In preparation for being a judge at the San Francisco Chocolate Salon on March 21, I held a mini-chocolate tasting today of three of the four 70% Dark Chocolates from Amano Artisan Chocolate.
Amano makes its chocolate from select beans (single origin) that they import from around the world, and handcraft in their own artisanal factory in Utah's Wasatch Mountain range in the Rocky Mountains. Amano is one of only a small handful of companies in the United States who manufacture their own chocolate directly from the bean.
Using vintage European equipment and techniques, Amano makes their artisanal chocolate in small handcrafted batches. Amano means "by hand" and "they love" in Italian. They source the world's very best beans and ingredients. They visit the plantations, buy from the growers, and when necessary work with them to improve their skill in properly growing, fermenting and drying the cacao beans to meet their exacting standards.
Through working with small, carefully controlled batches, they "seek not to be the largest chocolate company, simply to make the very best chocolate humanly — or heavenly — possible."
The Amano website describes how each type of chocolate bar contains its own set of unique flavor profiles. Since the cacao bean is the source of all chocolate (as grapes are the primary source of wine), its flavors come from a multitude of variables, such as topography, weather (e.g. rainfall, amount of sun, etc.), soil conditions (e.g. type, nutrient content, drainage properties, etc.), post-harvesting processing (e.g. fermenting, roasting, etc.), and of course genotypic properties. With so many variables affecting the flavor of just one chocolate bar, it's important to taste carefully so that you can extract the fullest flavor potential.
I started the Amano Artisan chocolate tasting today with the Ocumare 70% Dark Chocolate. This Handcrafted Chocolate is made from beans exclusively from the Ocumare de la Coasta Valley on the central coast of Venezuela. I found this a rich, smooth chocolate. I tasted raisin and smoke.
The next Amano Chocolate I tried was the Jembrana 70% Dark Chocolate.This is made from beans exclusively from the Jembrana Regency and its surrounding areas on Bali, Indonesia. This chocolate had a beautiful rich flavor that had a hint of berries, spice, and licorice. I didn't taste honey, myself, but my co-taster said he did.
The final Amano Artisan Chocolate I tried was the Madagascar 70% Dark Chocolate, and although I enjoyed the other two, I liked the Madagascar the best of the three. This handcrafted Chocolate is made from beans exclusively from the Sambirano Valley, Madagascar. At the end of the 19th century cacao trees from Venzuela were brought to plantations in Madagascar. Unlike the tasting notes, I found it an edgy chocolate. I tasted raspberry and raisin. Frank, my co-taster, picked up on the natural fruity flavor that this chocolate is said to possess. That would be the natural flavor component of these special Sambirano Valley cocoa beans. I can easily see myself using this chocolate in my flourless chocolate cake. Any baker will love this chocolate.
The Cuyagua 70% Dark Chocolate was not available to taste, and now I'm longing to try it. The Cuyagua 70% Dark Chocolate comes from the a small secluded valley known as Cuyagua near the Ocumare Valley in Venezuela. It is known for some of Venezuala's finest cacao. The folks at Amano have told me that there are no fruity notes in this chocolate. Rather, one will find a rich nutty chocolate with spicy notes that can be compare to white pepper.The bean from the Cuyagua Valley is one of the rarest beans in the world, so supplies are limited. I have to try it, and I will make a point to do that when and if it becomes available again.
The Amano Artisan Chocolate Factory was featured on the Food Network this month. Watch for reruns. In the meantime, have your own chocolate tasting with this amazing award winning chocolate!
February 23 an update: Just saw this article. Check out this tour of the Amano Artisan Chocolate Factory