Dark Matters Craft Chocolate Awards 2017

I can’t believe another amazing craft chocolate tasting year has past!  That means it’s time for the 2nd annual Dark Matters Craft Chocolate Awards.

I have only included bars I have purchased myself.  I’m also only including bars that I tried in 2017, so some of these bars might be new creations and some may be part of a maker’s permanent collection.

Full reviews of the winning bars are available on this blog or on my IG account.

And the winners are……drum roll…..

Best in White Chocolate:

1st place for a straight up white chocolate bar goes to Akesson’s 43% Madagascar White Chocolate Bar. This bar is high quality, great texture, pleasant taste and a favorite of mine due to the fact it wasn’t overly sweet.  I want to see more white chocolate bars go the less-sweet direction (although I’ve certainly enjoyed plenty of sweet ones too).   See the full review of this bar here.

Akesson’s Single Plantation 43% Madagascar White Chocolate Bar

1st place for an inclusion white chocolate bar goes to WKND Chocolate Turmeric of a Goat Thing.  I adore the savory combination of turmeric, cayenne and other spices in this goat milk bar and the turmeric lends it a gorgeous color!  This is also a bar I like to eat if I’m feeling under the weather.  The spices are so comforting.

WKND Chocolate Turmeric of a Goat Thing 

2nd place goes to Map Chocolate’s Squirrel Stash featuring salted caramel white chocolate with house made hazelnut butter.  Tastes of hazelnuts, salt, and minerality.  I’m kicking myself for not buying at least another bar of this!

Map Chocolate Squirrel Stash

Note:  Many of you know I am a huge fan of Dormouse Chocolates Toasted Madagascar white chocolate bar.  I have bought several and gifted this bar too, however, since technically I received the very first one for free-that is the only reason that bar isn’t awarded here.  It certain deserves an award!

Best in Inclusion Bars:

1st place for an inclusion bar goes to Map Chocolate’s Meteor Shower.  This is my favorite Map Chocolate bar (and I’ve had many). This dark/milk bar is made from 65% Honduras chocolate with toasted black sesame, Maldon salt, and black lava salt. I love the sweet, salty, nutty (without nuts) tastes of this bar.  See the review for this bar here.

Map Chocolate’s Meteor Shower Bar

2nd place for an inclusion bar goes to Chocolate Naive’s Ambrosia bar with forest honey and bee pollen.  This bar lives up to it’s name.  (So often bars with bee pollen give a weird sensation on the tongue but not so with this one).   This bar gets me day dreaming of a day in a Lithuanian forest.  Definitely a repeat bar!!

Chocolate Naive Ambrosia Bar

3rd place for inclusion bar goes to Pump Street Chocolate  Rye Crumb, Milk and Sea Salt bar.  This 60% Ecuador bar has notes of brioche, buttery, crust and malt.  This is another bar I’ve had to buy multiple times times.  Definitely a chocolate for breakfast worthy bar.

Pump Street Chocolate Rye Crumb, Milk and Sea Salt Bar

4th place goes to Solstice Chocolate’s S’mores bar from Cacao Review’s Underground Chocolate Club Collection #1.  This bar gives me exactly what I want in a s’mores bar and the graham cracker happens to be gluten-free for those who need that type of item.  I’ve actually purchased 3 of these bars since it is worth repeating!

Solstice Chocolate S’more Bar

Best in Holiday Chocolate Bar:

1st place for Holiday Bar is Askinosie’s Gingerbread.  This Tanzania bar tastes so close to the real-deal gingerbread cake version that I actually skipped making gingerbread this year and had this bar instead!

Askinosie’s Gingerbread Bar

2nd place goes to Map Chocolate’s Forest Bark with great skill shown in using a pine bud syrup and doug fir tips without either ingredient completely dominating and still letting the 65% Belize chocolate to come through.

Map Chocolate Forest Bar

3rd place for Holiday Bar goes to Dormouse Chocolate’s Stollen bar.  This Guatemalan dark chocolate bar has ground almonds and dried cherries.  Part of what makes it special is the almonds are more like almond nut butter, lending a very smooth texture.

Dormouse Chocolates Limited Edition Stollen Bar

Best in 100% Dark Chocolate Bars:

1st place goes to Soma Chocolatemaker’s Arcana 100% with a base of Venezuelan Porcelana blended with other origins.  Great texture and taste!  This would be a great teaching bar for tastings.

Soma Chocolatemaker Arcana 100% Bar

2nd place goes to Dormouse Chocolates 100% Guatemala bar.  Floral, honey, red fruit, earthy, oak, nutty and light tobacco come through making this both an interesting bar with great texture and pleasant to eat, as well as amazing complex.

Dormouse Chocolates 100% Guatemala Bar

3rd place goes to Chocolate Tree’s Ambanja Madagascar 100% bar.  This bar was one of the more palatable 100% bar I’ve had so far. Well done!

Chocolate Tree AmbanJa Madagascar 100%

Best new vegan chocolate bar for 2017:

1st place goes to Map Chocolate’s Tahini is a Magical Place is a vegan white chocolate bar made with organic cocoa butter, organic cane sugar, organic (gluten-free) oats, organic sesame seeds with the inclusions of 74% dark chocolate chunks (made from cocoa beans and organic cane sugar).  So many bars often go the coconut-milk route (which I personally enjoy), but this bar uses oats instead and who can’t help but smile at chocolate being an inclusion to a bar?

