Balao, 2013 Harvest, USA, Ecuador, 75%
Ritual’s 75% 2013 Harvest Balao requires attention all the way through. It’s a bar full of dense flavor that seems, at times, much darker than 75%. It’s also a great example of how chocolate can really change its flavor profile depending on how you approach it.
I love its aroma. It’s floral in almost the darkest way that floral can be. It’s humid and wet but strays just shy of the purely fertile smell of fresh soil. I wish the aroma was slightly more pronounced but I’ll take what I can get.
The chocolate has a quick melt and is slightly oily feeling in the mouth because of it. This seems even more pronounced as the first flavor you get is bitter and almost devoid of sweetness. Think licorice root or (aptly enough) bitters. It’s a chord of bitter flavor that’s very intense. There is more to it than just bitterness though. There are raw nut flavors, close to brazil nut, too and powdery shades of milled flour in it as well.
Because the bar has such a quick melt it transitions quite quickly. The nutty notes turn from brazil nuts to walnuts and popcorn. The bitterness starts to take a bit more of a back seat and there is a hint of fresh baked bread. Overall the effect is heady and the tone is dark and adult. If you bite down however the profile changes very quickly. The bitterness is wiped away and more bread-like, flour flavors come to the forefront. It’s a stark contrast.
The finish of the bar, either way you get there, is surprising. It’s sweet and blossomy at the end. The middles approach graham cracker territory though, through it all, there are highs of caramel, honey, citrus fruits, jackfruit and sundried tomato. A finish of sweet and umami closes the book on it.
I can easily see this getting becoming a new favorite for the right person. It’s unique and is a prime example of how single-origin beans can make the most of their soil. It has the taste of a place.
If you like bitter chocolate this will offer you a lot of bang for your buck. It’s a flyweight at 42.5g but it hit far, far out of its weight class.
Ritual, Balao (2013 Harvest), Ecuador, 75%, CX#76189
Ingredients: cacao, cane sugar
Being the son of a chocolatier Chris has always enjoyed talking about chocolate as much as he loves eating it. He’s an artist and designer as well as a co-founder of the Chocolate Codex.