The 70% Solution: Tasting Notes on El Rey Gran Saman Chocolate

Burnished and broken one-kilo slabs of El Rey Gran Saman
Burnished and broken one-kilo slabs of El Rey Gran Saman
Ben Calderwood

Somehow, betwixt his maneuvering around financial reform and waffling on the closure of Guantanamo and obligatory fulminating about that hemorrhaging puncture in the floor of the Gulf, Barack Obama managed something like detente with Venezuelan president/TV personality/Twitterati Hugo Chavez. This means South America's lauded El Rey chocolate is flowing north again after a prolonged, albeit informal, embargo under the Bush administration, and Squid Ink's 70% Solution can sample the queen of the El Rey line, 70% Gran Saman.

Producer: Chocolates El Rey, Venezuela.

Bean: Carenero Superior Venezuelan single-origin.

Content: 70% cocoa mass, sugar, lecithin, vanilla. No added cocoa butter.

Notes: Family operated since 1929, El Rey chocolate is prized by patissiers and chefs. Virtually all of their single-origin formulations deliver a profound chocolate flavor uncomplicated by notes of fruit or flowers or wine--such distinctiveness can make blending chocolate with other flavors difficult. Gran Saman, named after the shade trees that insulate cacao groves from the brunt of the sun, is derived from Carenero Superior cacao, an offshoot of the hybrid Trinitario strain originally bred on the Caribbean island of Trinidad.

Every batch of El Rey, produced from bean to bar in Venezuela, exhibits flawless fit and finish. Gran Saman is no exception. There is classic good snap--a mildly technical term describing a properly tempered bar that cracks sharply when you bite, rather than crumbling or yielding gently under pressure. Gran Saman is smoky, nutty and sweet. Slightly viscous on the palate, it coats the tongue with hints of dairy, caramel and coffee. The sweetness lingers dramatically for a 70-percenter then slowly fades away, gentle tannins and acidity swirling in its wake.

Find 80 gram tasting bars of El Rey at The Wine House: 2311 Cotner Avenue, Los Angeles; (800) 626-9463.

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