Info Details
Country UK   
Type Dark   (72%; Batch 100168)
Strain Indio Rojo   
Source Honduras   
Flavor Naked   (mite Fruits/Flowers)
Style Classic      
Provehito in Altum (Latin: ‘go forth into the deep’)... the motto for 30STM (30 Seconds To Mars for all non-fans of that band). This bar however is paradoxically a lot closer ‘n quicker just as it goes farther & longer than that.

To all other makers & consumers out there, Duffy Sheardown of Red Star throws down this marker & asks ‘how deep is your chocolate?’

Honduras Indio Rojo: tastes of a tree as large as an entire country in an upheaval to slam & blow a hole in the roof of the mouth (& brain) both bigger & heavier than the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs.
Appearance   4.7 / 5
Color: mauve-brown
Surface: hardly a blemish; a spa castle of perfection; even the lone pinhole / dimple or 2 on the back, & release-mark up front, serve as beauty marks
Temper: impervious to its own shine
Snap: imperial: big, sharp & deafening for a mold of relatively thin pour
Aroma   8.9 / 10
gale force winds surging in from a couple zip codes away & nothing “fruity” about it (unless counting fruit sage, Salvia dorisiana)... the original King Criollo(??)... very inclined, even aromatically gifted: supple sheets of cocoa ‘n nuts -> lightly-wooded vines (balsam & green) -> amber-like copal -> alluvial deposits -> butter-softened leather & a trace petrol motion... all gorgeously contained -> more green on the rubdown (tobacco) -> goes aerosal on misty moraberry
Mouthfeel   14 / 15
Texture: velour (soft enough to take a dip in); slightly expandable (thanks to lecithin) to join the 360-Club (360º in every direction)
Melt: classic melting grail: measured & succulent
Flavor   47.2 / 50
an palimpsest of what scholars & natives wax nostalgic & wistful about... the cacáo of olden days & the Mesoamericans who brought chocolate culture to its zenith back then & there -- the presumed center of domestication for Theobroma cacao -- the place where it was elevated thanks to generations of natural selection during pre-Columbian times... this posits the flavor compounds of those cacáo relics in a refined enough way compared to, say, the more primordial types to be captured from the species' cradle in the Amazon: moraberry right on the heels of pure chocolate... check that --- PUREST chocolate -> cream supreme & sublime to white chocolate mousse -> malabar chestnut -> Indian candy corn -> massive chocolate bang with just the lightest bitter nibbling around the edges... the blast reverberates... rippling onward & away toward soft nuts + biscuit wafer to approximate a chocolate pecan pie -> & practically holds it... forevermore
Quality   18.4 / 20
Crafted from seeds* gathered on the ground in Central America by Frank Homann of Xoco Fine Cocoa Company whose mission encompasses an Indiana Jones-worthy quest to collect rare heirloom relics at their vanishing point... ones still standing in the hidden valleys, around abandoned ruins of Mayan antiquity.

Having identified what he considers to be a dozen or so different Criollo phenotypes (ID markers based on visual inspection – shape, size, color, skin texture, et al), Frank then transports them to genebanks for testing & analysis.

CATIE in Turrialba Costa Rica houses a benchmark reference standard in the Int’l Cacáo Database for Criollo (specifically Criollo-13). When a cacáo compares favorably to Criollo-13, it's often christened 'Criollo Antigua' (old growth selections of pure ancient Criollo).

Growers, brokers & makers, however, like to seize on the term whether or not their cocoa actually contains Criollo Antigua for obvious marketing advantages -- all part & parcel of the chocolate myth-information campaigns that prevail throughout the business.

In the dozens of genetic tests analyzed to date on specimens labeled 'Criollo Antigua' from Central America about a quarter of them test negative & prove false.

The cocoa in this bar belongs to the extended Criollo family -- very extended*.

Which may explain why Homann prefers the local indigene trade name Indio Rojo (or Mayan Red)*. Colorful for sure but also very confusing if telling too, since when it comes to cacáo, Indio Rojo can mean different things in different neighboring countries -- or even within the same country.

For example, in Nicaragua, Indio Rojo refers to typical Trinitario (in other words, ‘a little bit of this, a little bit of that’ & lot of just about everything, very suitable for that catch-all mob term). In Honduras itself, Indio Rojo is commonly known as a hybrid cross between Upper Amazon x Trinitario exhibiting light pink seeds with very little contribution from Criollo (which, coincidentally, match the color of the seeds contained in this chocolate*).

