Chocolate. It is and remains a wonderful thing. And what we have on the table today, makes it even far more stunning than I ever imagined.
It doesn’t happen often that a chocolate maker shows you just how minute differences in the growth circumstances of the cocoa bean, can result in a very distinct flavor profile of the final chocolate bar.
But before we dive into the chocolate itself, let me set the scene of our flavor expedition.
Today we have 2 chocolate bars made by Holy Cow Chocolate. This new chocolate maker, based in Ghent, Belgium has a special history in the origin chocolate world.
When the Belgian Ellen Taerwe and Italian Luca Beltrami, both engineers, met in South India, it soon became clear that their future was in the cocoa world. Fascinated by the product and struck by the poverty in India, they soon started up a company dedicated to fine flavor cocoa. As a post harvesting station, Go Ground Beans collects quality cocoa beans from local farmers and post treat them using a strict protocol, in order to achieve a high quality end product, fermented an dried cocoa beans. Soon, their product found a way to many origin chocolate makers around the world and India soon became a rising origin in the bean to bar chocolate sector. I heard first hand from several chocolate makers, that the cocoa beans provided by Luca and Ellen were very clean and of high quality. Their operation also has a social impact on the farmer community, as their product now gets to the highest quality level and is rewarded by a higher selling price.
Ellen contacted me end of 2020, with a surprising request. She asked me to give my feedback on some samples of chocolates they had produced and were thinking of commercializing. What set these products apart was not different origin, nor different production process. No, the difference was the harvest time. One chocolate was made with cocoa beans harvested during the dry season. The other one was made with beans from the Monsoon season. And I was stunned.
Mid 2021, a new call. The chocolates were now available as bars under the name Holy Cow Chocolate.
For me, this is an exciting moment. Not only did I have the chance to compare the actual bars with the preproduction samples, but it also lets me see if my tasting methods and evaluations are consistent.
So let’s dig in!
What can I say. When a new chocolate maker starts out, often their first products are a somewhat timid introduction to the market. You can see this in the wrappers and chocolate bars, often less sophisticated and with more generic bar designs.
This doesn’t apply here. Holy Cow Chocolate – a clear reference to the Indian origin, has launched a mature product. The package looks ever so inviting. A delicate cover art, a luxurious feeling cardboard box, using a well thought-out envelop folding system to close. Packed with info, about farmer fair, origin cocoa, how to taste, ingredients, origin, percentage, harvest, etc.
Inside a cellophane wrapper, protecting a 3-D style chocolate bar. The geometric arrangement of chocolate pyramids, instantly remind me of Indian mountains and Indian decorative designs. As you move it around in the light, the sides of the pyramids reflect light and go dark, adding even more to the spatial feel of the chocolate bar. We are far from your generic plain rectangular piece of chocolate.
As an added bonus, the sleeve is Treefree paper, uses vegetable based inks and the foil is compostable.
Bean: Trinitario and Forastero varieties
Origin: Idukki Hills – Kerala – India
Maker: Beltrami & Sons BV, Ghent, Belgium
Ingredients: cocoa beans (Kerala – 80%), Belgian beetroot sugar (15%), natural cocoa butter (Kerala – 5%)
Price: €6,2 – 70g – webshop Holy Cow Chocolate website
Batch: 029 (Dry) and 034 (Monsoon)
1) Dry – 85%
Color: Dark brown
Aroma: strong dark chocolate notes – floral – a hint of licorice – a touch of wood
Taste: quick building flavors start rolling from the moment the chocolate hits your tongue. Floral notes come alive – Jasmin. There is a sweeter note emerging, combined with a generous serving of purple fruit (plum, blue berries). A woody note carries the main flavor theme and brings it to a higher level. A hint of strong coffee rolls in the back. The chocolate melts slowly, and while it resists, flavors are released in abundance. The after flavor turns chocolaty all of a sudden, while the fruits and floral notes subdue. The after flavor keeps lingering in the mouth for a very long time. Dry finish with some tannins and prolonged chocolate notes.
The flavor is bold and in your face. It grabs your attention and doesn’t release it until the chocolate has molten completely and the after flavor starts to dissipate slowly.
General final evaluation:
Visual appeal: 4/5
Melt and mouth feel: 4/5
Flavor profile : 5/5
Overall: 22/25 (****1/2)
2) Monsoon – 85%
Color: Dark brown
Aroma: Softer, far less pronounced. Light woody notes combined with spicy chocolate. Warm hearted.
Taste: A far softer start than the dry bar. Slowly chocolaty cocoa flavors start to emerge. They build in momentum. A flash of honey emerges, roasted nuts. Caramel. Warm yellow fruit notes appear – dried apricot, raisin. Mocca coffee with cream. More fruits, an ever so delicate touch of acidity breaking through the main flavor profile in nice contrast with the warm overall flavor. Gentle tannins guide the tasting experience softly towards the end of the melt. The after flavor remains nutty, chocolaty and warm. Though not as powerful as the dry version , is also remains pleasantly long on the palate and keeps swirling around.
Visual appeal: 4/5
Melt and mouth feel: 4/5
Flavor profile : 5/5
Overall: 21/25 (****1/2)
This is a truly great tasting experience. So many factors are the same: producer, composition, origin, production process. Yet the difference between the dry and monsoon version are like day and night. The Dry version seems to condense the cocoa’s flavors to give birth to a bolder, stronger chocolate. Ideal if you are looking for a little kick of flavor. Cocoa at it’s strongest. Full bodied and big.
The monsoon version mellows down the flavors. It’s more gentle, warm and balanced. It appears to be sweeter, brings a honey/caramel note forward, making it a heart warming experience. Helps you relax and enjoy the subtle flavors the cocoa has to offer.
Well done by Holy Cow Chocolate. Well done indeed. A perfect showcase of the complexity of a seemingly simple product. The cocoa bean. It keeps amazing me.
I want to thank Ellen and Luca for including my initial feedback on the package on the front. A very much appreciated recognition for the efforts I try to pour in my reviews.
Just for fun, here are my initial notes on the preproduction samples:
Aroma: wood, cocoa, licorice root, a floral note – hard to pinpoint, but reminds me immediately of a Peru origin bar.
Taste: earthy, roasted cocoa, wood, chocolaty, dark fruits (black berry, blue berry) on the second line. The same floral note as in the aroma. Wood and espresso bitters near the end of the melt, tannins emerge, Dry ending flavor. After flavor: remains earthy and chocolaty with remaining espresso. Long and intense after flavor.
Colors of taste: dark/purple
Aroma: softer than the dry, same wood and floral note, but adding a nutty, caramel note
Taste: sweeter start, caramel, nuts, growing fruit flavors (yellow – raisin, golden grapes). Roasted cocoa emerges. Toasted bread near the end, joined by a subdued coffee bitter. The after flavor holds on to the roasted bread and nutty notes. Less intense than the Dry version
Colors of taste: brown/yellow
Both are super smooth melting chocolates, nice texture. Very flavorful and lively, without being overpowering at 82%
My wife prefers the more bold flavor of the Dry version. It packs a lot of flavor and grabs your attention, also quiet “in your face” flavor wise. Pure and lively flavors,
I like the Monsoon version better. It’s less bold, but more harmonious. It’s lush and warmer in overall experience. Lush and comforting flavors. Everything blends together nicely.