Had the opportunity once to try a Chocolate piece made from Porcelana Cacao, from the Andean Region in my country Venezuela. How I can describe that experience??? SUBLIME!!!!!! Any other Chocolate lovers able to express their experiences or opinions? www.therepublicofchocolate.blogspot.com
updated by @the-republic-of-chocolate: 04/10/15 04:42:38PM
Porcelana Cacao The best Cacao in the world?
I'm not sure it's possible to call any cacao or any chocolate bar "the best in the world". Tastes vary too much and chocolate makers vary too much with what they make of the same beans. Besides, to truly be called "the best in the world" would mean that you had tasted every single chocolate in the world and that's a huge undertaking.Actually, I'm not being critical and I know you were just using hyperbole to express how delightful the porcelana is, so your point still stands that it's great. I'm no expert, but I think that many would say that the Chuao beans are at the top level too. They're criollo beans from Chuao Venezuela, so your country can boast 2 of the best!I'm a neophyte but in my limited experience here's how I've rated various chocolates (of the ~200 that I've tasted):Amedei Chuao, 70% = 10. For me, this bar sets the gold standard.Amedei I-Cru Venezuela, 70% = 9.9. Another Venezuelan!Amedei Porcelana, 70% = 9.9 Sublime, but a slight notch below ChuaoAmedei I-Cru Madagascar, 70% = 9.8....( a few others on the list, notably the other Amedei I-Crus)Domori Porcelana, 70% = 9.2 Excellent, but not to the level of Amedei....(way down the list...)Bonnat Chuao, 75% = 7 Nowhere near as good as Amedei's.Just my opinion and preferences. YMMV (Your mileage may vary)
Agreeing with Theo, it's not really accurate to determine a "best" type of chocolate, especially because different chocolates are "best" at certain tasks and pairing with different flavors, so the term is purely circumstantial, even regarding individual taste preference.Even so, enough people may rank a certain chocolate highly on a consistent basis to give the impression that it is the "best." Again, though, this might not be the case to everyone else. It's only the best to a small subset of the population.One more thing before I forget, cacao from the Chuao region is not entirely criollo. It's a blend, including Forastero.
Myself and six other friends recently had an evening we called the Porcelana Bash. We compared seven different Porcelana bars (Bonnat's, Coppeneur (Mex. and Ven.), Amedei, Valhrona (Palmira 2005 and 2006), and Domori). The styles of the makers varied greatly and came through in each bar. Beyond makers we found a difference in the 2005 v. 2006 Palmira. RunnerNYC has posted a few pictures on her TCL page. In one of her pictures you can see the difference in color of the bars. That impressed me in that pure porcelana bars should be lighter in color with a reddish tint. Some of ours were pretty dark. The Coppeneur from Mexico matched the appearance description the best. None of the bars could be passed off as being similar to the others. The differences between bars were great but there were some similarities between some of them too. Across all of them, we didn't find any bitterness and little to no astringency. Except for the Valrhona, no strong fruity flavors. I think the Bonnat matched the flavor description of what I expect a porcelana to taste like. For me, it was Domori's ultra creamy texture that clings somewhat to the roof of the mouth that made it stand out. It had a honey and chocolatey flavor.
Brady-You're a fortunate guy to have so many friends who appreciate chocolate like you do! That Porcelana Bash sounds like so much fun.Thanks for the info. I didn't know that Valhrona Palmira is porcelana, so this is good to know. How did you learn this?Along with Gwen, I'm also curious what makes Valhrona so red fruity. Personally I don't really care for it.
Valrhona's been keeping that under their hat for some time now until recently...it was revealed slowly, now trickling into the mainstream.Other than a lack of bitterness and astringency, I think there really is no similarity among them all, in that there is no unifying thread to tie each bar together. Previously, I could say there was but since the inception of Palmira, the oddball that it is, as well as these Mexican bars, Porcelana as a whole is now just as varied a cacao as anything else.I've been wondering lately what exactly is Porcelana anyway. I mean, here we have so many bars on the market of this rare, esteemed cacao that was previously available by two makers but now can be purchased by more than a generous handful. Plus, flavors are amazingly different, so naturally I am...well, not doubtful, but highly curious. Perhaps such variety relates to what Clay mentioned in another post, about fermentation contributing to flavor in HUGE ways. It'd be interesting to get feedback from someone who actually knows about Porcelana genetics and growing practices because from a consumer end, this is all very convoluted.
