For those who know me, you should know that I love chocolate.
My addiction has little to no limits and when I visit a country known for its chocolate, I'll go all out. In knowing this, it should be no surprise that our recent trip to Ecuador ended up with us trying over 20 chocolate bars during our exploration of the country.
After trying some of the country's best, we also purchased another 50 to send home for later consumption.
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Out of all of the brands that we tried, there was one that we knew we were not giving a fair shake: Republica del Cacao. We could only try a few bars from this particular company as, by Ecuadorian standards (and even some American standards for premium chocolate), they are a bit pricey at upwards of $6 per bar.
Well, it turns out that Republica del Cacao read our review, and asked if we would be interested in trying some more bars to give their chocolate a second chance. Being a chocolate addict, it was hard to say no.
An Evening of Chocolate Tasting
To give the chocolates their fair assessment, we did what any good chocolate addict would do: we had a sampling of all of them in one evening starting with the single origin chocolates from lightest to darkest and then moving on to the flavored chocolates from the mildest flavors (rose) to the most powerful (coffee).
Let's first cover the single origin bars which had very mild flavors and subtle flavor nuances from the different regions of Ecuador:
El Oro 67% Cacao: El Oro had subtle fruit and floral flavors with a very mild taste of the cacao.
Manabi 75% Cacao: Manabi featured a subdued cacao flavor with hints of spices like cinnamon much like the El Oro.
Los Rios 75% Cacao: Another single origin bar with mild cacao flavor and subdued nuttiness.
Los Rios 85% Cacao (Organic): We found quite a difference in this bar and the same bar with 75% cacao. We much preferred the 85% bar and thought it had much more complex and full flavors than the 75& bar. Amazingly, it almost tasted sweeter to us than the 75% bar as well.
La Comunidad Vinces 75% Cacao (Organic) – This bar had notes of dried fruits like cranberry and raisins that give it an almost wine-like undertone. To our palates it had some of the most complex flavors out of all the single origin bars.
After sampling the single origin bars, we moved on to the milk chocolate and flavored bars which used cacao from the Los Rios region reviewed above (albeit in lower cacao percentages).
Dark Milk: This bar is a smooth and creamy milk chocolate with 52% cacao. We tasted intense caramel and butterscotch notes which went well with the sweeter taste of the bar.
Rose Petals 51% Cacao: This bar has a very subtle floral flavor. The dried rose pieces are very tiny and are just sprinkled on top of the bar. The rose pieces smell very good but the flavor can be masked by the chocolate depending on the bite. It helps to let this one slowly melt on your tongue to let the rose flavor develop and linger.
Golden Berry 48% Cacao: This was our second favorite flavored bar. The chocolate is very milky and smooth, while the pieces of golden berry are tart little pockets that interject a perfect counterpoint.
Banana Chips 47% Cacao: By far, our favorite flavored bar. The banana chips are salty and crispy which goes extremely well with the creamy milk chocolate. It has the texture of a Crackle bar and an intense banana flavor. Delicious!
Hot Pepper 51% Cacao: Compared to some of the other hot pepper bars we've had in Ecuador, this one is intensely spicy (and that is a good thing!). Every once in a while you'll get a chunk of hot pepper that provides quite a kick. Yum!
Coffee Nibs 75% Cacao: This bar is made with cacao from the Galapagos Islands which is pretty unique. The coffee nibs are ground up pretty finely and dispersed evenly throughout the bar, giving a nice acidic crunch that is balanced by the milky sweet chocolate.
In general we noticed that the single origin bars with a high cacao percentage were much less bitter than what you would normally expect for a chocolate bar with the same cacao percentage made with non-Ecuadorian cacao.
We think this is a plus as the health benefits of chocolate start to kick in as you get to higher cacao percentages- these single origin bars make it much easier for us to enjoy such dark chocolate.
Oddly enough, the two bars we sampled that were produced with organic cacao, from the same region and concentrations as other bars in our sampler, were far sweeter and had stronger flavors overall.
Whether there is a different preparation style with these (they are also community owned farms) or organic cacao is that much more flavorful in general, it is hard to say. In either case the flavors in these are incredibly powerful and some of the best of the bunch.
Something else we noticed is that the flavored chocolate bars from Republica del Cacao were in general far superior to other Ecuadorian brands' flavored bars.
We attribute this to better flavor combinations that are more complimentary to chocolate; the smooth, creamy texture of the chocolate itself; and a more even distribution of the flavored ingredients which is a problem that other Ecuadorian chocolate manufacturers have not overcome.
In addition to the chocolate bars, we also sampled a unique product from Republica del Cacao- chocolate covered bananas, pineapples, and coffee. Our thoughts on these include the following:
Banana oritos: These are perfect little bite-sized pieces of chocolate covered bananas. The bananas are starchy and sweet which contrasts nicely with the darker chocolate and is a completely different flavor profile than the bar form with banana chips.
Chocolate covered coffee nibs: We love these little guys! They're tiny, crunchy, and perfect for topping yogurt or ice cream. We especially like them on top of oatmeal to give us an extra little pick-me-up in the morning.
Chocolate covered pineapple: Normally I think dried pineapple is sickeningly sweet, but we found these chocolate covered pineapple pieces had just the right amount of sweetness to offset the dark chocolate coating.
Overall, we were really impressed with the quality and variation of flavors in the Republica del Cacao chocolate bars. While it is true that the single origin chocolate bars hare a subdued flavor over other bars available, the organic single origin bars and flavored chocolate bars were some of the best we've had.
It is unfortunate that our sampling during our travels in Ecuador was limited from this brand, as we completely missed the best on our quest to try mostly the single origin varieties.
Now we know!
We'd like to thank Republica del Cacao for sending us this generous sampling of their product to review. As always, all opinions are our own.
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