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Aug 17, 2011

Last Call for Madagascar

We’re down to our last 100 bars of Madagascar. We’ll have a few for sale at this Thursday’s Mission Community Market, but we will probably run out soon thereafter.  For a little while, you may be able to find some at nearby retail locations, including Fog City News where Adam has placed an order for our final supply.

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response from this bar. It’s fruity flavor is undeniable — maybe even overwhelming. At farmer’s markets, we watch for people’s eyes to bulge when the first fruity notes kick in. We’ve had people come up to us and buy every Madagascar bar on hand. At last week’s market, a woman approached us an hour before the market opened, even before we had unpacked our tent, to ask if we had any Madagascar.  We rummaged through our unpacked boxes to locate a bar for her.  Before we could even count her change, she had ripped open the wrapper and downed half the bar. It’s moments like these that make us really happy to be in the chocolate business.

Since this bar has been so popular, you may be wondering why we are discontinuing it. The answer is that our approach to making chocolate is a quite a bit different than most large chocolate makers. There can be a lot of variability between each bag of beans but for a large chocolate maker, variability is the enemy. Instead, they’re focused on flavor consistency and cost control. Every Hershey’s bar tastes the same and in some ways that’s great — it’s a sort of miracle of industrialization. However, to achieve consistency, it means you need a large supply of relatively similar beans that you roast heavily (and, in our opinion, over roast) to reduce individual flavor differences and add additional ingredients that cover up or soften whatever flavor is left (e.g. vanilla, cocoa butter, or worse).

We take the opposite approach — each bag of beans is different and we like to find the highest quality beans we can and then get out of the way. Rather than stamp out the individual flavors for the sake of consistency, we like to let the individual nuances shine through, unadulterated by additional ingredients other than pure cane sugar. We roast the beans as minimally as possible, trying to find the strongest and most interesting flavors that characterize the cacao bean’s individual personality.

For each bag of beans, including bags from the same farm as our last batch, we run a battery of taste tests — usually 2-3 rounds involving 3-4 batches each — until we are sure we’ve found the best flavor out of that bag. And after all of that work, usually about two weeks, if we are not 100% thrilled with what we’ve made and proud to put our name on it, we won’t bring it to market, even if it means eating the cost of that bag of beans. For anyone who’s optimizing cost, efficiency, or consistency, this approach is nuts — but it ensures that we always have something we are proud of.

This means each batch is essentially limited-edition — the flavors change with the season, the harvest, and the fermentation. So while this Summer 2011 Madagascar is coming to an end, fear not, as we have 5 new bags of new Madagascar on the way that we are looking forward to bringing out sometime next month. The early samples exhibit some of that same great fruit flavor and we are excited to bring it out for you all to try.


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