We tried 10 single-origin bars from four top-notch bean-to-bar chocolate makers—here’s how they stacked up.
August 01, 2017
Tasting single-origin chocolate is an engaging, sensory-driven experience. Made with cocoa beans sourced from a specific country, plantation, or small family-owned farm, single-origin bars are full of distinctive flavors. Due to factors such as terroir (soil, climate, rainfall, and altitude) and manufacturing methods, the differences between these bars can vary greatly. This special type of chocolate is rising in popularity, and whether you’re a newbie or experienced sampler, our handy tasting guide will help you find the perfect bar for your preferences.
Our taste test starts with 10 single-origin bars from four reputable small-batch chocolate makers across the country: Askinosie Chocolate, Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate, Dandelion Chocolate, and Taza Chocolate. Our sampling covers as much of the cocoa bean producing world as possible, from Central America to South America, across the Atlantic to Africa, and lastly to the South Pacific islands. All of the bars we tried were dark chocolate made with 70% cacao or more, with the most intense being 87%.
For each bar, we considered several factors:
Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate (Atlanta)
Peru: San Martin de Pangoa
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FROM BOOZY SLUSHIES TO FROSTY CHOCOLATE CONCOCTIONS
With the summer scorch in full swing and Georgia humidity cloaking your every move, folks may feel less inclined to spend the energy getting out of the house. But the city offers a respite with its frosty drinks aplenty. Look beyond the margarita for a boozy slushie that'll put your summer night over the top.
The Frozen Drinking Chocolate at Xocolatl
This small-batch chocolate shop in Inman Park's Krog Street Market makes its chocolates right behind the counter. This refreshing, rich and creamy drink (pictured between Xocolatl's iced cacao tea and cold-brew cacao coffee) combines single-origin Nicaraguan chocolate and coconut milk, and comes topped with coconut-infused whipped cream and cacao nibs. There's no liquor, if that's what you're after, but there's also nothing stopping you from turning around and buying a shot of something from the bar at Ticonderoga Club right around the corner…
99 Krog St NE; 404-604-9642
Q. Do you have an under the radar thing you discovered recently?
A. I took the microfactory tour at Xocolatl and it's awesome! They make chocolate from bean to bar in about 200 square feet, and you get to see the whole process. I learned so much about chocolate. It was my favorite nerdy thing to do recently. I don't think many people even know that exists as an option.
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FOR YOUR HEALTH: Ladybird's frozen blood orange Moscow mule.COURTESY TORI ALLENJuly has arrived, and with it, the steamy temps we knew were coming. But what better way to cope than with something cold and boozy? Frozen cocktails are making a serious comeback this summer, with mixologists all over the city crafting versions just as respectable as their shaken and stirred counterparts.
“I’m glad we’re starting to see a shift in the current drinking culture in general,” says Tyler Blackgrave, bar manager at Bon Ton in Midtown. “It provides a new avenue to experiment with some of our favorite classics and variations on those well-known cocktails. Frozen drinks are refreshing and a quick serve.”
True. Read on for some of our coolest picks in the city.
Frozen drinking chocolate at Xocolatl
Okay, this one isn’t alcoholic, but you won’t even miss the booze. Nicaraguan chocolate is blended with coconut milk and then slushified. Add a dollop of coconut whipped cream and you’ve got the ultimate summertime indulgence. www.xocolatlchocolate.com
Atlanta, Georgia | $856 per week
With professional sports, nightlife, and a growing culinary scene, Atlanta has become a major tourism destination. Honeymooners will fall in love all over again on the Atlanta SkyWheel, taking in views of the city from above. If you are looking for a little sophistication, the neighborhood of Virginia Highland is a great spot to browse boutique shops. Need a break from the urban energy? Piedmont Park is a perfect place to enjoy a walk and a picnic.
Our Favorite Couples Activity: Satisfy your sweet tooth at Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate.
Our Favorite Romantic Restaurant: You’ll find charming Canoe Restaurant, serving flavorful dishes daily along the peaceful banks of the Chattahoochee River.
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Wine, chocolate, beer & Mexican food…sounds like a sweet week to us! Check out the below happenings for next week & see which one intrigues your palette.