Welcome to cacáo classification in the 21st Century. Hopefully the work of peripatetic cacáo-hunters such as Frank & field geneticists around the world can fulfill Basil Bartley’s goal for a rationalized taxonomy of cacáo’s genetic diversity. As Nadine Gordimer exclaims "Truth isn't always beauty, but the hunger for it is." The ramifications of such a project are manifold... from improving the tree’s resistance to disease, which consequently would increase the livelihoods & earnings of its growers, to much finer end-flavor for consumers.

And the beautiful truth is that this bar leaves a hungering... for more of it.

Every now & then a chocolate comes across the Pal (for Palate) that truly amazes, commands attention & stops everything dead in its tracks. Trust that this happens few & far between... maybe 2% -- at best. This Indio Rojo is such a moment.

That these little pink Honduran seeds hail nearby to the Ulua Valley -- right inside the basket of one of 3 prime cacáo zones in the Mayan World prior to Columbus & the Euro invasion (the other 2 being Tabasco Mexico & the Pacific Piedmont extending from Xoconochco to Sonsonate) -- is a landmark of possible noble roots... however genetically distant*.

Duffy Sheardown, the barsmith behind Duffy's Red Star Chocolate, checks off every box on the checklist without skipping a beat in respect. Absolutely no letdowns whatsoever; the bar just repels off one peak to the next then on to another.

Though massive in scale (in fact too big for a Criollo & more akin to Neuhaus' West African), it’s quite benign, truly that proverbial gentle giant. Incredibly rich, deep, yet still elevated (lecithin assists in creating a pneumatic psychological lift). 72% feels light enough that this cacáo’s tolerance could sustain its poise well into the upper 70s / low 80s percentile of cacáo-content. Only minor bittering; nary a trace of astringency; & volatiles expressly defined (re: that moraberry).

And where ki’Xocolatl’s 75% registers an impact much sweeter than its quartile of sugar, this packs the TNT dynamite in the opposite direction of much greater explosive weight.

Pre-possessing & pure yet unassuming. However discounted its nobility as a cacáo genotype -- perhaps a breed unto itself -- it seems to sense its own victory in the DNA lottery. It could herald not so much the end of the single-origin era that has ruled premium chocolate since the turn of the 21st century (origin & terra will continue to play a vital role) as much as the rise of the genetic era is finally upon us.

For it definitively marks, as Xococoa busies about the nursery sprouting the next generation for future planting, hi-flavor as a prime criteria in cacáo research / breeding instead of just productivity, disease-resistance & drought-tolerance that has dominated the field.

The upshot of such a development & why it matters? Rookie bar-smiths can craft excellent chocolate to the consumers' benefit because of it.

Could it be possible to make a bad bar with these beans? However unlikely, maybe.

Amateur-proof. Which means eventually you too might make super chocolate from beans like these in the comforts of your own home with portable equipment while surfing online!

After all, start-up Duffy Sheardown produced greatness with them, simultaneously transforming himself & his Red Star enterprise into a rock star.

Basically a rookie but the MVP for this season at least. That's how stunning a development. Where in the past the learning curve was (&, kidding aside, still remains for the most part) long & steep, enduring many trials & tribulations, this laps the competition right out of the gate.

Beginner’s luck or not, he's on a hot streak considering the remarkable consistency of the output with which Duffy processes these bars that stands unprecedented in the artisan chocolate world fraught with batch variability.

So grab a seat next to this guy at the chocolate craps table to place a bet alongside his as he blows on the cocoa beans that serve as dice before tumbling ‘em across the felt of the tongue for some major flavorful winnings.

It re-affirms Frank Homann’s selction of a seed type built on a solid cocoa foundation with a dimple of fruit, the payoff of expeditions to Central and South American surveying the landraces at Tranquilidad along the Rio Bení with Volker Lehmann & the Franceschi’s Hacienda San José in Venezuela as the understudy to Gianluca Franzoni (aka Mack Domori).

ING: cocoa mass, sugar, cacáo butter, lecithin

* the C-spot™ obtained confirmation of the DNA analysis & the beans in this bar conform with Indio Rojo

Reviewed March 2011


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