And now time for some Madécasse.. I normally departmentalise milk chocolate into session chocolate where I'm just after it's ability to produce endorphins, whilst dark chocolate I enjoy for its flavour. As such, when I buy artisan chocolate I normally go for the dark chocolate option. Of course I'm totally wrong. You can have lovely milk chocolate that does actually taste of chocolate - which is the case with this 44% bar made with cacao from Madagascar. One of the interesting aspects of this bar is that its a true single origin bar in that even the wrapping is produced on the oversized island and not just part-produced there. Other facts to note is that this bar was a winner of the 2011 Good Food Awards in America and that they were named as one of the fifty world's most innovative companies this year too - mainly due to the fact that they make part of the 1% of chocolate that is actually made in Africa, despite 70% (or so) of it being grown there. Madécasse truly is a fascinating company.
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Knowing the journey that chocolate has taken from the tree to my hand is of utmost importance to me. Being able to pinpoint the plantations, farms, or in this case - cooperative it is grown at is of great interest to a chocolate geek like me. Of course I don't know if chocolate made at the Esaka Cooperative by its thirty-two farmers is intrinsically better than any other, what I do know is that the journey taken is more important to the people behind it than many big name producers. I do know, however, that their farms aren't too far away from Åkesson's family estate where they get the cacao for their Criollo 75% bar.
Not only is the packaging visually similar to Askinosie's, but less rustic, but also their ethical stance is too. They pay over the fair trade price, apparently 40% over the odds! On the wrapping they state that the bar is "silky smooth" and I really can't disagree with this - its incredibly smooth, but they also state that this bar has a one out of four for intensity. I'd say that very much downplays the acidity that it has. If someone that was only used to mass-produced milk chocolate they'd get a very big shock trying this bar and expecting something as devoid of flavour as a Dairy Milk.
This acidity takes the form of an orange pith type flavour that hangs back from the true acidity of dark bars, but still is noticeable. I wanted to test how acceptable it was to people that generally prefer bland milk chocolate (ok, its my wife) and she actually very much enjoyed it - despite having flavour! Just underneath this zesty characteristic you'll find a dried milk edge that makes it feel much more real than other milk bars I've tried in the past - probably because there's about half (at least) the amount of sugar in this bar than those. I'd actually be very interested to find out where the dried milk powder they use comes from - is it produced on the island? Whenever I get milk chocolate I'm worried that I'd essentially be consuming vegetable fat and sugar. Thankfully this bar couldn't get further away from that, not only in terms of taste but also the ethics of companies that produce confectionery for the masses.