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Minimalist Chocolate 60% Dark Milk & Dark Oat Milk Bar Reviews

Disclosure: Minimalist Chocolate kindly sent me two 50g two-ingredient bars free of charge for the purposes of a review. Minimalist Chocolate had no influence over the content on this page. My opinions are my own. This article may contain affiliate links (identified by a ° symbol). These financially support this website - and our chocolate research - at no extra cost to you. Find out more.

What do you do when you run a successful hipster coffee shop and a global pandemic hits hard? You turn to chocolate, of course!

That's exactly what the founders of Truth Coffee did as a means to help support around 60 families whose livelihoods depend on Cape Town's thriving steampunk café. Government support was slow and they needed an idea - fast.

Co-founders David Donde and Ken Walton decided to apply the lessons they had learned in creating one of the world's best coffee shops on Buitenkant Street to the world of chocolate. (As a sideline, definitely check out the glowing reviews by The Telegraph, ImageExplorers and plenty of customers on their TripAdvisor page).

The duo wanted to create the best possible product with the minimum of ingredients, while extracting maximum flavour. And so, Minimalist Chocolate was born.

Ken kindly sent me over their resulting dark milk chocolate bar as well as a bar of their vegan oat-milk chocolate. Read on to find out what makes this South African chocolate special.


Packaging

Befitting of a brand called 'Minimalist', their packaging is, well, minimalistic. Even so, it's still terrifically classy and feels very premium indeed. The exterior is a white board box with a series of cut-outs. Behind this sits a sheet of paper with text on a pinky-purple background. The effect works very well, and makes this box exciting to hold and touch.

Minimalist Chocolate 60% Dark Milk Review
Minimalist packaging befitting of such a brand!

Everything you need to know is included on the front of the box. This 50g bar is a 60% dark milk chocolate bar handcrafted with just two ingredients (roasted cacao and milk). The Minimalist team turns cacao beans into chocolate bars, focussing on "flavour not bitterness". It's the same mantra they use when roasting their coffee.

Reverse of the Minimalist Chocolate 60% Dark Milk Packaging
A look at the rear of the box

Buzz words line the rear of the box. Minimalist describes their chocolate as a "religious experience" of "guiltless luxury".

The chocolate is produced in a facility that handles nut and dairy products.


Chocolate Lessons From The Bean-To-Bar Process

Before I tuck in, it's worth exploring the duo's rapid development process, as the journey of discovery is a fascinating one.

David and Ken's team had to research the chocolate making process fast, learning valuable lessons along the way. They've shared a few of them with me as well as on their blog and in the insightful 5th Wave Coffee podcast here (also contains interviews with Hotel Chocolat's Angus Thirwell and Tony's Chocolonely's Ben Greensmith).

  1. You can't make good chocolate from bad beans.

    The team tried roasting and conching a range of cacao beans before they hit upon the right beans for the flavour profile they sought. Over 15 origins of beans, including those from Nicaragua and several cooperatives in Tanzania, were trialled but it was beans from a cooperative in the Bela Vista District of São Tomé that cut the mustard. It's these beans that are in the bars below, but that doesn't mean David and his team have stopped there. They're now investigating flavours by plantation to see if single-estate chocolate is better still. I get the impression that Minimalist Chocolate will always be about constant incremental improvements in pursuit of the perfect chocolate bar.
  2. David hates dark chocolate.

    You'd expect a bean-to-bar chocolate maker to love a rich, heady, dark chocolate. But David hates most commercially available dark chocolate, citing that most of it is "bitter, dry and astringent". This is his motivation to develop a dark milk chocolate bar, blending the sweet and creamy characteristics of a milk chocolate together with the depth of flavour (but not the bitterness nor astringency) of dark chocolate.
  3. Bitterness is a fault, not a feature.

    The ethos at Truth Coffee is to treat bitterness of coffee beans as a fault, and that methodology is mirrored at Minimalist Chocolate. The team sought to eliminate the bitterness through sourcing minimal premium ingredients rather than piling more ingredients into their chocolate to compensate for the cocoa's shortcomings.
  4. You don't need to add sugar.

    Most chocolate bars contain added sugars, either in refined or natural forms. Minimalist opts for caramelised milk. It sounds simple enough, but sourcing a pure ingredient without the additives wasn't an easy task. A supplier in Germany came close but half of the product was made up of icing sugar. Instead, Minimalist chose to caramelise the best milk powder they could find, which is from New Zealand.
  5. Chocolate is now where coffee was in the 1990s

    David reckons the chocolate world is decades behind the coffee industry, which boomed in the Nineties and Naughties to the diverse market it is now. You can see that in the slow-but-steady the growth of passionate bean-to-bar chocolate makers here in the UK, honing their craft to tease out incredible flavours from the bare minimum of premium ingredients. If you look at the coffee sector as a benchmark, there's a lot of exciting potential for the global chocolate market.

Minimalist Chocolate 60% Dark Milk Review

On to the chocolate itself...

Inside the box, the bar of chocolate is wrapped in a thin sheet of foil. It is cast in a bespoke mould that features a repeating hexagon pattern. The brand's stylised 'M' logo sits proudly in the centre.

Minimalist Chocolate 60% Dark Milk chocolate bar ingredients:
Cacao, caramelised milk. Cocoa solids: 60% minimum.

