The world of bean-to-bar chocolate makers includes a lot of small scale companies who produce wonderful bars with just a few dedicated people. On the other hand, there are also those who grew a large scale operation, without loosing the idea of making good chocolate from quality cocoa.
El Rey is a company from this last category. Founded in 1929, it has seen a lot of things evolving in the cocoa world. Today they are a modern operation, focusing on the entire chain, from producing the cocoa up to the final product. El Rey only uses cocoa in their own country Venezuela, using the fair cacao exchange principle. They understood that the farmers hold the key to good chocolate, by producing high quality cocoa beans. El Rey supports them with training programs in order to create a sustainable, high grade cocoa growing chain.
Marianna De La Rosa, representative of the brand in the Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg told me that El Rey was already focusing on the origin of the cocoa beans, long before the single origin evolution started in the craft chocolate world. Venezuela offers some of the finest and esteemed cocoa varieties and is well know amongst chocoholics for offering amazing flavor profiles. It’s no surprise to see many renowned names appearing in the product line-up of the company. Carenero Superior and Sur del Lago ring a bell with those who are familiar with the origin Venezuela. Sourced in different location of the country, El Rey tries to show off the flavors of the beans by creating their bars, couverture, blocks, etc from the bean to the end product.
The company received several International chocolate awards for their products, including this bar. Winning the gold, bronze and silver award in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Americas compitition does raise some expectations.
Let’s discover the Caoba milk chocolate bar I was able to find during a chocolate event where El Rey presented their products.
El Rey offers a very distinct packaging for their products. The logo proudly on top, underneath a square showing the name of the bar, the percentage, the cocoa type and the origin. Every bar has it’s own color, making them easily recognizable.
On the back of the wrapper, the ingredients and nutritional info. The ingredients list consists of refined sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, Carenero Superior cocoa liquor , soy lecithin and natural vanilla.
The last product did surprise me, as vanilla often is used in industrial products and normally doesn’t promise high quality chocolate. Though I have seen it used by Italian premium chocolate makers as well.
The bar itself is good looking, showing large rectangular pieces with the El Rey logo debossed in the chocolate.
Bean: Carenero Superior (mix of Trinitarios, Amelonados and Upper Amazon cocoas – source: The New Taste of Chocolate by Maricel E. Presilla)
Origin: Venezuela – Barlovento region, Northeast of Caracas (source: The New Taste of Chocolate by Maricel E. Presilla)
Maker: Chocolates El Rey C.A., Venezuela
Price: € 5,5 – 80 g
Batch: Best before 12/18
Color: Caramel brown
Aroma: Caramel, toast, rhum-raisin
Taste: The chocolate has a surprising hard snap for a milk chocolate. The bar starts with a dash of vanilla, followed by a growing caramel tone with a twinkle of honey entwined. The chocolate isn’t overly sweet nor clingy, which surprised me after reviewing so many dark bars. The main flavor keeps building on the lush caramel, though suddenly it revealing a dash of yellow raisins, followed by a remarkable rum note in the back of the throat. What a wonderful combination. The after flavor is lighthearted and show interestingly more earthy cocoa notes, combined with dried breadcrumbs and toast.
I wouldn’t call this the most complex milk chocolate bar I ever had, yet is shows that milk chocolate can be so much more than the industrial, overly sweet and fatty milk chocolate so many people seem to love best. If you want to ease yourself into the wonderful origin chocolate world, this bar might tickle you in the most gentle way. It actually carries real cocoa flavors and shows a harmonious flavor profile which evolves. The higher cocoa percentage clearly shows trough. The bar offers lush, warm and almost tropical flavors. Especially the rum-raisin touch gives it that little extra and making it an interesting piece of chocolate. A perfect way to dream away on a sunny Autumn Sunday afternoon.