20th January 2017. Lee hosted our first gathering of the year. We almost had a full house with Anna, George, Gini, Jo, Kathryn, Liz, Theresa, Sally, Vicky and new member Trudy. Between our discussions and tastings there was talk of antidotes for Blue Monday, although we weren’t really sure which Monday was supposed to be the blue one and of Tom Hardy in Taboo, although admittedly we weren’t sure exactly what was going on in that either! But you will be pleased to hear that we were slightly more definite about our opinions regarding the book and the chocolate.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez
Kathryn chose one of her favourite books for us to read this time. Inspired by a real life murder that happened in Colombia in 1951, this ‘novella’ tells of the death of Santiago Nasar, murdered by the brothers of Angela Vicario to avenge her honour. The central theme of the book is how the death was foreseen, yet no one tried to stop it. The anonymous narrator explores the circumstances surrounding his death, collecting testimonials from the villagers present at the time of the murder.
We all enjoyed the book and the non-linear way in which it is told. With each different perspective, more is revealed about the reason for the murder but also the opportunities to prevent it. For such a short book, it has an astonishing amount of description. Trudy said it “had her gripped” and George felt the story-telling was vivid and characterful and she “could imagine being there”. Kathryn enjoyed the symbolism present throughout the book in the use of omens and premonitions – the weather, dreams and nature all providing evidence of what is to come.
I expressed a little frustration as the story unfolded as I found myself wanting one of the many opportunities for the death to be prevented to become reality even though I knew it couldn’t be. When I went on to suggest this may be a little ‘unbelievable’, most disagreed with me – Anna referenced the ‘Swiss Cheese Model’ saying it was easy for a catalogue of things to happen in this way in real life; George stated that “sometimes in life it is easier to do nothing”; and Liz, Vicky and Trudy said the book highlighted that some of the characters thought it would never happen, that the brothers were too drunk to do it.
Theresa felt that the book shockingly demonstrates the power of vengeance and honour: both in the description of the murder itself and Angela’s mother beating her up when she hears she has told her new husband the truth. We did start to question the reality of the gruesome description of Santiago walking around with his guts out, but Anna did confirm this was a possibility!
There are unanswered questions from the book, in particular – “why did Angela name Santiago as her violator?”. We all felt that he was not the actual perpetrator and Jo wondered throughout whether it was the narrator who had taken Angela’s honour. We also questioned Angela’s feelings for her estranged husband – George thought that there may be some “transference of guilt” and Jo felt it may be a reaction to being rejected.
There was some discussion of the film adaptation (with Rupert Everett) and we thought we would like to see it now we have read the book.
This is a book that our group would definitely recommend.
The chocolate had to be from Colombia, just like Garcia Marquez himself. Although the town in Chronicle of a Death Foretold isn’t named, the book is filled with Colombian culture, traditions and symbolism. I wanted the chocolate to conjure up similar imagery and customs.
As you read Chronicle of a Death Foretold, you are transported into a world of magical realism and gritty reality. You can almost smell the mountain coffee with the shot of cane liquor given to Santiago Nasar by Divina Flor. So all the chocolate chosen was made with Colombian beans and in the case of the Panela bar, there are more distinctly Colombian ingredients included. The bars from Chocolate Tree, Dormouse Chocolates and Manufaktura Czekolady were sourced from Cocoa Runners and the Artisan du Chocolat bars were ordered direct.
Just after our meeting I received an email from Cocoa Runners introducing a new Colombian chocolate maker Tibito, founded by Gustavo Pradilla who makes chocolate in Bogota with heirloom cacao. A Tibito bar would have made a perfect match to the book and I would definitely have included one had I known about them but they will have to wait for another time.
The Chocolate Tree, Colombia Huila 70%
My first choice was the Colombia 70% from Chocolate Tree made with beans sourced directly from Aldemar Guzman in the Huila region of Colombia. With fruits and spices mentioned in the tasting notes and the packaging describing how it would pair well with a good red wine, it was already conjuring up images of the couple’s rich fruity wedding cake (Colombian torta negra is made with red wine).
