Vintage wine, vintage cars and vintage cigars may be in vogue right now but also other products are coming in a vintage fashion nowadays. When earlier this year my friend Jim Riddel from Minnesota visited Jakarta he brought with him a whole stack of chocolate bars from his favourite producer, Michel Cluizel and his vintage chocolate produced on small farms under controlled conditions. It’s a chocolate for adults with a fantastic unadulterated taste, many of the younger generation, used to industrially produced chocolate, does not yet appeal. Michel Cluizel (www.cluizel.com) is an artisan chocolate producer since 1948. His mission is to produce the best chocolate by vigorously selecting the best cocoa beans to produce the finest chocolate of exceptional quality. He and his four children work in the family enterprise.
In 1997 he created the single plantation chocolate series -1ers Crue de Plantation – which sounds like the denomination of any fine wine from France. In fact the concept for this product includes to find the best cocoa beans and to establish fair and long term relations with the planters. The chocolates are to be enjoyed and compared like fine wines.
We tasted the two single plantation chocolates below, the Los Ancones from Santo Domingo and the Maralumi from Papua New Guinea. From Michel Cluizel’s website I got the following descriptions of the plantation and the tasting notes:
Los Ancones – Dark Chocolate 67% cocoa
“I discovered this plantation in a splendid environment to the north east of the island of Santo Domingo, at the heart of the Caribbean where the family Rizek has produced, since 1903, exquisite cocoa beans.”
“Lengthily worked, the beans release in this chocolate their aromas of liquorice wood, then red berries and green olives with a lingering flavour of currants and apricots.”
Maralumi – Dark Chocolate 64% cocoa
“The island of Papua – New Guinea, off the coast of Australia, is an unusual origin for cocoa. A superb Maralumi plantation lies close to the East coast producing refined beans that greatly appealed to me.”
“The beans give this mellow chocolate slightly roasted and spicy flavours, fresh notes of green bananas and acidulates flavours of red currants prolonged by charming aromas of Havana tobacco leaves.”
Cocoa, the fatty seeds from the cocoa tree (Carolus Linnaeus), is the base of which chocolate is made. Cocoa trees are very “individual” which means that they are not suitable for large scale plantations but rather small tree gardens tended to by individual farmers. The trees are usually grown together with other useful trees, either for fruit or firewood. The tree is a native to Latin America but Indonesia is one of the major producers (third after Ivory Coast and Ghana) and blending centres for chocolate. Production worldwide has increased steeply in the last couple of years. Leading consumer of chocolate is Belgium, leading processor is The Netherlands. Chocolate tasting is organised similarly to wine tasting. After a beautiful meal I usually drink a strong espresso and relax with a piece of chocolate, if possible from Michel Cluizel.