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Chocolate Blends: The Andean Blend

Chocolate Blends: The Andean Blend

If you are not yet a member of the Ku'ia Club, you might not know that each month's offering comes with a letter about the craft chocolate you receive. The letters are either written by Dan O'Doherty, our VP of Operations, or Gunars Valkirs, our founder and CEO. Dan travels to work on cacao farms around the world where he is hired for a variety of services, including consulting. If the quality is up to par, he will bring cacao beans back with him and we get to make bean to bar chocolate with them. Then, we taste and discover nuanced flavors of cacao from these incredible single origins.

Relatively recently, Dan created a blend that we call the Andean blend for our Ku'ia Club and wrote about it. We rarely sell Ku'ia Club offerings to the public, but this chocolate was so good we had to share with everyone. It is only available for a limited time. We also usually don't make blends our single origins, but Dan has some very intriguing insight to share on the topic. Perhaps we will explore more unique blends in the future! Subscribe to the Ku'ia Club to be the first to taste any new and exclusive chocolate we will craft or have crafted in the past.

Read Dan's letter to learn more:

"Most modern bean-to-bar chocolate makers in the US are fixated with the concept of single origin chocolate. This is a response to industrial chocolate having unknown and often secret blends of cacao from all over the world. It has been interesting for the last twenty years, during the advent of the bean-to-bar movement to for the first time experience the wide variety of flavors and aromas that are characteristic of different origins, but we feel that much like with wine grapes, blends can offer balance and complexity, sometimes with the sum being greater than the individual parts. So, while we usually offer unique and selected single origin chocolate or new flavors for the Kuia club, this month we’ve created a special blend of dark chocolate with a complex origin story.

The cacao tree is only native to the eastern river valleys of the Andes mountains. The Andean Community of nations includes Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, which each have their own unique heirloom and wild populations of native trees. Since we have some unique batches of beans from each of these countries, we decided to make a chocolate that reflects the variety of flavors found in cacao’s
native range. The base of this chocolate is the Ecuadorian Nacional variety that produces a deep dark chocolate base. For some floral and light citrus flavors, we added some single-estate cacao from eastern Colombia. From Peru, we blended cacao from two regions. The first is the famous Piura Blanco cacao, a true heirloom cacao that is grown in the tiny river valleys that cut through the otherwise inhospitable Sechura desert. The Piura variety is known for its strikingly light milk chocolate color with subtle nut flavors and tropical fruit notes. The second origin is on the other side of the Andes in eastern Peru where farmers grow old-fashioned Trinitario cacao, much of which originated in Trinidad over 100 years ago, and this cacao offers a light body with floral and woody aromas. Finally, in Bolivia, we also used two very different origins. We sourced a micro-lot of the incredibly rare wild-harvested Beniano cacao that is native only to Bolivia, and although the beans are tiny, they offer a concentrated and complex flavor with dried fruits, honey, and floral notes. The second Bolivian cacao is produced by a community of small farmers in the Alto Beni region and is known for a rich caramel base combined with hints of raisin. This unique chocolate is the product of four countries and six different origins, which makes it the most diverse but transparently sourced chocolate blend we know of.

As people who eat a lot of chocolate, we are still trying wrap our heads around the combination of complex flavors of this blend. For the Kuia club chocolate release in August, it was, as usual, fresh off the molding line and has not yet time to age and mature. After it had been in storage for a few months, I almost absentmindedly decided to pick up a piece for a casual taste. The flavors and aromas that emerged caught me entirely off-guard. The tasting begins with a deep satisfying chocolate base with no bitterness or astringency, evolves through a range of complex fruit flavors, and finishes with unique spiced floral notes that lingers long after swallowing. We think this chocolate is as complex and interesting as the diverse blend of beans it’s made from as is possibly my favorite dark chocolate we’ve made so far." - Dan O'Doherty

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