Domori Chocolate Review—A Historical And Gustatory Focus On The First Manufacturer Of A 100% Cacao Bar From Extra-Fine Cocoa
If you are one of my loyal blog readers, chances are you know well which food is included among the staples in my daily diet, and why I am open to tasting new brands of this “bread”.
When it comes to chocolate, I call for nothing less than the real thing, because a plain chocolate is the one able to release the most of the health benefits associated with a moderate consumption of it (no more than 10-20 grams of dark chocolate per day).
Some weeks ago, I was looking over the chocolate shelf of my favorite supermarket as usual, and a square-shaped bar drew my attention:
I chose a 72% cocoa bar, spiced with tangerine essential oil, just to try a new chocolate flavor.
Even though I found the essence of mandarin orange excessive to enjoy the chocolate in my palate, I was struck by the incredible fine texture of the chocolate piece while melting into my mouth. Since then, I visited the website of the chocolate manufacturer, Domori, and I became fascinated by the ingredients list of a few single-origin chocolate bars, made with only extra-fine and fine cocoa mass and cane sugar. No cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla were included into those formulations. The bar I found at the supermarket reported, instead, cocoa butter and soy lecithin:
So I decided to give a try to “the more exclusive” chocolate bars, and this is what my order included:
Before revealing a little about my sensory experience with the above chocolate bars, I focus on the history, vision and mission of Domori, since it’s really worth a read. Following are condensed main facts about Domori:
The Italian Gianluca Franzoni, just 27, undertook a trip to Venezuela for working reasons in 1993 and became enchanted by the untamed beauty of that place. Gianluca soon developed a “noble obsession”: to dig into the world of the endless shades of extra-fine cocoa, becoming self-taught and an ultimate expert on the distinct aromas and flavors of the cocoa beans, and the production of chocolate from scratch. Such vision and expertise were converted into a single reality of excellence once Mr. Franzoni came back to Italy after three years spent in Venezuela. In 1997, Domori inaugurated its headquarters in None, near Turin. Since 2006, Domori is a subsidiary of the larger Illycaffè group, a big Italian coffee name.
Domori was the first company in the world to:
- use only extra-fine and fine cocoa (Criollo, Trinitario, Nacional);
- produce chocolate made exclusively with Criollo cocoa;
- recover the biodiversity of Criollo cocoa in the field;
- create a 100% cocoa bar;
- reuse an old and simple recipe, namely cocoa paste and sugar, without adding cocoa butter, vanilla, and lecithin;
- create a code of chocolate tasting to guide people to recognize the authentic fine cocoa flavors.
The Criollo cocoa
The Criollo cocoa represents only 0.001% of all the cocoa harvested in the world. It is absolutely the most naturally round of cocoa varieties, and Gianluca Franzoni was capable of recovering it by believing in its fineness and, first and foremost, in the possibility of growing it in spite of its notorious low yield, weakness, and low resistance to diseases. The delicate conditions of this cocoa variety are due to its pureness. As the Criollo has never been hybridized, it has suffered fewer modifications throughout the years. This has caused a strong genetic erosion and sensitivity to the changed natural conditions over time. Criollo seed is characterized by an extremely low content of anthocyanin pigments, which means it is devoid of astringent notes.
The Hacienda San José
In 2002, Domori invested in the Hacienda San José in El Pilar (Venezuela), bringing back six varieties (sub-clones) of Criollo cocoa to light and making the plantation the world’s most important center for the recovery of Criollo cocoa biodiversity. Under the quality specifications required by Domori’s President Gianluca Franzoni, local farmers are educated in taking care of the precious and delicate varietals of Criollo cocoa every day.
That means that not only is Domori bean-to-bear, but the chocolate company also rewards their partner farmers with a premium price superior to the commodity price for the cocoa beans, thus going ahead of the derisory FairTrade certification model.
Low-impact cocoa processing
Raw material, although the most valuable, is not enough. Processing it well is key to obtaining a top quality final product. Domori processes the cocoa beans from scratch, adopting state-of-the-art technologies having a sustainable impact and a method that preserves the unique sensory flavor profiles of the cocoa varieties through:
- gentle roasting temperatures;
- partial conching;
- two-ingredient recipe: cocoa paste and sugar.
