Nuts, waxes, mojitos, meat and the 2016 summer Olympics might all spring to mind when one mentions ‘Brazil’, but chocolate? Maybe not so much. Bars made in that country from its own cocoa certainly aren’t as common a sight as those made in, say, Madagascar or Ecuador; and given that most of Brazil’s diminutive yield of fine flavour beans is shipped elsewhere to be transformed from bean to bar, that’s entirely understandable.
But, by introducing her line of beautiful bars and bon bons, chef Samantha Aquim is attempting to have Brits forming lengthy queues to get a taste of Brazil-made Q chocolate. The 6-strong range ranges in percentage from 35% through to 85%, the three milder offerings classed as ‘Suavos’; the trio of more robust counterparts ‘Intensos’.
I’m an aesthete, so before I eat I take pause to peruse packaging – and Q’s is worthy of appreciation and mention alike. Graphics depict all things bright and beautiful, and indeed, all creatures great and small, the eye-catching illustrations earning the Brazilian brand a Bronze Lion at the Cannes Design Awards. The featured flora and fauna is all native to Q’s Bahia cocoa plantation, Fazenda Leolinda, including beautiful birds, armadillos, bromeliads and (quite possibly cheeky) monkeys.
And it’s not just the wrappers that reference the brand’s base. The wood-and-leather box that showcases Q’s full bar range takes its inspiration from fermentation vats on the farm – as much of a charming keepsake for the cocoa nutty as the tins within which you’ll find high-cocoa chocolate discs, half-domes or fingers; all studded with crunchy nibs – and all-too-easy to nibble.
Starting with the softer Suavos, the 55% is big, bold, and smoky-earthy-fruity. It’s buttery in the mouth, with a typically and totally tropical fruit salad flavour, delivering bright berries and ripe – almost roasted – banana. It’s South America meets Madagascar in a bar. The banana remains at the fore in the 60%, where there’s a new coffee note and those berries speak more softly. There’s a hint of liquorice and the bar’s even more buttery, with a long smooth melt.
The 65% – awarded Bronze in the 2015 Academy of Chocolate Awards – is solid but it tastes just like a liquid – specifically, root beer, bearing that beverage’s trademark slightly medicinal flavour and treading a fine balance between those ripe-roasted tropical fruits and the earth and smoke.
The first of Q’s ‘Intensos’ is the 75% – super-smoky, bitter-acidic, and the liveliest of the lot: think a woodier Madagascar. The 80% announces itself with an aroma whose character continues in the eating – its fruity and acidic with a tinge of rubber and tannin. The flavour is a lot like crunching on raw cacao nibs but in smooth, melting bar form.
The acidity in those red berries is spicier and more mellow in the 85% than in its 80% counterpart, with more nut and chocolate notes on the nose. All six of the bars are silky and Lindt-like in the mouth. If you’re more sold on textures that are more Swiss-style than stoneground, but want it to come with bold, characterful cacao flavours, Q’s chocolate is a great place to start.
5 more bars made with Brazilian beans
Damson Chocolate Brazil 50% Buffalo Milk
He might not be able to sell it with the already-employed phrase ‘Why Have Cotton When You Could Have Silk?’, but Dom Ramsey’s decadent dark milk is definitely the latter to a certain cheap confectionary brand which might use that strapline but is firmly of the former in terms of quality.
Ever-keen to support the industry, Dom pays Cacao Bahia a premium price for the bar’s beans -Trinitarios from Arthur Carvalho and Eduardo Carvalho’s organic farm, Fazenda Camboa; eastern Bahia’s largest. Hailing from Laverstoke Farm in Hampshire, the buffalo milk that makes this chocolate crazily-creamy is also organic.
Damson deems this bar ‘rich and creamy with notes of caramel, fudge and red fruits’. I deem it ‘delicious’.
Akesson’s Brazil Forastero 75%
Since 2009, industry hero and all-round fine fellow Bertil Akesson has his own 120-hectare cocoa plantation in Bahia – the beans from Fazenda Sempre Firme yielding bars like this smooth, fruity number with its toasted-earth-tobacco-and-wood profile. Should you need more tempting to try it, know that this is a bar beloved of both the Great Taste Awards and the Academy of Chocolate.
Zotter Labooko Brazil 35%
Josef Zotter is best known for his bonkers Wonka-style creations, ranging from bars filled with red wine and blue cheese to pink trout. This single-origin specimen is somewhat more straightforward, but no less worth sampling. The cocoa comes from two Brazilian families – Vronski and Laercio Rodriguez Mota, their beans transformed by the maker into the two pale, smooth bars you’ll find in each pack; their flavour like cinnamon-sprinkled caramel.
Pralus Brazil 75%
If you’re a fan of a big, buttery mouthfeel and you cannot lie, then Pralus is perfect – a high cocoa butter content rendering its chocolate rich and superbly-smooth. Made with Forastero beans from Bahia, this 75% bar sits at the intense end of the spectrum and boasts a bouquet that more than hints at molasses. Tasting of blackberries, toast and coffee, it’s a fine option for after dinner nibbling.
Blanxart Brazil 76%
Established over half a century ago, this Spanish chocolate maker explores a host of unusual origins from around the world. This Brazilian bar is a fruity beauty, with notes and nuances of lime, citrus, kiwi and more besides. Earthy and slightly coarse in texture, it’s an indulgence both interesting and satisfying.
- Q’s chocolate collections are available exclusively from Harrods, priced at £94.95 for a wooden keepsake box containing 24 x 5g bars, £111.95 for a wooden keepsake box containing 6 x 50g bars, and £27.95 for tins filled with cocoa-nib studded pieces
- Q’s individual 65% and 80% bars cost £9.95 each from Fortnum & Mason
- Damson Chocolate is available online from damsonchocolate.com
- All other mentioned Brazilian bars available from Cocoa Runners
- To read more about Damson Chocolate, click here
- To read more about Academy of Chocolate Award winners, click here
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