Tierra Hermosa
Los Monos
(+ Flavored Bars)

by Cárdenas Chocolate
Info Details
Country Ecuador   
Type Dark   
Strain Nacional   (unofficially; + EET)
Source Ecuador   (Manabí; + Choco)
Flavor Naked   (x Spices/Herbs)
Style Mainstream      (x retro-American)
Susana Cárdenas, ex-Montecristo, launches this imprint.

The same panache she exudes personally may yet carryover into this chocolate endeavor as they develop & refine their techniques. As is, a precocious easy-pleaser.

Appearance   4.2 / 5
Color: Tierra Hermosa: purpled raven (2018); sleepy-brown red-eye (2019)

Los Monos: buckskin
Surface: Tierra Hermosa: baking discs
Cacao Nibs: studded back (with Nibs)
Sal Marina: sprinkled with salt
Sal Prieta: sprayed in prieto (see below)
Andean Fruits: and Tropical Fruits: well, fruit pocked
Ecuadorian Roses: strewn
JipiJapa: speckled with coffee grinds
Los Monos: weathered
Temper: Tierra Hermosa: vintage
Los Monos: suede
Snap: Tierra Hermosa: dainty
Los Monos: discreet
Aroma   8.7 / 10
Tierra Hermosa

the transporter... beautifully encapsulates terroir for a live scent / sense of 'tierra'
well above earth worm & snake on the ground, not alto bird altitude but at the level of climbing vines, airborne cocoa dust, a malt top
very clean; semi-arid

cacáo verde
sharp but light wood

Cacao Nibs
72% cacáo-content; Tierra Hermosa
raw cacáo edge with a sour twist -> Nibs take to the air not on typical bananas but maize & almonds (nice)

Sal Marina
72% cacáo-content; Tierra Hermosa
onto the Tierra Hermosa sour cacao-verde platform layers up 3M: minerals, mushrooms, marsh (the last more mangrove than mallow root)

Sal Prieta
72% cacáo-content; Tierra Hermosa
herbal (culinary as opposed to medicinal), savory clean, on the border of antisceptic

Andean Fruits and Tropical Fruits
72% cacáo-content; Tierra Hermosa
oddly, raw-ish cacáo opposite stewed dried fruits + not as much as a whisper but a breath of pepper

Ecuadorian Roses
72% cacáo-content; Tierra Hermosa
melon tonic blows up to tart berry floral

72% cacáo-content; Tierra Hermosa; Jipijapa coffee
no mistaking the additive in this one

Los Monos
a deciduous forest meadow, dense & vibrant, ground nuts & mulch all about (cocoa included)
sour burst ale morphs up BubbleYum®
Mouthfeel   12.1 / 15
Texture: Tierra Hermosa: frags self-correct into slick rounds
Los Monos: airy & crumbling
Melt: Tierra Hermosa: slow hand
Los Monos: swells nicely
Flavor   42.6 / 50
Tierra Hermosa

cocoa-malt from the jump -> rice cake -> sweetens some & turns over toward subtle black mission fig -> vanilla -> soft caramel -> paper-thin almond-skin -> sassafras

green-cocoa malt -> leguminous caramel -> faint gooseberry -> tapioca syrup -> dry limestone -> young red sangria in the aft-shaft

Cacao Nibs
starts out tracking its Aromatics (above) in a really coarse 'n dry texture matrix -> picks up some brown sugaring before flattening out in a stringent finish

Sal Marina
salty dog with just a streak of sweet -> comes truer thru the progression as the melt situates more toward cocoa

Chocolate, essentially a suspension of sucrose & lipids, teams up with sodium in this bar. And not just any sea salt but "single-origin sea salt" (guess Cárdenas controls ocean currents to stay put & in place). Hey, the 3 evil vices -- salt, sugar, & fat -- making a comeback to the peptic distress of all the virtue signalers in the raw / paleo / ancestral / keto / tribes.
This a bit heavy-handed on the salt shaker to make dead brined 'n cured meats blush, so contrastive to the light-handed touch in the cocoa processing.
Still, gotta like the boldness of "to hell with health foods", just have some salt, sugar & fat.

Sal Prieta
trips over savory & salty into umami territory from the very first contact -> caramelized-cocoa in support -> faint licorice -> cookie fudge

Excellent portioning to the elements; the ratios just perfect. Sal Prieto a combination of peanuts, maize, coriander & achiote so deftly blended that the components become subsumed to the greater whole sum. Best of the lot. A true flavor of Manabí, Ecuador.

Andean Fruits
a compounder... Tierra Hermosa magnified on the front lip then subdued by inclusions (berries + hibiscus, the last prominent) at the back

Tropical Fruits
added bananas & pineapple of considerable depth compared to the Andean Fruits bar (above), aided substantially by cocoa Nibs which serve as a nut offset for a well aligned & proportioned confection

Ecuadorian Roses
not just another tropical fruit fiesta but a dark, boozing brooding affair (alcohol excluded) as rose & strawberries commingle over a bed of chocolate for some naughty FXs. Very forward / frontal. Rapacious.

no mistaking the taste either.... chocolate bulldozed & ground by coffee
Indelicate hardcore

Los Monos
quasi-raw entrance... leguminous (beans + cacáo verde) -> underside dark grape transitions toward blackberry -> polished rice -> rice-fruitcake! -> bamboo -> sacha inchi -> Aromatic ale -> gentian root -> bramble & leaf to close
Quality   15.4 / 20
Tierra Hermosa
72% cacáo-content; Manabí

Treated to an abbreviated 3-day ferment in keeping with the Aribba tradition of short 'n (semi-)sweet.

Very easy-going & accessible.

Contained in a limited flavor range with moderate concentration.

Los Monos
80% cacáo-content; Choco

Lightly roasted, coarse grind / barely ground, & hardly tempered (hence the air-injected sense in the Texture). Gives new meaning to the Naked Flavor Profile.

So gently touched leaves the balance of taste squarely on the bean itself, which proves up to the test. What starts out sheet-rock / drywall affects at that raw entrance, ends up inviting, even entrancing.

Taken as a tandem, these 2 bars are about as opposite as Beyoncé & Joni Mitchell. Save for the rice FXs & nuts, they diverge dramatically from each other.

Cárdenas traces its cacáo lineage back over 100 years to the plantations & haciendas of Manabí, Ecuador. All told, add up the total time & add in the Flavored Bars, this label spends family resources to grow family resources. Consider it generational wealth.

Reviewed May 7, 2018
Revised July 1, 2019


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