Review: Menakao – Dark Chocolate 72% (****)

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The Creator:

This is the first rerun review of a chocolate bar on my website. There are so many chocolate makers out there and so many amazing chocolate bars to be discovered, but just like falling in love for the very first time, the first one will always remain lively in your memory. And it will make you want to relive the experience.

Menakao’s 72% bar is exactly the bar which introduced me to and won me over in favor of origin chocolate in a matter of seconds. That very first square I will never forget. The amazing flavors it revealed made my heart skip a beat and got me hooked for life. Menakao’s bar combined with a Pralus Dominican Republic bar was the subject of the very first review I published on beantobar.be.

Now, many people will say it is not wise to return to such experiences, because they can only disappoint you. True, I’ve sampled many bars since than and it takes a lot to surprise me these days when it comes to chocolate, but I still know instantly if I like a chocolate or not. So when I had the chance to rebuy this bar, I didn’t hesitate for a second.

Menakao is a chocolate maker producing it’s products at the origin. Set up in Madagascar, an island on the east side of Africa, Menakao only uses locally harvested cocoa. Turning the beans into chocolate at the spot, it truly creates added value to the country. Madagascar itself lays close to Africa, yet it is a completely separated and very specific ecosystem, more related to the Indian continent than to Africa. As many chocoholics know, it is also home to some very flavorful and distinct cocoa, far away from the mostly generic mass market cocoa produced on the African continent.

At this day, the factory of Menakao has an operation of 40 people working the entire chain from cocoa bean to final bar. Only 5% of the locally grown cocoa is turned into chocolate on the island itself. All the other beans are exported all over the world. It gives a great feeling of satisfaction to know that in this case, the money goes to the country itself, where the raw product has been grown and the final chocolate has been made. It makes you appreciate the hand wrapped bars even more.

At 72%, this chocolate is in the sweet spot when it comes to dark chocolate. Just enough sugar to let the flavors shine and show off the cocoa beans. Time to discover this bar and origin once more.

The Bar:

Menakao has update the design of their packages, but it is still very recognizable. Every bar has an Madagascan portrait on display, combined with their logo and African decorations. Stylish and setting the mood, it is hard not to instantly know in which part of the world this chocolate has been made. On the back, the usual nutritional info and the ingredients list (cocoa beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter and sunflower lecithin as an emulsifier.) A short introduction to Menakao describes why this is a special chocolate. Mena means red in the local Malagasy language. The color of the rich soil of the island and the color hue of the chocolate they produce. Add cocoa and you know how the name came to existence.

The bar itself will not win any design awards, but is effective. Rectangular pieces make up a big bar. At 75 g, it is generous to say the least. Every piece shows a cocoa pod, the heart of every chocolate bar. Protected by a gold foil wrapper, it reached me in great condition.

Let’s find out how it tastes!

Tasting:

Bean: Not mentioned

Origin: Sambirano region, Madagascar

Maker: Chocolaterie Menakao SA – Madagascar

Price: € 3,95 – 75 g

Batch: Best before October 2019 – Batch 171T25-MEN

 

Color: Dark brown

Aroma: Deep chocolate, toasted bread, honey, wood

Taste: Starts sweet, opening with honey and roasted nuts and massive amount of chocolate notes, In a matter of seconds, a lush layer of fruits come forth and cuts through the sweet main flavor. Red currants open up, before lemon and mandarin peel join in. The pronounced yet very flavorful acidity opens op the flavor of the chocolate bar and creates depth in the flavor. As the fruits mingle with the chocolate notes, the nuts come back and start rolling back and forth until the chocolate has melted completely. The acidity never becomes overwhelming and are in control. A tingling citrus feeling in the back of the mouth brings attention to the fruits once more before they vanish. There is a flash of exotic wood and coffee near the end of the melt. The after flavor loses the fruity acidity but keeps the rounded cocoa and chocolate notes flowing for a nice time. The texture of the bar is a tad coarser than some others, surprising since additional cocoa butter and emulsifier were used. Yet the flavor is far more important to me and the texture is certainly not offensive.

The chocolate has a dark profile and twinkles thanks to the fruitiness of the Madagascan cocoa. Red brown is a color I associate with this bar, being full flavored without becoming overpowering. After all these years, Madagascar still remains my favorite origin by far and retrying this bar by Menakao makes me relive my discovery of fine flavor bean-to-bar chocolate. While I’m not surprised and overtaken by the experience like I have been before, trying origin chocolate for the very first time, it still gives me goosebumps. this will forever be the bar which introduced me to real chocolate!

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