Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chocolate Review: Endangered Species' 72% with Blueberries

By Benjamin Skipper

I love berries. I have a particular fondness for the tart zip they can provide through their acidity. Removing the acid, of course, removes much of that pleasant tanginess (such as by dehydrating), but there are still virtues to be enjoyed in the leftover mellowness. I had high expectations, then, for Endangered Species' 72% dark chocolate with blueberries.That company is, after all, the one I've come to expect the most from given their consistent quality. By their own virtue they've come to be the brand I've reviewed most on this site.

The first things to spike my interest were the absolutely fitting and beautiful aesthetics of both the packaging and bar. Turtles and seawater have nothing to do with blueberries of course, but the photography highlights the blue so intensely that one cannot help but expect nothing else but a blueberry sensation. And as always, there's interesting information to read inside about the current state of an endangered specie. An educational experience while you eat, though I'd suggest keeping your mind on the chocolate.

ES is extremely consistent in the quality of the aesthetics of their bars, so I must have not been paying thorough attention in the past because this bar surprised me with its attractiveness. Apart from ES' representative tree symbol on each dome, this bar possesses the best shine I have ever seen in a chocolate. It's so smooth that it might be on the verge of becoming a reflective mirror! There are no cracks, fissures, dust, or any kind of beauty defects. It's just simply a great looking bar that I couldn't help but keep staring at before I broke it up.

I feel disappointed by the lack of depth in the berry note of the flavor, however. Biting down I could detect a strong note of sugary milk with a subtle hint of smoke along with fruity cocoa. The fruity attribute could be credited to the blueberries infused, but unfortunately it's hard to detect that it is blueberries making the contribution. As mentioned above, absent their acidity and berries lose most of their tart power, so in the drying process it seems that these blueberries lost their individuality to the chocolate.

The transition of the experience is intriguing. It turns out pleasurably mild, but the cocoa notes start climbing in intensity as soon as it sits on your tongue, and at the finish it's nearly overwhelming. What strength! I don't think I've ever had chocolate that intensifies itself like this, almost as if I were growing more and more sensitive to it. Don't swallow too soon or you'll miss out on the peak.

Mouthfeel-wise it starts out very firm at first break with the bar, but it rapidly dissolves into a pure liquid at the same pace it rushes to intensify its chocolate notes. Very, very good, but it's so rapid and thin that I almost wish it'd slow down slightly. My favorite part of a smooth chocolate is the viscosity of the paste, but it dashes past that stage so quickly that it's hard to notice any transitional period. It's a fluid in practically a blink of an eye.

Fruity chocolate dominates the aroma, almost in a way that you can detect it's dried fruit, but still nothing uniquely blueberry. It's utterly simple and makes one expect a sort of mellow tangy experience, something it doesn't deliver on.

Overall, this is a very tasty chocolate that commits the terrible error of breaking its promise. The blueberries are clearly there and are contributing to the slight fruitiness, but their individuality is muted otherwise with the loss of their acids and essential oils. The experience is saved by the amazingly intense chocolate and liquidifying mouthfeel, but I enjoy a bar for keeping the promises it gives. I went in and only got the body, not the soul, of the berries. This chocolate is very good, but for the blueberries? No. I'd pass this up instead for ES' raspberry bar, which preserves a good degree of the acidic zip in the dehydration process (and is very femininely attractive with the bright pink spots).

This variety can still be saved, and I hope ES considers such an option. In order to heighten the blueberry note I would suggest perhaps adding a good extract. It would do well to also evenly distribute the flavor. Alternatively, they could abandon the dried-fruit option altogether and go for an essential oil, like they've done for their organic cherry, which is incredibly intense. Something to look forward to in the future, Endangered Species?

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