Aequare Fine Chocolates focuses on Ecuadorean cocoa, both in terms of where the cacao is grown and where the products are created. They sent me these four products out of their lines of truffles and bars. These included flavors and products I've never tried before, Sisters and Brothers, and you know I love it when this Path opens up my mind, mouth, and soul to new experiences.
Mandarin Orange, 70% Chocolate" 1.8 oz. bar. It has 8 equal incised squares, and one entire bar contains 275 calories, 11 g saturated fat, 60 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 21 g sugars and 3 g protein. These feel cool and smooth to my touch, but even though I take a very deep whiff of them, I can only smell dark chocolate — but that may reflect the fact that the only ingredients are natural and often less powerful to smell when mixed with darker cocoa. Now, if you've never had both mainstream oranges and the mandarin variety, they do taste different; I think of it as the mandarin being more sweet and intense myself. As I chew this solid piece, a bit of the mandarin flavor does come through, building up with each moment and each piece. Letting it melt in my mouth only focuses on the cocoa, so you might want to chew it for the orange essence, though it is still a bit light. This also has a crunchy bit of texture to it, though I can't see what from; I can only feel it between my teeth and very slightly on my tongue.
The "Lemongrass 70% Chocolate" bar looks identical and has almost identical nutritional stats, though with only 10% of the sodium that the "Mandarin Orange" bar has. It also looks identical, so I won't show a second photograph. It smells very strongly like lemon, however, the scent hitting me as soon as I unwrap the inner plastic sheath. The taste is also more powerful, that specific lemongrass flavor threatening to overwhelm the dark chocolate but ultimately blending into a very unique flavor. I haven't had lemongrass and chocolate very often, and this an acquired taste, but one worth trying.
6 piece sample of their bonbons, so this will take a while, Sisters and Brothers. As you can see, they are lovely little things, each measuring 1 × 1 × 0.6 inches. Included is a photo booklet that lists the flavors and what they are made of, so you can find each one that you like. You can also go online here and see the flavors they currently offer. I'll be revealing these from left to right in the photograph, so refer back to this if you need a reminder. 3 of these bonbons have approximately 180 calories, 5 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 15 mg sodium, 15 g sugars, and 2 g protein but no fiber, vitamins, or minerals in significant amounts to warrant inclusion on the label. Each piece rests in a dark paper cup in a plastic sleeve, varying only by top design and scent.
The piece with stars is an "Amazon-Dark" with Ishpingo and cinnamon. I don't know what Ishpingo is, so I did some research. It is a sort of Ecuadorean cinnamon tree, so I imagine it has a similar smell and taste, meaning it can be hot if used in large quantities. The primary scent I can identify is cinnamon, and for a "hint" of it, it is amazingly powerful. The chocolate is smooth but begins to melt almost immediately in my fingers. The bonbon is very soft and melts easily in my mouth. It's ... different tasting, very creamy and not hot at all even after the entire piece, though I do feel a twitch in my eyes as the essence rises into my system.
The piece with the multicolored stripes is "Blackberry Cobbler" and has almonds in it as well. Now if you ask me if I want a blackberry, my immediate answer is "no," but I try to approach this with an open mind and soul as well as mouth. It has a definite blackberry scent when I bring it close to my nose and breathe in, but it also begins to melt in my fingers. This is designed interestingly. The ganache surrounds it, but inside are two layers — the majority is a soft blackberry truffle topped by a blackberry jelly. The bulk of the berry essence is in this jelly, and it is intense. If you eat the top and bottom separately, you get two different tastes, but in neither can I really sort out the almonds, though I can feel the tiny blackberry seeds on my tongue when I mush a bite around; the seeds stick to my teeth too. Maybe I should give blackberries another try ...
The one with a raised swirl pattern is the "Ecuador-Pure" at 70% cocoa and Tahitian vanilla. It has a solid dark chocolate scent, but when I bite into its more solid body the vanilla is sharp, though it dissipates with each bite to blend into the dark chocolate. The result is a creamy taste and texture that almost melts before I can chew it.
The one with "Cioccola" doesn't match the booklet or the website but may be the "Le Citron-Meyer Lemon" flavor according to the letter I received with the samples. This does not smell like the lemongrass bar did nor exactly like the Mandarin Orange; mostly it's just a dark cocoa fragrance. This bonbon has a firmer center like the previous piece, and the citrus flavor is very, very light, leaving an intense dark chocolate that is almost too bitter even though it is only 70%.
"Salted Caramel" is the piece with white circles on the top, but I don't smell either salt or caramel, though I see a few crystals along the edges. As I chew I search for a caramel flavor but can find none, only creamy dark chocolate and salt, which in the end disappoints, since I was expecting the tang you should get with caramels. Overall an average piece of salted chocolate in a creamier form than other companies have submitted thus far.
The "Moccha" is rather obvious, with its little coffee beans dancing over the top. This has a slight coffee scent and, of course, the little images are adorable. For someone like me who isn't a big fan of coffee, who would only have coffee if it was with the Sacred Substance, this has a good mixture of the two beans in one creamy, solid bonbon. You get a double shot of bitterness coupled with the start of a fairly strong buzz that makes my tongue tingle slightly.
Don't worry if you aren't in Ecuador or neighboring countries. If these sound interesting to you, you can get them around the world. If you act soon, they are having a special, I noticed on their website, until the end of November, with 10% off your order's price. They have another special called a "sampler kit" with everything you read about today plus two other bars of 50% and 70% Ecuadorean chocolate for $29.95 plus shipping and handling.
I am off now to our first Pilgrimage, Sisters and Brothers. I will take pictures and write up a report for all of you by Monday if not tomorrow. I may be in another spiritual plane after this journey with other Cult members and thus unable to accurately communicate with you all tomorrow. Next year, try to find the time to come with me on the Chocolate Walk in Nashville, Indiana.
Sisters and Brothers, may you too take the time to slowly appreciate what the Divine and human ingenuity have offered you in chocolate.