Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Chocolate Review: Dagoba's 73% Conacado

By Benjamin Skipper

Time for another single-origin chocolate! As a reminder, single-origin chocolates are a special class separate from other chocolates in that they're made with cacao beans hailing from a single area. As such, the beans tend to pick up special characteristics that can largely be attributed to only that specific region, so you end up with the delectable treat of having chocolate with complex attributes such as spice and fruit notes, regardless of whether or not such flavors are infused. The first single-origin chocolate I reviewed, Godiva's 85% cacao Santo Domingo, is stand-alone chocolate, but an assertive note of tart berries can be very clearly detected. Given that the flavors are inherent in the beans as such rather than a distinct component, such as an extract, the flavors fuse together so much better. Today on our plate is Dagoba's 73% cacao Conacado, which hails from the Dominican Republic.

Most intriguing is the aroma. When smelling it up close I could only detect sweetened chocolate with maybe a hint of floral notes, but oddly enough when I set the bar down I kept getting hit with bursts of banana. The strangest thing is how the aroma kept fluctuating, for when I took to trying to detect the banana note up close it would disappear and then reassert itself again after I set the bar down, almost as if a fruity perfume were being sprayed. How can this be? Whatever the case, I strongly hoped the essence of banana was present.

Bittersweet chocolate dominates the flavor profile, though there are slight notes of fruit, perhaps red and acidic. The fruit note is disappointing in that it's very weak and very hard to identify, almost as if I had my tongue outstretched to some fruit but could only taste its faint scent. Even at that, I seem to be able to most detect the fruit notes on the sides of my tongue, where my taste buds are least responsive. It's quite a dry chocolate, for it snaps very loudly on each bite and crumbles very dryly in the mouth, taking its slothful time melting. The bittersweet note appears first in the length, with a slow transition into mild grassiness in the middle and a chocolately finish on the breath. The bitter sweetness is hardly exciting, and the other attributes are far too weak to be enjoyable. And no banana!

The appearance of the bar was quite novel. Predominantly the color is a nice coffee brown, but there are shifts into dark caramel tones and spots of dark orange. The snap is very crisp and loud, and the gradient inside is reminiscent of the edges of cliffs. The shine is mostly dull, but in strange patterns there are streaks of incredibly shiny and glossy areas, almost as if this bar were polished in random motions with a cotton swab. I know in the past I've spoken lowly of tone fluctuations, such in Dagoba's Superfruit chocolate, but I've since learned that this isn't necessarily a fault of manufacturing, but could rather simply be inherent in the nature of the cacao itself. As such, I think I ought to appreciate this type of individuality, for not only can chocolate vary in its character, but also in clothes as well. The inconsistency in Dagoba's Conacado is entertaining to look at, particularly the patterns.

The aroma was the biggest disappointment. Given the bursts of banana I had fully expected there to be such an attribute in the body, but instead there were suggestions of red and acidic mystery fruit. Furthermore, the fruit notes were so subtle that I got bothered in trying to identify them, and at the end of my tasting I could only come up with a hypothesis devoid of certainty. The dryness lends a nice crunchy mouthfeel at the least, and melts a little too slowly at the worst; I don't like the conching. This chocolate is good enough, I guess, and worthy of eating, but I'm hardly impressed. Surely there are much better single-origin chocolates than this. It might be best to dismiss this one.

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