Today a long awaited box arrived and a few nibbles made me immediately order 10 more of a single variety from Amano- a masterful bean-to-bar maker in Utah. Drats, I guess I already gave away the plot ending.
Chocolate is very different from puerh where you don't wait around brew after brew for a delayed reaction in your body while you agonize over it's aging potential. With chocolate, you know instantly when your pleasure centers hit pay dirt as a piece melts on your tongue.
As in the world of puerh- the market is saturated with a lot of mediocre overhyped "artisan" bars. However due to market forces, disgusting artisan bars are nigh impossible to come by unlike shu roulette which lands you heart burn if not straight out digestive turmoil. In the world of artisan chocolate, most of it's good and some of it is pretty good but for your $7+, you want something wonderful and for $10+, something amazing. Last month's unexpected let down with the overpriced Corallo bars forced me to right the wrong by ordering a variety box of Amano chocolates.
It's not Corallo's meticulous processing I find fault with, it's just his limited forastero beans. I would love to see what Claudio Corallo could do with the same set of beans Amano uses. It's when you compare all the different Porcelanas or Chuaos that you can get a better sense of each chocolate makers skill. Judging from Corallo's interviews- he seems to display such a defensive outsider mentality that he may never source beans outside of Sao Tome to truly create the world's best chocolate. (Note to Signor Corallo- you should not deem your chocolates superior because they're way better than Lindt and other industrial manufacturers with your $12.50 sub 2oz chocolate bars. You are competing with likes of other chocolate geniuses like Art Pollard of Amano. )
The Amano Morobe bar is made from beans hailing form Southern Papua New Guinea. Pure PNG bars are few and far between as Papua New Guinea has suffered declining production with the cocoa pod borer and other diseases. Their cacao industry is still very immature and it's mostly small farms in PNG that are not as experienced in fermentation as cacao estates in Venezuela or Ecuador. I've been sorely let down by an unremarkable Mast Brothers PNG bar but all that is moot now that I've found Amano's PNG bar. (I vowed never to be enticed or fooled by the handsome MAST Brothers wrappers ever again. )
The fruity dusky intensity of the Morobe bar is so utterly unique and remarkable, I instantly ordered 10 more. There is the inherent nature of the bean and the chocolate maker's skill in bringing out those flavors in the end product. Art Pollard- founder of Amano- states they experiment exhaustively to bring out the best of the bean's flavors and in comparing most of the bars that pass my lips- that man is one of the rare talents.
For more than half the artisan bars I consume, the experience is lessened by common flaws in the processing- over roasting or over conching so the character ends up being quite bland. But when I have the Amano bars- I'm instantly impressed by their unique delicate yet intense flavor profiles so much so that I keenly feel the inferiority of other bars. The quality and pleasure to be gained from Amano bars are so unmistakable that it makes it clear to me that when I'm just ambivalent about other single origin bars (Pralus, Cluizel, Dandelion, Mast Brothers, some Domori), I need not doubt deficiencies in my palate. The only Amano bar I felt they didn't do the beans justice was their Chuao but I may suspect bean quality as it's fierce international competition to get the best Chuao beans.
The Morobe has been one of the most exciting bars in my decades of chocolate consumption and after all this exhaustive gushing over Amano, I really should be going to bed now.
End note- One of my favorite documentaries of all time is Ongka's Big Moka about the gift culture of PNG. I got 10 bars for distribution as I have a long long list of neglected friends.