Saturday, June 11, 2022

Sonhab: Costa Rica 70%

The second chocolate bar I picked up from Local Nomad is from Sonhab, which is a local Tempe-based company. Their approach seems to be based more around concepts of superfoods, mindfulness, things like adaptogens, that sort of vibe. That generally isn't my vibe, so I went with a plain bar, the Costa Rica 70%, to start.

Packaging definitely has that handmade, small business style. The pale tan color of the card box evokes brown paper. The swirly lines of the circular logo as well as the font choices add to that, um, shall we call it mindful vibe. I could see this for sale in the funky Sedona stores. Again, it isn't really my vibe, but it is a vibe of ever increasing popularity.

They've gone with the also popular envelope style to the card box. What I've never yet come across before, though, is a little colored sheet inside that has the notes on this specific cocoa's origin, as well as a QR code to scan for more info. You may have noticed that the card box had the flavor notes and cocoa origin handwritten on it. So that plus this little blue sheet mean that they can use the same card box for all of their plain dark chocolates. It's a smart approach for a small business, and the QR code is a way of interacting with technology. QR codes are all over these days, but this is the first time I've seen them used this way. 

Immediately on unwrapping the chocolate, out comes a strong chocolate fudge aroma. The design of the bar continues with the style established in the packaging. Swirling rays emerge from the Sonhab like rays of the sun--quite fitting for this self-proclaimed Sonoran Desert chocolate (I believe, by the way, that the "hab" part in the name comes from the Sonoran habitat). It's a unique and distinctive design. 

Initial flavor is fairly sweet, but not in a sugary way. The chocolate fudge carries over into the flavor; that's the definite, strongest trait here. Flavor notes list fudge, espresso, and pudding. I don't always catch up on all flavor notes, but the fudge is easy to define. There is a certain depth to the flavor, especially towards the las half, that I might not have defined as espresso on my own. But seeing espresso listed, it's the perfect comparison. It isn't a bitter flavor, so the image of freshly ground coffee beans or espresso describes that sense of depth. That espresso-type flavor continues into the aftertaste, as well.

The flavor profile is simple and straightforward, and therefore has wide appeal. Because it doesn't have stacks of flavor notes, I'm finding it tempting to eat more at once than I normally do with dark chocolate. Texture-wise, the chocolate is smooth. I thought it might be my imagination at first, but the chocolate does seem to melt a little quicker than normal. I even thought that maybe it was because this is such a fresh batch (since, alternatively, old chocolate gets harder and takes longer to melt when eating it). 

But just as I finished contemplating these concepts, I looked at the back of the packaging in more detail. Normally I'll do a tasting before reading a lot about the chocolate so as to be less influenced by what is written about the chocolate versus what it is like to simply eat it. So I didn't notice (since it isn't mentioned on the front of the package) that this chocolate is sweetened with coconut sugar. Well. I guess since I literally didn't realize there was coconut in here, I can't complain that I could taste the coconut. But maybe that's why both the sweetness and the texture felt different. When you make chocolate, the cocoa and the sugar interact together on a molecular level and bind together in a specific way. I don't know much about coconut sugar's structure (and chemistry is definitely not my favorite type of science), but it would make sense to my nonscientific mind that there could be a subtle yet discernible difference. That smoother mouthfeel I described is consistent, after all, with the smoothness of truffles made with coconut oil. 

If the chocolate does melt slightly faster because of the coconut sugar, I could see this perhaps being a subtle negative with a chocolate that has layers of flavor note development. But since the flavor profile here was simple, that wasn't an issue. And the softer mouthfeel was, if anything, a plus. So even though I've mentioned that coconut is on my list of foods I'm supposed to avoid and therefore I would personally rather have regular sugar, if avoidance of cane sugar is of importance to you, this is a great alternative. And if you don't care either way, this is still a great example of coconut sugar use in chocolate. And it's also just a good bar of chocolate. Sonhab has a good approach going. 

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