Welcome to the 5th annual Dark Matters Chocolate Awards! I tasted so many lovely bars in 2020 that it was such a difficult pleasure to pick the very top bars!
Throughout the year I keep a running list of potential nominees in multiple categories. To qualify, the craft chocolate bars must be ones that I tasted in the actual award year and that I paid for myself. (Makers do occasionally send me bars to try, and some are award worthy, but if I received them for free they get left out of the running in order to keep the awards fair). I tend to look for bars that are either complex, or manage to represent an inclusion in a clean, clear, or unique way.
Some of the winners might be part of a makers permanent line-up, but they may also be a one-time creation that is no longer available.
And the winners are…..
White Chocolate Inclusion Bars
Would you believe this was my hardest category to narrow down since it had the most potential nominees? If you are new to the craft chocolate scene, I hope you will visit white chocolate again if it has been a while. In the past few years white chocolate has gone to such exciting new places!
6th Place: Fjak Sjokolade Blackcurrant Pie Nordic Collection. Tastes of blackcurrant, cream, oats, almonds, honey and pastry! Fjak is a maker that should be in your chocolate stash for sure!
5th Place: Askinosie Chocolate White Chocolate made with goat’s milk, house-pressed Davao Philippines cacao butter and roasted cacao nibs. Tastes of light goat’s milk, pale honey, cocoa and light cinnamon. So addictive it’s worth ordering two at a time!
4the Place: The Cocoa Forge Toasty White with 72% Nunokoloa, Rakiraki Province Fiji chips, Seville orange peel and Dominican Republic cocoa butter. Tastes of cream, caramel and cocoa with hints of chocolate cake.
3rd Place: Foxglove Chocolate Black & White bar. Black currant and white chocolate with black licorice. Tastes of butterscotch, black currant, salt, vanilla wafer cookie, malt and subtle licorice. As a kid I never liked licorice candy, but craft chocolate makers utilize licorice in such tasty ways that now I am a fan.
2nd Place: Mission Chocolate Romeo & Juliet. Cream cheese white chocolate with guava chunks. Tastes of cream cheese, ricotta cheesecake, cream and hear shaped fragrant guava pieces. Amazing! Wish I had ordered two!
1st Place: Violet Sky Chocolate Sourdough French Toast bar featuring bread from The Elder Bread shop. Tastes of sourdough, pastry, butter, French toast, cinnamon, salt, vanilla and mace. One of my all time favorite inclusion bars ever.
Milk Chocolate Bars With or Without Inclusions:
3rd Place: Castronovo Chocolate’s Dominican Republic 55% dark/milk bar. Tastes of cream, caramel and rich hot cocoa. Yum!
2nd Place: Svenska Kakaobolaget 54% Coconut Milk. Vegan “mylk” chocolate. Tastes of sweet coconut macaron, buttery and light caramel. I confess this bar sat in my collection unopened for a while, but once I tasted it, I wished I had opened it so much sooner. What a pleasure!
1st Place: Theo & Philo’s Adobo bar with a soy sauce toffee and black pepper. Tastes of milk chocolate covered toffee, savory soy sauce and black pepper. Unique and delicious!
Dark Chocolate Inclusion Bars
6th Place: Goodnow Farms Chocolate Lawley’s Rum 72% Ecuador cacao with Lawley’s Rum in collaboration with Boston Harbor Distillery. Tastes of vanilla, oak, molasses and raisin with a finish of tropical fruit, brown fruit and subtle stone fruit. A very special bar!
5th Place: Arete Lavender bar with 65% Maya Mountain Belize Cacao. Tastes of lavender, peppermint and light pale stone fruit with some cocoa and minerality in the finish. I hope you had a chance to try this bar! I hope they return to making chocolate again someday.
4th Place: Marou’s Mekong Kumquat 68% Tien Gang Vietnam cacao. Tastes of kumquat (both the bright, fresh citrus and the zest), clove and cinnamon with mango and grapefruit appearing in the finish.
3rd Place: Askanya Chocolate Bouquet Vert 65% Haitian cacao with lime zest. Tastes of lime, black pepper, cinnamon and light honey. While this may seem like a simple inclusion Askanya did a lovely job with the interpretation and presentation of lime in this bar.
