/ Doug's Chocolate Republic /
Review: Madecasse Arabica Coffee
Madecasse Arabica Coffee
Posted: 26 July 2012
As befits any premium wholesome product, the ingredient list is easy to decipher.
Before I took my first bite, I expected a decent, but not great, chocolate, trying to garner international sales by appealing to people on the emotional level.
I was in for a pleasant surprise. The milk chocolate was smooth, perfectly rich, not too milky, not too bitter. And there was plenty of coffee taste. The coffee wasn't ground up into a pulp to create a coffee-cacao flavor. The milk chocolate and coffee flavors remained distinct,
with coffee crumble and coffee nibs, and it worked perfectly for this bar.
price/gram: USD 0.079
Cocoa %: 44
Madagascar occupies a
respected position, though a small one, as a grower of rare
Criollo as well as Forastero and Trinitario beans. Only 1%
of world cacao production comes from Madagascar, in an area
about 50 km in radius.
Cacao from the lush island of Madagascar is nothing new on
the Chocolate Republic. Whittaker's
Milk Madagascar and
both got high marks here.
I almost made it to
Madagascar. Way back in 1997. I was traveling
through Africa with my then girlfriend. We hitched a
boat from Mozambique to Kenya in the hopes of getting
dropped off in Madagascar on the return journey. Never
happened. We got kicked off the boat in Kenya.
That's another story, which has nothing to do with
Aussie Dave mailed me five
Madecasse bars for sampling purposes. I was then on a
cleanse and stored them in my refrigerator. I didn't
get a chance to sample them before my wife and I took a trip
to China and Korea in June. My father-in-law visited
while we were abroad and helped himself to a few of these in
my absence, much to my dismay. I had to re-order them
from a U.S. chocolate retailer and have them shipped to my
brother who then re-shipped them to me. That, too, is
another story, which has nothing to do with chocolate --
well, chocolate that went into my mouth.
Madecasse is a bean-to-bar
manufacturer set up by two former U.S. Peace Corps
Brett Beach and Tim McCollum. The two had done their
stint in Madagascar and wanted to found a business which
could help the Malagasy economy. Nearly all the
treasured cacao grown in Madagascar -- and the rest of
Africa, for that matter -- is exported and turned into f
chocolate bars by other companies. The French company
Valrhona has exclusive buying rights to the entire
production of the Millot Estate Madecasse wants
to keep the value-added in Madgascar itself. They
source the beans from a cooperative in Madagascar and turn
them into finished wrapped bars in a nearby factory.
The press you see on
Madecasse would have you believe that Madecasse is the first
of its kind to harvest cacao and turn it into an edible bar
locally. That isn't true. Two bean-to-bar manufacturers,
Chocolaterie Robert and Chocolaterie Cinagra, were in
operation before the idea of Madecasse was ever conceived.
Viewing some marketing videos for Madecasse, I noticed they
mentioned that they carted the beans to their partner's
factory. I did a little research and discovered that
Madecasse's local partner is Chocolaterie Cinagra. My
research was a waste of time. You only need to look on the
back wrapper to see that the bars are made in Madagascar by Cinagra.
This is a very unusual
situation for a bean-to-bar manufacturer to be in. Madecasse
is almost like a chocolate management company. They
have their own relationships with cooperatives. They
have their own local Malagasy manager, as the two founders
spend nearly all their time in the US. I assume
they must have their own recipes (though I have nothing base
that assumption on). But
actually none of the infrastructure -- the farms or the
factory -- are theirs.
Madecasse's Arabica Coffee
utilizes the same blend as Madecasse's Milk Chocolate, which
comes in at very high cocoa solid content (44%) for a milk
chocolate bar. Better producers want to highlight
cacao flavor, so their milk chocolate blends tend to have as
much cacao as cheaper producer's darks. See Lindt
Dark Hazelnut for an
example of a dark poseur. Madecasse is well aware of this trend.
They describe their own bar as a "dark" milk
As befits any premium
wholesome product, the ingredient list is easy to decipher,
simply sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa beans, cocoa butter,
2% arabica coffee, emulsifier, natural vanilla powder (Madecasse
also sells Madagascan vanilla), and sea salt. I have
to come clean. Before I took my first bite, I expected
a decent, but not great, chocolate, trying to garner
international sales by appealing to people on the emotional
level. "We make our chocolate in Madagascar,"
Madecasse ceaselessly claims. "This creates 4 times
the impact of Fair Trade Cocoa." I was in for a
pleasant surprise. The milk chocolate was smooth,
perfectly rich, not too milky, not too bitter. And
there was plenty of coffee taste. The coffee wasn't
ground up into a pulp to create a coffee-cacao flavor.
The milk chocolate and coffee flavors remained distinct,
with coffee crumble and coffee nibs, and
it worked perfectly for this bar.
Madecasses's social mission could persuade
me to buy the bar once. The wonderfully smooth flavor and expert blend
of filling is what will keep me coming back. Korea should shut down all its
coffee shops and start selling Madecasse Arabica Coffee bars instead. Now THAT'S a social
mission. African farmers would get a financial boost and Koreans would finally be able to get a tasty
coffee caffeine kick in the morning actually worth $5 or $6.