The 70% Solution journeys up river from Guayaquil, Ecuador's most populous city, in search of the sometimes problematic, sometimes magnificent Arriba cocoa bean and the burnished dark bars of chocolate rookie Republica Del Cacao.

Producer: Republica Del Cacao, Ecuador

Bean: Ecuadorian single origin Arriba.

Content: 75% cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, lecithin; all organic.

Notes: The origins of the Arriba classification, an informal bit of chocolate taxonomy that suggests terroir and region rather than genetics, are apocryphal at best. 18th Century traders heading inland from Guayaquil's port were struck by the profound aroma of cacao arriving from the jungle. Locals told them to search up the Guayas River, or rio arriba, for the source of the beans. Today, Arriba cacao is fashioned into couverture–a word largely interchangeable with chocolate, though in professional circles sometimes used to specify product crafted for molding or enrobing–by some of the most elite chocolate houses in Italy and Switzerland as well as locally in Ecuador.

Early iterations of the Arriba bean were plagued with quality control issues attributed to local producers' haphazard approach to drying and fermentation. Not so the four-years young Republica Del Cacao. Republica's organic La Communidad Vinces bar works the palate in reverse: The nose is all chocolate and char. At first bite, the obsidian squares release smoke and tobacco, yielding to soft wine-like notes of cherry, fig and bitter wood and ultimately winding down to a milky, floral vanilla. This final flavor dissipates almost casually, like ocean whitewash on sand. Sweetness is pervasive throughout and lends the chocolate structure and balance. The Vinces bar feels very composed; no single flavor element dominates the others.

One hundred-gram tasting bars of Republica Del Cacao Vinces and other varieties are available at Surfas in Culver City.

LA Weekly