The notion that all West African chocolate is utter rubbish is proven wrong often enough that I still understand that even so-called chocolate experts still spread the inaccuracy. So there's nothing remotely 'Criollo' on the mainland but there have been some wonderful Amelonado. When cacao transplanted out of Southern and Central America it seems that best stuff went to Asia and Oceania and the more fundamental cacao made its way to Africa - the cacao mainly found in the Amazonian basin and which formed one third of the circular slave trade economy.
Despite West Africa being a central part of the cocoa trade, mainly for the confectionery industry, there still is some good stuff around - not least from Ghana (shock horror) which actually can produce some pretty good Amelonado. I'll probably do a thorough review of the Ghana cocoa industry and the type of chocolate that can be produced from it. But suffice to say, if you are interested in trying some good quality chocolate made with Ghanaian cocoa try bars from Marcolini, Olive & Sinclair, Scharffen Berger, Soma and Pralus. If you haven't tried any of those before, you still probably have tried Ghanaian chocolate in the form of Divine.
The purpose of this review, however, is to try out couverture made from Ghanaian cacao and produced by Felchlin. I have here two small bags of couverture chips, both the Cru Suhum, but one 60% and one 40%.
The Suhum-Kraboa-Coaltar district is located some 40 miles north-west of the nation’s capital with parts still within the coastal savannah, whilst the cocoa is grown, obviously, in the more forested areas to the north. Previously all cocoa had to be sourced through the government-run cocoa board, but now Felchlin is able to go direct thanks to the Yayra Glover project Felchlin is able to tap into the cocoa produced by 2,600 small cocoa farmers - and that cocoa has been used to great these couverture chips I have before me.
For the past hour or so whilst the computer was playing up I've been munching on the 60% and this really is a 'session' chocolate. The sweetness continues magnificently after the melt. It gives and gives and gives. The flavour web that comes with the couverture - to aid chocolatiers - signifies that this is supposed to be a very 'chocolaty' couverture, i.e. with little fruit-acids or classic fruit notes. It also says that sweetness is kept to a minimum - I'd certainly disagree with that. However, I definitely do agree that there is minimal bitterness.
There's no denying the quality of this couverture. There are distinct and appealing coffee notes. So too mango. There's no complexity, however. But don't forget we are talking couverture here. For flavoured ganaches and caramels then this is exactly what you want. A very complex Marou, for example may not be suited to working in a balanced fashion with similarly powerful ingredients - but it may with a ganache made with the same couverture.
The 40% milk is radically different. The sweetness is obviously turned-up a few more dials - and with it the caramel. The milk is reminiscent of the condensed stuff my mother used to serve with sliced peaches. Other than those three-core flavours there isn't a great deal else going on. But this would actually make it perfect to use in more sophisticated chocolate shapes such as hearts, rabbits etc. - obviously for the more discerning customer.