Discovering a new chocolate maker is always an exciting event. Especially when you don’t know anything about the maker, you can approach a chocolate bar with out any prejudice or expectations.
Browsing through the chocolate collection of my nearest bean-to-bar chocolate shop, Hilde Devolder in Ghent, I picked up this rather beautiful looking bar from an unknown chocolate maker to me.
Some research learned me that it’s almost a shame that I never heard of Encuentro Chocolat before. Based in Saint-Andrez-Les-Lille in France, their operation is a mere 45 minute drive away from my home town.
Encuentro is run by Candice Peytour et Antoine Maschi who met each other during their studies in Lille. Their love for real chocolate started during an internship of Candice in the Dominican Republic. After discovering cocoa and meeting up with friends who started a chocolate museum in Peru, the couple decided to have a go at their own chocolate production workshop and museum in the Republican Republic. After the initial success, the local circumstances forced the young chocolate makers to sell their operation and return to France. Yet the love of cocoa and chocolate did still run deep and they chased their dream once more, but this time on known territory.
Today they offer a wide array of bars and origins, have been recognized by Alain Ducasse and have a strong following in the French origin chocolate lovers world.
So here are my impressions on their 70% Peru bar.
Peru is known as the home of many different fine cocoa varieties and can produce very bold as well as subtle, complex chocolates.
In the chocolate bar before me, Encuentro uses Chuncho Urusayhua cocoa, harvested in the Urubamba valley ( or sacred valley of the Incas) near Machu Picchu. These cocoa beans grown on old cocoa trees and are considered one of the aromatically most complex cocoa’s in the world.
Let’s start our exploration.
Appealing. The first word that comes to mind when taking the chocolate bar at hand. Thick luxurious paper shows a cocoa pod and features a classic looking label. Their name, origin, percentage and ingredients list (yes, it is a rather short list) are shown. Turned over, the backside reveals more info on the origin, the ingredients and the nutritional values. All the text is in French, which might make it a bit difficult to read for people outside France.
Inside, a classic chocolate bar is to be found – wrapped in a golden foil. Even though it is an almost spartan looking bar with rectangular pieces, it is executed perfectly. It shines like crazy and only small, sparse air bubbles can be seen.
I have seen bars that have more spectacular designs, both in the packaging and chocolate bar. But in the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me at all. Give me a simple slab of splendid chocolate in a simple foil over a intricate piece of chocolate with mediocre flavors, any day of the week.
Bean: Chuncho Urusayhua
Origin: Peru – Valley of Urubamba
Maker: Ecuentro, Saint-André-Lez-Lille, France
Ingredients: Cocoa beans and cane sugar
Price: € 8 – 75 g – webshop Encuentro
Batch: 2021 6129 – best before 01/01/2024
Harvest: not mentioned
Color: Ebony red
Aroma: roasted nuts, cocoa
Taste: a swift and sweet start marks the start of the melt. A sudden flowery flash and brown sugar kick. The flavors build in momentum and are fresh and very lively. The silky mouth feel add to the experience. More changes, red fruits build. Ripe strawberry, red and golden currant and cherry pop up and subdue. A sweet undertone keeps rolling, while honey and red fruits come back and forth in waves. Slight tannins appear near the end of the melt, combined with the return of the flowery note from the start. Eventually, it fades over to a surprisingly soft after taste. Roasted hazelnuts, chocolaty, light and delicate yet long and enjoyable.
If you want to experience all the different flavors of this Peruvian origin bar, you will need to take your time and enjoy several pieces. Every time you will discover new details, new hints and you will be impressed by the complexity of the chocolate.
Despite all the flavor notes that keep appearing, Encuentro’s creation is remarkable harmonious and keeps rolling in a steady flow of nuances. This is exactly why I fell in love with origin chocolate and why it keeps amazing me after all these years.
A splendid bar! While writing this review, the open package lay next to me and ever so often a whiff of delicious chocolate notes keep engulfing me, making me go back for another piece. Addictive to say the least.
General final evaluation:
Visual appeal: 4/5
Melt and mouth feel: 5/5
Flavor profile : 5/5
Overall: 23/25 (*****)
(the article where I found lots of background info on Encuentro and Candice)