Single-origin bread. Yes, my friends, this is now a thing, and it hit my inbox (and then my stomach) a few weeks ago. The bread (from La Brea Bakery, in case you’re interested) was good but not great. But it made me wonder, Is the foodie apocalypse near? Has “single origin” turned into a mere buzzword?
After all, “single origin” simply means that the ingredients all come from one place. It doesn’t guarantee high quality, though usually if someone cares enough to source ingredients from one location, they also care about them being pretty good.
We have this idea, though, that single origin equals good and, at least in chocolate, blend equals bad. Industrialized. Anonymous. But that’s far from the case.
Blending chocolate is not a result of industrialization and in fact has its roots in pre-Mesoamerican culture. As Maricel Presilla writes in The New Taste of Chocolate, blending “was founded on a recognition that the right combinations of different cassis have a kind of synergy, a total effect greater than the sum of its parts.” She cites a recipe for chocolate from Mexico in 1873 that calls for a blend of beans from Soconusco, Maracaybo, and Caracas. “Tabasco [cacao] can also be used in place of Maracaybo,” the recipe says, “but chocolate made with it has less body.”
In other words, it’s an art.
That’s why I was so excited to see Raaka test out blends as part of their First Nibs subscription package in April. The Amazon Basin Blend combines San Martin, Pangoa, and Peru Nacional, all similar terrain. In the tasting notes, head chocolate maker Nate Hodge writes,
“The San Martin and Pangoa beans both share an acidic, fruit-forward flavor profile that is balanced out by the more subtle and creamy characteristics of the Peru Nacional and its prized white cacao beans.”
Then there’s the East African Blend. American makers don’t use African beans very often, but this one combines Eastern Congo, Uganda, and Madagascar for an earthy bar with “accentuated by flavors of dried fruit and birch.”
Neither of these is available for purchase yet, but there are a host of other small craft makers with great blends, as well as the masters like Guittard, Valrhona, and Bernachon. Then there are the hundreds of amazing chocolatiers who have perfected blends. Do they make lesser chocolate? I think not.