Gwen- I don't know how to explain the fruitiness in the Valrhona Palmira. It seems to fit the Valrhona profile though, so likely it is intentional. I don't think there is any deceiving manipulation. Hans probably has the best answer in that variation in fermentation could be playing a role. I think part of Valrhona's style is a light roast and a deliberately shorter fermentation (Anyone can set me straight on this point if I am wrong). The shorter fermentation resulting in more acidic flavored chocolate. Could this acidity level be likely bringing out the fruity flavors we experience? Being slightly more specific, I found Palmira 2005 to be fruity, tangy, rich with vanilla notes coming through. The 2006 by the way, was not as rich or deliberate. It resembled a chocolate brownie at times. Also, reviewing my tasting notes, the Coppeneur Mexican Porcelana also had a tangy dark berry note to start, but overall the bars were very different.Theobroma- I had tried to confirm by emailing Valrhona that the Palmira was indeed a Porcelana. I received an auto-reply awhile ago stating someone would get back to me but have never received confirmation from Valrhona. I did however read it on Han's site in a review of the Bonnat Porcelana. Coming from Hans, it was confirmation enough. As evidenced from his posts on the other three sites he posts to, Han's is full of information.
QUOTE:"As evidenced from his posts on the other three sites he posts to, Han's is full of information."Agreed. I'd only modify that by saying that Hans has " reliable information. His " House Tour: The Worlds Great Gourmet Chocolate Producers " on The Nibble is a masterpiece and a gold mine of useful information.Brady- you've got lots of good info yourself. I've benefited from what you've written, especially your "Flavor Notes" chart.Hans' tour gives the characteristics of the makers and Brady's "Flavor Notes" chart helps explain why they have those characteristics. Used together I found them both very valuable!So thanks to you both for your good work!OlorinP.S.- I changed my user name from "Theo Broma"
Hans,In a comment on the Bonnat Porcelana article I asked the following question---------------------------"...you said, Valrhona also has another Porcelana bar readily available: Palmira. Thats a little known fact Valrhona is slowly revealing to the public.Thanks for that info. Its good to know. You always have good information. Im curious about whether that kind of information is publicly available to the avg consumer, like me, or did you find that out from people you know or other insider connections that you have?"-----------------Since that comment is awaiting moderation I thought I'd ask it here too.
I just checked the review of Bonnat Porcelana on seventypercent.com .Wow! The two reviews posted on the same day by Hans-Peter and Alex Rast were so different! Did they even eat the same bar? Hans gave it 5.4 and Alex gave it 8.5.Hans- a 5.4 would land it on your Bad chocolate list, or at least earn it a Dishonorable Mention.
Thanks for the words of encouragement! It's wonderful to know firsthand that my articles are very helpful I replied to your comment on my blog, Olorin, but to avoid going allllllll the way back there, I basically said that I found out about the Palmira-Porcelana connection through an insider source AND on a website I saw in the same week (strange coincidence, huh?). I think the author on that website said that he was told directly by Valrhona, though I could be wrong so don't quote me. I don't like to say things with certainty unless I'm positive and even then I tend to tread carefully and speak in conjecture because of the countless variables involved That Bonnat Porcelana somehow escaped by bad-choco radar but it'll get in that Dishonorable Mention article. Thanks for pointing that out, btw...I would've missed it again! You know what's interesting? Alex told me that more than once he received Bonnat bars with the wrong wrappers, so there might be a good chance I received a bar that is not Porcelana, although the intrinsic flavors we tasted are similar so I don't know. Maybe different batches?Just wondering, but does anyone remember about three years ago or so that Domori's Porcelana was really, really, really awful? I bought two bars from Chocosphere and was expecting the same excellent quality as before, but the chocolate was bitter and tart, tasting like Granny Smith apples and potting soil. Jerry confirmed and noted the same traits in other random bars in his stock, and there's actually a thread on Seventypercent about this. I just wanted to bring this quality issue into the light again, basically reinforcing the idea that just because the name is Porcelana doesn't always mean the chocolate will be good, or more importantly, consistent with what we know about it already. There's just way too many forces at work for us to get a confident grip on what it's all about.
