Saturday, June 5, 2021
The Hawaiʻi Cacao Express is starting to roll at a brisk pace now, so I’m going to combine my remaining reviews with a bit of recent news.
Today I’m reviewing Island Sharks new 72% dark chocolate bars. I picked them up while I was getting the orders for the first Chocolate Trunk, but more on that later.
I’ve reviewed Island Sharks Chocolate’s 72% Hawaiʻi sourced cacao before (Songs Through the Radio Static), so what, you might ask, would have me reviewing the bar again? Terroir. A french word I woefully continue to butcher.
Since my tasting with Honoka’a chocolate co. (Clever Information and Flavors Spanning Nations), I’ve begun to understand the depth of its impact on a chocolate bar’s final flavor. Even on Hawaiʻi Island, there can be a dramatic variance of flavor from farm to farm, which Island Sharks Chocolate’s new bar, featuring cacao beans sourced from Kona instead of the Hamakua coast, demonstrates beautifully.
This bar smells and tastes as if it’s infused with blueberries. So much so, that my teeth kept expecting to sink into dried fruit. The great irony is, on my review of the Hamakua sourced bar I compared the amazing evolution of flavors to a Wonka 3 course chewing gum, sans turning into a giant blueberry at the end. As the notes of blueberry soften, what emerges I can only describe as a very mellow and calming coffee flavor. It still shocks me that there are no extra flavorings in these dark chocolate bars, just sugar.
Now onto the 72% Vietnam sourced bar. This was gifted to me, along with their 10 – Year scotch infused chocolate bar. It’s not pictured here because I already reviewed it when I was trying this company’s chocolate for the first time. They included the bar as gift, back when it was still an unreleased experiment. At the time I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t buy more, so you can imagine how delighted I was when they released it as one of their regular bars, and even more so when they included it as a gift again.
But, I digress. Even without looking at the packaging of the Vietnam bar, I’m fairly certain I would have been able to tell this wasn’t sourced with Hawaiʻi cacao right away. The smell is different; a little nuttier and earthier than its Hawaiʻi counterparts. As for the flavor, at first it reminds me of raisins in a baked bread crust, caramelized until just before they would start to burn. Continuing on with the bread imagery, my tongue detects a hint of dark molasses, and the finishing notes I’m left with are a smooth buttery feel on my tongue, and almost a slight tingle of spice that reminds me of the aftertaste of green cardamom.
I’m not sure I would necessarily want to eat this chocolate all of the time, but it is a unique and complex flavor. I appreciated the opportunity to try it and compare it with the other bars offered by Island Sharks Chocolate. It was such a treat to be able to compare both international and local terroir in one sitting from the same chocolate maker. It’s an opportunity that might not be available for much longer.
Ethan Swift of Island Sharks Chocolate did disclose to me that going forward the 72% Hamakua sourced chocolate bar might be unavailable. They’re so pleased with the new 72% Kona bar, that they want to replace the Hamakua sourced 72% bar, at least for the foreseeable future.
I was a little disappointed. While I do really enjoy this new Kona sourcing, I’m smitten with their Hamakua sourced bar, and I will miss it when they run out of their current stock. Ethan said they will continue to use it in their flavored bars, which I think is wise, given how dominating the fruity flavor of the Kona bar is.
As I picked up my order of what might be some of the last Island Sharks’ straight Hamakua sourced bars to feature in my first chocolate trunk, I felt grateful that I didn’t miss my chance to share what has now become a limited edition experience. I’m reminded to take the opportunity to smell the roses today, for the flowers might be plucked tomorrow.
But speaking of my first Chocolate Trunk, I thought I’d take the opportunity to reveal all what the, now sold out, box included. Along with Island Sharks Chocolate’s bar, this May 2021 Chocolate Trunk came with Hilo Shark’s Chocolate’s coffee dark chocolate bar and Honokaʻa Chocolate Co.’s goat milk bar (which has just recently won a third award; Silver, in the World Final of the International Chocolate Awards!)
I had a blast creating the booklets for each chocolate bar. I got to dive into the world where I imagine Hawaiʻi Cacao Express as a literal train. I drew portraits and descriptions of “fellow passengers”, developed recipes around each chocolate’s unique flavor, created a fictional bartender and hired a real-life bartender to make cocktail pairings for each bar. It was a labor of love that I’m really excited to repeat for the August Chocolate Trunk release.
If a steamer trunk filled with a variety of fantastic Hawai’i chocolate, recipe and drink pairings, with a touch of steampunk flair seems like your cup of tea, you can pre-order the next boxes here: Chocolate Trunk Store.
And if you really want the chocolate featured in this box, but weren’t able to order one, you can buy directly from the makers (while supplies last, in one instance).
Here are their websites: