Why Flavored Chocolate?
How do I sift through the explosion of choices when choosing flavored chocolate bars ? What should I buy if I want something sumptuous and balanced? Should I buy interesting new flavors or two-ingredient dark chocolate?
The options seem to be doubling every year.
Flavored chocolate bars can include mint, berry, orange and nuts. Recently we are seeing chocolate with ghost pepper, sesame, and exotics like star anise.
When I started Yahara Chocolate, I didn’t carry any flavored chocolate. I was only interested in the simplicity of single origin bean-to-bar craft chocolate.
I felt it was too easy for poor quality chocolate to be masked by strong added flavors.
Why would anyone want to add flavors to high quality craft chocolate?
Well, all that changed when I sampled some Askinosie American Spoon Red Raspberry (available in the store). It tasted dark, rich, smooth, and with just a hint of raspberry that lasted forever. The flavor was subtle and bold at the same time. My wife agreed and told me I had to carry it. This chocolate redefines what flavored chocolate is.
Why is flavored chocolate great?
When done with subtlety, added flavor does not take over the chocolate bar. It is true that you no longer have a pure single origin bar but a different type of chocolate worthy of its own category. Some of the finer flavors are lost, but hopefully the chocolate maker has used the inherent qualities of the origin chocolate when devising their latest creation.
The combinations are endless from Markham and Ftiz Brain Food with blueberry, maca root, acai berry, almonds, and cashews to Sjölinds Beer and Pretzel to Mirzam Fig, Star Anise, and Cinnamon.
The appreciation comes from savoring the flavors from the hands that created them as well as the hands that picked the pods and everyone in between.
Chocolate Maker Wisdom
I am fortunate to have a couple local chocolate makers that are happy to talk chocolate with me, and I have few nuggets of wisdom that also apply to Yahara Chocolate. First, chocolate makers love to make great single origin chocolate, but they make their living on something sweeter with added ingredients like fruit purees, nut inclusions, or spices. Should this apply to Yahara Chocolate too? Yes – I am always looking for new flavors and new bars to share with my customers.
How will you choose if you are going to buy a chocolate bar you have never heard of?
The obvious choice
Do you think you will go with the Ecuador, Madagascar, Brazil, or Venezuela, or the Bourbon, Chili, Fig, or Lavender?
Chances are one of the flavored bars resonated more clearly than one of the single origin bars. What does Ecuador taste like? What does Mango Chili taste like?
You can see how without additional explanation, the flavored chocolates are much more likely to bring to mind flavors you know, like, dislike, and might like to try.
The exception is if you have visited a country of origin of a single origin chocolate bar.
When tasked with choosing from 70 different single origin bars, the fail safe choice for many is a bar that is from a familiar location. A recent visitor to the shop asked for every bar we had from the Dominican Republic. I had 3 choices on hand and she bought them all. Familiarity is one reason I sell a lot of bars from Hawaii.
More chocolate maker wisdom:
Once you start making flavored bars, it is hard to stop. The hard limit for one chocolate maker I talked to is set at 25 different flavors. It turns out she decided to flex the rule almost immediately to only 25 different bars at one time. That is a lot, but sometimes the creative mind on a roll can’t figure out where to stop.
Now that Yahara Chocolate has started down the flavored chocolate path, where is the cliff? Where is the point of no return?
Well, if I sell loads of Raspberry, and the Ecuador sits past its best-by date, I won’t complain. If I’m asked “what is your favorite chocolate?” I reply, “what ever is past its best-by date. I pre-sample every bar before I purchase any quantity to sell in the shop, and I like them all (with a couple of exceptions).
I love every chocolate bar that I sell.
In the end, you should buy, eat, and enjoy the chocolate bars you like. There is a certain amount of bewilderment and anxiety in people when confronted with single origin chocolate. “Why does eating chocolate have to be complicated?”
It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can treat craft chocolate like a serious topic to study and examine or you can just have fun.
As you sample craft chocolate, you will experience which bar elicits more of an immediate reaction – yea or nay – Mango Chili or Nicaragua? I am happy to explain and educate on the wonders of pure single origin chocolate, but the flavored bars have their place at the table too.