I was lucky enough to study with two CIRAD members, both the head (at the time) of the Tree Crops Program, during the University of Chocolate trips in 2003 and 2005. They are a great resource and they are on top of most of the breaking research. They don't necessarily have answers but they can say what the current consensus is.
clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
I spoke with a NYC based Regional Sales Manager from Valrhona today at the Fancy Food Show in NY. He confirmed for me that the Palmira is indeed Porcelana. He also said it is the same as the Porcelana de Pedegral bar that Valrhona sells in Europe. If I understood him correctly, it was a marketing decision not to pacakage the bar with Porcelana indicated on the box because the large majority of consumers would not be familar with the term.Furthermore, I discussed porcelana with a few other people at the show. The Mexican version of porcelana, that Pierre Marcolini and now Coppeneur have made bars with, is not considered a true porcelana. Regardless, Art Pollard of Amano, had a slide show presentation of photograghs at his booth. One of which was a porcelana bean from the estate in Mexico (located in Tobasco) that grows them. The meat of the bean was purely white, clearly resembling porcelana in appearance. It was a beautiful picture. Apparently there is only one small estate in Mexico with this bean, currently owned by a lady in her 70's, who inherited the land from her father.
The pulp around the seeds is white. The seeds, when cut, are anywhere from pure white, to pink, to light purple, to deep purple.Not all pure white beans are Criollo, let alone Porcelana. Porcelana cacao has a certain fruit shape and color. See page 86 of Presilla's "New Taste of Chocolate" for an example.Here is a photo I took at the Estacion Experimental Chama in December 2006 when I was there. The trees really are beautiful: http://www.patric-chocolate.com/blog/images/porcelana.jpg You can see that the fruit looks quite different from the average cacao fruit, Criollo or otherwise.
Olorin- I probably shouldn't have used the word 'meat' to describe the inside of the bean, but that is what I was referring to. As Alan clarified, cacao pulp (or mucilage) surrounds the beans and is a thick moist substance that you first see when a pod is cut open. Each bean(or seed) has a thin shell. I was using 'meat' to refer to the bean without the shell. Alan's picture of the porcelana pod is great. It's actually better than the picture he refers to in Presilla's book. Although if you are not familiar with her book you should look for it. It does have alot of great pod, tree and bean photos. Alan's photo is of a white pod, but pod color isn't always white with porcelana and isn't the best indicator of what type of bean is in any pod. Overall, I thought pod color, size and shape were poor indicators of what type of cacao bean it holds. On the other hand, I thought physical characteristics of the bean were a reliable way to determine cacao type.Alan, what other beans are you aware of with a white color that isn't criollo? Even M. Presilla alluded to the proof of a good porcelana was the pure white color (paraphrased from pg 90). Also, did you happen to see the photo I was referring to at Amano's booth?
updated by @brady: 09/07/15 02:32:51PM
updated by @brady: 09/07/15 02:32:51PM
Hi Brady,I saw Art quite a bit, but never made it to his booth unfortunately.As for the Porcelana, Presilla notes on p 90 that pure white beans in Porcleana give away the Criollo ancestry, but this does not mean that all pure white beans are Porcelana, as there are other Criollo populations as well.Porcelana cacao is simply one population of Criollo cacao. True Criollo, which is so rare that some experts don't believe it even really exists anymore, has pure white seeds, but doesn't all look externally like Porcelana does. Interestingly, there is at least one rare Forastero population that has pure white seeds. If I recall correctly, Bartley talks about this in his "Genetic Diversity of Cacao and its Utilization" though, unfortunately, I don't have the time to try and track down the citation.You are right that pod shape, size, and color are not the best indicators of what you will find inside, but they are not 100% unreliable either. When it comes to Porcelana, it is the external appearance that distinguishes it from other Criollo--term used loosely--populations.Best,Alan
I notice that there were several TheChocolateLife members at The Fancy Food Show - and I also noticed that you all appear to have missed a Porcelana announcement.On Tuesday I was collared by the exclusive importer of Bonnat into the US, Francoise Bureau-Crook of Crossings French Foods in Boston (the also import Castelain among other brands). Francoise shared with me that starting later this summer, Bonnat will be producing three Porcelana bars. In addition to the one they are producing now they will be adding a Mexican-origin bar and I forget the origin of the third. I will follow up and let you know.On another note, the success of the plantation in Tabasco state Mexico that is the source for most of the Mexican Porcelana has encouraged many other farmers in the region to start growing it. The quality has been highly variable due to a lack of consistency in fermentation, so my hope is that the increasing interest in the bean will mean more direct assistance by companies to address those issues. Finally, for those who make it to Spain, Cacao Sampaka produces a bar from those Mexican Porcelana beans. Cacao Sampaka is not imported into the US, but I've tried a fair selection of bars brought back by friends and their work is usually very good. The Mexican Porcelana was very fruity and astringent and not really at all pleasant. Again, this hearkens back to the quality of post-harvest processing practices I mentioned earlier.
clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
Alan- Thanks for the follow up. A quick internet search identified it as a white seeded cacao of high cacao butter content.Clay- Interesting news about Bonnat. Those 3 bars will set me back a cool $51 plus shipping, but I'm looking forward to it. BTW- Sorry you missed our porcelana tasting, it went quite well.
The Coppeneur Limited Edition Mexican and Venezuela Porcelana bars were very successful so we've created a Limited Edition (very) Porcelana bar from Peru. www.coppeneurchocolate.com under "Media".The Peruvian Porcelana harvest was too small to put through the Coppeneur winnowing machine so we peeled the beans by hand.
I'll point out that I had a somewhat similar experience with the Bonnat Porcelana thatHans Peter Rot had, and it was during the summer of 2008, not long after his review was first published. This bar had, as he noted, a lack of the complexity one might expect, and also, for me, one of the few overwhelming components was a very strong note of Piss. I mean, not pleasant, and the other main components were a most delicious strawberry and chocolatiness, this was bizarre. However, at that time, I really did find myself struggling with the question of whether this bar was work of genius, or a piece of junk (or perhaps a new genre was born -- genius junk?) I really found that, in spite of it all, there was something very interesting, you might even say compelling about this chocolate. I decided at that time that I would not write about the experience, instead giving Bonnat one more try before I finally did review their Porcelana.Lately, I've been gearing up to publish a Porcelana piece on The Chocolate Note , and have recently given the Bonnat another whirl. To great results, I am very impressed with this chocolate, nothing nasty at all, and it isn't that I can't love any chocolate which contains anything "unpleasant," either, but the intriguing quality was there, without any of that very bizarreness, and yet it is different, it's distinctive as compared to another Porcelana.So I would say the opinion formed with the 5.4 rating, and the acerbic review, calling this chocolate "grisly" must have been the result of some bad batches in 2008, or of course possibly they are still having them occasionally. (Although for me, grisly is I think in the 3 or below category of rating. time to move over to the "rating systems" discussion?)I would like some more information on where this idea that Valrhona Palmira is actually a Porcelana originally came from, it seems unusual that Valrhona wouldn't want to advertise the fact, that being such a highly marketable and sought after bean and all. Or perhaps, they are trying to mystify themselves some more (big surprise?)In my upcoming blog on Porcelana, I won't include any of the "types," and now Bonnat has several of those, but am interested in hearing feedback about how others have experienced these. The blog will focus only on Amedei, Bonnat, and Domori. I did not have the opportunity to try the Scharffen Berger years back, that has been mentioned, nor the Coppeneur limited editions. I was contacted by Coppeneur, who wanted to send me some of their chocolates for review. I wrote back, telling which ones I had not tried, and mentioned an interest in the Porcelana they had on hand at that time. I also noted that I would be honest in my review, noting any criticism of the chocolates for my readers, and supplied them with my mailing address. When, after these emails, I never did hear back from them again, I became suspicious of this company, almost as much as I am of Original Beans, or at least certainly their confidence in their own products. So I am curious how these limited Porcelana chocolates were, but won't be shelling out any bucks to find out.