Info Details
Country USA   
Type Dark   (78%; Batch 87E16X1D)
Strain Blend   
Source Peru   (San Juan de Cheni)
Flavor Twang   (lo-twang)
Style Neo-Modern      
A major ray of light in an otherwise deteriorating label. Ray Major, that is. He the sourcing agent for S-B's 'Maker's Series' line. Living up to his name, Ray Major consistently delivers the goods for these limited edition production runs.

For this one he ventures to central Peru, attracted by the backstory of the people in the village of San Juan de Cheni as much as by their cacáo. The latter, in a sense, far more diverse than the former; old growth trees, some of them sporting dozens of different pod shapes & sizes, all suggesting a motley mix of genotypes.

At the height of Peru's civil strife in the 1990s, El Sendero Luminoso (The Shining Path aka PCP for Partido Comunista del Perú) terrorized local communities, impressing young men into "service", & confiscating harvests to feed their own forces. Those who refused faced a bleak choice: resistance or death. Sometimes both. In the case of San Juan de Cheni, Sendero Luminoso made an example of 6 families: murdering them.

Regular readers of this site will recognize a familiar pattern here throughout the country, as chronicled in the C-spot's® multi-part series on the rescue & recovery of a rare & vanishing cacáo strain in Marañón Canyon of northern Peru titled The New Nacional Guardsmen. (For more grisly details on Sendero & the government's equally diabolical reactionary countermeasures, see Chapter 10 -- High Upon Fortunato's Farm).

As elsewhere in the tropics, Ray Major on behalf of Scharffen Berger / Hershey's hopes cocoa can create a winning TBL (Triple Bottom Line) or what the C-spot® squares to the '4-E' corners -- eco-, econ-, ethics, & eusocial.

At a few dollars a bar, cocoa currently cannot compete with coca (Erythroxylum coca from which the popular drug of power & ego – cocaine – is derived, & not to be confused with cacáo / cocoa / chocolate).

But with excessive DEA defoliants & a few more bars like this, maybe someday it will.
Appearance   4.5 / 5
Color: pale iced ruby
Surface: shipshape
Temper: sexed (as usual with S-B)
Snap: violent
Aroma   8.8 / 10
tall, massive hardwoods shaking with foliage atop an understory of spores & mushrooms (chanterelles / wood's ear) + cocoa settled on the humus floor below
a little tar & rubber at the further downshaft corners
overall HUGE
Mouthfeel   12 / 15
Texture: a bit resistant, even unforgiving despite lecithin
Melt: staggers to eventual smoothness
Flavor   45.4 / 50
those wooded Aromas lead in around flickering fruits & fleeting chocolate -> soft dry sour (pineapple)... then progressively sharper (think Vermouth) -> flowers (Bliss Pt: orange blossoms) -> bitter finger -> ground nut, almost acorn -> a mushroom-banana pasta under-breath (nice) -> clears grapefruit extract
Quality   17.1 / 20
Nicely contained for a 78%, though still somewhat austere (to be expected for such a modest sugar content).

Quite evocative of the environs -- rolling hills. It plays on the edges of so many pockets (nuts, mushrooms, wheat, alcohol, fruits) without delving deeply into any of them (except for maybe the orange blossom). And that's this bar's inexorable beauty.

Nowhere near as pronounced in its volatiles as Morin's chocolate from neighboring Chanchamayo. This bar more subtle.

Ray Major of Scharffen Berger credits some upmarket "consumer groups" (re: The Manhattan Chocolate Society) with encouraging his company to release a high-percentage bar in a vanilla-free formulation (though he professes he would've preferred a drop or two of it).

He might have a point.

With results like this, however, why bother? Just file it under 'if it ain't broke...'

INGREDIENTS: cocoa mass, sugar, lecithin; CBS (Cocoa mass / Butter / Sugar ratio): 7:10:5

Reviewed April 26, 2013


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