Saturday, September 5, 2015

Lake Champlain Chocolates Blue Bandana Line

One of the most important blogger communities I belong to is the FoodieBlogRoll -- you can see their ads to the right (please do check those out and help out The Chocolate Cult). This year I receive a huge gift box from Lake Champlain Chocolates without expectation that I'd blog about it. But if it is chocolate, of course I'm going to test it and let you all know what I experienced. Why did  take a photo of the box? Because every part of it was recyclable. Yes, that matters! The Earth is the only planet we know of that can support cacao farming and that only in limited areas so I try to highlight companies who care about their products and their environment at this level.

Inside though was a collection of products. A canister of unsweetened cocoa, hot cocoa mix, a box of chocolates, three organic bars, and, what we are going to focus on today, three examples of their Blue Bandana Line of chocolates. These three bars are the Lachua Dark, the Madagascar Dark bar, and the Wild Pepper Dark Bar. This is their micro-batch, bean to bar line of products that you can learn about by reading their website here. Bean to bar products have been "hot" in chocolate for several years now but this trend does not necessarily equal great or sadly even good chocolate though it certainly tends to increase the price you will pay. Let's hope that these three are well worth their price.

We'll start with the 75% Guatemala Lachua Dark Bar since it is the lowest percentage of cacao of the trio. How pure is this bar? Two ingredients -- Organic cocoa beans and organic sugar are listed but this is what I know about chocolate, those cocoa beans have to be processed into chocolate mass/liquor and cocoa butter before you can put them back together to get chocolate so I feel like this label is a bit misleading for those of you who may not know how chocolate is made. The bar is a dark brown, had 22 squares etched into the top, and then a brand logo in the center of it which I hope you can see in the photo. It has a slightly roasted, dark chocolate scent that makes my mouth start watering. Half of this bar (1.3 oz) is just over one serving if the weight is correct and comes in around 158 calories. The entire bar is closer to 2.5 servings not 2 servings listed on the nutrition facts; read these carefully folks. But still that's low calorie for chocolate bars of this size. Now I'm even more excite to try this. It melts so easily in my fingertips so I can't be polite, I have to lick my fingers. It makes only a very soft sound when I take a bite. The initial flavor is not bitter at all and with each bite it has a floral essence that come out until an intense sweetness appears then finally the bitter chocolate reveals itself. I liked this a lot but if you don't like bitter chocolate try letting your bite melt in your mouth, that turned down the bitterness a lot.

Plain vs. Wild Pepper Blue Bandana Bars
The next two bars are 82% so only for those of you who are hardy enough to handle truly dark chocolate and both are made from Madagascar beans. In this photo you can see a difference on the back side of the bars. The plain one is on the left, the one with peppercorns is on the right. Again the ingredients list is a bit short -- organic cocoa beans, organic sugar, and wild peppercorn in the second one.

We'll start with the pure 82% Madagascar Chocolate Bar. This is a very dark brown with a strong cocoa fragrance that has a hint of citrus to it. At first, taking a bite makes a loud snap but there's no flavor until the third or fourth chew then BOOM a flood of dark cocoa, a strong tart flavor that grows more tart with each bite, and then a nutty flavor before ending on a bitter note. Letting a piece melt in my mouth releases a soften level of cocoa at first, then a bit of an apple sweet and tartness, and finally a citrus flavor with an edge of bitter. I was expecting this to melt quickly but it doesn't, it takes well over a minute for one section to melt. Either chewing or letting it melt creates a fairly intense cocoa buzz for me, making the room seem brighter and my head feel more relaxed.

Then Lake Champlain added to the previous bar so we'll end with the 82% Madagascar Wild Pepper Dark Chocolate Bar that should have an intense kick to it. Sometimes a kick is good but not if it overpowers the chocolate so let's find out where this lies. This has a definite peppery scent to it but also a hint of citrus and, of course, the cocoa fragrance is strong. A bite makes a crunchy sound and again there isn't much flavor to begin with. After several chews the chocolate with a side of pepper and a hint of citrus comes out. Unlike the previous 82% the bitterness is not as strong, perhaps countered by the peppercorn which is not hot at all. Letting it melt the peppery side down immediately releases and focuses my tastebuds on the spice which does turn hot and makes my eyes water until it melts to just the slightly citrusy chocolate that starts to turn bitter. Flipping it curbs the bitterness but does increase the heat. For this one, I prefer the chewing versus letting it melt in my mouth.

There you have it, all three Blue Bandana bars revealed to you. Have you tried them? What did you think about them? If you haven't tried them, which one do you think you might?

2 comments:

Meghan Fitzpatrick said...

Thank you for your thoughtful review of our Blue Bandana Bars. I did want to address your comment about the ingredient label being misleading. Our process does not include the step for separating cocoa butter from chocolate mass. Therefore, we do not list those out individually in the ingredient statement. The cocoa beans that are used in our products have been roasted, winnowed (separate the shell out and compost), and are then ground together with sugar. We do all these steps and a few more at our Blue Bandana factory located at 716 Pine Street, in Burlington, VT. It offers a look through large glass windows into our entire facility to see the whole process from bean to wrapped bar.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

I appreciate your comments, Meghan. Since your company sent us the products via foodieblogroll, I'd be interested in doing an email interview with someone to ask about these sorts of questions. Your process sounds very different from anything I've heard before so an interview could address the why and how aspect of this line.

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