Last year I backed Katie Partington's Kickstarter project to get turn her dream of making chocolate into reality. For some it may just seem that cocoa is grown somewhere hot, shipped over here and is then turned into chocolate without a huge amount of trial and error. I know that Duffy and others have had a great deal of tinkering and testing when they first started making chocolate and the doing it wrong 99 ways is something that Katie is currently part way through. But there is hope.
As part of the Kickstarter deal I was sent a couple of pre-production bars to witness, first hand, the result of her toils. It is important to note that there are so many factors that determine the flavour of chocolate. Directly within the chocolate maker's control is the selection of beans chosen to work with, the length of time and temperature those beans are roasted, the length of the conche and the particle size of the tempered chocolate. If you wanted to be controversial, you could also add in if the cocoa beans are winnowed (shells removed). If you hold that algebra-like equation in your mind when you pre-production chocolate then you can appreciate the up-hill task Katie, and other new chocolate-makers have when they set out to make chocolate for the first time.
I don't have exact details of the strain of the beans but given that I was told that these beans are Peruvian from estates located near the Ecuadorian border which puts the regions at either Tumbes, Piura, Amazonas or Cajamarca, there is a strong possibility that these have a high Criollo content, although here is a small chance that there could be a CCN-51 bias as it is not a strain exclusive to Ecuador, despite many people's assertions. But given the lovely nutty, jammy qualities I'm certainly leaning on a predominance of Criollo given that CCN-51 has more of an astringent profile.
The dark was certainly on the right track. Depending on the aim of the chocolate, whether the intention was to produce a mellow chocolate; such as the general profile of Pump Street Bakery, a more evolved flavours of Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé or the dark roast of Pralus; I found it entertaining. At first I thought it was a Madagascan given the heavy read fruits, but as mentioned above, this is a Peruvian which is also renowned for fruit, but with a heavy dose of floral. At first I don't notice it (I had just had a large, flavoursome lunch - as usual), but after cleansing my palette the floral is very much present. If you've had the fruit and nut mix with mango and coconut then this is very similar. There are soft mango flavours abundant but with it papaya and a touch of pineapple. Katie said this needed a longer roast, but I don't think so. She might like to try a longer conche, however, just to see how those fruity notes react.
The milk was a completely different matter. It had a very heavy roast which turned it into a bar that was tasted like peanut butter. There may be a market for this one if it is presented as a 'unique' chocolate, but in its current guise I expect limited appreciation. I know that Katie is tempted to drop this one and continue with darks, I'd be inclined to agree.
My first impressions are that her chocolate has a lot of potential. The difficulty, however, will be adjusting her learnings she has amassed with this one bean and to adapt them to other beans. I’m sure you’ll be seeing a fair bit of Salt’s Chocolate when she’s in full production.