Chocolate to a large number of us is one of the delicious pleasures of life that can bring joy and smiles to the faces of the people who consume the creamy, sumptuous cocoa treat. However, with that being said, not just any chocolate will activate the same response; the smell, taste and texture all make a significant impact on the ‘happy hormone’ release response. If you purchase poor quality, cheap chocolate, although you may save a few pennies in the process, you’ll most likely not be satisfied either. Spending a little more on a luxurious bar that will drive your taste buds ‘wild with excitement’ and leave you craving more is our next chocolate under review from Willie’s Cacao.
Company background & ethos:
The founder and ‘bean to bar’ cocoa expert behind these wonderful slabs of cocoa goodness is Willie Harcourt-Cooze. His discovery of the purest and most flavoursome cocoa beans stems from his love of travel. Pure chance and his passion for exploration, led him to buy a cocoa farm high in the cloud forest of Venezuela in the early 1990’s. He lived there for ten years learning everything there is to know about cacao. Still, his passion leads him into forests and mountains far off the beaten track in search for ancient strains of cacao. Apparently, these are the ‘best beans in the world’, like no others in terms of quality and most importantly, natural flavour!
Willie’s philosophy is that ‘great cocoa beans are like fine wines, each one has its own stunningly individual flavour born of its specific genetics, soil and climate.‘ One may taste astonishingly of summer fruits, another of nuts, another of honey. He purchases these single estate beans directly from the farmers in Venezuela, Indonesia, Madagascar, Peru, Colombia or Cuba. They are sent back to Willie’s chocolate factory in Uffculme in Devon, England, and the magical process of creating cocoa masterpieces begins!
The beans are roasted in antique ball roasters and then the nibs are combined with raw cane sugar and natural cocoa butter. This is then conched (mixed) to remove acidity at low temperatures for up to 21 days, which is more than 100 times longer than industrial chocolate which is processed at high temperatures for just a few hours. This forms the silky mixture which results in these charismatic chocolate products.
Did you know that there are over 400 tasting notes in cocoa? This means that there is truly an art to tasting chocolate and an almost infinite number of flavours to discover. However most companies use a commercial blend of beans from a variety of origins, and a specific balance of sugar and vanilla to create a ‘house’ taste that is the same each and every time. What’s different about Willie’s Cacao is that the different chocolates are made to reflect the true flavours of the beans! Willie never adds vanilla or even soy lecithin as that would mask the precious flavour notes. Naturally, not all batches are quite the same and the consumer may notice slight changes to the overall flavour, but this is all part of the joy of discovering real chocolate.
Swedish scientist Carl Von Linne named the cocoa tree Theobroma Cacao meaning ‘food of the gods’ back in 1753. There are 3 varieties of cocoa, with Forastero being the most common, accounting for some 90% of the world’s beans. All the fine cacaos like Willie uses are Trinitario or Criollo beans, which possess the more exciting flavours. To start to understand the contrasting flavours of fine cocoa, Willie and his team created a Flavour Map, to help his customers understand what types of flavours they can expect. Willie’s World of Cocoa Map and illustrated ‘Bean to Bar’ Journey show where his beans come from and the steps required to produce these delightful, decadent chocolate bars. Ready to embark on a new cocoa adventure? Then get your taste buds ready and read on…!
Pure Gold: 100% cacao (Venezuelan Sur Del Lago cacao): 100% cocoa mass, cocoa butter.
Milk of the Stars: Surabaya 54 milk chocolate (Indonesian Surabaya cacao): Cocoa mass (54%), raw cane sugar, cocoa butter, milk powder 18%.
Luscious Orange: Baracoa 65 dark chocolate with orange (Cuban Baracoa cacao): Cocoa mass, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter, essential orange oil (0.1%).
Pure Gold: 100% cacao (Venezuelan Sur Del Lago cacao): 634 kcal, 57.8g fat (34.8g saturated fat), 10.2g carbohydrates (0.6g sugars), 10.9g protein and less than 0.1g salt (based on 100g in weight).
Milk of the Stars: Surabaya 54 milk chocolate (Indonesian Surabaya cacao): 591 kcal, 42.6g fat (26.5g saturated fat), 40.5g carbohydrates (37g sugars), 9.1g protein and 0.1g salt (based on 100g in weight).
Luscious Orange: Baracoa 65 dark chocolate with orange (Cuban Baracoa cacao): 558 kcal, 38.5g fat (23.1g saturated fat), 40g carbohydrates (34g sugars), 8g protein and less than 0.1g salt (based on 100g in weight).
Please be aware that each bar is either 40-50g in weight and therefore, if you are to consume a full 50g bar, the numbers will need to be sliced in half i.e., Luscious Orange may contain 279 calories in total, 19.25g fat and 20g carbohydrates. However, the strength of the cocoa comes through nicely in each chocolate slab and I was more than satisfied with a 10g piece. On the other hand, as the lower percentage cocoa bars are made with raw cane sugar, if you eat 2 in one go, you’ll be consuming about 25g of sugar so stop when you’re satisfied, not full!
