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North of the border you'll find Cameron and Lara crafting chocolate from scratch in Glasgow. The duo run Bare Bones Chocolate, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, that specialises in small batch production using fine cocoa beans from around the world.
The pair pay a premium above global market fair trade price to source the best cacao beans from rare origins. When the beans land in Scotland, they are sorted by hand and then roasted in small 5kg batches on a modified Giesen coffee roaster. They are winnowed on a modified grain mill, and spend three days in the melanger, mellowing the flavour and reducing the particle size for smoothness.
As you'd do with a cheese, fine wine or steak, Cameron and Lara age the chocolate for two to three weeks to develop its flavour, before tempering it and casting into bars.
This labour of love results in a range of Scottish bean-to-bar chocolate from interesting areas of the world, including Honduras and Guatamala.
I purchased The Mini Bar Collection from Bare Bones Chocolate as a means to get a good overview of what it is that Cameron and Lara do so well.
I purchased the four bars, tied together with string, from Cameron and Lara during a Cocoa Runners event in London.
Each of the thin card boxes is made from recycled coffee cups. The mini 20g chocolate bars are housed inside a Vegware compostable wrapper, meaning the entire packaging is 100% recyclable or compostable after use.
The front of the boxes all follow the same style, with the logo at the top, with the cocoa origin and percentage values at the bottom.
On the reverse, there's helpful tasting notes followed by the ingredients and nutritional information. A batch number and best before date is hand-stamped onto the box.
The bars themselves are formed in a standard two by three grid mould, allowing you to snap each one into six bite-size pieces, perfect as a pick-me-up treat or with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. The bars each have a lovely sheen and a crisp snap, with the faces speckled with chocolate dust from the handmade production process.
The four bars not only take you on a global odyssey from Central America to East Africa, but also take you on a journey from a 60% dark milk chocolate through to 70% dark chocolate.
Bare Bones 60% Honduras Milk Chocolate Review
Bare Bones 60% Honduras Milk Chocolate ingredients:
Cocoa beans, raw unrefined organic cane sugar, organic milk powder(10%), organic cocoa butter. Cocoa solids: 60% minimum.
- Sugars: 36.5%
- Their tasting notes: Rich, creamy and luxurious, with deep chocolate tones and notes of fudge, raisins and double cream.
An intense, rich and dark aroma greeted me, with hints of milk, toffee and raisins coming through. A strong butterscotch flavour developed initially on tasting, with a rush of raisin notes following close behind. This morphed into delicious chocolate brownie notes with just a hint of tobacco, before closing with a fruity finish. Satisfying toffee notes with a hint of hazelnut lingered in the aftertaste.
There was just a glimmer of bitterness right at the very back, but it was dwarfed by the diverse range of flavours that Bare Bones has tickled out of the Honduras cacao beans.
Bare Bones 65% Guatemala Dark Chocolate Review
Bare Bones 65% Guatemala Dark Chocolate ingredients:
Cocoa beans, raw unrefined organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter. Cocoa solids: 65% minimum.
- Sugars: 38.9%
- Their tasting notes: Notes of honey and brown sugar, with a yellow fruit finish.
From Honduras we travel to neighbouring Guatemala, and despite being relatively close to each other, this bar serves to demonstrate the diverse variation in cacao flavours from one region to the next. In the Honduran bar I picked up notes of milk, toffee and raisins, but this Guatemalan bar lead with more earthy notes, shrouded by tobacco, molasses, and woody notes.
On tasting, it was slow - almost reluctant - to yield its flavours. When it did, it revealed a medley of coffee notes, with flavours of brown sugar, tobacco, plums, and prunes dipping in and out, all set against an earthy backdrop.
It finished on a high of honey and yellow fruit notes, leading into an aftertaste of stone fruit that vanished as soon as it arrived.
Bare Bones 68% Dominican Salted Dark Chocolate Review
Bare Bones 68% Dominican Salted Dark Chocolate ingredients:
Cocoa beans, raw unrefined organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, organic sea salt (1%). Cocoa solids: 68% minimum.
- Sugars: 36.5%
- Their tasting notes: Notes of salted caramel, hazelnut, and rich chocolate tones.
Despite having different origins, this bar shared a lot of traits with its Guatemalan cousin. It too boasted smokey aromas together with notes of tobacco and molasses. It too was reluctant to reveal itself on tasting.
When it did, the Maldon Sea Salt came through first, which paved the way for orange and peach notes that transformed into zesty caramel flavours. It took a turn to introduce jammy red fruit flavours before finishing on sourdough brown bread flavours. The aftertaste was creamy and milky (despite no milk content), and reminded me of an iced chocolate milkshake.
The salt remained in the picture throughout the tasting, but seemed to vary in intensity, moving to the forefront when the chocolate favours stepped back, and vice versa when the notes were ready for another round.
Bare Bones 70% Madagascar Dark Chocolate Review
Bare Bones 70% Madagascar Dark Chocolate ingredients:
Cocoa beans, raw unrefined organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter. Cocoa solids: 70% minimum.
- Sugars: 31.2%
- Their tasting notes: Rich, bright and fruity, with notes of cherry, vanilla, maple syrup, and raspberry jam.
Earthy, smokey, and jammy stone fruit lead the way in the aroma of this bar.
As with most of the bars above, this bar was slow to show its true colours, but when it did, it began with caramel notes. I was then treated to a cacophony of almonds, honey, yellow fruit and prune flavours in a lovely, thoughtful and considered symphony.
Despite this bar being the one with the highest cocoa content in the pack, the finish and aftertaste were noticeably sweet, with fragrant honey notes lingering longest.
Overall, this collection of four bars served as a fantastic introduction to Bare Bones Chocolate. Each bar over-delivered on my expectations, and each mouthful was accompanied by a multitude of flavours.
This gift set is an excellent demonstration of how similar cocoa percentages from different origins across the globe can taste so diverse. It also shows how bean-to-bar chocolate makers are experts in coaxing out the desirable characteristics from their cacao to produce rich, flavourful chocolate.
If you love dark chocolate but tend to stick to the same supermarket or mass produced bars, I urge you to buy this four pack. Try for yourself and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Bare Bones Chocolate The Mini Bar Collection Review
RRP: £9.00 | Bare Bones Chocolate | Shop now
A perfect collection of taster bars to beautifully demonstrate Bare Bones' chocolate philosophy, expertly teasing and tickling out diverse flavours from a variety of cacao. This handy introductory kit serves as a lovely gift for friends and family, but also as an introduction to the diversity and craftsmanship of bean-to-bar chocolate.
Where to Buy Online
You can buy this taster set direct from Bare Bones Chocolate online. You'll also find plenty of other products on their website from bars to hot chocolate flakes, as well as seasonal items.
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Which bare Bones Chocolate bar would you pick from this collection? Let me know in a comment below.