Over the last fortnight, I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter some pretty handsome Hungarian chocolate. Much like buses, I waited ages for something from the country to come along, then it all arrived at once. Initially, I opted to take a journey of discovery with Szántó Tibor – a trip which caused me to fall for some chocolate that only increased my none-too-slight appetite to explore more of the cocoa creativity coming out of the same country.
And so to the Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé samples I’d squirreled away for the next time I got the wanderlust to vicariously return to Hungary through the medium of another edible odyssey.
The bean-to-bar industry is burgeoning – as evidenced on the new website bean.bar. Having been in the business since 2004 and having always worked with ethically-sourced cocoa, Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé is no bandwagon hopper. The company’s tiny Budapest emporium is an Aladdin’s Cave where all that glitters is most definitely not gold. Better – it’s chocolate.
The brains behind the brand are husband-and-wife team Zsolt Szabad and Katalin Csiszar, whose chocolate factory lies in Soroksar – a suburb of the city’s south. Once you learn that the name means ‘chocolate from the valley of the roses’, it’s almost as rewarding to wrap your tongue around the words as it is the products themselves…almost.
First and foremost, those products must taste good, but once one’s knickers are firmly in place, it never hurts to don a fur coat, too. Where Rózsavölgyi is concerned, that metaphorical fur coat takes the form of the exquisitely-ornate patterning that the square bars bear; cast in traditional Hungarian fireplace tile moulds (thanks for info, Chocablog Dom! 😉 ); and the wallpaper-like wrappers, designed by trained graphic artist Katalin.
Indeed, as an afflicted, convicted aesthete, it was no mean feat to tear the chocolate’s covers open; not to break up such beautiful bars. The things I do for my art…
The Trinitario beans for this bar come from Åkesson’s plantation in Madagascar’s Sambirano valley and deliver a taste that the makers describe as typically sweet and sour; reminiscent of the fresh fruit pulp. It might not be made with Criollo cacao, but it’s a cracker; the cocoa majesty owing as much to the skill of the maker as the material.
On first taste, it puts Pralus’s 100% in mind; and puts me on cloud 9 as that bar is one of my most favourites. The slight sourness emerges before the sweetness; then that sugar serves to enlivens flavours that are fruitier than the utterly buttery Pralus.
I get a slightly saffron-like medicinal note as I chew, too – but it’s one I’d happily overdose on. There’s a bit of grip on the finish which buys you time to get to grips with fine flavours worth savouring.
Puerto Cabello 74%
Before ripping the wrapper (if indeed you are so barbaric), take pause to wonder at the words. ‘Puerto Cabello’ is a Venezuelan port whose name came from the notion that a single hair – ‘cabello’ – should be sufficiently strong to moor a big old boat, so smooth is the sea that surrounds it. The chocolate is as silky; darkly glossy, with a cracking crack.
In the mouth, it melts fast and dries the palate pleasantly, and possesses a pretty powerful profile. Intense chocolate notes, yes, but fruit to boot – purple prunes’n’honey – as fine as a good wine, with some wine-like flavours of its own that are absolutely no cause for complaint. Delicious.
Sailor Mustache Bergamot rinds in chocolate
Beyond bars, Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé also dips a toe into enrobing – the results sold under the playful ‘Sailor Mustache’ impression whose name denotes that fact that one could, were one so inclined, place a candied confection on one’s upper lip as imitation facial fur.
The chocolate’s rectangular receptable could be mistaken for a match box – and, accordingly, what you’ll find inside will ignite some serious excitement amongst those with a zest for citrus. Calabrian bergamot fruits are harvested, candied, cut, and coated in dark Venezuelan chocolate; yielding a treat so headily-perfumed that a single strip satisfies.
- All these items have Great Taste Award gold star-status. Read about more 2014 winners here.
- Hungry for more Hungarian chocolate? Read about Szántó Tibor’s award-winning bars here.