August 13, 2013
A great North American bean to bar chocolate maker.
One of the joys of the current fine chocolate scene is a increase not only in interest, but also in the number of chocolate makers springing up all around the world. This too presents me with one of the frustrations, as even while I do get to taste many of fabulous things, at fairs, while judging, it isn’t always easy to source small makers operating across the seas.
There are dedicated chocolate lovers setting the retail bar high and championing companies that don’t yet have more mainstream distribution. Chocolatitudes in Paris is one such boutique, a treasure trove of the kind of things I adore, bucking the trend amongst the French who are not the first in the queue to stock makers of different nationalities. In London Alexeeva & Jones have things I am very grateful they are making available. Paul A Young, whose shops are filled with the most fabulous creations of his own, also has the foresight and generosity to stock some really special chocolate makers bars, in addition to using many interesting chocolates as couverture. His stock of North American makers has been particularly strong, thanks to regular trips to seek out and bring back treasures for the shops.
It was at Paul A Young’s boutique that I found bars made by Fresco, to taste alongside my interview of its founder Rob Anderson.
I first tasted Fresco chocolate with Maricel Presilla, who had some at last year’s Chocolate Unwrapped event. At the time I thought it stunningly good, with particularly clear distinction of taste between chocolate made with different types of bean.
The chocolate I had to taste here bore this out.
As you can see the packaging lists not only the country of origin and the percentage of cocoa, but the degree of roast: light, medium or dark, the conche: none, subtle, medium or long, as well as the batch size, batch number and date of creation.
This would allow for a stunning amount of analysis and comparison if you want to get nerdy, which I do confess to on occasion.
Fresco work in small batches, and are experimenting with every batch they make. Their experience now aims to bring out the very best in each particular origin and bean varietal.
From the three bars I have tasted in detail I would say they are doing a damn good job of it.
The Madagascar, 74%, medium roast, long conch, is the brightest of the three bars. It has a delicate sweet honeysuckle scent, and is quite reddish in colour. This is a very creamy and fresh chocolate, full of citrus. It starts with lemon and peach notes, which mellows into notes of lemon curd and then caramel. I find the whole quite fragrant and can taste flower honey throughout. Its ending is pure chocolate, and there is a long aftertaste with just a touch of smoke.
The Dominican Republic, 72%, light roast and subtle conch, also opens with a lot of fruit. This time the very top notes are raspberry, but I find the dominant fruit is a relatively green banana. This mellows into toffee, with spices, mostly cinnamon, a little cumin, and a back note of leather. What starts here really very fruity then ends with toast, and a long aftertaste of good coffee.
The Ghana, 73%, medium roast, medium conch, is the darkest of the three, in colour and flavour. It also has a drier melt. This starts with considerable leafy greenness, which reminds me of wet walnuts and raw almonds. The fruit here comes later, and is a delicious opening up into dried fruit flavours, raisin for sure, but prunes too with their greater acidity and richer flavour. On one occasion I even got quite a marked red wine warmth from this chocolate. This one ends in cocoa, and like all three bars there is a long and satisfying aftertaste with no bitterness.
These bars from Fresco were all three quite delicious, a treat to discover, and to spend my time considering in detail. I finished all three bars single handed, wanting to go back for more each day, which speaks for itself.