Quickie Chocolate Review: Peppano Stone-Ground Chocolate

“Stone ground, single source cacao beans handcrafted into world class chocolate. Made with care in Tecumseh, Michigan. We hope you enjoy!”

Peppalo - Wrapper

Where I got it: Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market
Price: $6.00 for 2 oz. (56g)
Cocoa percentage: approx. 75-80%
Website: http://peppalo.com
Reviewed by: Jeff (chocolate snob) and my Dungeons & Dragons gaming group (barbarians, but what can you do?)

My run this morning took me past the local Farmer’s Market, which is just starting to put out the spring flowers and, as usual, was loaded with the fare of local bakers – breads, cookies, pastries, and, as it turned out, stone-ground chocolate. A nice young lady named Rebecca at the Peppalo booth told me about their bars.

Story (from Rebecca):

Peppalo chocolate is made at the Boulevard Market in Tecumseh. They offer dark chocolate, sea salt, and smoked chocolate varieties. It’s just cacao beans, which they grind at the market, and sugar. Many chocolate makers, even higher-end ones, add small amounts of vanilla or extra cocoa butter to smooth out the texture and flavor. Not here.

MORE: The use of cheap vegetables oils by ‘Big Chocolate’

I bought one each of the dark chocolate and smoked chocolate bars, and coerced my weekly D&D gaming group into a taste test. It was hard to get them to put down the carrot sticks and whole-grain crackers, but I managed.

Appearance:

Peppalo - TextureThe wrappers are simple but distinctive, with vibrant colors (the sea salt bar is apple green) and a bold, clean font. The bulls-eye in the “O” is eye-catching. The bars are smaller than average – 2 oz. vs. a usual size of around 3 oz., which, I think, helped me decide to buy two types instead of one. And as the price per ounce is on par with the high-end bars at the nearby Zingerman’s, a smaller size probably has a better chance of getting bought at the outdoor market.

The chocolate does not have the polished sheen of other bars, and when snapped, the interior looks grainy. This is characteristic of grinding chocolate with stone, and expected. According to the Peppalo website, a bit of grittiness is left in “to enhance the natural flavor profiles of the cacao beans.”

MORE: How stone-ground chocolate is created.

Texture:

Mouthfeel is grainy. Don’t look for the velvety texture of a Pralus bar here. A couple of the D&D gang didn’t care for this texture. The smoked chocolate was a bit more smooth than the regular dark chocolate, although this could have just been due to differences between batches. It does not dissolve quickly on the tongue, but a little light chewing brings out the full flavor.

The gang takes a break from slaughter and pillage to taste-test the chocolate.

The gang takes a break from slaughter and pillage to taste-test stone-ground chocolate.

Flavor:

The regular dark chocolate has the intensity of a strong dark chocolate, but the sugar adds sweet tones that I tasted at the same time, but separately. I got more of a “burst” in flavor than with other bars, which I enjoyed very much.

The other bar had a pronounced wood-smoke aroma that we could smell without even opening the wrapper. The smoky flavor was milder than I expected but definitely subdued the sweetness, tasting at first more like smoked meat than chocolate. One of the D&D gang said it was very good with Coke. I tried both types with a cup of my favorite French roast coffee, which paired nicely with the dark chocolate bar but didn’t do much for the smoked variety.

The Bottom Line

Dark chocolate:
Jeff’s Rating:……..★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)
D&D group Rating:…★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)

Smoked chocolate:
Jeff’s Rating:……..★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)
D&D group Rating:…★★☆☆☆ (2 out of 5 stars)

I enjoyed the regular dark chocolate, but I prefer a smoother texture for eating out of hand. I’d like to try it again as a drink, perhaps with some cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper. The smoked variety was interesting but didn’t do it for me.

As for the D&D gang, reviews were mixed. Stone-ground chocolate appears to be an acquired taste. Both bars were completely consumed, however.

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Did you like this review? How can it be made better? Would you like to see more? Let me know.

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