Joanna Miller, Sugar Savvy ~ Amano is one of less than 20 chocolate makers in the United States actually making their own chocolate. This is to say that they begin with raw beans, roast and grind them, and then create small-batch, high quality chocolate bars. Hence the he name “Amano,” which translates to “by hand.” Chocolate savant David Lebovitz spells out the difference between “Chocolate Maker” and “Chocolatier” quite succinctly, for your (and my) edification.
Some company history: With a background in science and technology, chocolate maker Art Pollard began experimenting in 1998 with tools and equipment he designed and crafted. Developing his technique over a several-year period, the chocolate bars were made available to the general public in 2006. Pollard located the factory in Orem, Utah based on the town’s dry climate and high altitude, an optimal chocolate-making environment.
Pollard sources his cocoa beans directly from the growers, choosing only “perfect specimens” that meet the company’s standards. Notably and exceptionally, he pays the growers up to four times the market price, exceeding “fair trade” guidelines. With these prized beans, Pollard produces the chocolate slowly and in small batches. Take a look at their website for extensive and interesting company history, philosophy, product information, and more.
Amano’s product line consists of two different varieties, Madagascar and Ocumare, as well as a limited edition Cuyagua, all of them 70% cacao minimum, of single origin beans, weighing in at 2 oz each.
Several chocolate scholars have provided detailed reviews of the Amano bars; including Lebovitz, Emily Stone of Chocolate in Context and Cybele of Candy Blog. I will not begin to attempt to match their illuminating and academic reviews, so instead I offer you my Amano Cliff’s Notes:
Madagascar Premium Dark Chocolate:
An intense chocolate hit with a tangy and sharp mid-palate flavor – somewhat yogurt-like, to be honest. The finish is smooth and no bitterness is left during the aftertaste. Even though yogurt is one of my least favorite foods, I enjoyed this chocolate bar.
Ocumare Grand Cru Dark Chocolate:
The initial and mid-palate flavor is smoky, with a smooth finish. The company describes this bar as having “rich chocolate overtones balanced by fruity components that include hints of plums and other red fruit.” I attempted to taste these components, but instead experienced something more along the lines of “the smell of a smoke shop,” in a good way. If that sounds unappealing, it’s not. I really like this one. The beans are from the central coast of Venezuela in a remote valley called Ocumare De La Costa.
Cuyagua Premium Dark Chocolate – Limited Edition
This tastes very similar to the Ocumare, but perhaps a little less with the smoky hit. The initial intensity subsides into an almost milk chocolate aftertaste. The beans are from The Cuyagua Valley at the base of cloud forest covered coastal mountains in Venezuela.
All three bars are remarkably smooth and full-bodied, with exceptional mouth-feel. I’ve eaten plenty of similarly-priced bars that do not warrant the elevated cost. These, without question, are worth the splurge.
Photos courtesy of amanochocolate.com