Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Today I talk about an innovative bean to bar chocolate maker who use "raw honey" to sweeten their bars for its health benefits: low IG, less calories and good amount of minerals and vitamins. They also support honeybee research and apiarist.
I tasted four sample bars and I can tell you "don` t expect anything normal": nose, palate and finish are quite unique.
In the photo gallery below you can notice the blueberry lavander bar, the 70% haiti dark, the 70% haiti raspberry bar and the 67% Sierra Nevada with Manuka Honey.
White chocolate blueberry lemon lavander bar.
Ingredients: cacao butter, whole milk, raw honey, blueberry, lemon, lavander, vanilla.
Crafted in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.
Cam stone ground a microbatch of their cacao butter with rich vanilla from Madagascar for up to 48 hours. Then he hand-tempers it with local Missouri honey.
The scents are sweet, fruity, lemony and herbal. The mix of whole milk, vanilla, honey and lemon creates a singular pastry cream taste and texture. While the blueberry and lavender inclusions gives a nice fresh touch. If you like the idea of a "blueberry lavander white chocolate cheesecake" this bar represents the perfect choice for you.
70% Haiti dark chocolate bar.
Ingredients: organic Haiti Pisa cacao, raw Missouri wildflower-clover honey, cacao butter, Madagascar vanilla.
The snap is soft. The texture is honey-solid like. The scents are impressive: sweet vanilla, honey and herbal nuances. Very chocolatey too. The flavor profile is strong. Since I am not used to honey sweetned dark chocolate, it is the first thing I notice: wildflower and clover honey deep aroma followed by molasses, apricot and pie crust undertones. The finish is equal to an 80% cacao content bar: extra dark! Spirit astringency at the bottom of your throat and spicy watering mouth all over the palate. The finish can be related to radish taste since it is simultaneously sweet and spicy.
70% Haiti raspberry bar.
Ingredients: organic Haiti Pisa cacao, raw Missouri wildflower-clover honey, cacao butter, raspberry, Madagascar vanilla bean.
Crafted in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.
Cam stone ground a microbatch of their cacao butter with rich vanilla from Madagascar for up to 48 hours.
The scents of this bar are delicious: decadent chocolate raspberry cheesecake! The snap is always soft but in this case the texture is firmer. The flavor profile is very similar to the "plain" 70% Haiti dark I described above but I love the raspberry zest aroma combined with the robust flavor of the raw honey they use. In this case the finish is not like an extra dark bar. Indeed you can sense a mild chocolate taste, herbal honey like astringency at the bottom of your throat and sweet watering mouth, raspberry zest on the tip of your tongue. While the spicy film aftertaste is very short.
67% Sierra Nevada cacao with New Zealand Manuka Honey.
Ingredients: cacao, raw manuka honey 10+ UMF, cacao butter and vanilla.
Soft snap. Very light honey scents and more chocolate nuances. Remarkable auburn color. Soft texture. I love the mix of coffee, apricot and manuka honey taste followed by eucalyptus undertones. Shortly: would you like a chocolate manuka honey coffee pudding? Well, I do. This is such great comfort food alternative!
My favorite is the Sierra Nevada with New Zealand Manuka Honey which I believe has a great balance of flavors not easy to realize.
If you are going to taste some of their creations, you need to try a new approach which means an "open-mind tasting experience". Honey is a particular ingredients which works differently on the cacao origin/variety we well know. What I see with this maker is an "ever growing approach": they can always reveal new flavors by combining different type of honey with the same or new cacao origin/variety. Yes, their bars are going to have an endless flavor profile.
Now let` s get to know them better with few questions they kindly answered me.
1.Who are you and where do you produce chocolate?
Honeymoon Chocolates was founded in 2016 by Cam and Haley Loyet. We are based in Saint Louis, Missouri.
2. Can you describe, step by step, how do you produce your chocolate bars?
Haley and I are taught by the Chocolate Alchemist - John Nanci. In fact, most of our equipment was purchased through his business. We currently hand sort our beans and then roast in a convection oven. After the beans cool, we crack them with a Champion juicer. After cracking, we winnow with a Sylph Winnower from The Chocolate Alchemist. Following winnowing, we are able to dd our nibs to our grinders- we currently use tabletop Premier Wonder Grinders for our process.
