Dark Matters Chocolate Reviews Craft Chocolate Awards 2018

Another year full of even more chocolate has come and gone bringing us to the 3rd annual Dark Matters Craft Chocolate awards for 2018.

The same rule from the past applies to these awards: Only bars I have purchased are eligible for awards.  As usual, some of these bars might still exist in a makers collection and some may have been limited edition only.  (Keep in mind that each year/harvest is different and as chocolate makers tweak recipes, bar tasting notes are subject to change).  Full tasting notes for each bar may be found on this blog, or on my Instagram account

And now the winners are…

Best Coffee Chocolate Bar:

I tried several bars with coffee in them this year.  What made the top 3 stand out the most, besides the overall great flavors, was that while often coffee can end up a bit stale-tasting in bars, these 3 managed to convey the feeling of having a fresh cup of coffee. 

3rd place goes to Hogarth’s Espresso Bar with Dominican Oko Caribe cacao & Pomeroy’s Coffee. This bar has tastes that included lemon, grape, lavender, mocha and bright coffee. 

Hogarth’s Espresso Bar (The packaging has changed since I took this photo)

2nd place is Primo Botanica’s Electricity Bar with Peruvian cacao & Peruvian espresso from Electric City Roasters.  This bar has tasting notes of earthy, nutty, espresso, lemon zest and green banana. 

Primo Botanica’s Electricity Bar

1st place goes to Fossa Chocolate’s Gesha Rehoboth coffee bar. Tastes of espresso with lemon, earthy, bright and balanced acidity, floral with a long finish. 

Fossa Chocolate Gesha Rehoboth Coffee Bar

Best 100% Bars:

This category was extra tricky to pick this year!

3rd place is NearyNogs 100% Dominican Republic Hispaniola bar.  This bar has tastes of cocoa, brownie, earthy, black fruit and chocolate cookie.  

NearyNogs 100% Dominican Hispaniola Bar

2nd place is Original Bean’s 100% Cusco Chuncho Sacred Cusco Valley Peru Bar. This bar starts off with floral notes and red fruit acidity which then fades and becomes more blackberry and earthy with some tannins present which mellows and becomes more cocoa notes. Read the full bar review on my blog

Original Beans 100% Cusco Chuncho Bar

1st place goes to Creo Chocolate 100% Heirloom Arriba Cacao Nacionale Ecuador.  Nose of brown butter cookie. Tastes of oak, vanilla (none added), cocoa, mild red fruit, bread crust and floral with a long 15+ minute finish. 

Creo Chocolate 100% Cacao Ecuador 

Best Inclusion Bars Dark and Milk Chocolate:

Another tough one!  What an amazing selection of inclusion bars available in 2018!  (There were some inclusion bars I was given that absolutely deserve an award, but I can’t give them one because of my award rules).

6th place is Map Chocolate‘s Such a Fool for you 80% Belize bar with cashew butter, coconut & mint. Tastes of coconut, butter, nutty and subtle mint.

Map Chocolate Such a Fool for You

5th place goes to Akesson’s Bali 45% Milk Chocolate Bar with Fleur de Sel and coconut blossom sugar.  Nose of brown sugar, caramel, brown butter & salt. Tastes like buttery salted caramel dipped in milk chocolate with some floral notes showing up in the finish. 

Akesson’s Bali Milk Chocolate Bar

4th place is Villakuyaya 80& Earl Grey Lavender Esmeraldas Ecuador. Both the tea and the lavender are ingredients that could easily dominate, however, this bar is well balanced and also lets the flavor of the chocolate itself come through.  Nose of lavender, tea, prune and coffee.  Tastes of savory lavender, tea, cocoa, orange, hint of smoke, peat, mild dark fruit & earthy. 

Villakuyaya Earl Grey Lavender Bar

3rd  place goes to Patric Chocolate Oatmeal Cookie with tastes of oatmeal cookie, butter, cinnamon, cinnamon roll, hint of pale stone fruit & brown sugar. 

Patric Chocolate Oatmeal Cookie Bar

2nd place is Omnom Chocolate’s Drunk Raisins & Coffee with milk chocolate, coffee and rum raisins.  Nose of coffee, subtle citrus and cinnamon. Tastes of coffee, cardamom, cinnamon, rum raisins, cream and light brown sugar. Meow!

Omnom Chocolate Drunk Raisins & Coffee Bar

1st place is  Hogarth Chocolate Buttered Toast & Sea Salt with tastes of lightly salted buttered toast, malt, dark honey acidity & nutmeg.

