Villakuyaya – 80% Cacao Arriba Pink Salt (***)

The creator

Villakuyaya is a new company in the chocolate world and part of the wave of Ecuadorian companies set to conquer the world by local made products.

This chocolate maker focuses in the Arriba cocoa – the fino di aroma variety native to Ecuador. It has specific floral aromas if treated right and behaves very different from other type of cocoa when fermented.

Villakuyaya uses Arriba cocoa grown in the coastal Esmeraldas region and converts them to chocolate in a plant in Quito. Next to a pure bar, the company has released a variety of flavored bars where tea, coffee, flowers and spices add extra kick to the chocolate.

They have provided me with a collection of their bars and today I try the one with the least pronounced flavor to evaluate the chocolate itself.

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The bar

The package design of the bars is pretty different from many other bars. It is very clean and modern in approach. Almost futuristic. A big change from the more traditional, artisan designs many bean to bar chocolate makers use.

Inside the cardboard box, a thick aluminum foil protects the bar. Unfortunately, the bars I received didn’t react to well to the trans Atlantic voyage. They were bloomed, making them unsuitable for the photography I always include. Especially as it does no justice to the work the chocolatier has put in creating the bar. Luck was on my side when I discovered some bite size samples from the same chocolate in the box I received. These were in far better shape, so I’ve included these to the review. The large 70g bar is thick and offers rectangular squares of chocolate, scored with a wavy pattern. The samples have a simpler design, but this doesn’t affect taste.

Bean: Arriba

Origin: Ecuador

Maker: EDC organic plant, Quito Ecuador

Price: Sample – 70g

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Color: A deep ebony brown, with a touch of purple.

Aroma: Green cocoa, roasted nuts.

Taste: The chocolate is very hard. Surprisingly, it immediately releases a massive wave of salt. The pink salt crystals of are embedded in the bottom of the bar rather than infused in the chocolate. This made me change my normal tasting behavior, where I let the chocolate melt on the tongue. To have full effect of the added salt, you need to chew more on a piece before you switch to the melt. My initial mistake however, made it possible to experience the pure chocolate itself, as the salt quickly disappears. A clear flowery note came to the front, before the flavor moved over to deep chocolate. There is a touch of bitterness and nutty flavors in the back. Some spices come through near the end of the melt, reminding me of pepper and cinnamon. The salt is most pronounced at the beginning of the melt when mingled in with the chocolate by chewing. The longer you go, the less salt is available and the less it influences the taste. Following the melt, the aftertaste leaves earhty, slightly bitter notes in the mouth, moving to more nutty end tones.

The texture of the bar is a bit grittier than French style chocolate, though it melts nicely. For an 80% bar, it is rather modest and tempered in the mouth feel. It also isn’t filming or sticky in the mouth, proving a high percentage of cocoa mass is used, rather than cocoa butter to subdue the flavor. But while it is smooth flavored, I miss some more pronounced flavor tones.

As a chocolate, this bar is clearly a big step above standard industrial dark chocolate, but to compete with the stars of bean to bar chocolate, it lacks a bit of complexity. But perhaps it was never meant to be “the” Esmeraldas bar out there, but rather a flavorful, good quality cocoa bar, adding a little twist by including little salt crystals. Personally however, I still prefer non flavored chocolate bars who really let the cocoa flavors run wild.

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