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Home / Doug's Chocolate Republic  /   Review: Willie's Madagascan 71

     
Willie's Madagascan 71 
Posted: 10 September 2011    9.0 
Willie's Madagascan 71 Willie doesn't go into great depth exactly what you'll taste here besides the "long forgotten flavors" and on the front wrapper, mentioning "juicy notes of summer fruits." Willie is the real deal. I really could taste hints of fruits in each savory bite. Summer fruits?  I wouldn't put money on the table that those hints were summer fruits like peach, plum, or melon.  Or tropical fruits like mango, lychee, or rambutan.  
Avg price/gram: USD 0.06   Cocoa %: 71  Size: 80g  British chocolate 
       


One July morning, I'm minding my own business in the Chocolate Republic, and I received an e-mal from someone I don't even know in Australia, Big Bad Bryan.  Big Bad Bryan wanted to know if I knew about the revolution.   The Chocolate Republic was not even a year old and now there were anarchists about demanding a revolution?  Come on!   Give me a few years before you try to depose me.  No, Big Bad Bryan was talking about Willie's Chocolate Revolution.       

Who's Willie?  He's Willie Harcourt-Cooze, born 1964, and he loves his chocolate.  He sold his flat in London and moved to Venezuela with the proceeds to purchase a cacao plantation, planting more than 50,000 criollo trees. Back in Devon, he assembled chocolate-making equipment, ready to prove he could be a bean-to-bar manufacturer who could compete with the best of 'em. The BBC profiled his start up attempts in a 4-part fly-on-the-wall documentary series Willie's Wonky Chocolate Factory in 2008.  Another TV show followed, Willie's Perfect Chocolate Christmas.  And then another, the one about the revolution, Willie's Chocolate Revolution: Raising The Bar.   

I wish I could tell you I watched some of these TV programs.  I didn't.  The shows aired in Britain and Australia.  I don't live in either country and finding torrent files of Willie's TV appearances aren't as simple as, say, downloading Spiderman 3 or the year's hottest porn starlet's latest release. I caught a few glimpses of him in short video segments on his web site.  From appearances and descriptions by others, Willie is depicted as pleasantly eccentric and driven towards high quality.

Okay, I've heard those words before . . . by petty much any business trying to get me to buy its products.  I was so sick of the cliche called quality, when I found it lacking most of the time, that I wrote my very first Doug's Republic article about it.  I have sampled so many "quality" chocolate bars on the Chocolate Republic that the doctor warned me I may lose my taste buds.  Duc De Praslin's range almost killed me.   

Big Bad Bryan passed my name and e-mail off to a shop in Australia willing to ship me Willie's delectable cacao.  But the Chocolate Republic's greatest benefactor, Aussie Dave, was already on the job, assembling a chocolate package that would bring renewed vigor to the Republic after it started feeling like Sweden.  A parcel was already in the making, consisting of two Willie's bars and two 180 gram cylindrical cacao blocks.

A few days ago, the parcel arrived.   I reached for this Madgascan 71 Sambirano Superior first.   On the back wrapper, Willie gives us the low down on this bar.   "Selected from the scenic island of Madagascar, these beautiful beans are carefully roasted in Willie's chocolate factory in England using antique 100-year-old chocolate making machinery.  The beans are then crafted into fine dark chocolate -- made the way chocolate used to be (maximum taste from minimum meddling).  Madgascan 71 unleashes long forgotten flavors."

If you've reviewed as many bars as I have, you would have read similar sounding poetic copy on the back of many another bar, and nearly all of the cases, it's claptrap.  With the Duc De Praslin line, I was supposed to taste bouquets of dried fruit, wood, olive, clove, hints of hemp, opium, whatever.

Willie doesn't go into great depth exactly what you'll taste here besides the "long forgotten flavors" and on the front wrapper, mentioning "juicy notes of summer fruits."  I'm really glad he didn't mention which fruits, because I'd approached this taste experience ahead of time assuming Willie's was another pretentious poseur, dropping a lot of fancy adjectives as he produced chocolate that tasted just like one four-letter adjective beginning with 's' and ending in 't.'

I apologize.  Willie is the real deal.   I really could taste hints of fruits in each savory bite.  Summer fruits?  I don't want to go that far.  These were hints.  I wouldn't put money on the table that those hints were summer fruits like peach, plum, or melon.  Or tropical fruits like mango, lychee, or rambutan.  Let's just keep it simple and say there were some sour fruity notes in there, okay?  As for long forgotten flavors, you can only forget something you once remembered.   Did chocolate used to be made this way and the wholesome age-old techniques were ditched, then forgotten, for assembly line pump-it-and-dump-it chocolate?  I won't comment.

Wille truly doesn't meddle.  Look at the ingredients on a conventional chocolate bar, and you'll see things like vanillin or 'natural' flavoring.  I wish the manufacturers had long forgotten those flavors.  Willie's ingredient list is simple:  cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and Cuban raw cane sugar.  When you're talking about a revolution of any kind nowadays, you have to bring Cuba into it some way. 

Highly, highly recommended and not too expensive given its quality, all the right ingredients for a winner in this Republic.  It crosses the finish line higher rated than Valrhona's Manjari, also sourced from Madagascan beans, and more than 30% cheaper per gram, too.  Good luck finding it in your neighborhood store though.  For now, Willie's revolution is limited to mail order.

If you liked reading this, consider savoring these reviews:
 Patsys Crystalized Ginger Bar from USA -- 45% cocoa solids
 Cadbury Orange from Canada -- 24% cocoa solids
 The Complete Chocolate Republic Index


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