Map Chocolate Tahini is a Magical Place Bar

Best in chocolate bar packaging/wrapping: 

1st place goes to Beau Cacao for color and style of packaging that sticks in my mind long after having the bar.  A very classy look!  Whether I was going to a persons home or meeting someone at Versailles I would be proud to hand anyone this bar.  Lovely!

Beau Cacao

2nd place goes to Dormouse Chocolates who use a different gorgeous colored paper for each bar.  I just want to wall paper a room with their wrappers!

Dormouse Chocolates

3rd place goes to Violet Sky Chocolates.  I love all their wrappers, but in particular I adore this wrapper from their Pierce the Veil bar with the shiny un-labeled side as the front and the label on the back of the bar.  This one really stands out in a crowd!  This maker also makes tasty inclusion bars.  A maker to watch in 2018 as they become more and more creative with each bar.

Violet Sky Chocolate Pierce the Veil Bar

Honorable mentions for best in packaging/wrapping:  Chocolate Naive, Map Chocolate and Marou.

Best in Shine, Snap and Texture: 

1st place goes to Beau Cacao for, quite frankly, both of their Malaysia bars!  I’ve ordered their bars 3 times from England and they have always arrived to me in perfect condition in the USA.  Each time the shine, snap and texture have been consistently amazing.  I really believe those who are fairly new to making craft chocolate especially should taste their bars to learn about the art of tempering.

Beau Cacao 73% Asajaya Malaysia Bar

Best Craft Chocolate Bar Category:  

Of all the craft chocolate bars I’ve had this year these are at the very top.  Picked for good nose, interesting tastes, shine, great texture and snap, and many with long finishes.

Note:  I am reversing the order on this category so that #1 is the final bar listed. 

10th place goes to Solstice Chocolate’s 70% Kilombero Tanzania bar.  I first sampled this bar at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Seattle this past Nov. The memory of it stuck with me so much I had to order it.  So often Tanzania bars can get a bit big and out of control, but not so with this bar.  They really balanced it well.   Tasting notes of blackcurrant, brownies, dark grape, cocoa, soil and raisins.

Solstice Chocolate Kilombero Tanzania Bar

9th place goes to Raaka Chocolate’s first ever roasted bar Pisa, Haiti micro-batch bar from Cacao Review’s Underground Chocolate Club Collection #1.  What an amazing job as for their first roasted bar!  Tasting notes of cinnamon, molasses, black tea and plum.  Great job!

Raaka Roasted Pisa Haiti Bar

8th place goes to Domori Chocolate’s Arribba Hacienda Victoria 70% bar featuring a lovely texture with tasting notes including meringue, honeysuckle, coffee, peach, toffee and more.

Domori Arribba Hacienda Victoria 

7th place goes to The Smooth Chocolator’s 65% Guatemala Chimelb Bar.  While my bar of this is long gone the memory has stayed with me.  Great texture, juicy mouth feel, notes of cherry, plum, jam and more.

The Smooth Chocolator Guatemala Bar

6th place Tranquilidad Vintage Amazon Wild Harvest. This bar has notes of floral, jasmine, vanilla, cream, persimmons and more with a great texture/snap.  Very memorable!

Tranqilidad Vintage Amazon Wild Harvest Bar

5th place goes to Cacao Prieto 72% Dominican Republic bar.  Tasting notes of oak, raspberry acidity, dark rum, persimmon. An impressive finish of around 30 minutes with mild tannins, golden berry, dried mango, and cacao nibs.  Read more about this bar here.

Cacao Prieto 72% Dominican Republic Bar

4th place goes to  Letterpress Chocolate’s UCAYALI Private Reserve 70% dark chocolate bar that lists batch #1 on the back.  Great snap, interesting flavors, great packaging and a long finish.  Read more about this bar here.

Letterpress Chocolate UCAYALI Private Reserve Bar Batch #1

3rd place goes to Durci Chocolate’s 70% Piura Blanco Micro-Batch from Cacao Review’s Underground Chocolate Club Collection #1.  Notes of meyer lemon, slate, butter, earth, lemon drop and more.  Such a quality bar!

Durci Chocolate 70% Piura Blanco Bar

2nd place goes to Original Beans Piura Malingas 75% Dark Chocolate Bar Piura Valley, Peru.  Fantastic snap with tasting notes of banana, lemon citrus, lychee and green apple with cherry coming through in a long finish.

Original Beans Piura Malingas Bar

And top marks goes to……

1st place goes to Beau Cacao 73% Asajaya Malaysia 2014 harvest dark chocolate bar pulls ahead with the top notch shine, texture and snap.  Tasting notes include dark caramel brittle, bark (more than oak), minerality, mocha, and hazelnut.  There is even some bay nut in the medium-long finish. Read more about this bar here. Bravo Beau Cacao!!!

Beau Cacao 73% Asajaya Malaysia 2014

An extra special congrats to Beau Cacao for wining 3 categories!!!

What are your personal picks for top craft chocolate bars you have tried in 2017?  If you have been inspired to get any of these bars let me know. What other craft chocolate award categories would you like to see next year?

Looking forward to what 2018 has in store for the craft chocolate world! Wishing you a very happy New Year filled with craft chocolate!

Victoria Cooksey

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