2nd Place: Bixby Chocolate 20 Karat Primo Bar 70% Dominican Republic cacao created to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Primo Restaurant and represent Primo’s roasted rosemary almond snack. I confess that rosemary is my least favorite herb, so it’s quite something to represent it in a way that completely wins me over, but I couldn’t stop eating this bar! Great job! Tastes of almonds, rosemary, black pepper, salt and crushed red pepper.
1st Place: Madhu Chocolate 71% Idukki Indian cacao featuring Diaspora Co. black pepper. This bar appears in Madhu’s four bar Lakshmi Collection. At first the black pepper is the main star, but as you revisit this bar additional flavors make themselves known including vanilla, fruity pepper and pale stone fruit. I’ve had a white pepper bar and a couple black pepper bars all by other makers, but so far, this is the best I’ve had! This is a very special tasting black pepper as well.
Bars with Coffee
Coffee is one of my favorite inclusions so it gets it’s very own category! Do you like chocolate with coffee?
4th Place: Cuna de Piedra 73% Mexican cacao from Comalcalco, Tobasco with Buna Coffee. Tastes of coffee, lemon rind and malt.
3rd Place: Primo Botanica Café Superior 75% Oro Verde Peru and Maya Mountain cacaos with Guatemalan coffee from Touchy Coffee. Tastes of espresso, nice acidity level, nutty, roasted coconut, caramel and dark honey.
2nd Place: Atypic Chocolate Long Black. Tastes of coffee, molasses and mild lemon peel. So good!
1st Place: River-Sea Chocolates Double Bean-Double Buzz with 72% Columbian cacao and made with Columbian coffee. Coffee from Weird Brothers Coffee. Tastes of rich coffee, earthy, mild lemon zest, a touch floral towards the finish followed by an ending of cocoa-dusted brownie. Double the pleasure for sure!
Higher Percentage Dark Chocolate Bars
What’s your favorite 90 – 100% bar?
2nd Place: Theo & Philo 90% cacao from the Philippines. Tastes of dark fruit, brown fruit, woodsy and cocoa. I’ve enjoyed all the bars I’ve tried so far my Theo & Philo. They are worth seeking out!
1st Place: Zotter Labooko 100% Sambirano Valley Madagascar bar. Tastes of cocoa, red berry, oak, deep dark chocolate brownie and coffee with a long cocoa finish and a full-bodied mouth feel.
Dark Chocolate Bars 70 – 78%
6th Place: To’ak Chocolate 75% Galapagos Santa Cruiz Island cacao 2018 harvest. Light roast with a 7 day fermentation. I like that they enclosed a whole cacao bean to try. A nice touch! This bar tastes of oak, fudge, vanilla, ricotta, rum and chocolate cake batter.
5th Place: 9th & Larkin 70% Tien Giang Vietnam cacao. Tastes of dark cherry, unsalted butter, dark brown sugar and a finish of brownie. A pleasure to taste!
4th Place: Zotter Labooko 70% Mountains of the Moon Uganda cacao. Tastes of cream, blueberry, cocoa, earthy, spice and waffle cone with a touch of red berry in the finish.
3rd Place: Soma Chocolatemaker 70% Sambirano Valley, Madagascar. Tastes of strawberry and gooseberry with a finish of cocoa dusted brownie. Soma is consistently fantastic!
2nd Place: Chocolate Naive Nano_Lot Cacao Sierra Julian. El Salvador cacao. Tastes of vanilla (none added), chocolate chip cookie, nutty, dark stone fruit, mild cigar and speyside scotch.
1st Place: Beau Cacao 78% Asajaya Malaysia 2019 harvest. Tastes of nutty, peanut meets almond meets Brazil nut butter, cereal, light red fruit for a few seconds and brown sugar with a finish of chicory. Given the fantastic shine and snap of this bar followed by the creamy mouthfeel and flavor if you close your eyes it feels like eating a nut butter cup. Lovely bar!
Congrats to the winners!
What a delicious year! I hope some of your favorites made an appearance here and I wish all of you delectable chocolate this new year!
*All pictures in this post were taken by, yours truly, Victoria Cooksey.
Certificates in both Chocolate Achievement & Mastering Chocolate Flavor Ecole Chocolat
IWC International Sommelier Guild
Essential Vegan Desserts Rouxbe Grad