Box Chocolate Review


Info Details
Country Guatemala   (Guatemala City)
Style retro-American      (w/ Classical pretense)
Guat City, Guatemala; back parking lot off La Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) that passes for this former Banana Republic before that got branded by an int’l clothing chain distributing sweatshop misery.

Tourist buses back in the Civil War days of the 70s & 80s probably never came thru here. Nor many taxis. They’d just pull up... drop the fare & speed away quickly.

Whatever desolate back lot this could’ve once framed, with an eerie streetlamp leaning over crooked against a fence, interrogating the dirt below, where curfew started at twilight, it’s now midnight & the place looks absolutely posh.

Some local – appearing quite wizened of an ancient trans-migrant face from across the centuries – sits fixated on an immaculately-swept stoop leading into a walkway leading into a courtyard to a building complex, seemingly oblivious to our meager existence in a tropic territory rife with bugs, gnats & ants where life might be cheaper than a mosquito bite away.

Just a feint however; in reality he senses everything.

C-spotters™ of quite some renown, whose identities must remain undisclosed while entering our witness protection program, file this report: show more »
Presentation   3.9 / 5
polish & pretense; various shapes in nosher-sizes, mostly of good fit & finish sitting inside pleated-white cups
Aromas   3.4 / 5
a bit cool
Textures/Melt   -- / 10
Shells: variable & inconsistent
Centers: snapping reptiles of thick armor-all... a preservation barrier for longer shelf life in the humid neotropics
Flavor   34.6 / 50
under development: generally loud infusions; some offsets w/ integration issues, & awkward imbalances
Quality   22.1 / 30
Studious & intersticial - the space between – projecting Euro preference & pricing juxtaposed with a nod to indigenous cacáo groves & history in a country whose current economy can barely afford either.

As such, Carlos Eichenberger & his enterprise Danta Chocolate stand in the vanguard, after just a couple years in operation, of a movement: emblematic of a quasi-vintner model vertically integrating every step in the production chain in one spot, thereby keeping value-added profits close to home, in the pockets of people whose work is most responsible for bringing it to fruition. This goes some distance in helping revive those cacáo trees, some perhaps heirloom relics, that are largely abandoned or in decline, in an area of deeply rooted & rather sacred chocolate lore.

Sparing the archaic past can pay dividends as witnessed by the “lost” city of Tik’al, now restored to some of its former glory as major tourist attraction in a National Park, flooding Guatemala with much needed foreign currency reserves. It also furthers understanding about ourselves & others & the whole interrelated story of us; casting modernity in a brighter light, onto a better path.

Strategic support is needed. Not as some pitiable charity donation atoning for past wrongs (a failed dynamic if there ever was one). Nor as any subsidy for rank product (there's enough promise in this box to put it on a trajectory that it'll be fulfilled). But as an investment in him & Guatemala so that he / they / we succeed together to gradually build upon the work begun. Chocolate lovers everywhere should share an interest. A nation’s prospects & prosperity could well depend on it. Ditto the health of cacáo orchards there. For as the Ch’orti’ Maya of eastern Guatemala caution: cacáo trees stand as an indicator of fertility & its disappearance a hazardous warning in a fragile ecosystem.

Both the beauty & the bane of chocolate lay in its dislocation. Usually produced & harvested in one place, manufactured & consumed in another, a malediction creating often severe disparities in wealth, technology & cultural associations. These very weaknesses, however, can be flipped into strengths.

Changes for the better are already happening, just as they have for the past 500 years during which the chocolate-nexus intermittently formed a broken circle, including far too many gaps caused by conquest, slavery and generalized deterioration of the tree Theobroma cacao from which all chocolate derives.

Chocolate, it turns out, just may be among the best vehicles now for humanity to utilize its new communication technology & build sorely-needed social bridges because no other trading good on Earth possesses such near-universal appeal. Neither oil nor soy beans will do it, for instance, important as they are; their relationship to us being functional more than emotional compared to chocolate’s status that rises to the level of arts, sciences & religion.

Consider that the total effort required to deliver first-rate cacáo into finished-chocolate involves a collaborative among people scattered all over the globe. A vast distance in a long market chain, stretching thousands of miles, sometimes lasting weeks, & changing custody at multiple points along the way. When done right, it diminishes the empathy gap between us & closes the circle.

Think about it, about how even a small purchase helps alleviate problems &, more important, achieve possibilities – guilt-free – with each & every bite you take.

(Oh, BTW, Danta ships worldwide & can be ordered online)
Couverture: in-house; locally sourced & harvested cacáo making for one of the few vertically integrated ‘bean-to-bonbon’ chocolatiers
Caramel – low vanilla / superb butterscotching twists & intertwines around solid chocolate base
Zacapa Rum – featuring concentrated 1st pressings of sugar cane juice rather than molasses; called 'virgin sugar-cane honey', a nectar really, aged & blended by the solera method (fractional blending so the finished rum amounts to a mixture of ages); imparts heavy brown sugar, vanilla &, oddly, molasses notes which, in combination with this chocolate, envelope into licorice-soaked sweetness; a bit overbearing
Early Grey – chocolate lost in a teapot of steaming bergamot at Amano Art Pollard levels of Dos Rios
Limoncello White Chocolate – fab equilibrium evocative of Key Lime filling that glides confidently between pie crust & a margarita glass
Marzipan Passionfruit – a difficult match enmeshed in a White Chocolate collapse
Moraberry – belongs to the blackberry family; a flavor-cross twixt cranbery x rhubarb that develops into a slice of the Cheescake Factory™ (mislabeled in the handling?); in any event, fun comfort food

Reviewed October 2010

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