We all took in the aroma. It took a little time to get the deep chocolately notes. The texture was slightly grainy. Once melted, everyone was feeling the explosion of flavours. Gini and George started with really deep red fruits, Trudy mentioned dark cherries and Theresa got more treacly flavours. For me this developed into lighter more citrus notes and more delicate almost floral flavours. Some of us noted a slight astringency as the end but it was well balanced and had a good length. It was a good start, there were heads nodding in appreciation. For a 70% cacao bar, we felt it had really dark and deep flavours and was a good pairing for the extravagance of Bayardo San Roman’s wedding.
Dormouse Chocolates, Colombia 80%
Next I chose the 80% bar from Dormouse Chocolates made with beans from the Casa Luker Estate. It promised roasted coffee, a must for a Colombian tasting. Sally fell in love with the packaging of this bar with its beautiful colour palette.
This bar had a much slower melt, it was really very smooth and velvety, coating your mouth and we had to work it around to release the flavours. Anna was picking up orange fruit but then said it became quite astringent. Others were less specific on the fruit but still picked up ‘something fruity’, then spice and more earthy at the end. It was quite a contrast to the Chocolate Tree bar and although interesting, some found the finish a little too dry and we were a bit disappointed that we didn’t pick up the roasted coffee. Perhaps we need to try that one again.
Manufaktura Czekolady, Colombia 85%
So darker again at 85% and more beautiful packaging, this time from the only bean to bar maker in Poland, Manufaktura Czekolady. It was looking dark and macho.
The aroma this time was deeply chocolatey with hints of tobacco. It was slow to melt, not as smooth as the last one, with a slightly grainy mouthfeel Vicky said. As the flavours started to come through, Sally found more tobacco and Lee agreed saying the smokey notes reminded her of a good whisky. Trudy agreed and thought it was quite peaty. I was tasting coffee and then Jo picked up something tropical, almost like pineapple but again balanced with a more astringent finish. We thought it was layered, deep and complex. Perhaps a good match for the Vicario brothers with their macho exterior masking more complex, human emotions.
Artisan du Chocolat, Colombia Milk 41%
The next bar was a complete contrast. I chose it because it was made with non-deodorised or ‘unadulterated’ cocoa butter and was described as having a ‘lingering floral aroma’. Purity is central to the plot and flowers are used throughout the text to symbolise female purity. When Bayardo San Roman first sees Angela Vicario for example, significantly she is carrying a basket of artificial flowers.
It had a beautifully sweet aroma, ‘really sweet’ for Trudy. It melted swiftly and after a delicate taste is was gone surprisingly quickly. But then came the tantalising aftertaste. Sally was amazed at how quickly the chocolate was gone but then just how full-flavoured the aftertaste was. Anna described it as deliciously fragranced, like clear heather honey. That will be the lingering floral aroma we decided. We were inspired and vowed to try more bars made with non-deodorised cocoa butter to see if they had the same distinctive finish.
Artisan du Chocolat, Panela Dark 61%
Artisan du Chocolat, rather than being bean to bar makers, use carefully sourced ingredients. I hadn’t meant to include a fifth bar but I saw this on the website and couldn’t resist the idea of a bar made with panela, the Colombian raw sugar made from dried cane juice.
It looked delicate and had a distinct aroma which was ‘slightly floral’ for some and ‘highly scented’ for others. It then melted into cinnamon. Anna was surprised at how pronounced the cinnamon was and how similar to the unrefined Taza bar from our last tasting. The cinnamon moved on to apple for George, smokey notes for Lee, molasses for me and a slightly rose scented finish for Jo. It finished relatively quickly but was delicious while it lasted.
I think it is fair to say that we thoroughly enjoyed our taste of Colombian. This time the bars we would most like to take home were:
George, Gini, Kathryn, Sally, Theresa, Vicky – Chocolate Tree, Colombia , 70%
Liz – Artisan du Chocolat, Colombia Milk 41%
Anna, Jo, Lee, Trudy – Artisan du Chocolat, Panela Dark 61%
Our next meeting is in February and we are reading The Wasp Factory, by Iain Banks. Maybe a chance to taste some more bars from Chocolate Tree.