My friend Hannah bought this bar (circle? round?) for me at an adorable store in the East Village called Barnyard Cheese Shop. I'm familiar with Taza because they're from Somerville, MA, and they used to sell their products at the Lexington farmer's market. They also make bars and little chocolate-covered cocoa nibs, which are delicious. Here is the info:
Taza: Salted Almond
Cocoa content: unlisted -- my guess is 60%
Notable ingredients: California almonds; kosher salt
Origin: Dominican Republic
Note: Taza doesn't advertise this as a single origin chocolate, but given how infrequently I taste single origins, I'll settle for a loose definition. These beans are strictly Dominican, so it counts here.
The most distinctive thing about Taza is that they use the outdated method of stone grinding to process their chocolate from bean to bar. Basically, contemporary chocolate makers use steel refiners to grind up the beans cleanly and without imperfection, whereas Taza uses grinders made of actual stone. Thus, as you can imagine, the product is grainier and full of unground bits -- cocoa, salt, sugar, whatever -- and that is the signature Taza texture.
Now, this blog has not lacked for almond discussions of late. We've touched on almond chunks, almond slivers, marzipan, and other manifestations -- I have known them all. But this chocolate is different because here the almonds were not added to the cocoa mixture; rather, they seem to have been ground in the stone mill along with the beans. I say this because there are no chunks of nut in the bar; there is a vaguely nutty taste that is just barely detectable as such amidst the grainy chaos: almond, cocoa, salt crystals, sugar crystals. If this was a blog about pretzels, this entry would cover the irresistible teaspoon of pure salt and flour at the bottom of the bag.
I know from past experiences with Taza that I like the stone ground texture of pure cocoa and sugar. I absolutely love their 70% dark bar, for example. But I feel that the practice of grinding all ingredients together has ruined the purity of the chocolate here -- this tastes like a hardened, grainy nut paste rather than a single origin cocoa. And, furthermore, I thought there was too much salt. I would undoubtedly have liked this bar better if the cocoa were stone ground, and the almonds were salted and added to the mold in slivers, to set.
To be clear, the problem here was not necessarily that it tasted bad, but that it didn't taste like chocolate to me. And it didn't taste like something altogether different but fabulous, either. As much as I've loved Taza in the past, this bar gets a C.