Chocolate Micro-Factory Tour & TastingToday through Monday, July 31 | Xocolatl
Calling all the world’s chocolate lovers! Tour the Xocolatl Microfactory at Krog Street Market & learn all about the bean-to-bar chocolate making process. Afterward, you’re invited to indulge in a guided tasting of dark chocolates from all around the globe. And through July 31, you can enjoy these chocolates with beers from Wild Heaven Brewing Company.
Snag a ticket here!
When Elaine Read, Matt Weyandt, and their young children left behind their 9-to-5 lives for new adventures in Costa Rica, they didn’t have a crystal-clear agenda. But they discovered the rich world of chocolate-making that existed in small, humble dwellings peppered throughout the mountains of Central America, and it felt a little like fate.
Eventually, the family returned to the States, underwent training, began their small endeavor at a space in Studioplex, and pitched their idea to the then-under-development Krog Street Market: to bring a micro chocolate factory and shop to the food hall.
Today, around the corner from Hop City and across from French Market Flowers, Xocolatl’s (chock-oh-LAH-tul, in case you were wondering) space contains shelves of products made on site, plus counter service and the factory operations.
In an age of tiny homes and minimalist aesthetics, a behind-the-counter tour is an apt example of how to artfully budget a limited amount of space. You may not believe it until you see it for yourself, but all of the business’ manufacturing takes place in an area that can only fit 8-10 people.
Further, what makes Xocolatl special is the unique, personal relationships the business owners forge with cacao growers and cooperatives–mostly sourced from Central and South America, plus some from East Africa—in truly fair trade arrangements.
After the growers spend weeks harvesting pods from the cacao trees, they ferment and sun-dry the seeds, then ship them in sacks to the States, where the team at Xocolatl will sort and inspect them before roasting, cracking, winnowing, grinding, tempering, and molding the chocolate into bars that are cooled, wrapped, and sold at the counter to the throngs of shoppers that fill Krog Street Market each week.
In addition to a socially conscious business model, there’s a true spirit of creativity and ingenuity in this small factory: roasted seeds are cracked with a device that employs an everyday power drill purchased at Home Depot. Nibs are separated from seed husks in the winnowing process using a homemade contraption that looks like it was drawn by Rube Goldberg himself—complete with a water cooler jug, PVC pipe, zip ties, and a funnel.
After walking through the process—bean to bar, as they say—the staff treats you to a glass (or two) of red wine and 6-8 tastings of chocolate. The great news is that Xocolatl uses pure chocolate and organic sugar cane sugar in their bars, meaning they are vegan and free of gluten and soy. If you want to enjoy a flavored bar, the chocolate has only been enhanced by natural ingredients, like sea salt, fresh peppermint, or coconut milk.
A chocolate tasting is an education much like that of beer, wine, and coffee—you may find yourself surprised at the enormous diversity of flavors based on origin and the conditions of growth, fermentation, and roasting. While some chocolates are dark and dusky or rich and currant-flavored, others are bright with surprising citrus hints, like pineapple. Of the flavored bars, our personal favorite was the Kissed Mermaids, “a dark coconut milk chocolate with vanilla-infused sea salt and crunchy cacao nibs sprinkled on the back.” Trust us: you won’t be disappointed.
During your tasting, sampling the chilled drinking chocolate topped with coconut milk whipped cream is a 100% must, followed by the cacao tea. How in the heck do you make cacao tea, you ask? Remember those husks that were separated from the nibs in the winnowing process? Steep those husks in hot water and be wowed.
Seeing chocolate in all its complex and community-based context will make you appreciate why a single bar is priced at $9.50. Book your tasting online for your next date night, and be sure to do a little shopping before you leave (hint: chocolate bars make great gifts). We’re still hoarding our jar of chocolate hazelnut spread—Nutella doesn’t even come close.
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Drinking chocolate: Palate pleasing. This single origin drinking chocolate from Xocolatl is perfect to mix with milk whether she likes it hot or cold. A special Mother’s Day box featuring two chocolate bars, one tine of cacao tea, one jar of crystallized cotton honey, one demitasse cup and a tea strainer is available for $43 in-store or online.
Krog Street Market, 99 Krog St., Atlanta. 404-604-9642, xocolatlchocolate.com.