Sometimes, chocolate can receive a bad reputation in terms of potentially contributing to weight gain but in the correct quantities and the correct content of cocoa, it can have some great benefits; the darker you go, the better it normally is for your health. For example, the Pure Gold 100% cocoa bar which has no added sugar, has the highest fat content in general but is the lowest in carbohydrates and sugar especially (which is important), highest in fibre to aid the digestive system and is rich in flavonoids and other antioxidants which help protect your cells from damage and play a role in boosting heart health. In addition, the psychological effects of chocolate are very uplifting as cocoa contains compounds which aid in the release of mood-elevating brain neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, helping you to feel good and naturally happier.
Packaging, taste and smell:
The box of each flavour is perfectly square in shape and due to its size, can comfortably snuggle into the palm of your hand. On each box, the clear gold signature logo of ‘Willie’s Cacao’ is printed on the front panel to stand out from the chocolate crowd. Underneath the logo, is the name of the flavour and each package has a different colour, based on the taste within i.e. Pure 100% Gold is black to represent how dark the bar is, ‘Luscious Orange’ is eloquently written and is engulfed in a warm orange background whereas ‘Milk of the Stars’ is dark blue like the evening sky with stars glistening in the distance. At first glance, with the name ‘Milk of the Stars,’ I originally thought that this bar was so luxurious and glamorous, it could be a favourite of Hollywood A-listers, but came to realise that the stars were clearly there to represent the mystical sky back when the noble Aztecs roamed the earth!
Pure Gold 100% (Sur Del Lago): After unwrapping the gold sealed foil, I was met with a gentle cocoa scent. However, once I took my first tiny bite, the impact of the intense flavour with its nutty notes did override my neutral palate extremely quickly and never faded. I thoroughly enjoyed this bar as I appreciate the intensity and potency that 100% dark cocoa has to offer but I will warn you, it is not for the faint-hearted as it is very pure and an acquired chocolate taste. If you are a fan of natural dark chocolate, you will not be disappointed.
Milk of the Stars 54 (Indonesian Surabaya): As I tore open the gold sleeve, I felt like ‘Charlie’ in ‘Willie’s Chocolate Factory’ as I imagined the wrapper as the ‘gold ticket’ to visit his magical chocolate factory with cocoa rivers and hardworking ‘Oompa Loompas’! I bought a small piece to the edge of my nose and discovered the scent was very light yet enticing. I placed the square onto my tongue and it began to dissolve under the natural temperature of my mouth cave. The first thing I noticed was the creaminess of the milk which was followed by a soft caramel sweetness, a true, satisfying pleasure. This bar has less added sugar than a 70% dark chocolate, so even milk chocolate lovers can enjoy relatively low sugar chocolate. This is because the only ingredients are cacao, sugar and milk, and since the cocoa is 54% and the milk is 18% there is only 28% left for the sugar vs the 30% sugar in a 70% cocoa solids bar.
Luscious Orange 65 (Cuban Baracoa): Last but not least was the orange; this was delightfully fresh from the beginning. As I drew the slab closer to my anticipated grin of joy, a sharp, fresh fruit orange zing rapidly introduced itself to the base of my nostrils making me more alert! The taste test was next and Luscious Orange was halfway between the 100% Pure Gold and Milk of the Stars in terms of strength; which to me, was absolutely ideal with regards to my personal taste. The organic orange oil was a tad subtler than the flavour used in Terry’s chocolate orange, and the honey notes in the cacao enhanced the sweetness while the dark chocolate ensured that the orange did not overpower the cocoa which left me with a dark chocolate citrus tang -marvellous.
Value: Depending on the type of bar, the prices vary slightly but I feel that the price is very reasonable in relation to the quality and ethics behind each bar. The single estate bars such as the ‘Pure 100% Gold’ bar cost £1.99 for a 40g one whereas the flavoured versions of ‘Luscious Orange’ and ‘Milk of the Stars’ are priced at £1.99 for a 50g bar. You may ask why the flavoured versions are relatively cheaper but the difference is that the 100% cacao bar contains only cocoa, which means more of these special single estate beans have to be used so it’s only fair that the farmers are compensated for their added time and effort to harvest the extra beans needed to create these delicious slabs of chocolate gold.
It may cost £1.99 for a 40-50g bar which is comparable to a 100g bar of another brand in terms of price. The real question is, which chocolate bar do you choose? It seems obvious and a no-brainer of course as you’ll receive double the quantity if you chose the 100g bar but the saying ‘quality over quantity’ definitely applies here.
All in all, I was impressed with these although smaller in size compared to others of a similar price. Due to the density of the slab and strength of the taste though, I realised that I only had to take a few small nibbles to be satisfied. As a fan of natural, original products, I would say that this chocolate choice met the standard and test of my desire for quality and therefore would gladly recommend it to all of you ‘chocolate lovers’ out there -indeed, Willie’s Cacao has something for everyone.
If you’d like to find out more about Willie’s Cacao and their fascinating, chocolate-filled adventures, delve into some of their recipes and purchase a selection of bars for yourself, hop on over to Willie’s Cacao.com and visit their lively pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Love chocolate? Then check out our previous articles. Feel free to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!