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Balao

by Ritual
Info Details
Country USA   
Type Dark   (75%; Batch #001)
Strain EET   (Nacional germplasm)
Source Ecuador   (Balao; Camino Verde)
Flavor Earthen   
Style retro-American      
lo
med
hi
CQ
Sweetness
Acidity
Bitterness
Roast
Intensity
Complexity
Structure
Length
Impact
A Chocolate MOOC (which in this case stands for a Massive Open Offline Course) in ethno-botany & phyto-geography.

The cacáo type printed on the back of this package -- Arriba Nacional -- refers to ‘above’ (the translation for the Spanish term arriba) or north of Guayaquil in the Guayas Basin of Ecuador; & Nacional designates the country's national cacáo varietal because they once thought this kind was exclusive to it. That the cocoa in the bar here hails from Baloa points in the direction well south of Guayaquil.

The acknowledgment by the cacaotero or grower in Balao that the cacáo used in this chocolate belongs to the "Complejo Nacional" (Nacional Complex) in all likelihood means EET.

The cat depicted on the front of the bar (click image upper right to enlarge) appears a homage to the jaguar. Jaguars figure prominently in Mesoamerican cacáo mythology. Ecuador situates in South America.

Confused? Chocolate often scrambles puzzle pieces like that & re-codes mysteries to encompass new myths. None of which are essential to popping this in the pie-hole.

Unless, of course, it tastes of some nationalized cat digging its paw in... oh, let's just skip that.

Final grade: it doesn't fail the course, it just takes home an 'I'.
Appearance   4.8 / 5
Color: ink jet brown with raven-purple
Surface: pretty ideal save for a faint release mark
Temper: buffed & swabbed with polish nearing lacquer
Snap: tiny bend, li'l brittle / mostly lyrical; finely sanded edge wall
Aroma   7.9 / 10
major stoner: a quarry full of sedimentary layers -- blue stone, cement pavement, granite, even a little marble -> medicinal roots sprout from the rocks (gentian)
in its favor -- all washed quite clean
breathes spice
Mouthfeel   12 / 15
Texture: Wax Factor™
Melt: methodical
Flavor   40.2 / 50
loads in brownies, deep brownies -> dark treacle -> floral figment, emphasis on the fig part -> growing bitter... losing the handle on the roast... bitter roots (gentian from Aroma & cat's paw / pau d'arco) -> bad cereal grains (yucca / maize, barley) -> some dirt -> cocoa holds its edge, if not poise, thanks in no small measure to this cacáo's butter -> purple lining at the very tail (from wonderberry) -> stone werx + lentils in the aft-length
Quality   14.9 / 20
ID'd by Steve Devries on a trip to Ecuador, extolled in the Floral Aroma category at the Paris Salon in 2011, & the lead offering of Gino & Co. from the importer Meridian Cacao, this seed has got choc-heads all atwitter.

Traditional Arriba Nacional calls for relatively short ferments & longish roast. Ritual delivers on both ends of the spectrum; too much so.

The grower / Broman, Vincente Norero, claims fermentation rates of 85% to 95%, the upper figure perhaps hyperbole.

Whatever the case, this bar tastes barely in the 70 percentile range.

Ominous signs begin with the stone Aroma, then picked-up in the opening frame of the Flavor on those charred brownies. They continue on... waxy texture rather customary for true Nacional but bitterness is generally atypical -- another sign of an aggressive roast which compounds then magnifies a truncated ferment that left flavor pre-cursors in the pile underdeveloped. Scant evidence of this cacáo's pulp, reportedly rich with a sweet mix of mango, banana, orange blossom & cinnamon perfumes.

In between, Ritual's grinder runs the tongue around several laps of what seems some stone rollers.

Through it all, however, traces of genuine Nacional character can be gleaned.

INGREDIENTS: cocoa mass, sugar

Reviewed March 14, 2013

  

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