Last year, I had a problem. A very good problem to have. I was swamped with craft bean to bar chocolate bars. Having a monthly subscription to Cocoa Runners, I had a stack of boxes full of beautiful bars that I didn’t have time to blog about but didn’t want to just scoff them without singing their praises. And my problem just grew after visiting for the first time The Chocolate Show, as I wasn’t going to go and not buy any bars to try.
Isobel from Dormouse Chocolate had the best idea ever on her Instagram. She popped all her bars she had collected in a bag and pulled out a new bar to try each day, sure sounded like an advent calendar to me. The thing is traditional advent calendars countdown to Christmas and the 24 days leading up the big day. However, I had 31 bars, so my advent calendar on Instagram ran until the start of a new chocolate laden year.
I seem to have found myself in the same predicament this year. Oh darn. So for the next 31 days, I will be showcasing on my Instagram a new bar each day and then a more in-depth summary of the week’s bars on here. Having collected some bars along with my travels, they aren’t all true bean to bar chocolates but some flavoured bars by great producers for a mixture.
Are you ready? Then let’s eat a lot of chocolate!
Day 1 – Dormouse Guatemala 72% made in Manchester, UK
The producer that started the idea for this madness. Dormouse is based in Manchester, UK and have produced some of my favourite bars I’ve ever tasted. In the advent calendar, I have six Dormouse bars to share with you and all special in their own way. This bar has a deep richness, with a dominate flavour of vine fruit. Like all Dormouse Bars, incredibly Moorish and smooth. This bar would be perfect with a dessert sherry to pair beautifully the Christmas pudding and mince pie flavours going on.
Day 2 – Utopick Columbia 70% made in Valencia, Spain
When visiting a new city, I not only search for interesting restaurants or food markets to visit but of course, chocolate shops. It was no different for my recent trip to Valencia. Luckily, the last stop on our food tour was a four-minute walk to Utopick’s shop. I got a mixture of bean to bar bars and flavoured to try over the course of the advent calendar. Of course, Columbia is known for their coffee, so when trying this bar I was surprised when opening the wrapper to be greeted by a distinct coffee aroma, that also carried through to the flavour of the bar too. There are just some classic flavours that work well with the richness of chocolate and coffee definitely one of those. Would be fantastic after meal with a nice strong coffee.
Day 3 – Coco Chocolatier Gin & Tonic made Edinburgh, Scotland
Another bar picked up on my travels. This time when I visited Edinburgh earlier this year to see the pandas at the zoo. Coco Chocolatier is known for their fantastic flavours and truffles all in beautifully artist packaging. I tried their Cardamom and Cinnamon bar in my last year’s calendar, and on my visit I wanted to stock up on some of their flavours to try. Being a fan of a drop or five of gin, I was interested to see how all the botanicals would come through. There is mainly juniper flavour present and a citrus burst of lime and lemon as well. I may be fussy but a bigger mix of some of the more complex flavours included too but still an enjoyable bar.
Day 4 – Chocolate Tree Gianduja made in Edinburgh, Scotland
Stones throw away from the Coco Chocolatier shop in Edinburgh, was another chocolate producer on my must visit list. In fact, we had one of the richest hot chocolate at their café whilst there. I’m a sucker for hazelnuts with chocolate and had to buy their gianduja to try. The hazelnuts are ground with the cocoa nibs to create a luxurious bar, that resembles Nutella in bar form. I can’t tell you how amazing this is, don’t share it, eat it all yourself. You won’t be sorry.
Day 5 – Beau Cacao 73% Asajaya Borneo made in London, UK
I got to meet these guys at this year’s The Chocolate Show, in London, they are the first producers of Malaysian chocolate. The beans for their two bars are grown within 2-hour drive from each other but have such different flavour profiles. Check out later on in the calendar for the second bar they have in their range. They were very conscience when starting the business that the moulding of the bars was very important to them to achieve a great snap to the bar as well as looking great , goal achieved! So pretty and the quality of the chocolate was amazing, rich smooth caramel notes that just melted into dreams with a slight smoky spice aftertaste. A fabulous bar that makes me excited to try their second bar.
Day 6 – Dormouse Colombia 55% made in Manchester, UK
It’s been a whole 5 days from trying my last Dormouse bar and frankly, that’s far too long. Today’s bar is a Colombian offering at 55%, later in the month I will be trying another of Colombian origin but at a higher percentage so will be interesting to see how their profiles differ. This bar is decadently creamy mouth feel with creamy buttery richness with a burst of fruit to cut through. This was a stand out bar, and a very special bar.
Day 7 – Utopick 40% Venezuela made in Valencia, Spain
I picked up a selection of origin and flavoured bars when I visited in September, stay tuned for those bars in upcoming chocolate advent calendar weeks. This is the second bar I tried from them and loved for a milk chocolate the deep level of flavour this bar had but as well as a light herbal flavour similar to mint without the cooling effect. A beautifully complex bar that develops.
Day 8 – Coco Chocolatier Caramel, Hazelnut & Isle of Skye Salt made in Edinburgh, Scotland
A bit of Scottish hazelnut theme this week, but the Chocolate Tree Gianduja from a couple of days ago couldn’t be any more different than this bar from their chocolate neighbour. Flecked with sea salt crystals and nuggets of hazelnut nibs set in a creamy rich buttery bar. The bar had bloomed around the hazelnut nibs but still tasted delicious and a grown up bar to share with a friend to get them in to more interesting makers.
Day 9 – Ara Chocolat Rio Caribe 70% made in Paris, France
Another bar picked up as a souvenir on my travels to Paris. Ara is a stop on the food tour that my friend Marine is a guide for and was on my visit list when I visited her in January. I had included them in my last year advent calendar and was so lovely to actually meet them in person. Whilst in the shop we had their vegan chocolate mousse made with water, which was as rich and decadent as any cream based mousse I’ve ever had. This bar had a slightly savoury note and a fudgy note for a grown up bar whilst being incredible moreish, as well as reminding me of a solid version of their mousse.
Day 10 – Land Chocolate 65% Dark Malt Honduras made in London, UK
Land was one of the makers I met last year at The Chocolate Show and included in my first chocolate advent calendar. Funnily when getting bars to send to Patricia (My Year In Chocolate) to California in a Choc-swap, I included Land in her selection and got the same bar for myself too. This is an interesting bar as contains malted barley as part of the ingredients. This gives the bar a savoury nutty note, which reminded me of a chocolate stout with coffee as well to add to the intense flavours. Also another maker moulding beautifully clean bars too
Check out the blog over the next couple of weeks to see more chocolates tried and to discover new makers and flavours.