Good Food Award-winning Askinosie Chocolate, Springfield, MO, is a craft chocolate maker that makes bars, chocolate treats, baking chocolate, and sipping chocolate — all from single origin chocolate. We first reviewed an Askinosie bar in our milk chocolate alternatives story, because the bar was made with goat milk.
I signed up for their newsletter after that and a few months later they announced the Askinosie CollaBARation™ Bars, in which they partnered with 6 other artisanal food companies to create the bars. They picked partners who shared their approach to food making, such as hand-crafted, small batch, and direct sourcing of ingredients.
I shared the 2022 Askinosie CollaBARation™ Bars with some friends and fellow chocolate enthusiasts. They were not shy with their reactions — from great to meh to bewildered. We definitely recommend some of these; the others we want to alert you to so you can proceed at your own risk.
One thing we noticed was that revisiting a bar a week or so later made for a different taste experience. So if our initial impression was negative, read on for the later judgements to see if we had a change of heart.
The first bar from the collection we tried was a 54% dark chocolate with a raspberry jam inclusion made by American Spoon. Made with cacao from Ecuador and seedless jam, this was the most popular bar.
Overall people thought it was a little tart but that wasn’t a bad thing. People also said it was unusual due to the inclusion being seedless jam not berries, so much so that they described it as having a thick texture like jam.
I don’t think our mouths were playing tricks on us here. The bar is 54% cacao, a percentage that you typically see in milk chocolate bars, not dark chocolate bars. That means something was added to the bar to make the cacao percentage so low and the only thing added to this bar was the 2-ingredient jam (sugar and berries) so it really did have a jam-affected texture.
Someone commented that the flavor was not subtle and people agreed while also declaring it delicious. This bar got eaten up quickly so I can’t say how it might have aged. But if you like raspberry in chocolate, this is an excellent version.
The tasting got a little weird with the next bar, the Dark Chocolate + Malted Milk made in partnership with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Made with cacao from Tanzania, it didn’t taste malted until the end and then not malted enough. It also had a strange taste we struggled to describe: “Tastes like Chinese 5-spices,” “Salty like anchovies or fish sauce,” “Maybe it’s cardamom.”
There are no spices listed in the ingredients. Only cocoa beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, and malted milk powder.
Whatever we were tasting, our consensus was it needed to be sweeter. It’s a 60% dark chocolate and was more bitter than what we expected from a malted milk bar.
There was plenty left over from that tasting so we tried it again 2 weeks later and found the flavor profile had changed: No spice flavors, not salty, more generally savory, and a more malted taste.
What made me want to try this collection was that one of their partners is local ceramic legends, Heath Ceramics of Sausalito. Not a food producer but food adjacent with their dinnerware. (Dandelion Chocolate uses Heath cups at their Valencia St. cafe.)
The Heath collaBARation is a 61% dark chocolate bar made with beans from Tanzania. The California themed inclusions are Haas avocados and rosemary. Then it’s spiced up with some salt and pepper.
It was a well made bar with a good snap. It smelled like rosemary. There was an initial avocado hint in the first bite, but it quickly changed to a fermented tart berry chocolate, then rosemary. It seemed like the avocado was there to give it a smooth texture instead of a savory taste.
I was disappointed at the flavor balance, but trying it again after a couple of weeks, the avocado was more noticeable and the rosemary wasn’t so overpowering anymore. Plus there was a spicy hint of pepper as it melted. The balance had improved so I like this bar. I guess it just needed to breathe a bit first.
While the Heath bar was probably the most unusual combination, the Dark Milk Chocolate + Black Licorice was the most unusual looking one. Made in partnership with Lakritfabriken of Sweden, the back of the bar was encrusted with anise seeds and strewn with bits of salted black licorice.
Small dried herb stems were also visible in the coating leading one of our tasters to comment before sampling that it “looked like it picked up something from the floor.”
Not an auspicious start. I was a little bummed too because this was the one bar in the collection made with the same cacao and goat’s milk used in the bar we’d had in the alternative milk chocolate review and I was hoping that its grassy savory flavor would be noticed. But it didn’t look promising with all the dried greenery on it.
Alas, the goat’s milk didn’t assert itself at all. It probably was a good choice as an underpinning to the licorice flavors — it didn’t compete like a tart berry or citrusy cacao might. Instead the chocolate had a subtle licorice flavor that got stronger toward the end. Weirdly when we tried it another time the aging had added a taste kind of like cinnamon bark, and the licorice taste was even less, someone said it tasted like fennel seeds instead of licorice.
I don’t think the bars got contaminated by other flavors between tastings. They were all stored in their original packaging — even down to retying the piece of twine that Askinosie repurposes from the bags their beans come in. They were kept in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight so I can only guess the flavor changes were some kind of chocolate alchemy.
I picked what I figured would be a safe choice next: the Dark Chocolate + Coffee CollaBARation made with 72% single origin dark chocolate and single origin coffee from Intelligentsia. Since we were tasting it in the morning I was pretty sure everyone would be on board even if it packed a punch.
I was right that everyone wanted to try it but it wasn’t a strongly coffee flavored bar. Instead the coffee was used to make the chocolate taste extra chocolatey. I love good coffee/espresso flavored chocolate, but I especially like when coffee is used this way to punch up the chocolateness.
The group loved this bar — except one person said they tasted a sour fruit undertone. Based on consumption it was a minor quibble. (The bar did not survive to see another tasting.) Someone else marveled at how smooth the flavor was. This is a good bar with its very chocolatey initial taste and a savory aftertaste. I could see this being a whole thing with a chocolate maker pairing different single origin cacaos with different single origin coffee infusions.
The last bar in the collection was the Dark Chocolate + Coconut Sugar & Toasted Coconut CollaBARation made in partnership with the sisters behind the lifestyle blog, A Beautiful Mess. It was a simple 65% dark chocolate bar made with cacao from Tanzania sweetened with coconut sugar and covered with toasted coconut pieces.
From the quantity of toasted coconut bits on it, we expected a coconut explosion taste experience. Not happening. It wasn’t very coconutty except for the texture of the pieces. The group consensus was that the coconut was toasted too much and lost a lot of flavor. Instead it was a more chocolatey bar. It was not a fav. People said it was a little grainy (from the coconut bits or the coconut sugar probably) and a little too sweet but also bitter.
Not surprising it hung around for a second tasting where it was even less coconutty tasting, but the chocolate got better ratings. It didn’t seem as bitter and someone said it tasted like raisins which we consider an acceptable chocolate tasting note.
Cacaopod thought the bar could be rescued if the coconut treatment was tweaked. He brought up Socola’s Toasted Coconut & Black Sesame Milk Chocolate bar as a way to do toasted coconut right. It’s got big slices of coconut on it that are only toasted on one edge. They are toasted enough to have a toasted flavor but because the other side isn’t toasted it retains more of its coconut flavor. Plus those big slices look gorgeous on chocolate.
You can buy the CollaBARation bars online, at their factory store in Springfield, MO, and possibly at some retail locations around the US. Check their website for locations and more information.