42 minutes had bubbled away like water for chocolate last Monday. Steve DeVries-mentored chocolate maker Anna Davies of Ritual Chocolate modestly unraveled enchanting and engaging cacao tales throughout a conversation that lasted 42 minutes. And Anna was “happy to send” samples and information for my LA pet project. So was I.
Most weeks, Anna and partner Rob spend about a week handcrafting an 80-pound batch of 75% chocolate from just two ingredients: cane sugar and single-estate cacao. Most of it is formed into well-conceived and beautifully efficient 1 1/2-ounce bars, each with nine five-gram sections. Since a few pieces, about a doctor-recommended half ounce, is the perfect amount for savoring this refined craft chocolate, there’s enough for three or four tastes. I’m betting you’ll keep most all of them to savor for yourself, but I digress.
By Thursday, the Santa Ana winds had blasted in a few days’ worth of hot weather and my precious package. A personal note sat atop information sheets and a dozen-bar case of each of Ritual’s current offerings. An elegant box and golden foil wrapper surrounds each shiny 1.5 ounce bar, making both Madagascar and Costa Rica bars sophisticated “golden ticket” chocolates.I impatiently waited for a quiet Saturday afternoon to begin the Ritual.
2011 Harvest MADAGASCAR Batch #4
Appearance: Virtually unmarred surface with stunning bright red break lines.
Smell: Warm, spicy, citrusy notes
Snap: Clean & firm, even at 70-odd degrees on a sunny weekend in Santa Monica.
Taste: I’m a sucker for vibrant Madagascar-type stuff, so this one’s admittedly my favorite. A powerful, sour dried-fruit start leads and also dominates earthy and roasted nut notes. An easy melt allows the nutty finish to linger with the essence of dried apricot.Ritual’s Tasting Notes: citrus, jam, hazelnuts. “Made with organic cacao from a world-renowned farm in the lower Sambirano Valley of Northern Madagascar. The region is known for producing cacao rich with notes of citrus and nuts as a result of the unique growing conditions. True to its reputation, our creation exemplifies the curious character of Madagascar cacao…[Somia Plantation] is known for its ability to produce organic cacao with bright notes of citrus, nuts, jam and dried apricot…In a nutshell, our Madagascar is very smooth, citrusy, nutty and extremely aromatic with scents of dried apricot.”
Texture: As advertised, a smooth, creamy mouthfeel.
2009 Harvest COSTA RICA Batch #19 Beans in this bar hail from a single farm in Costa Rica, where Anna and Robbie learned from Steve DeVries how to produce quality cacao. This is therefore likely their signature bar.
Appearance: Photo doesn’t reveal faint circular marks, perhaps from unmolding the bar, but they don’t detract from a glossy surface and warm reddish brown bar.
Smell: Berries and toast come to mind.
Snap: Clean & firm, just like the other bar. Well tempered.
Taste: Berries and earthy notes and a pleasant, bitter walnut finish.Ritual’s tasting notes: “Earth, blackberry, walnut…Made with organic, Costa Rican cacao from one of the world’s best cacao farms. The richness of this chocolate makes it a favorite among dark chocolate lovers, yet its complexity attracts the true connoisseurs. The bold, earthy peaks and hints of blackberry and walnut found in this chocolate are a result of the volcanic-rich shoil of Costa Rica and careful drying methods of the cacao…the tasting notes of dark fruits, nuts and deep earthy undertones, come purely from the beans that have been gently crafted to keep these flavors at the forefront of the finished chocolate.”
Texture: A very cool mouthfeel gives way to smooth meltiness.
I’m now an admirer of both Anna and Ritual Chocolate. If you get the chance to indulge in your own Ritual, please, savor slowly.