Info Details
Country France   
Type Semi-Dark   (75%)
Strain Trinitario   
Source Cuba   (Baracoa)
Flavor Fruits & Flowers   
Style Rustic      
Despite helping the colonists in their War of Independence from King George’s Britain, & de Tocqueville’s generous reportage on democracy in the USA, plus gifting NY harbor with the Statue of Liberty, Franco-American relations have just as often struck discord.

Most think tensions started with de Gaulle’s nuclear posture (Force de Frappe) that led to French withdrawal from NATO & culminated in Chirac’s obstinate stand against the Iraqi operation which exacerbated that conflict, helping fuel its subsequent insurgency & frayed int’l relations.

Well before then, however, the two countries diverged.

It arguably began with the rather trivial in the French Revolution when Tallyrand demanded bribes from an American delegation visting Paris just to meet him (known as the XYZ Affair). During the Napoleanic wars, Jefferson imposed the Embargo Act prohibiting trade with France & England in order to maintain American neutrality with both. It really didn’t work.

Suspicions swirled over French support of the Southern Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War, though officially France remained a bystander.

At Versaille in the wake of WWI, French PM Clemenceau clashed with POTUS Wilson over the latter’s numerous points to reconstitute Europe & end all wars forever, summarized in his remark: "God was satisfied with 10 Commandments but Wilson insists on 14".

America & France took differing paths - each for their own legitimate reason - in their approach to Nazi Germany.

Next, the Suez Crisis where Eisenhower forced a hasty French retreat.

On & on the story grows...

And now in defiance of Washington’s trade sanctions against Cuba (which only applies to U.S. citizens & companies), Bonnat “smuggles in” to the USA some Cuban cocoa -- a kindred if distant spirit of those French corsairs who posed as the first Euro pirates in the Caribbean to ransack Spanish treasure fleets in the New World.

If Fidel had only kept the revolución on par with this bar, even Ron “Jellybean” Reagan might’ve lifted the embargo slapped on him by JFK. Good thing Uncle Sam stuck to his guns though, for that might’ve been our loss.

Ya see, in an bizarre twist, Communism was oddly good for chocolate. Not an ironclad fact but a wildly exaggerated one in support of a greater truth given that reality is seldom neat & tight.

At precisely the time when Big Candy & int'l agencies were littering the landscape with clones & hybrids, cacáo groves under communist regimes fell into neglect & disrepair. Wherever its social experiment applied its grip -- in places like the Nicaragua of the Sandinistas, Fidel’s Cuba or, more recently but less germane to the point, in Morales’ Bolivia -- heritage cacáo can still be found.

These less sexy, underserved origins could be the hot spots of tomorrow’s cacáo precisely because they resisted (in some measure) modernization & the onslaught of hybridization.

In fact, considering how the Candy Giants have trampled & mangled cacáo crops & its gene stock, they should be fired by Trump in an episode of Celebrity Apprentice & replaced by that other totalitarian sect – the ayatollahs & mullahs of the IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran).

Facetious for sure but the right conception to reverse cocoa’s industrial decline.

Besides, imagine the possibilities. A maneuver that puts America’s adversary right under its nose allows for easier monitoring of their nuclear development, brightens prospects for Mideast peace & preserves cacáo groves like it’s... 1491.

Appearance   4.8 / 5
Color: violet brown
Surface: virtually blemish-free
Temper: Pralus-like (hi-polish)
Snap: a power-tool that saws off an extremely well-fortified edge
Aroma   8.2 / 10
leather & tobac drenched in that growing tell-tale Cuban mark – guanabana (aka soursop... a sign of full ferment) -> pine flint & compost complete the package; aerates French bacon
Mouthfeel   12.4 / 15
Texture: slightly waxen
Melt: somewhat prolapsed
Flavor   45.2 / 50
gets off to a cherry good start -> cocoa flowers (oncidium) & delicate perfumes (butter jasmine) over tender baseline chocolate -> sea minerals, incl vocanic dust -> extremely light fruit dance (guava, starfruit) -> guanabana (w/o the sour just the cherimoya) -> creams up butter toffee ‘n custard -> fruits back in, this time in a melange w/ creamery & chocolate, basically soft Skittles™ hanging out on a fig island -> fizzles out stringent cocoa & sugar cane
Quality   18.4 / 20
Quiet eloquence.

The first artisanal Cuban bar to hit the global market occured on François Pralus’ Grand Tour of Chocolate several years ago. That also weighed in at 75%. So other than the differing vintages (no small matter), it naturally provides a head-to-head comparison with this from Bonnat. Both sourced their beans from the island’s eastern Baracoa region, a rather well-defined single origin.

Clearly the roasting styles of the two houses part company. Pralus prefers classic deep French roasting curves (sometimes even Italianate espresso-level) whereas Stéphane Bonnat strives for a more golden mean.

And for good cause, especially with this particular bar. Pralus’ surefire heat would’ve burned off the ultra-subtle suavity found in this bean's esters. For the chocolate here Bonnat actually under-roasts... to tremendous effect, preserving the floral perfumes – evanescent though they are – to keep his word that “the spirit is done by roasting.”

His explanation omits another obvious factor: butter. Cocoa butter embalms this cacáo’s soul almost to a wax effigy in the Texture (a bit out of joint with smoothness) but also lengthens the lifeline, giving it extended shelf life in the mouth, postponing its expiration date so to speak.

Viva el em-bar-go.

ING: cocoa mass, cacáo butter, sugar

Reviewed January 2011


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