffle, or in chocolate bark with intended coconut flavour, such as coconut bark or coconut truffles, bars, icy squares, etc. That way, you won't need to add coconut flavour, just the oil will be enough flavouring and topped with shredded coconut. 

I'd also recommend combining the oil with a semi-sweet chocolate for a less-potent combination. I made meltaway truffles with the 70% dark chocolate that I had made from the coconut sugar and Philippine Davao del Sur beans (see pics on right). But realized the combination was a bit too bitter, so I would increase the sugar in the chocolate next time to make a semi-sweet for a meltaway truffle combination that everyone would love.

Overall, my experience with the Philippine cocoa beans and cocoa nibs from Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur was very positive. I am really enjoying the chocolate bars I made from these beans (not all by myself, of course)! The organic bars are excellent to include in a tasting line-up, to show a mild-flavoured chocolate (compared to more acidic, fruity chocolates or nutty-flavoured ones). If you are a chocolate maker, and interested in buying these cacao beans and/or the coconut sugar and virgin coconut oil, contact:

JT SocEnt Ventures, Inc. 
297-B M. A. Reyes St.
Little Baguio, San Juan City 1500
E-mail:  jowelllt at (@) gmail.com

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

New Toronto-based subscription service is serving up sweet delights

Cacao Avenue is Toronto's newest monthly chocolate subscription and gift box service. Once subscribed, you receive a five-piece package of artisanal chocolate from the Toronto area. They send you or your gifted friend, business associate or loved one, a lovely package of fine chocolates that fit into a variety of chocolate taste categories.

The overall presentation is gorgeous. Beautiful, actually. Based on my experience with the subscription box I received last month, I think it is a really lovely gift to send to anyone, with a nice array of products.

Cacao Avenue's mission is to help people "reimagine" the way they eat and purchase artisan chocolate. "With every box, we want to share the finest chocolate creations made by chocolatiers who push the boundaries of their craft." They are creating monthly chocolate collections intended to delight and surprise chocolate lovers.

The monthly subscription costs $48 per box which is reduced to $45 and $43 if you pre-pay for three- or six-month subscription packages.

So what was inside? Here is the overview of my box sent at the end of last month:

Soul Chocolate
I've written about Soul Chocolate on this blog before, as one of Canada's newest chocolate makers. They make single origin chocolate in three flavours (currently), Venezuela, Papua New Guinea and Madagascar. In the Cacao Avenue box was a favourite of mine: the Madagascar bar. It is dark roasted and lightly fruity in flavour, with a citrus and berry taste that is common to cocoa beans from Madagascar.  Learn more on the Cacao Avenue website at: https://www.cacaoavenue.ca/pages/featuring.

CHOCOLATES x Brandon Olsen
Brandon Olsen uses bright colours and artistic flair to create truffles that truly surprise even the seasoned chocolate lover.  I was surprised by just how bright and colourful they were, even though the included card gave a hint of the brilliant colours to be found inside. These were the chocolate truffles featured:

Raspberry, Rose & Fennel - very delicious, a little bit sweet and some savoury with the rose and fennel.

Yuzu, Sake - the texturing on this chocolate is quite interesting - it is almost fury and very fun to look at. The flavours are subtle and meets a pure chocolate truffle standard.

Sherry, Milk Chocolate - the Sherry was also subtle, but a hint of alcohol still lingered in this delicious milk chocolate truffle.

Mary's Brigadeiro
Brigadeiros are Brazilian-style truffles, and I was quite impressed with the clean edges and attractiveness of these little balls of sweetness. The first one that I tasted was a dark chocolate - the 'Noir' - and it was like a big ball of fudge and sweet in an icing sugar way. The outer crispy layer of tiny rock-like candy was nice, texturally.  The other chocolate also had the appearance of a dark chocolate, and was rolled in longer chocolate candies.  But upon first taste, there was a milky creaminess that indicated milk chocolate (Mary's used 33% Belgium milk chocolate for this).  Again, it was very fudge-like.  When I was a child, I LOVED fudge, especially this kind of sweet fudge with crispy outer edges. And I think many adults would love this sweet and fudgy style of 'truffle' now (I am into less sweet things these days, but I certainly didn't mind eating these!). 

The caramel and vanilla bean were equally delicious. Read more about Mary's at: https://www.cacaoavenue.ca/pages/previous-features.

A stone-ground bean-to-bar chocolate maker based in Toronto, this chocolate is vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free, and is slightly gritty in texture, highlighting just the flavour of the cacao bean in its more natural form. The ChocoSol bar in my Cacao Avenue package featured vanilla and sea salt combined with 65% cacao, making for a sweet and delectable combination. The balance of vanilla was perfect, not too much flavour, but also not too little. A very good example of stone-ground chocolate. You can learn more about this chocolate maker on Cacao Avenue's website at: https://www.cacaoavenue.ca/pages/previous-features.

The Golden Apple Confectionary Inc.
The Crème Brûlée white chocolate bar featured by Cacao Avenue was similar to the Soma roasted bunny that I've mentioned on this blog before. The top layer of the white chocolate is toasted by torch and has the wonderful taste of roasted marshmallows, or like that top caramelized sugar layer on Crème Brulee. It is a wonderful white chocolate experience that everyone should taste! Learn more about Stephanie Cart, the chocolatier on Cacao Avenue's website: https://www.cacaoavenue.ca/pages/featuring.

Cocoa Beans: Where it all begins
Since the cocoa bean is the main component of fine chocolate, Cacao Avenue has included a small packet of cocoa beans, so you can smell, taste and experience them, and appreciate all the steps that turn those bitter beans into wonderful chocolate.

To learn more about Cacao Avenue, or sign up for a monthly subscription, visit the website at: www.cacaoavenue.ca.