Info Details
Country Ecuador   
Type Dark   (75%; nearing Semi-Dark)
Strain Blend   (Nacional lineage)
Source Ecuador   
Flavor Crossover   
Style Rustic      
Sex bomb that gets down & dirty, releasing immediately in seemingly engineered waves of awakened taste, never fury; bursting with almost manipulated intensity, so clear the accents, it could be in techni-color (except for all the vanilla) that might even attract a strong following among the ethical minority like the virgin cult - that backlit motherboard to this Chocolate Jesus, the illuminati in Dark Paradise: beata viscera que fructu gravida eterni germinis, in vite poculo propinat seculo: lux dulcedinis (beautiful womb full with fruit of the eternal seed, the life vessel delivering a worldly gift: sweet light)
Appearance   4.3 / 5
Color: solid brown purpling a touch of fuschia
Surface: could use a mild facelift; minor chipping, spider veins, & overhanging lip; symmetrical designer swirls on back accentuating micro-crystallization (early bloom)
Temper: sanded matte
Snap: too piercing for pitch-perfect; granular cliff-wall on the break; minute airholes
Aroma   7.8 / 10
opens rather closed on corn & plantain -> punctured by black currant -> perspires starfruit, then drips pineapple component of that rather cacáo-like fruit: cherimoya -> stale-ale underpit -> coffee grounds ‘n tea leaf let out a cinnamoan breath -> butter, vinyl, & wax -> aerates soap bubbles perfume
Mouthfeel   11.6 / 15
Texture: stiff wax factor
Melt: prolonged until rapid demise just after a midway break-point
Flavor   45.7 / 50
acacia blossom the fuse to light a blackberry bomb -> blowing up corn chips... eventually sopped in blackberry juice -> awash in simple & supple chocolate w/ just a tremor of subterranean bitters -> vanilla counters, takes command opposite plantain, generating a black-suite: black mission fig -> mocha converting to blackstrap cocoa -> black tea -> lights out on black walnut brownie; chocolate wafers & biscuits the after-math spread w/ stringent pomegranate
Quality   17.4 / 20
Fairly one-dimensional... quite a dimension though. That Huckberry Finn in Kallari 85% sweetened to explode off a sensational blackberry opener, revitalizing the Ecuador of yore, summoning branches of Nacionals past. While it lacks that true foundational chocolate base memorialized in heirloom varieties – missing the higher-weight molecular tannins - it can trace some lineage upon which Ecuador built its rep. And where the 2:1 Butter-to-Mass ratio just sucks the juice out of the 85%, the same configuration here benefits from 10% more sugar which enlivens the bar, converting the dirt, roots, & vines + undefined acidity into a fruited sweet-spot.

Though somewhat geographically distinct from cacáo emanating from the Los Rios / Queveda vicinity, this bears resemblances, especially in the banana/plantain/fig aspects.

What sets Kallari apart is its backstory of the riches of poverty among Kichwa people who form an 850-family cooperative to harvest, process, & mold chocolate bars, all in-country, before exporting to the northern hemisphere. They do so in the face of mounting pressure from oil interests to drill on their lands.

The ethnobotanical record of Theobroma usage among Amerinds in upper Ecuador indicates a variety of uses for related species (e.g., Theobroma bicolor, grandiflorum, &/or speciosum; Herrania balaensis, breviligulata, mariae) as food, fuel or pharmacy but little to suggest Theobroma cacáo seeds are ingested for food (cacáo pulp, however, is), & certainly not chocolate as we know it. And that’s OK; everything on its own terms, for its own merits (Hippocrates: not all for everything but each for what it is).

Yet this chocolate feels somehow manipulated by a Northern fixer's image (re: a foreign-service technocrat) of what gringo expects from a bar (particularly its vanilla-driven / butter-laden taste). Trying to tranlsate that to the folks on the ground can spell p-r-o-b-l-e-m-a... basically going non-native.

The oft-repeated ‘Cacao Nacional’ on the label more or less holds true. Photos sent in the packet with the bars shows a hodge-pod of varying shapes, sizes, & colors to dispel any notion of uniform ‘Nacional’ (including some red pods possibly of Criollo germplasm, the Venezolano from Venezuela that accounts for a) light body & b) that nourishing bread-cream finish).

Enough of them however may bear Nacional DNA, including one snapshot of a Theobroma cacáo tree, even as the phenotype appears more inclined toward perhaps an Amazon strain in keeping with the distribution of cacáo on the eastern slope of the Andes in the Rio Curaray / Napo valley, flowing inward to the rainforest & the Rio Amazon... the farther on in that direction the more Amazon it becomes. Ecuadorian Nacional is more endemic to the other side, or western foothills of the mountains. Maybe the Kallari co-op pulls from a wider area. Or, the genetic geography here might lend yet further credence to Marañón Canyon Cacao's recovery of genuine Nacional in... Peru(!!) along the western slope.

In any event, the taste of this chocolate, masked by a fair amount of vanilla, still bears at least ghost traces of Nacional in its profile.

This bar is just the first pass; the Kichwa are new at this, & the road, for those who understand, is long & winding. In the big picture, social venturing & good intentions can go only so far. Given the wild variance in Kallari's other bars (85% and 70%) it's tenuous at best to say whether the results here in this 75% bar are for real or just a lucky strike / happy accident.

So, yes, to the indigenous – in the fullest sense: let's hope they develop consistency & a more innate understanding of, not cacáo per se (which they presumably already possess), but chocolate - as contradictory as that may sound; & establish their own conception of what it should be - maybe an adaptation, maybe something more original - so the world will come to know it as genuinely their own.

ING: cocoa mass, sugar, cacáo butter, whole vanilla; CBS (Cacáo Mass-Butter-Sugar ratio) of approximately ~1:2:1

Reviewed January 2010


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