A friend brought us back a couple of chocolate bars from her recent trip to Scandinavia. I found them to be good and unusual (but in a good way). In researching the chocolate, I found that the maker, Summerbird, is a long-time artisan chocolatier in Denmark.
So while we can’t buy them in the States, I thought they might be of interest to other chocolate aficionados, especially those with a European vacation in their future (or for ideas if you’re making your own bars).
The first thing we noticed about these bars was how informational the wrappers were. I’m not sure how the graphs were calculated, but they chart over time and intensity (I’m guessing) the flavor notes you experience in the chocolate. The 2nd graph line is labeled “Acidified,” but I’m not sure of the meaning here, since acidifying food to me means making it sour (more acidic). Maybe they mean bitterness? These guys are already out-nerding me, and that’s with their visuals alone.
The rest of the wrapper is equally uber-informative. going beyond the now-expected percentage and country of origin to include bean type (useful), conching time (okaaay…), and particle size (whaaa?), plus a descriptive taste profile and basic product information. Wow.
Summerbird has totally got the mad-scientist part of making good chocolate. But that alone won’t make for delicious chocolate, so how does it taste? We got a couple of friends to share the experience with us, which included a couple of surprises before anyone even took a bite.
Black as coal
When we slid the 71% out of its wrapper, I was surprised at how dark it was: It was so dark, it looked black. Literally black. I’d never seen chocolate so dark before. Then we realized that what we were looking at wasn’t the chocolate itself, but a plastic tray holding the chocolate. Turning it over, we saw that the chocolate bar was a very normal dark brown. Whew.
I haven’t seen this treatment before, but I think the tray is there for technical reasons. Summerbird bars are very long and thin, like maybe 1/8″ thick. They only weigh a little over 2 oz. each; most artisan chocolate bars I’ve seen are 3 oz. or more. So the tray is used to support these slender bars, which might be more prone to breakage than a typical chocolate bar.
I’m not sure the tray is needed because when we tried to break off pieces to sample, it required real effort to snap. This might be the thinnest bar I’ve ever seen, but it was also the hardest. Hella hard. But when it finally did snap, it had a nice crisp sound, just what you want to hear to signify well-tempered chocolate.
Being super-hard meant that the chocolate took more time to melt in our mouths before we could taste or feel anything. All of this — the mad-scientist label, the black plastic fake chocolate, the hard-as-brittle chocolate — gave me a sense of foreboding. It wouldn’t be the first time I spit out well-intentioned, but inedible, chocolate.
I’m glad to report that Summerbird is good! Both the 71% and 61% that we tried were exceptionally smooth (I guess you can ask your chocolate maker to keep their particle size in the 20-22 micron range if smooth is important to you). And the flavor profiles were spot on: The 71% was fruity and slightly bitter. I loved it. The 61% was spicy and definitely sweeter, a little too sweet for some of our tasters, but I still liked it.
Summerbird makes a wide range of chocolates: bars, truffles, dragées, molded chocolates, spread, hot chocolate mix, and more. Flavors are usual culprits: fruits, nuts (including marzipan), mint, and… licorice (? hmm… have to try that sometime). Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Summerbird ships to the U.S., but if you, my friend, happen to visit Copenhagen, I know the perfect gift you can bring back to me…
A writer/designer, Nancy lives in Oakland with Ronnie, her husband of many years & fellow chocolate enthusiast.
Date posted: January 22, 2016. This entry was posted in Chocolate around the World, Featured, Outside the Bay Area and tagged bean to bar, criollo, Danish, Denmark, Peru, trinitario. Bookmark the permalink.