In the latest International Chocolate Salon chocolate bar judging, I found some awesome bean-to-bar chocolate that I have to share. It’s not SFBA-local, and it is pricey, but it’s a great splurge for yourself or an impressive gift for a chocolate lover you love. And you can buy it here in the Bay Area.
Zokoko Artisan Chocolate is a bean-to-bar chocolate maker located outside Sydney, Australia. They do single-origin and blended bars with beans from some unusual places. For the 2017 Chocolate Bar competition, they submitted 3 bars: 2 single-origin and one blended.
Luxury chocolate packaging
All 3 entries are attractive bars before you even open them up, especially the single-origin ones. I haven’t seen nicer packaging for a chocolate bar.
The single-origins are large bars (85G/3oz.) packaged in substantial boxes with magnetic snap closures. The boxes are dark brown with the logo embossed in gold foil, and a square info label giving the particulars about the origin and cacao amount. They are absolutely gorgeous.
When you open a Zokoko single-origin bar package, the gorgeousness continues. The bar is wrapped in gold foil. It fills the box so completely, that they include a small ribbon attached to the spine and laid out under the bar with a bit hanging out, so you can pull the ribbon and lift the bar out of the pack without any fuss.
The bar itself looks impressive: It has a nice thickness, and it’s a beautiful deep brown. It’s embossed with the Zokoko logo and scored for breaking into 7 pieces. That represents a little under 0.5 ounce each, so those are big tastes, AKA the recommended daily dose of chocolate.
Of the 2 single-origin bars submitted, I liked best the 72% Tranquilidad that uses “wild harvested cacao“ from Bolivia. It was a little soft, but broke nicely. The first taste is very fruity, becoming citrusy. It has a nice tang and a wonderfully smooth texture with a light but lingering aftertaste. It feels like a luxury chocolate bar. As one of my fellow CBTB tasters said, “What’s inside matches the package.”
Another one of our tasters raved about it: “It’s a very attractive bar. You can tell that it’s very high quality chocolate. It tastes very good; it has some coffee notes and a slight bitterness.”
Zokoko’s site describes the taste as containing “notes of honey and dried fruit with balanced cocoa flavour and a luxurious, delicate finish.”
The other bean-to-bar entry was just as nice and a close second in my opinion: The 78% Guadalcanal uses beans from the Solomon Islands and was another pretty bar. Since I’ve never tried chocolate that originated in the Solomon Islands, I was very intrigued.
The bar had a very crisp break, which was to be expected from the higher cacao content, but it melted nicely too. Often, the higher cacao bars are harder and take too long to melt in your mouth: you have to chew them to get them to start melting. That was not the case with this bar. It started to melt quickly, filling my mouth with a strong liqueur/raisiny flavor. The aftertaste reminds me of really good chocolate ice cream — light, but distinctively chocolate.
One of our tasters said the taste was like a dried fruit bar almost, and the other taster declared this bar the best one: “It’s fruity with a nice texture and crunch. It breaks cleanly, and is very smooth.”
She also suggested that it would make a good baking chocolate. That may be possible, I don’t know, but it would make for some expensive baked goods. We found the bars locally at Chocolate Covered for $18 a piece. That is probably the highest price I have ever paid for a chocolate bar, but these are totally splurge-worthy.
Food of the goddesses
Chocolate Covered also carries the rest of the Zokoko line, including the blended bar we tried in the International Chocolate Salon judging, Goddess Milk Chocolate.
All of Zokoko’s blended and flavored bars are titled Goddess. The packages feature women-centric wrap-around illustrations that relate to the bar flavor.
Like the single-origin bars, the packaging is very attractive and gift appropriate, though not as luxurious. The packages are simple cardboard, not little boxes, and the inside wrapper is clear plastic. The bar is smaller (65g/2.29oz.), but it is still embossed with the Zokoko name, and the illustrations are very pretty. These bars are also cheaper, $11 each at Chocolate Covered.
I think the Goddess Milk Chocolate is worth the price: The bar breaks nicely, and it’s a good milk chocolate. It’s not too sweet and has a nice mouthfeel — very smooth. I don’t care for a lot of milk chocolates these days, but this is one I can recommend. It tastes like quality chocolate. It’s very enjoyable.
My fellow CBTB taster said, “The nice packaging and logo set high expectations. I thought I was being set up for a let-down, but this is the rare milk chocolate that I would hide from other people.”
Our other taster thought the packaging was very pretty and thought this was a worthy milk chocolate too: “I like the crunch — a lot of times milk chocolate is soft. And this has a nice mouthfeel. It’s good tasting, with no off flavors.”
Unfortunately, Zokoko doesn’t sell from their website to the U.S., so you have to find a local reseller. Lucky us SFBA-ers, we have Chocolate Covered in SF on 24th St. in Noe Valley — home of over 1,000 chocolate bar varieties — which carries Zokoko.
If you should be traveling to Sydney, Australia, you could visit Zokoko’s chocolate factory outside Sydney to buy some for yourself. From the description on their website, it sounds like it could be a nice day-trip: They have their own cafe at the factory where you can eat baked goods made with their chocolate while watching the inner workings of their factory through big picture windows. And they are located near Blue Mountains National Park, home of the Three Sisters rock formation.
Zokoko was the find of the International Chocolate Salon chocolate bar tasting: They really know what they are doing. I hope their chocolate becomes more widely available so more people can enjoy them too.