Dark Matters Chocolate Reviews Craft Chocolate Awards 2020

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!

Askinosie White Chocolate Davao, Philippines bar with goats milk and nibs.

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.

The Cocoa Forge Toasty White bar

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.

Foxglove Chocolate Black & White bar.

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.

Violet Sky Chocolate Sourdough French Toast bar.

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!

Castronovo Chocolate Dominical Republic Dark Milk bar.

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!

Sevenska Kakaolaget Coconut Milk bar.

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!

Theo & Philo Adobo bar.

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!

Goodnow Farms Lawley’s Rum 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.

Arete Lavender bar.

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.

Marou’s Mekong Kumquat bar.

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.

Askanya Bouquet Vert 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.

Bixby’s 20 Karat Primo Bar.

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.

Madhu’s Lakshmi Collection.

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.

Cuna de Piedra’s Mexican cacao with coffee beans bar.

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.

Primo Botanica Cafe Superior bar.

2nd Place: Atypic Chocolate Long Black. Tastes of coffee, molasses and mild lemon peel. So good!

Atypic’s Long Black bar.

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!

River -Sea Chocolates Double Bean-Double Buzz bar.

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!

Theo & Philo 90% bar.

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.

Zotter Labooko 100% Madagascar bar.

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.

To’ak Galapagos bar.

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!

9th & Larkin Tien Giang, Vietnam bar.

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.

Zotter Labooko Uganda bar.

3rd Place: Soma Chocolatemaker 70% Sambirano Valley, Madagascar. Tastes of strawberry and gooseberry with a finish of cocoa dusted brownie. Soma is consistently fantastic!

Soma Chocolatmaker’s Madagascar bar.

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.

Chocolate Naive Nano-Lot Cacao Sierra Julian bar.

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!

Beau Cacao Asajaya Malaysia 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.

Victoria Cooksey:

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Victoria Cooksey

Certificates in both Chocolate Achievement & Mastering Chocolate Flavor Ecole Chocolat
IWC International Sommelier Guild
Essential Vegan Desserts Rouxbe Grad

Dark Matters Chocolate Reviews Craft Chocolate Awards 2019

I’m amazed that it is already time for the 4th Annual Dark Matters Chocolate Reviews Craft Chocolate Awards! Each year chocolatemakers are upping their game and 2019 was no exception. With so many amazing bars to choose from it was quite the challenge to narrow down the list!

How do I choose winners? Throughout the year I taste hundreds of bars and I keep a running list of bars as nominees for various categories. I look for chocolate that is complex flavor-wise, extra pleasant textures and the representation of single origin and/or inclusion that stands out above the crowd. (It’s important to note that different cacao harvests and separate chocolate bar batches all lead to potential changes in the flavors that come through so the bars tasted in 2019 might taste different than the current 2020 version).

The bars that are eligible to win are ones that I tried in the same year, meaning that the bar might have been made in 2018, but I didn’t actual taste it until the year 2019. Some of these bars are limited editions and some may be part of a makers regular line up.

What disqualifies a bar for being a nominee? As a reviewer, makers sometimes send me bars. (Which is quite a treat! Thank you makers!). If I am given a bar for free then I leave it off the nominees list. I received bars this year that I truly believe deserve awards, but alas, I must continue to stick to my own rule.

And the awards go to…. Continue reading “Dark Matters Chocolate Reviews Craft Chocolate Awards 2019”

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)

Continue reading “Dark Matters Chocolate Reviews Craft Chocolate Awards 2018”

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….. Continue reading “Dark Matters Craft Chocolate Awards 2017”

Dark Matters Blog Chocolate Awards 2016

Note:  This post was originally posted on 12-30-16 when this blog was on Blogspot.

I think I might be in shock if I actually added up all the different chocolates I’ve tasted this year. (I have 3 large bags of wrappers waiting to be put into a scrapbook!).

So many of the chocolate bars I’ve tried have been rather amazing, so I thought I’d end 2016 by handing out some awards!  My very top favorite chocolate will be listed at the end of this post. (Tasting descriptions for most of these bars may be located in other posts from this blog). Not all of these bars are new to this year, however, this year is the first time I’ve personally tried them.

Best white chocolate bar award goes to Chocolat Madagascar 34% white chocolate bar. A wonderful combo of high quality cocoa butter, and vanilla bean! Continue reading “Dark Matters Blog Chocolate Awards 2016”