This is a little out of the blue and probably not what you are expecting from a new blog post, but it was a chance encounter with a pleasant chap called Peter Martin at the Tatton Park Foodies Festival that led to me receiving a bar of the most amazing sounding chocolate I could imagine from his company, International Brands. I was told of a new product venture and Peter asked for my opinion……we also picked up several Tortuga Rum Cakes from him but before I go off on another tangent, a little background.
The ancient Mayan Cultures of Mexico and Central America were the first to have used cacao between 250 to 900 AD. They harvested the beans, fermented then roasted and ground to form a paste. This was then mixed with water, spices and chilli to form a frothy spicy and bitter chocolate brew called xocoatl. Later in the 14th century the Aztecs used cacao in their diets, as a currency and as a trade item. The cacao was used in offerings to their gods and the crude chocolate drink was a favourite of their royalty. Moving forwards to the 16th Century, the Spanish took the seeds back to Spain and eventually the use of cacao spread thro’ Europe. The rest is history……
The Agapey Chocolate Factory is based in Bridgetown, Barbados. They use cocoa beans from throughout the Caribbean and they also use locally grown Barbadian gold cane sugar to impart a unique flavour to their chocolate. Agapey use predominantly Criollo, Trinitario and Nacional beans in what is called a ‘bean to bar’ method whereby they don’t just obtain a product in its later stages and repackage, they carry out all processes from the receipt of the beans.
This bean to bar method consists of:
Harvesting – Fermentation – Packing – Roasting – Winnowing (de-shelling) – Crushing & Grinding – Refining – Conching – Tempering
The Agapey Chocolate that I have to share with you (my thoughts, not the chocolate……the chocolate is mine) is a specific venture between Agapey and the other well-known Barbadian institution…..Mount Gay Rum and it is a 70% single origin cacao dark chocolate.
The venture was undertaken to rid the world of the awful liqueur type rum chocolate that causes pain and misery to all. The bar is packaged in an attractive, sleek black box with the Mount Gay and Agapey logos clearly displayed. Upon opening the box and removing the foil, the bar is divided into large chunks displaying the Agapey logo and smelling amazing. Really intense chocolate with very little sweetness.
After removing a square and breaking it, the caramel slowly oozes out. The chocolate tastes unbelievable. I’m already a big fan of dark and bitter chocolate ( thanks Dad ) and it does not disappoint. The bitter hit is there with a creamy texture and a real cacao and almost coffee hit. The first taste of the caramel gives you an instant sweet hit but not overly so. There is the subtle taste of banana and it’s almost a little salted. The rum is next to appear. Not too overpowering but a very subtle edge growing more intense. It’s not until you get a big bite of the combination of chocolate and caramel in your mouth that the addition of the golden cane sugar gives the chocolate a sweetness that perfectly balances the soft rum and salty nature of the caramel. It works…and it works well! The Mount Gay Rum adds a real rummy hit that is very welcome. In fact, nibbling the chocolate around the edge and tasting with a glass of rum….in this case I chose Mount Gay Extra Old for obvious reasons, the chocolate in both taste and mouthfeel is a great match!
I genuinely don’t know if I would ever be able to replace this bar as I’ve never seen it about and internet searches don’t turn up results, so I’m reluctant to indulge too much with there only being 4 pieces…….but its just so tasty. Peter mentioned that there was maybe going to be a move away from the large pocket for the caramel to a smaller one but I think that the balance is so perfect that I’d hate to see it change. If you see any on your travels, pick up several bars and some for me too, and if you make it to Barbados, go and tour the Agapey Chocolate Factory.
This post has been picked up by the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation and I have since made contact with Raphael Grisoni, the Managing Director of Mount Gay Distilleries Ltd who has been kind enough to confirm that the rum used in the product is actually Mount Gay XO…….no wonder the product tastes so good!
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