Bean to Bar Chocolate - North vs. South

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There comes a point in life where you find yourself appreciating the flavors you couldn’t stand as a kid. All of a sudden, the odor of ripe cheese is inexplicably enticing and you prefer sipping on a double IPA to shotgunning a Natty Ice.  

When this happens you haven’t necessarily outgrown those simpler foods, rather your range of enjoyment has expanded – now there’s room in your heart for both Kraft mac and cheese and gnocchi with truffles. 

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When it comes to chocolate you don’t get much more ‘adult’ than single-origin, stone-ground, bean-to-bar chocolate. That’s a lot of adjectives, I know, but they are all completely necessary to describe this special product.

If you want to taste chocolate in its purist form, then you must try bean-to-bar chocolate.  These bars have just two ingredients: cocoa beans and sugar. Dedicated chocolatiers oversee every aspect of the chocolate-making process, from sourcing the best beans from specific growers, to roasting them in small batches, to stone grinding them until they are a silky consistency (the video below illustrates the process beautifully).

Those of us who live in Richmond are lucky enough to have a couple spots that sell bean-to-bar chocolates. Over the holidays I checked out Sweet Spot in Short Pump and saw two well-known brands displayed side-by-side: Mast Brothers Chocolates from Brooklyn, NY and Olive and Sinclair from Nashville, TN. 

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do a north vs. south bean-to-bar tasting. Here’s how they compared.

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Mast Brothers

Production Location: Brooklyn, New York (our northern chocolatiers) 

Price:  $9 for a 2.5 ounce bar ($3.60/ounce)

Cocoa Percentage: 73%

Origin of Beans: Dominican Republic

Flavor: It was coffee-like with a pleasant bitterness that was similar to a dark-roast coffee. It was mildly sweet with a bright lemon finish. 

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Olive and Sinclair

Production Location: Nashville, Tennessee (our southern chocolatiers) 

Price:  $7 for a 2.75 ounce bar ($2.55/ounce)

Cocoa Percentage: 75%

Origin of Beans: Dominican Republic

Flavor:  It was similar to the Mast Brother's bar - fruity with a mild bitterness. However, it was smoother on the front end and had more of a classic chocolate flavor. 

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Verdict: Although both chocolates were excellent, the south prevailed. I preferred Olive and Sinclair by just a hair based on its smoother flavor, higher cocoa percentage, and more affordable price.  

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Both chocolate bars are available at Sweet Spot:

Sweet Spot

Shopsweetspot.com

2228 Old Brick Road

Glen Allen, VA 2306

804-360-7768