The bar has a lovely sheen with the slight dimples in the hexagons helping to bounce the light around. The snap is clear and crisp, and it breaks neatly into shards along the grooves between the raised shapes.

The aroma of this bar is bold and punchy, with mushroom notes sitting at the top, and milder smokey, tobacco notes beneath. Underpinning these notes is an air of creaminess together with a touch of maple and toffee notes. It's safe to say there's a lot going on.

The mushroom notes hit first in the flavour, with hints of smoke and tobacco working in behind. There's a mild creaminess that prevents the chocolate from developing a dry astringency. It lets the flavour get close to that point, but steps in right at the last minute to avoid this characteristic from developing. This creaminess also lends a dose of lactic flavours, introducing notes of Dutch cheese and butter towards the end of the melt.

Alongside all of this, we need to discuss bitterness. Just like with the astringency, there's a tiny glimmer of bitterness that develops mid-way but the sweetness of the caramelised milk swoops in instantaneously to keep that at bay, so it never develops.

Rich flavours of mushroom, woody smoke, and a hint of hard cheese lingers long into the aftertaste. There's a touch of sweetness and creaminess that sticks around too.

Overall, it's a complex set of flavours but it gels so well, and it's hard to believe all of this comes from two very fine ingredients. It sits on the darker side of a dark milk chocolate and certainly delivers on David's aims of creating a flavourful chocolate bar without bitterness nor astringency. To get the most out of it, this chocolate is probably best served alongside a fine cup of exquisite coffee in the steampunk surroundings of a certain Cape Town café. If that's not possible, it still begs to be served alongside a fine cup of exquisite coffee.

Minimalist Chocolate 60% Dark Milk Review

RRP: £3.75 | Minimalist Chocolate | Shop now

A dark milk chocolate that's chock full of flavour and character, yet contains just two ingredients. The team sought to create a chocolate with a wow-factor and they nail it. If you love dark chocolate with clear, rich complex flavours, you'll fall head over heels in love with this bar.

Packaging
Appearance
Ingredients
Taste
Creativity
Score: 5

Minimalist Chocolate Vegan 60% Dark Oat Milk Review

Not content with perfecting the ultimate dark milk chocolate bar, the team went a stage further to create a dairy-free alternative based on the same principles.

Minimalist Chocolate 60% Dark Oat Milk chocolate bar ingredients:
Cacao, Oaternative oat milk (water; oats (20%); canola oil, stabiliser, calcium, salt). Cocoa solids: 60% minimum.

It's the same beans, but the caramelised milk powder is traded out for oat milk by Oaternative, sister-brand to Truth Coffee and Minimalist Chocolate. The oat milk is sustainably produced in Cape Town using locally sourced oats.

So, if the chocolate bar is so similar in nature, the flavour profile must be more-or-less a match too, right?

Wrong.

The aroma picks up on the same top notes of mushroom, mild smoke and faint tobacco, but it's augmented with notes of sweet golden flapjack. On tasting, the oats lead first, morphing from comforting porridge flavours to sweeter, buttery flapjack flavours. Just a hint of smokiness comes through in underneath along with cocoa depth, but the oats are the star of the show here. Into the aftertaste, the oat flavours notes make way for Rich Tea biscuit vibes, alongside a very fine strand of bitterness that sits at the very fringes of the flavour.

Compared to the 60% Dark Milk chocolate bar, this one's softer, more tame in nature, and more forgiving. If the mushroom and cheese notes scare you in the original bar, this dairy-free bar is wildly different. The softer nature of the flavour of the oats makes this one much easier to eat and enjoy. Out of the two, I think this one is my favourite for that reason, but both are exquisitely good bars.

Minimalist Chocolate Vegan 60% Dark Oat Milk Review

RRP: £3.75 | Minimalist Chocolate | Shop now

It's amazing to see the significant impact of changing from dairy milk to oat milk. The flavour profile of the chocolate bar morphs from something quite refined and grown-up to something more youthful and fun. This bar is worlds apart from the Dark Milk bar, replacing the mushroom and cheese notes with porridge, flapjack and biscuit flavours.

Packaging
Appearance
Ingredients
Taste
Creativity
Score: 5

Where to Buy Online

The Minimalist Chocolate 60% Dark Milk bar is available on their website here (R80.00; around £3.75). There's a five-pack available too (R320.00; around £15). Both can be shipped to the UK, although you'll need to contact the team to get a quote for shipping.

The dairy-free 60% Dark Oat Milk bar is also available on their website here (R90.00; around £4.20).

My recommendation would be to get a bar of both the original and dairy-free chocolate to compare and contrast. It's quite a special experience tasting the differences and nuances of each very fine bar.

Of course, if you find yourself in Cape Town, you'll find the chocolate available at Truth Coffee, where you'll also find coffee pairings to match the characteristics perfectly.

Tell Minimalist Chocolate You Saw It On Chocolatier.co.uk!

Please mention Chocolatier.co.uk in your order notes when you place an order with Minimalist Chocolate online. It means the world to me, and lets Minimalist Chocolate know Chocolatier.co.uk helped you decide to make a purchase today. Thank you for your support

Do you think chocolate tastes better when it has as few ingredients as possible? Let me know whether you agree with this in the comments below. Also let me know your recommendations on what to order if you've visited Truth Coffee in Cape Town.

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