Most of us can tell the difference between dark, milk, and white chocolate, but can you pick out notes of tropical fruit, citrus, or flowers -- even smoky tobacco?
Eric Lampman is the man behind Blue Bandana Chocolates. Chocolatiering runs in the family -- his father owns Lake Champlain Chocolates -- but the new venture is Lampman's own stamp within the well-known Vermont brand. Its goal: to bring out the complex flavors of the chocolate bean itself.
"Each recipe is slightly different," Lampman says. "So that's kind-of where it gets fun too because we get to start working on how to change some of the flavors and how to bring some of the flavors out."
Chocolatiers say bars like these are a lot like coffee or wine -- you can taste different flavors depending on where the beans come from. And knowing that means they can work to bring those flavors out.
"These are origin chocolates. And these chocolates represent a particular region in the world," says Lake Champlain Chocolates Director of Retail Operations Gary Coffey. "They're all dark chocolate, they're all 70 percent, but they all have a very unique flavor."
Chocolate is made from cacao beans, which are roasted, cracked, ground, and refined. Then sugar and a bit of cocoa butter are added and the mixture is refined again and molded into bars. It's a process that takes days. But it all starts with the bean.
"Depending on the geography, depending on the soil, depending on the elevation of where the cacao beans are grown, depending on the climate, it's own particular ecosystem, the produce, the vegetables that are grown in that particular flavor, they all affect the flavor profile of that particular bean," Coffey says.
Lampman says he eventually wants a direct trade relationship with the cacao farmers, but in the meantime, they're doing education outreach to help those farmers produce better crops -- all part of an effort to see the process through from start to finish.
"It's a better practice, to try to get to know the farmers and really engage with that level of the supply chain," Lampman says.
The Blue Bandana bars have been on the market for six weeks now and they're bestsellers, which Coffey says is unusual for a dark chocolate. Right now it's a single-man operation, but Lampman says he hopes to bring others in on the venture soon.
You can find Blue Bandana chocolate bars at Lake Champlain Chocolate's three retail stores.