Hogarth Chocolate Buttered Toast & Sea Salt Bar

Best Inclusion Bar White Chocolate:

4th place is Pump Street Chocolate’s Limited Edition 40% Brown Bread white chocolate Hacienda Limon, Ecuador 2016 crop bar. Nose of cream brulee & butter. Tastes of toast, crust, buttery, brown butter and toffee. 

Pump Street Chocolate Brown Bread White Chocolate Bar

3rd place goes to Mirzam’s white chocolate bar infused with saffron.  Tastes of saffron, lemony, cream, meringue, cayenne (taste not heat), persimmon, peach and then back to saffron with a long finish. 

Mirzam White Chocolate Bar Infused with Saffron

2nd place is Fossa Chocolate Sake.  This is a 38% white chocolate bar made with Sake Kasu lees.  Tastes of custard, salt, spice, nutmeg, dried mango and pineapple. 

Fossa Chocolate Sake Bar

1st place goes to Fossa Chocolate’s Salted Egg Cereal Bar white chocolate bar with a nose of cereal, corn flakes and light caramel. Tastes of cereal, toast, egg yolk, mild heat and a touch of lime leaf in the finish. 

Fossa Chocolate Salted Egg Cereal

Unique/Hybrid Bars:

There were so many extra unique bars this year that I am calling hybrids for lack of a better term currently.  Bars combining dark and white, bars that don’t quite fit a certain established category, etc.  What do you think this category should be called?

3rd place goes to Batch Craft Collection 13 Icelandic Wild Berry Salt Bar. This bar has both 45% white chocolate and 80% dark smoked chocolate along with Icelandic berry salt, coconut milk and raw sugar. 

Batch Craft Wild Berry Salt Bar

2nd place is Map Chocolate Who Wants Pie? Kaffir Lime Pie Bar and a Panela Graham Crust Bar. These may be eaten apart or together in a mix-and-match pie combo. My full review of this set is available on my blog

Map Chocolate Who Wants Pie? 2-Bar Set

1st Place goes to Primo Botanica Sesame Lioness Bar with a tahini white-chocolate-ish, but not quite, top, lion’s mane mushroom extract and a Ecuadorian dark chocolate base. Very unique! The full review of this bar is available on my YouTube channel

Primo Botanica Sesame Lioness Bar

Best Milk Chocolate Bar:

2nd place goes to Soma Chocolatemaker’s 55% Vanua Milk bar.  Nose of toffee, buttery, caramel and malt. Tastes of toffee, salted caramel, brown butter, dark honey and salt. 

Soma Chocolatemaker Vanua Milk Chocolate Bar

1st place goes to Dick Taylor’s 58% Madagascar milk chocolate bar with Humbolt Creamery dairy. Often Madagascar’s fruit notes can get a bit lost in milk chocolate bars, but not in this one!  Dick Taylor manages to capture so many scents and tastes in this bar. My full review of this bar is on my blog

Dick Taylor Madagascar Milk Chocolate Bar

Best Educational Chocolate:

This new awards category include bars that further educate how different location, time of year, etc. change the taste of chocolate and also expand our tasting palate experience. 

3rd place goes to Dormouse Chocolates.  Dormouse Chocolates conducted an experiment of making two special chocolate bars: one from reddish-brown cacao pods only and a separate one with beans from yellow pods only, with the assistance of Kablon Farms in South Cotabato in the Philippines.  There really was a difference in taste between the two. The full review of these bars are located on my blog

Dormouse Chocolates Red Pods vs Yellow Pods Taste Experiment

2nd place goes to Raaka Chocolate for their August 2018 selection of First Nibs featuring both a single and a double fermented cacao bar, made from unroasted Zorzal Cacao, Dominican Republic, with each bar at the 75% mark.  The full review of these bars is available on my blog.

Raaka’s Single & Double Fermented Aug 2018 First Nibs Bars

1st Place goes to Chocolate Naive’s Nano_Lot Finca La Rioja Mexico. What makes this particular Nano_Lot even extra special is that it’s not one bar, it’s actually two mini-bars.  While both bars are made from cacao from Finca La Rioja farm in Cacahoatan, Chiapas, Mexico, each bar is from a different harvest time which shows how even different times of the year effect the finished flavor.  Full review available on my blog.

Nano_Lot Finca La Rioja Mexico

Best Single-Origin Bar:

Given the amount of single-origin bars I taste in a year this is an extra tough category to pick the winners for! 

