A few weeks ago I sat waiting at a café for the self-proclaimed “most hated man in chocolate,” Mark Christian of C-Spot. The slim, red-haired guy who appeared from the Upper West Side on his bike took me by surprise, launching into conversation about “cocoa doodle gurus” (i.e., experts) and “a bucking bronco of a chocolate” (i.e., a particularly flavorful bar).
He slipped me some cacao beans out of what I think was a cigarette case. “Guess the origin,” he said excitedly. They were amazing: Dark, decadent, roasty. I had no idea what they were. “Now try this chocolate,” he said, cradling the label so I couldn’t see where it came from. Equally delicious, smooth and creamy. Turned out the beans were from Cuba, and A. Morin used those same beans to make the chocolate I tried.
Mark kept showering me with goodies, always accompanied by the (frankly intimidating) guessing game. Far and away, I was most impressed with the Heirloom Chocolate Series, a box of seven half-ounce bars made with heirloom cacao.
What’s heirloom cacao? Well, there used to be many, many varieties of cacao in the world. Some have disappeared naturally while others are being replaced with higher-yielding varieties like the dreaded man-made CCN-51 (which supposedly tastes like sh*t). That’s why some people in the industry got together to form the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund, which hopes to encourage farmers to continue to grow quality cacao by designating strands of it as “heirloom,” which go for much higher prices.
So far seven strands have been officially designated “heirloom.” Mark enlisted chocolate makers Fruition, Zokoko, Millcreek Cacao Roasters, Manoa, Mindo, and Brasstown to make bars with each variety. The cacao is from Ecuador, Bolivia, Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Belize. Mark’s palate is impeccable, and I love how his quirkiness shines through in the tasting notes, with descriptions like “cocoa nuts ‘n honey,” “cookie dough,” “chocolate hash,” and “volcanic coral.”
I’ve been talking a lot about the right price for a bar of chocolate lately, from $10 to $325. This box combines the best cacao in the world with the most talented makers in the world, curated by one of the most esteemed chocolate experts in the world, without any bullshit or marketing. $100? Seems like a steal to me.