The art of tasting
Thinking of the fact that most people could not appreciate the nuances of the different cocoa varietals in all their richness, because the average consumers were not educated in recognizing nor in understanding what good chocolate is, Domori were the very people to propose the first cocoa tasting code.
The code values the different cocoas from 13 factors: color, smoothness, astringency, sweetness, bitterness, acidity, cream/butter, caramel, spices, fruits, nuts, flowers, and aroma cacao:
Tasting my single-origin Domori bars has been a memorable experience, a journey in the variations of extra-fine and fine chocolates within my grasp. While all the bars are accompanied by a list of their sensory descriptors in the back of their packaging,
in black follow the Domori sensory descriptions for each bar, in blue the flavor notes I personally found. I have also ordered the bars according to my preference (just in case someone else would benefit from this advice):
Absolute closeness to dried fruit with low bitterness and astringency and an almost immediate balance.
An unprecedented smooth texture in the palate for just being pure cocoa mass, without the inclusion of extra cocoa butter. Aroma of caramel, vanilla and spices. Initial notes of melted cheese, extreme aromatic roundness. Bitter end notes that dissolve in about 10 minutes with a sip of water at room temperature.
Personal advice: if your taste-buds are accustomed to the horrible bland taste of the tons of chocolate surrogates out there, this chocolate may be like a “little punch in your palate”. But if you want real chocolate, this is what you should expect from it. Given my previous experience with a hard-as-a-stone 100% cacao raw chocolate, sold at a similar price (read HERE), this bar is not bitter, even if it contains only 1% of sugars (the naturally-occurring in the cocoa mass).
Notes of tobacco, berries, smokiness and earthiness. It is spicy with an excellent smoothness, long finish, and sweetness.
Sweet cream aroma. Great roundness in the palate and an extraordinary sweetness. My favorite among the six 70% Criollo cocoa bars I bought.
The father of all Criollos. It is an ancient cacao with notes of white flowers, toffee, cream and extraordinary elegance.
Slightly sour, but extraordinarily fine to the palate. Some of its aromatic traits reminded me those of the 100% Criollo bar (that is a blend of its very sub-clones).
It has notes of caramel, tobacco, walnuts, papaya, brushwood, mushrooms and dates.
Incredibly fine in the palate, sweet and elegant.
Notes of cream, spices, almonds and cherry jam with excellent smoothness and sweetness.
A sweet and spicy scent. Notes of cream and grape juice. Excellent aromatic roundness.
Notes of apricot jam, cream and dried fruit. Excellent roundness and persistence, with low acidity and bitterness.
Not all my descriptors coincided with the ones above, so overall insufficient to prefer this bar to those mentioned before in my personal list.
Single Origin Bars
An intense character and aromatic profile for this cacao varietal from Tanzania, in which what immediately stands out is a primary note of cacao.
Sweet and soft. Notes of cocoa and dried fruit. Good roundness.
Short note: even if South American fine cocoas are usually considered top-notch, I bet this chocolate will make someone else leave with a good feeling. I liked it more than the other two from Peru and Colombia, especially for its intense note of cacao.
Caramel, cream and floral notes. It is very mellow with a pleasant acidity.
Delicate and mild cream notes to the palate.
Cashew and honey notes, with a sweet, long-lasting flavor.
Slightly bitter, but very fine to the palate.
My overall experience with Domori chocolate convinces me to try their products again. I would choose the Criollo and Single Origin bars not yet tasted for the next time.
Curiosity: the origins of the name “Domori”
Domori is the alter ego of the company founder Gianluca Franzoni. The name originated from the entrepreneur’s passion for Venice. Do-Mori (Italian for “Two Moors”) refers to the two statues that strike the hours on the big bell on top of the clock tower in Piazza San Marco. The two Moors, Saracens of Venice, in the imagination of Gianluca represent the two dark seeds once roasted: coffee and cocoa.
Where to find Domori chocolate
The list was organized independently after an accurate online research:
Chocolate Trading Co.
The Chocolate Shop
San Francisco, CA
The Chocolate House
Portland, OR; New York, NY
Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli
Salt Lake City, UT
New York, NY
World Wide Chocolate
The Candy Bar
A Taste For Chocolate
Richmond Hill, ON
Some of the names included may not have part of the products reviewed. For any other purchasing request, I suggest visiting the international Domori shop HERE.