Palos Blancos

by twenty-four blackbirds
Info Details
Country USA   
Type Dark   (75%; Lot 148)
Strain Beniano   (mainly, with foreign hybrids on the mix)
Source Bolivia   (Alto Bení; Palos Blancos)
Flavor Earthen   
Style retro-American      
Introducing twenty-four blackbirds nested in Santa Barbara, CA from where it can espy the Channel Islands just offshore.

In 1542 the Cabrillo expedition on behalf of Spain -- the first Euros to navigate the coastline of present day California -- supposedly encountered the Chumash & Tongva on these islands. They grew their hair long & let it down low to make braids & then fashioned around their face which led the Spaniards to refer to them as the bearded people. The original dreadlockers & hipsters long before Venice Beach or latter-day Brooklyn. For gifts, these early Americans most desired calico & chocolate -- reportedly of a superior grade.

In a similar manner, Friar Junípero Serra, the Franciscan founder of California's Spanish missions, used chocolate as an incentive & reward; candidly admitting his covetous ways in saying "sometimes I stretched in giving a chocolate tablet to those who work harder..."

In those days, chocolate was considered important, valuable, even necessary. It far outstripped coffee in popularity as the preferred wake-me-up breakfast cup. In fact, with supply lines stretched in the open West & provisions scarce, people would sigh with exasperation that they had to settle for coffee instead of chocolate.

Even rancheros, whose cattle would come to graze the countryside, took chocolate as their early morning fuel before mounting their horses, returning home around 8 or 9AM for breakfast. Chocolate became such a commonplace habit by the 1800s that Sgt. Macedonio Gonzalez claimed "shooting an Indian was as easy as taking a cup of chocolate".

Records recovered from the presidio (garrison) established by the Spanish at Santa Barbara in 1782 lists 3 grades of chocolate: ordinary, fine, & premium gift.

This bar, evocative of that era, falls into the first category -- rather stark & severe in flavor profile, rough hewn in a retro-American grind.
Appearance   4 / 5
Color: purpled raven-brown
Surface: feather design for the mold
Temper: worn
Snap: the silent type
Aroma   5.9 / 10
pig anus & horsetail rolled into a cigar leaf
luckily aerates some straight cocoa
Mouthfeel   12.1 / 15
Texture: bit stiff
Melt: measured time-release
Flavor   42.6 / 50
live purple fruit (to mirror its Color; honeyed pomegranate, the lure), quick fleeting though, as caustic & tannic cocoa / chalk take over (& mostly the latter at that, a flavor almost primordial as if there'd never been a yesterday), sustains this for the longest flight... hits stone & lite metal on the crash landing
Quality   15 / 20
Palos Blancos forms the 'B' squad of Rio Bení, Bolivia cacáo -- good but pales next to the heirloom variety that populates another section of the river basin.

For instance, that opening purple fruit frame usually endures in true Beniano fashion, while in this bar it withers rapidly. Ditto Beniano's hallmark honey-tones where here it teases more of a honey trap for a mule. The formulation partially explains why (no additional cocoa butter to fix & carry the early hedonics).

Once past the rather dreadful nose -- a whiff from Raaka's Bolivian without the ornate bourbon embellishments -- twenty-four blackbirds shapes these kernels into a particular profile for peculiar tastes... those enamored with chocolate on the dry & stark side (again the austere formulation of 75% cocoa mass / 25% sugar & nothing else). Quite constrained in its range, of only moderate depth, eerily similar to Taza's take on the same cocoa; just less roasted here & more satisfying throughout. Indeed, one of the most satiating middlings in a long while to earn respect despite its modest favors.

Promising potential from a startup label.

INGREDIENTS: cocoa mass, sugar

Reviewed June 11, 2014


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