THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED in 2017 AND UPDATED ON JULY 3, 2020.
How do you choose which chocolate bar to buy?Sometimes, you just have to listen to what speaks or calls to you.An Italian brand, Amedei, on the top shelf at a fine foods grocery store in DC, whispered in Italian: Andiamo.
Things are a bit crazy lately. Let’s just leave it at that. But Óbolo Chocolate Makers’ 65%Dark Chocolate Merkén Smoked Chili bar with “authentic, smoked chili pepper from Chile’s indigenous Mapuche culture,” has rocked our world. This bar is spicy and alive! We can’t wait to share more thoughts with you.
If you didn’t already know, unsweetened cocoa has both methylxanthine (which is also found in caffeine and therefore, coffee), and theobromine (a bitter alkaloid), that may provide numerous human health benefits. In chocolate specifically, theobromine is higher than caffeine. Scientific research (linked) shows that cocoa (unsweetened – the more cocoa the better) can reduce asthma, is anti-inflammatory, good for the gut flora, induces bronchial relaxation/can suppress a cough, and can improve circulation, among many other benefits. In the age of COVID-19, these physical benefits seem very positive. As always, this article is not a replacement for a medical physician and we are no way implying to self-diagnose or self-treat. But if chocolate provides physical and emotional comfort to you during this time, please do enjoy chocolate and check out this Óbolo bar!
We picked up this bar quite a while ago before quarantine (in-person) from our favorite local chocolate spot: Chocolate House DC.
This bar’s packaging is simple and bright. “Sabores de Chile Endémico” caught our eye! A Chilean chocolate maker! Inside the packaging, Óbolo labels themselves as the “premier bean to bar chocolate” makers in Chile, selecting “the finest organic cacao beans grown by a cooperative of farmers in the Amazon jungle.” The company also focuses on “sustainability, fairness and minimal environmental impact.” The chocolate bar is even wrapped in “compostable biofilm.”
We can’t recall why we chose to buy a smoked chili bar at the time — perhaps it is related to the idea of how and why indigenous cultures are understood to have consumed cacao: with spices such as cinnamon or as this research paper reveals: chili (though the paper still has many questions), and as a special, ceremonial or ritual act. The history of cacao and customs of that cacao are always of interest to us.
When we broke off a small piece of this bar for consumption, we enjoyed the medium-strength snap and the strong aroma of the bar — like earthy spicy chocolate fresh from the cocoa warehouse… No, even better. Even more lyrical!
The aroma of this 65% Óbolo bar transported us. We imagined the lid to a piece of classic pottery being slowly lifted, and the rich, comforting aromas of roasted cocoa beans and smoked chilies filling the air. Grounding, rich, heavy aromas. And the spectators staring, wide-eyed in awe.
It was us who turned wide-eyed when we took a bite of this chocolate bar. Spicy! Strong! This bar does not give a “slight nod” to the chili; it’s a full orchestra; chili dominates. The chili is potent. Merkén smoked chili pepper is (sometimes) combined with ground coriander and salt. The list of ingredients on this bar’s packaging did not reveal that combination, though. The smokiness of the chili, along with dark, bitter chocolate, continued to dance on the taste-buds.
This bar’s recipe teeters on the edge of too much spice, but is also deliciously playful.
Tasting: First the smoked chili dances with the bitter cacao, and quickly reveals that it will lead the choreography. The smoked chili holds the power and dominance. Another bite. The smoked chili, like smoke itself, permeates everywhere. You cannot escape it. It clouds the room. It’s in every morsel. If the smoked chili in this chocolate bar were personified, it delivers an unexpected knock at the door: “Wake up!” You were sleeping. Once awake, you’ve metaphorically opened a window, and the smoke can dissipate. The dark chocolate moves forward at the finish. Now the smoked chili has happily retreated and leaves you to your own creativity. There is something magical about this bar, that’s for certain.
We definitely consider this Óbolo bar a time cupsoul; the smoked chili adds something extremely special to this experience. The bar has the power to transport you to another world, and down to Chile, South America. We’ve never tasted a chocolate bar spiced quite like this and if you’re adventurous and open to “heat,” we cannot recommend this bar highly enough.
This post is not sponsored and the chocolate bar was purchased using personal funds.
We write this post with heavy hearts. Sitting here in Washington, DC, as with many other international capitals, we are witnessing history. Every day, masses of people flood the streets of DC to protest, marching to the White House and elsewhere. Helicopters fly, extremely close to the ground, every night before curfew starts. The sounds and sights are intense. We are in pain and we are here to listen and to learn. If you are in DC right now, there are numerous ways to support the black community. One thing you might consider is purchasing goods from local black-owned businesses, such as a dessert from delicious The Sweet Lobby, or check out one of the many online lists of businesses. Order online. And stay safe.
Yesterday, we had the fortune to attend the Chocolate Business Webinar: The State of the Industry and Next Steps, held by the Chocolate Alliance, and we want to share some key takeaways with you about how to navigate as a chocolate shop or brand during COVID-19. Held on #BlackoutTuesday, much of the discussion was focused on the United States and the unrest felt here. In many ways, the panel felt not like a lecture to the consumer, but a letter to the industry itself. The key takeaways include: focus first and foremost on human health (at office, factory and at origin), embed transparency into your business model and innovate your offerings and how you share your stories.
New craft chocolate strategy: human health, transparency, innovation
How long has it been since we’ve written a review/musing? COVID-19 has us all cooped up inside, washing our hands, and wearing a mask when we take occasional (safe-as-possible) walks. And on top of the virus, what is happening in the USA right now is so heavy. There’s just no other way to say it. We frequently turn to chocolate to comfort and nourish our souls during these strange and difficult times.
Before COVID-19 and physical distancing, we were at The Chocolate House in DC and picked up a chocolate stash (fate would have it + you can still order from them online). It was very difficult to choose between the Antidote bars; each one looked better than the last and many bars matched with ancient gods and goddesses. How unique was this?! Chocolate and ancient folklore. Something we’ve been researching during COVID!