6th place is Soma Chocolatemaker’s 70% Creole Gardens Haiti bar with tastes of grape, cocoa, floral, subtle light honey and a touch of brown butter. The full review of this bar is available on my blog

Soma Chocolatemaker Creole Garden 70% Haiti Bar

5th place is The Smooth Chocolator 75% Wild Bolivia Beniano. Nose of apricot, and brown butter. Tastes of bright stone fruit acidity, buttery, peach, vanilla (none added) and soft oak followed by a long finish of stone fruits, lemon drop, cocoa and subtle black coffee. 

The Smooth Chocolator Wild Bolivia

 4th  place goes to Qantu’s Morropon 70% Piura Peru. Tastes of red currants, black fruit, dark cherry and golden berry switching to prune and brown sugar in the 20 minute long finish. 

Qantu Morropon 70% Piura Peru Bar

3rd place goes to Chocolate Naive’s Limited Edition (only 200 made ever) for Cacao Review’s Collection No. 2. 67% Rugoso Special Nano_Lot made with Nicaraguan cacao beans. Nose of buttery, light brown sugar, cream, malt with mild grape and oak. Tastes of buttery, raspberry bubblegum, light brown sugar, white grape & Belgian style brown beer. 

Chocolate Naive Nano-Lot Rugoso Special 

2nd place goes to Solstice Chocolate 70% Dak Nong Vietnam Bar. Nose of cherry, chicory, spice and floral. Tastes of cherry, cinnamon, chicory and biscuit with a finish of raisins, floral and then subtle molasses right at the end. 

Solstice Chocolate Dak Nong Vietnam Bar

1st place goes to Marou’s 75% Vietnam Farm of Mrs. Tam, Dak Nong Province Micro-batch with only 200 made for Cacao Review’s Collection No. 2. Nose of light honey, floral, citrus and red fruit. Tastes of latte, cream, floral, cocoa powder, raw almonds, tarragon and a hint of citrus. 

Marou’s 75% Vietnam Farm of Mrs. Tam Dak Nong Province

Best Wrapper/Packaging:

With so many gorgeous bar wrappers out there and several makers changing their packaging this year, I didn’t know how I would pick a winner for best looking wrapper this year.  Then along came Cacao Review‘s Collection No. 2 and the winner became obvious.  Collection No. 2 featured Chocolate Naive, Marou, Omnom, Ritual Chocolate and a bar by Cacao Review with only 200 of each bar made (plus additional collectors items).  Upon opening the box each item was encased in black paper and underneath the bar’s wrappers featured gold, black and white classic looks.  Congrats to Cacao Review and all the makers featured in this collection for this knock out overall look! 

Cacao Review Collection No. 2 (Pic by Cacao Review)

Cacao Review Collection No.2 (Pic by Cacao Review)

Most Impressive/Collaboration:

3rd place goes to the collaboration between Projet Chocolat & Map Chocolate’s Christmas Morning two bar set that was a very limited edition (only 40 made) for purchase through Coco Doro’s online website. This set featured a vegan white chocolate bar infused with cloves and a dark chocolate bar with bitter orange.  This set was inspired by the orange-clove pomander made popular by Queen Victoria. This set came with a picture of Queen Victoria with all items arriving in a glassine envelope closed by a wax seal.  (Note: I purchased this bar myself from Coco Doro online.  After I purchased this bar I later won a giveaway that happen to include another one of this two bar set.  That set I sent to chocolate pals). 

Christmas Morning Limited Edition Set (Photo by Sophia Rea of Projet Chocolat)

2nd place is Littlebeetle_chocolates successful Kickstarter Advent Calendar project which brought together 24 craft chocolate makers from around the world (some of which made chocolate unique to this collection only).

Littlebeetle_chocolates Advent Calendar (Photo by Lilla Toth-Tatai)

1st places goes to Cacao Review’s Collection No. 2 for a year-long project that culminated in a special package featuring only 200 of each item for this collection and never again.  Cacao Review also made their very own craft chocolate bar for this set. Whew!  What a treat for craft chocolate collectors! 

Cacao Review’s Collection No. 2 (Photo by Cacao Review)

Congratulations to all the winners! 

2018 was an amazing year in craft/specialty chocolate and I cannot wait to see what 2019 brings! (Hint: I’ve already tasted a bar that was so good it is on my nominee list for 2019). 

Please leave a comment on your favorite bar(s) from 2018.

Victoria Cooksey:



Check out my Chocolate One-on-One interviews in Chocolate Connoisseur Magazine: 


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