I love bars that are beyond rich, lightly sweet, and over-the-top chocolatey. Perhaps that's why the Castronovo Tumaco Colombia 60% Dark Milk Chocolate Bar is a favorite among my Barometer favorites. The flavors of this ambrosial bar are honey, and caramel with hints of citrus in the top notes and delicate florals in the finish.
The beans for this bar are from Tumaco, a remote region on Colombia's Pacific Coast. It's a land of many rivers lined with mangroves (salt-tolerant trees) and lush tropical rainforests where a native cacao variety grows wild. Tumaco is inhabited mostly by Afro-Colombians who are descendants of escaped slaves. For years, they saw no choice but to engage in coca production and associate with narcotics groups in order to survive. That began to change when farmers realized they could sell their native cacao to the commodity mass market supply chain. They didn't earn much, but they could subsist without being chained to coca production
In 2011, Cacao de Colombia, a producer and marketer of premium chocolate that sources its cacao from small farms in Colombia's post-conflict regions, partnered with the farmers of Tumaco. Teaching them to ferment and dry cacao more efficiently yielded extremely flavorful results. Once they acquired the appropriate skills, the farmers were able to earn 70% more money by offering fine flavor beans to craft makers like Denise Castronovo rather than to mass market companies. We fine chocolate lovers are lucky to reap the delicious benefits!
I've had the pleasure of meeting Denise Castronovo, the maker of this fine chocolate bar. Denise leads the pack of solo female chocolate makers, a rare breed and a group I love to support. She is the only one among them whose U.S. bean-to-bar company has amassed dozens of awards from the International Chocolate Awards (as well as Academy of Chocolate Awards and Good Food Awards). You might expect that a maker as accomplished as Denise has spent a lifetime working in the world of craft chocolate, or at least in the food and pastry industry. Actually, in her former career Denise was an ecologist and preservationist after having studied environmental science and economics in undergrad and graduate school.
Denise had always been a foodie and fine chocolate lover thanks to an aunt who lived in Switzerland and kept her supplied with spectacular chocolate bars that were unavailable in the United States. Those bars, far superior to any chocolate she had ever tasted, made an impact that imprinted on her soul. After a long and successful career dedicated to protecting the environment through mapping technology and spatial analysis, Denise and her husband moved from Massachusetts to Florida, where she decided to approach protection of the environment from a far tastier perspective.
In 2008, Denise bought some cacao nibs from Whole Foods with which to experiment, and began doing research on cacao. She was fascinated by all the different flavor notes and profiles based on genetics and origin. Eventually, in 2013, Denise began to work with fine, heirloom, single origin cacao in earnest, and knew she had found her calling.
Extremely talented and perhaps just a little bit lucky, her first batch of chocolate turned out absolutely delicious, and that kept her motivated to make more. Most craft makers talk about the many mistake batches of “bad” chocolate they had to endure before they honed their skills and turned out something truly special. Denise magically skipped that phase.
Denise is an inspired artisan as well as a steward of the land and protector of indigenous communities. Her chocolate is exceptional, and I know you will appreciate the fine flavor of her bars as well as her commitment to nurturing the natural world and its inhabitants.
- Ingredients: Cocoa Beans, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Milk, Organic Cocoa Butter
- Net Weight: 62 g. / 2.2 oz.
- Country of Origin: USA