Our new Congo 65% chocolate bars come in two flavors, Vanilla Nib and Pili Pili Chili. The chocolate of Eastern Congo is not the only remarkable crop, the whole area has great agricultural potential. We wanted to showcase that in our first chocolate from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Available exclusively at Whole Foods through the end of the year, in our factory store and online here.
CONGO VANILLA BEAN
We’d been using organic and fair trade certified Congo vanilla in our bars and confections even before we received our first shipment of Congo cocao beans. It has a milder, sweeter flavor compared to other vanillas like those from Madagascar, which can have a woody note. One isn’t better than the other, just different. Our Congo vanilla also has a more prominent vanilla note that lingers, and we think that comes through, especially in our 65% chocolate.
Lots of vanilla is milled with heat whereas this vanilla is ground in a cooled mill using liquid nitrogen and helium, which may account for the difference in flavor. On our last visit to the DRC, we saw vanilla and cocao growing together in the same plot. We think it’s a candidate for the best smelling place on Earth.
Nibs are the roasted bits of beans, and they add texture and a greater sense of the flavor of this wonderful cocoa. You know when you bake brownies and you get the nice toasty bits on the corner pieces? Yeah, they’re kind of like that. African cocoa, and in particular that of the Congo, has a flavor many might associate with the flavor of roasted malt in a dark beer and the smell of freshly toasted nuts.
CONGO PILI PILI CHILI
Besides being really fun to say, these peppers are great to work with as an inclusion. They can be picked yellow, green or red, and for these bars we use dried red pili pilis. They have a great floral and citrusy aroma, and the citrus really carries through in the flavor.
You experience spicy peppers different ways. These chilies have a penetrating heat that hits your entire mouth, as opposed to the kind that might concentrate on your tongue or hit you in the back of the throat. That makes them a great match with 65% chocolate, because despite their heat, they never overtake the chocolate.
In Congo, these chilies are diced fine and thrown in oil and salt. They’re served scooped onto a small plate, and you eat them with eggs or chicken and rice. Nathan Royston, who sources cocoa for Theo and recently visited the DRC with Joe Whinney (our founder), says “For the hottest ones, you just need the size of a grain of rice to start sweating a little. When we’d get a tiny plate loaded up with oiled & salted pili pilis for a meal, Joe would always clear the plate and ask for more. Insane.”
For more information about our partnerships in Eastern Congo and our new Congo chocolate bars, visit: theochocolate.com/eci