“With us working so close with farmers in general it made the most sense to reach out the one of the best coffee roasters in the city whom had a great following because of their fantastic product,” explains Christopher Teixeira, West Town Bakery’s Executive Pastry Chef. That roaster was Dark Matter Coffee Company.
“The inspiration for the coffee/candy bar came about the barrel aged Basil Hayden coffee that we tried one day. I thought that it would pair perfectly with milk chocolate. After several different batches that myself and our in-house chocolatier made, we realized that we had created three fantastic candy bars all using different percentages of chocolate (35,41,64%). So we went with three candy bars in the Dark Matter Coffee Chocolate Line.”
After Dark Matter sends over their roasted batches of Basil Hayden Barrel Aged El Rosario over to West Town Bakery, they grind the coffee as fine as they can get it. “Not as much as a powder, like cornstarch, but more along the lines of almond flour,” says Teixeira. They then take tempered chocolate and fold in the ground coffee; through the mixing and casting process, the coffee begins to meld into the chocolate. The result is a chocolate bar that has specks of coffee visible, but doesn’t have a gritty mouthfeel.
This offering comes to us from the department of Santa Ana, located in El Salvador. It’s a pretty small town, being only inhabited by about 8,500 people. Of that small population, though, there is a very prominent family in the El Salvadorian coffee industry represented: the Pacas family.
Finca El Rosario is one of a few farms owned by Federico Pacas, his sister Lily, and their father. Another high-profile farm of theirs is called Finca Santa Petrona – the second oldest finca for the cultivation of the Pacas variety, and the site of the oldest Pacas trees in production in the world.
Before roasting the coffee, Dark Matter ages it Basil Hayden bourbon barrels.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this coffee. Today we’re sampling the Dark Matter Chocolate Line, from West Town Bakery in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Santa Ana, El Salvador
farm: Finca El Rosario
producer: Federico Pacas
elevation: 1350 meters above sea level
process: fully washed, patio dried
Let’s start with the most basic of the three bars; I say “most basic,”but coming in at 35% cocoa solids, there’s quite a bit more cocoa here than in the likes of Dairy Milk offerings. Further, there aren’t any artificial flavors or vegetable oils to be found. It’s totally natural milk chocolate folded with Dark Matter’s barrel-aged coffee. Just visually, I can tell
There is, however, natural vanilla flavoring in the bar, which is immediately apparent in its aroma. A lot of times, vanilla is added to cover up bad flavors and aromas; I’m not so sure it was necessary in this bar, though, because the coffee’s aroma really dominates the profile. The taste follows the nose; the vanilla isn’t as noticeable, but the coffee adds a very unique dimension to the bar which the vanilla complements well. The coffee provides some faint berry notes and a whole lot of oak and booze, particularly in the lingering aftertaste. The potency of the rum barrel’s throughout the finish is so much, in fact, that I can practically “taste” it in my nose. Even its flavor is incredibly aromatic.
Although the flavour is a little more “milk” than it is “chocolate” and there isn’t much complexity to it, I still enjoyed this bar. It’s not too sweet and it’s very pleasant to nibble on. Probably not a bar you’ll want to devour in one go, but it’s great for breaking off small chunks over an hour or so.
Moving on to the middle bar of the series—the 41% milk chocolate bar—is, for me anyway, an improvement over its 35% counterpart. The bar still has that vanilla flavoring, but it’s a much better complement to the coffee component’s profile in this bar than it was in the other—the berries taste much sweeter and are much more fragrant in this bar. The barrel is also still present, but it’s not at all prevalent on the palate; rather, it lingers throughout the aftertaste.
Everything about this bar is a much more cohesive and sweeter unit than its predecessor, and that’s because of its balance. The coffee’s profile is a perfect counterbalance to the chocolate itself.
Taking it to the other far end of the spectrum, slicing into the 64% dark chocolate bar, I’m interested in seeing how the bitterness of the dark chocolate will play with the coffee’s fruits, oak, and booze.
Not surprisingly, as I take my first bite, there’s an awful lot going on in this bar’s profile. It’s incredibly complex and layered. As I suspected in my little preamble above, this bar goes to a few different extremes—the bitterness of the dark chocolate, the fermentation and booziness of the rum barrel, the sweetness of the blackberry and plum… It’s a lot to take in, a lot for the taste buds to process.
What makes it a bit easier to process, though, is that the dark chocolate doesn’t necessarily overpower the chocolate, but it’s definitely the dominant presence in this profile. The coffee doesn’t act as a counterbalance, as it did in the preceding bar; rather, it serves as a complement to the chocolate.
It would seem that coffee and chocolate, while perfectly good bedfellows, aren’t always that easy to put together in bar/truffle/block form. But in the case of West Town Bakery’s Dark Matter Coffee Chocolate Line, it’s a perfect fit. And this is no easy feat; remember that coffee and chocolate aren’t the only two factors at play here—you also have booze and wood contributing to the overall flavor profile.
But it works. It really works.
It really makes me wonder about West Town’s other Dark Matter offering—Unicorn Blood Toffee, which is coated on both sides with 64% dark chocolate, mixed with Unicorn Blood Espresso and topped with pink peppercorns and pink Hawaiian salt.