If you haven’t tried yet tried a chocolate bar from Nelson’s Hogarth Craft Chocolate then their new Alto Beni ‘dark milk’ bar would be a great place to start. As with all of Hogarth’s chocolate, they make this bar from scratch – from the bean – in a complex process that involves roasting the beans, grinding and ‘conching’ the cacao, ageing the chocolate and then tempering and moulding the bars. As you can tell, they haven’t taken the easy route to chocolate making.

This new limited-release bar is made with organic Trinitario cacao beans from the Alto Beni region of Bolivia. These beans are collected from small-scale farms by the Alto Beni Cacao Company, who pay a premium price at the farm gate for high quality cacao. The beans are then meticulously fermented and dried, before being distributed internationally to craft chocolate makers who are willing to pay over the odds for such rare and specialist cacao.

‘Dark milk’ might sound like a contradiction in terms to some chocolate lovers, but it’s a style that has grown in popularity over the past few years. It indicates a higher percentage of cacao content (usually over 55%) but with a small amount of milk added for seasoning. This is the first bar of this style to be made in New Zealand, and it wasn’t the initial intention of chocolatemaker, Karl Hogarth. “This particular cocoa reminded me of buttered malt biscuits as I was roasting it, and the initial test batches were even brownie-ish. So I tried to get that malt-biscuit favour. I tried a little milk powder to tame the strength of the cocoa and mellow it out, and it worked a treat.”

Alongside that distinctive malty flavour you can taste a strong hint of coconut, all of which comes from a combination of just cacao, sugar and milk. If you haven’t experienced these kinds of favour notes in chocolate before then you’ll be in for a treat. Don’t leave it too long before trying this chocolate though – Karl was only able to purchase 3kg of these beans so it’s strictly a limited release. Welcome to the world of small-batch chocolate. hogarthchocolate.co.nz