Review: Potomac – Upala Costa Rica 85% (****1/2)

The Creator:

Ben Rasmussen, the owner and chocolate maker of Potomac Chocolate has a clear vision. He wants to make pure chocolate which highlights the unique flavors of each cocoa origin he works with. Furthermore, the American chocolate maker based in Woodbridge, Virginia – states that he makes them in an absurdly small workshop and in absurdly small batches.

Today we take a closer look at his 85% Upala, Costa Rica bar. A high percentage bar made from cocoa grown by small scale farmers and post-harvest processed (fermentation and drying) by Nahua Cocoa in Upala. Switching to Nahua’s website, I learned they deliver premium fine flavor Trinitario cocoa beans to a variety of chocolate makers around the world. Nahua helps improving the lives of their farmers through training, support and community engagement. Sustainability is achieved by promoting sustainable farming practices, reforestation and conservation of the ecosystem.

Potomac clearly uses ethical cocoa and isn’t afraid to share his sources. Such transparency is hardly ever seen in the industrial chocolate sector. Feel free to visit the websites of both companies by clicking the links at the end of this review to discover more.

Even more fun is watching this short interview with Ben made by on how he got started out and evolved.

Link: Interview with Ben Rasmussen – Garage Geniuses

It gives a pretty good impression of what is meant by small scale production. So it is great to see that his products reach as far out as Belgium Europe.

But for now, let us focus on the heavy task ahead, tasting this promising bar.

The Bar:

Clear and sleek. Two words that come to mind when looking at Potomac’s bar. The wrapper is a version of my favorite chocolate packaging solution. It is a resealable bag with cardboard outside. Opens easily and can be resealed after every sampling session. Oh how I love this. No chance of your chocolate sucking up unwanted flavors from its surroundings. The brown color with dark imprint shows the brand, the percentage, the origin and a lot of little fishes. Turn it over and there is additional info on the flavor notes, the chocolate maker, the ingredients (organic cocoa and cane sugar – yes it can be such a short list) and the best before date and batch. Clear and sleek once more.

The bar itself is a standard 60 g weighing piece of chocolate. Yet it seems thick and generous at the same time. It is rectangular, has not been scored and is only decorated by the same massive amount of little fishes. One little fish is on the bottom and one swims in a different direction from the rest of the school. I wonder if the chocolate makers wants to show how his view on chocolate making differs from so many others.

Thumbs up for the creative design.


Bean: Trinitario (not mentioned by Potomac – but stated on the Nahua website)

Origin: Upala, Costa Rica

Maker: Potomac Chocolate, Woodbridge, USA

Price: $ 9 – 60 g (Potomac website)

Batch: Best before 04/2019 – Batch 21802

Color: Deep and dark, purplish hint

Aroma: Earthy, sweet, roasted cocoa, leather, tobacco

Taste: A roasted start carried by full bodied earthy cocoa. Chestnuts, walnuts and dark roasted hazelnuts mingle in. The super silky melt is surprising. In roll some espresso coffee bitters. Underneath there is a generous flow of dark berries (black currant and blackberries), merging with the main taste. The fruits never peak through, yet are in harmony and add depth and detail to the flavor. All through, it remains a very bold and powerful chocolate. Once melted and gone from the mouth, chocolaty coffee notes remain in the after taste. The bitterness subdues and and roasted nuts reappear. The finish is nice and long and keeps evolving.

The texture and melt are somewhat curious. The chocolate doesn’t melt as a whole, but feels as if it releases the brown liquid gold layer by layer. The heart of the piece remains solid for an extended time. Waiting to release another layer, one after the other.

We are clearly in high percentage country. This is cocoa as it is. Bold and flavorful, it doesn’t offer compromises or wants to be seen as a candy. It is an uplifting piece of chocolate. It revives the palate rather than fatiguing it. Some people might think it is a bit much, but any chocoholic will adore slowly discovering every flavor it has to offer.

Well done Ben Rasmussen!


Potomac Chocolate

Nahua Cacao

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