Bean to Bar Review – Hogarth Craft Chocolate
I believe as the artisan chocolate market grows in NZ, a bean-to-bar industry will begin to flourish, and have been on record saying as much. Up until today, the NZ bean-to-bar market has seen a few small brands start up and the chocolate has been OK – some quite nice in fact. But not up to the standard you find elsewhere in the world. Often gritty, poorly emulsified, too niche (eg, not wanting to use real sugar), and more often than not, the roasting doesn’t fully express the flavour notes of the bean. And the beans are often Forestero…over 85% of the world’s chocolate supply comes from forestero, it is fast growing, double the yield of Criollo trees, but rather dull in flavour.
Well, today that has changed for me. Today, I tasted some New Zealand bean to bar chocolate that is up there with the best in the world, and leaps ahead of any other bean-to-bar chocolate in New Zealand. Not because the others are bad – this is just THAT good. And it is made in Nelson by a small start-up company called Hogarth Craft Chocolate. There are five in the range, all single origin and made from the best beans. They are perfectly roasted, so much so that the subtle nuances of flavour come through crisp and clear. Five similar strength dark chocolates, but each very different and unique in it’s own right. If you think all dark chocolate tastes the same – then you must try this, it will change the way you think about dark chocolate. This review is totally unsolicited, and the first time I have publicly endorsed a New Zealand bean-to-bar chocolate brand.
The five varieties are single origin from Madagascar, Peru, Venezuela, Equador, and Dominican Republic. My personal favourite was the Peru 66% Criollo. Only about 1% of the worlds chocolate supply comes from the Criollo tree, which produces aromatic, deep flavoured beans. The other 14% or so is from Criollo-Trinatario hybrids which also produce wonderful beans (the pure Trinatario tree was sadly wiped out by a virus).
The Peru 66% is absolutely divine – this is what REAL dark chocolate is supposed to taste like, not like the over processed supermarket 70% varieties. The caramel and honey notes are underscored by a light fruity aroma (think peaches and nectarine), and the taste lingers long after the chocolate has melted away. And it isn’t just the depth and clarity of the flavours – the chocolate is well refined. Refining is the process that makes the chocolate less gritty, and the better the refining of the chocolate (measured by microns) the smoother the finished product, and the better the flavour develops on the tongue.
I am tremendously excited by the discovery of Hogarth Craft chocolate. Importing Pralus and Amedei, my two favourite bean-to-bar brands, is rather expensive. And I don’t do it that often. But I am more than happy to have Hogarth Craft chocolate moving forward, and won’t feel like I am missing out in any way. Unfortunately, you can only buy it in markets in Nelson for now (I managed to talk Karl Hogarth, the chocolate maker, into sending me some via courier after depositing some funds into his account – money well spent!). But based on how good this chocolate is, it won’t be long before you see it popping up all over the world. This is a huge development for the NZ chocolate industry. We can be the best in the world, from our bean-to-bar, through to our artisan filled chocolates. NZ can be a world leader in chocolate (hey, Belgium and Switzerland don’t grow cocoa trees either you know), and today, we are one very big step closer to that reality.
I predict a very bright future for Hogarth Craft Chocolate. Check out their facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/hogarthcraftchocolate.