All the way north on the Island of Madagascar is a city named Ambanja. The E. Guittard company claims to produce a 65% cacao bittersweet with flavors from the region. If you believe their website, the bars are a product of Criollo beans from the fertile Sambirano Valley.
Personally, all I can say is that I found the Ambanja Bittersweet very dry and light in taste, and a stark contrast to Guittard’s Chucuri Bittersweet. The latter is apparently a Columbian bean, which I think has a far more smooth and spicy flavor with a rich and familiar aftertaste.
This all makes me wonder if the “unknown” method of distributing food will come under pressure from newer and better distribution methods for old-world and boutique-type brands.
Take for example the unpleasant situation when a restaurant tells you that ground beef can not be prepared “rare” because of a law meant to protect you from disease — bad beef. Someone should alert the big beef that automation can be counter-productive when it becomes overly efficient at promoting one value in spite of all the others. In fact I usually say I would pay more if I could get a hamburger that came right from the “trusted” local butcher because I know my body is happier when I eat better food. I guess I should find out if you can even have a local butcher, baker…
So although I truly appreciate the security control model provided by the US government to reign in the mass-automation meal industry I would much rather know that the origins of my meal could be traced and therefore controlled right at the root-causes. Come to think of it, how do I find out whether the beef industry has the same or better tolerance for risk that I do? Is their idea of “safe” one in 1,000,000 deaths or is it the big fat 0?
Consider for a second the BSE website, which was prominently advertised on the front page of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. It provides the following assurance:
U.S. beef producers have worked with federal authorities for more than 15 years to set up the system of science- based firewalls that is working today to keep the food supply safe.
Hmmm, last time I checked firewalls are a single control and thus widely considered insufficient on their own to provide adequate security. Not such a great marketing campaign, if you ask me. Alas, nothing else is mentioned although I found it interesting that the Cattlemen’s website also links to some anti-vegetarian propaganda.
I suspect that if a proper set of consumer-based controls were in place, they might be able to preserve “single-origin” (e.g. quality) values on a large scale, such that we would still have excellent flavor and texture along with desireable price. But until that happens, wise consumers seek out the small-batch and single-origin brands that are a healthier choice and more in tune with their real needs (better cost-benefit ratio).
Back to chocolate, I have to wonder, are you safer trying to stay on top of the additives in the giant brand chocolate bars, or are controls more likely to be present and effective with small-batch real cacao, cane sugar, lecithin and vanilla? And does fair-trade mean less chance of sabotage? Mmmm, chocolate.