Bertil Akesson is one of the true heroes of the bean to bar market, pioneering the direct sale of his single estate beans to over three hundred chocolate makers all over the world. Born to a Swedish diplomat father and a French mother, Bertil grew up in Madagascar, where his family settled in the 1970s. There, his father established a number of cocoa and spice plantations which Bertil has expanded. Bertil also crafts his own bars.
Today, bars made with his beans have won a long list of accolades and prizes all over the world, not least this very expressive dark bar. This bar hails from Akesson's Ambolikapiky plantation in the celebrated cacao producing region of the Sambirano Valley, North-West of Madagascar, with many of the world’s best chocolate makers and chefs using cocoa from this estate.
You may not know that cacao can suffer from sunburn if exposed to intense sunlight. In many countries, cacao is grown beneath the lush canopy of the rainforest. However, in Madagascar it is often grown alongside taller crops that can provide a degree of shade and protection from the harsh rays of the tropical sun. One such crop is pepper.
It is often said that Madagascan cocoa has a natural spice to it and in the case of this bar, that is certainly true. However, this flavour is entirely due to the fact that the bars have an inclusion in the form of a rare native Madagascan wild pepper. This pepper is known as the Voatsiperifery pepper – “Voa” meaning the fruits and “tsiperifery” which is the Malagasy for this pepper vine. Their fruits are hand harvested by farmers from the forests of Madagascar.
The 75% dark chocolate in this bar has the pleasing flavours we’ve come to enjoy in Madagascan chocolate, notably expressive flavour notes of citrus and red berries. When coupled with the natural earthiness and woodiness of the pepper inclusion, we are left with a bar that has a delicious aroma of cloves and cinnamon and as it melts, releases a gentle spicy heat.