Specifics of how we produce our chocolate is varying based on honey moisture content and the cacao solid % of the specific origin. Honey should be around 18% moisture- anything higher than this results in a fermented honey. We do openly tell many of our customers and other imploring makers that honey should only ever be added after grinding/melanging are complete. The addition of honey to a grinder will result in a seized batch of chocolate and perhaps an overheated grinder!
The most important step in our process is testing our temper. Honey can be finicky- so ensuring the temper is strong is especially important. After molding our bars, we hand-wrap and stamp each bar before it reaches our amazing customers!
2. As you may know there are many excellent sugar alternatives such as maple or coconut sugar. But why did you decide to use HONEY?
We decided to use honey for its versatility and health benefits. Cam grew up with a healthy family- so retooling the traditional cane sugar chocolate recipe was a must. Haley, on the other hand, always had a love for healthy desserts and chocolate. It seemed obvious for us to gravitate towards a natural sweetener that gave us some freedom in the type and variety of honeys we could feature.
3. Did you try to produce chocolate bars also with sugar? If yes, what are the differences between the "traditional" choice and the "innovative" one?
The noticeable differences in cane vs. honey chocolate primarily lies within the texture. The sugar crystals within traditional chocolate don’t contain the 18% moisture of honey. By using cane sugar, sugar crystals act as a fortifying agent - resulting in a traditional chocolates texture. Our chocolate lacks this fortification. In fact, sweetening with honey represents a brand new texture. Our chocolate has pockets of honey- the result is a chocolate with a softer texture. While our bars are stable/tempered at room temperature, you will notice that the snap is less noticeable. Another key difference lies in the progression of flavor. Our bars benefit from a more rapid speed of flavor delivery from the honey. The end result is a chocolate bar unlike any other on the market.
4. How can you describe the tasting experience of your chocolate?
The tasting experience of our chocolate is no longer a slow build of cacao and cane sugar flavors. With the aid of honey, we are able to speed up the symphony of flavors. The cacao and the honey tend to dance in a mix of flavors that hits you almost before the chocolate has a chance to melt!
5. How long did you experiment with chocolate and honey before reaching your best result?
We have been experimenting with honey and cacao varieties since 2016. In the beginning, our success rate was about 50% in terms of a seized batch. As we started to commercialize the process, it became apparent that we needed to be much closer to 100%. We still have some instances where our batches seize due to the moisture content- but we are now prepared and battle-trained to handle these cases.
6. I noticed you just use raw missouri wildflower and clover honey, why?
We have been playing around with a few types of honey. In 2019 we primarily used a Missouri black locust and clover honey- a darker and more robust flavor. Since then, we moved towards a more neutral Missouri Wildflower raw honey that allows the cacao to better represent its own tasting notes. We have also introduced a New Zealand Manuka honey bar as of March of 2020.
7. Do you consider to experiment with other honey varieties and cacao origins?
Yes! We had primarily worked with Peruvian cacao up until December of 2019. This is where we started to test many different varieties including cacao from Belize, Colombia, Haiti, Vietnam, and Ecuador. The winners were Haitian cacao and Colombian Sierra Nevada. We now work with Peruvian, Haitian, and Colombian cacao at the moment.
As for honey, we have worked with Manuka honey and a Missouri black locust/clover honey in the past. Deciding which honey to use directly affects how the cacao tasting notes come through.
8. What is your bestselling bar?
Historically, our best selling bar is our Dark Raspberry Bar with Peruvian Cacao and Wildflower Honey. But following the Craft Chocolate Experience in March, we found that our bestseller was our White Chocolate Blueberry Lavender Bar and our Sierra Nevada Cacao with Manuka honey. Time will tell which bar will be our best seller!
9. What is your chocolate massage to the world?
Our chocolate message to the world is to explore as many brands as you can- dare to be adventurous! The flavors are vast and every single maker you experience offers a new take on an origin or a new proposition to how a chocolate bar should be made.