This site’s origin story starts with a tai chi group that Cacaopod and I have participated in for about 15 years now. (And we still feel like beginners.) In the group, we found a couple of others with similar interests in art and chocolate, and we 4 created Chocolate By The Bay.
CBTB has expanded to 5 art & chocolate lovers; and while I write the majority of the articles, we get together occasionally as a group to taste and rate chocolate. That is where our 3–5 cup recommended chocolatiers and chocolate makers come from.
While the rest of the tai chi group are not official members of CBTB, they have been game for tasting chocolate and are not shy about their opinions. Some claim they don’t really taste the difference between different origins, while others have very nuanced takes, so it makes for interesting tastings.
Our instructor has recently taken up bird watching, so our emails are now enlivened with bird pix; and since we meet outdoors, our tai chi routines are occasionally stopped to notice a particular bird. (We all seem to be in agreement that this is more interesting than his previous interest in the wood chips we practice on.)
In appreciation of our instructor, I wanted to get some chocolate with a bird theme. I asked Jack at Chocolate Covered if they carried any such items, and he answered with Hummingbird Chocolate, a craft chocolate maker in Ontario, Canada.
Hummingbird makes a variety of single origin bars, that include different cacao percentages, some with inclusions. They also make other chocolate treats, like barks, molded filled chocolates, and drinking chocolate. I got 3 plain single origin bars and one flavored single origin bar for us to try.
The bars’ packaging featured the company logo, which looks like a hummingbird drawn in the style of a North American First Nation’s tattoo. The packages were chock full of info — and in 2 languages cuz Canadian, eh? — including required stuff like ingredients and nutritional info, expected stuff like the cacao source and soy free/vegan/fair trade labels, and then serendipitous but potentially helpful stuff like tasting notes and how to make chocolate.
The first bar we tried was the one we liked best, and it seems other groups do too. The Hispaniola single origin, made from 70% Dominican Republic cacao has won a slew of awards (helpfully listed on the label) including a Golden Bean from the Academy of Chocolate in London.
The Hispaniola had a good snap and chocolatey aroma. It tasted strongly fruity, and just like the package described, it was mostly cherry notes. It was a little drying at the end, but not at all unpleasant. The tasters got kind of silly saying it had an interesting flavor for a hummingbird and a high MOR —High Modulus Of Rapture (vs. the real meaning of MOR). They settled down and took the rest of the tasting more seriously.
The Tumaco single origin, made from 70% Columbia cacao was our least favorite. It was the hardest bar with a strong snap, and was more savory and fermented tasting. The tasting notes were plum, whiskey, and honey, but I really only caught the whiskey reference. The tasters pointed out that the bar was a little grainy, and the flavor took longer to release. Someone described it as having a dark flavor; nothing perky to it.
The Cap-Haïtien single origin, made from 70% Haitian cacao, was the 2nd favorite bar of the batch. It was interesting because while Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island, the chocolate from the different sides of the island tasted different.
It had a high MOR (as in Modulus of RUPTURE) like the Hispaniola bar and a hard melt. It was more savory and raisiny initially, melting into the berry notes and fudge described in the tasting notes. Everybody liked this one, and someone described it as a comforting taste.
Fleur de Sel
The flavored bar we tried, the Fleur de Sel single origin 70% cacao, did not list on the package where the cacao was from, but it did note the salt was Canadian. The MOR was not as high as the other bars — people joked that maybe the salt made it softer and that the chocolate melted faster than the others because of the salt.
It was a very fruity chocolate with berry notes, and not salty tasting. Comparing it to the Cap-Haïtien, people said it was not as subtle. They liked it, but not as much as the Cap-Haïtien or the Hispaniola bar.
Turns out, according to Hummingbird’s website, the bar is made with cacao from the Dominican Republic, just like the Hispaniola bar, maybe it’s even the same cacao, I’m not sure. If that’s the case, I would have to attribute its lower ranking to the flavor the salt added. Usually adding salt is a flavor plus, but in this case we preferred the unsalted version.
We liked all 4 bars, just some better than others. And even the ones in the group who said before we tried the bars that they couldn’t tell the difference between chocolates turned out to have opinions on the different bars’ flavors.
Easy DIY tasting
If you’re interested in doing a single-origin comparison tasting, the Hummingbird bars would make for a good set. They also make another single origin bar with cacao from a bird sanctuary in the Dominican Republic to try with these. Just comparing their Haitian and Dominican Republic single origins would be interesting to see the differences in such a small geographic range.