how prototypical: fresco chocolate 217 chuao

There is a secret world behind the making of chocolate bars that the average chocolate bar consumer doesn’t consider. If that chocolate bar consumer happens to be consuming a bar by Fresco Chocolate, however, they are likely much more keyed in to the happenings of chocolate production.

Why? Fresco, a company out of Lynden, Washington, creates micro snippets of chocolate with varying roasting and conching levels, aka prototype small batches. I was lucky enough to find some Fresco bars while at Sugar Sugar in Minneapolis in late August; as Joni had only been carrying the Fresco line for a few weeks, I felt extra lucky. As this bar, the 217 prototype Chuao with 70% cocoa, had only been available to the public for roughly the same amount of time, I felt uber duper super extra lucky.

To celebrate Fresco, but more so my findings at Sugar Sugar, and Minneapolis by proxy, I find it appropriate to share a few more images of my August visit to Minnesota. There are some lovely sights to see in summer in a metropolitan region host to over 3 million city-folk; despite my love of the woods, I miss life in an urban setting.


A perennial favorite of trendsetters, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and adjoining Walker Art Center provide the perfect retreat from the urban jungle. Where to better mingle with your 5,000 closest friends, while watching a silent film no one has ever heard of, eating baguettes with various brown spreads (plus if its homemade, double plus if it was purchased at the co-op), and listening to the movie’s soundtrack, provided by a live band with talented musicians and a less-talented “choral” group? No where better, I say. The movie was Fritz Lang’s Spies (1928), the band was Dark Dark Dark (DDD), and the baguettes were not mine.

However, this chocolate is.


Chuao is of esteemed Venezuelan origins, the beans making their way into Valrhona, Hotel Chocolat, Amano and Mast Brothers bars, among countless others (actually just more than I wish to count right now). There is also Chuao Chocolatier, out of San Diego. Chuao, Venezuela, so it seems, is like the baguette of the chocolate world.

And in fact, it seems that “Chuao” is applied as an umbrella term, with more finished chocolate sold as such around the world than is produced on-site. I choose to have faith that Fresco, although they provide little information about their cacao beans, is sourcing chocolate honestly. If this was not the case, would this puny 1.4 oz (40 g) bar cost so much? Maybe, but I hope not.


Wood-Rill Scientific Natural Area, managed by the Minnesota DNR, is a short drive from the Twin Cities, and provides visitors with a glimpse of the “Big Woods,” an ecosystem of large hardwood trees that once stretched across the state. Now, this old-growth forest only remains in small fragments, such as the 150 acres here.

This version of Chuao has a dark roast and medium conching level. Fresco indicates that a dark roast is “full bodied, bold, [and] intense,” and that new flavors may develop while others may be subdued. Medium conching – heating, mixing, and aerating the chocolate for a medium amount of time – allows for a “balance between aggressive and subdued, mellow.” Having not purchased the 218 Chuao as well, which has a medium roast and subtle conche, it was difficult to know where the effects of roasting ended.


Initial aromas of bitter fudge, smoky wood and earthy coffee greeted my eager to be Chuao-ed sniffer (pronounced Chu-WOW-ed, har har). The chocolate took on a smooth-as-velvet texture as it melted on the palate, and the darkness of the roast intensified each flavor that I had initially only caught aromatic glimpses of. The chocolate’s bold flavor was mellowed by the aforementioned smoothness, which can be attributed to the “medium” conching duration.

With further nibbley nibblekins, I noticed mild but dark sour notes – again, mellowed by the conching – that were fruity in tone. The fruit flavors tended more towards red fruits than citrus, with especial hints of raisin and currants. I couldn’t seek out the fig notes that Fresco suggests, but I’ve spent much more time growing my fruit-less Ficus tree than I have eating fresh figs.

Fresco 217 Chuao (I feel like I’m writing in secret code!) finished light and fruity with a slight mellow sourness. The depth of flavors, combined with the soft way it had of winging its way to my taste buds, was a winning combination. I would love to see what a milder roast, and lesser conche, could do for these beans.

Fresco Chocolate

100 Springview Dr
Lynden, WA 98264

Check them out on their (perhaps soon to be defunct) blog, or on facebook. But more so, check out their sweet concept of prototype chocolate for yourself.


17 thoughts on “how prototypical: fresco chocolate 217 chuao

  1. You were absolutely right about the impressionistic tree photo–it works beautifully! I think that it would be amazing in an enlargement.

  2. ^ bokeh for the win! (I was going to comment on that one, too!) You’re right, I never know things about the chocolate I’m eating, like roasting and conching levels. Not that I understand those things…but it’s nice that Fresco tells you!

    1. Jessica, coming out of left field with photography terminology, I like it!

      And yes, how nice of Fresco to tell us. It must be difficult in this era of burgeoning chocolate makers to come up with your own very unique product – but they’ve done it, and successfully.

  3. Oh! You’re like a chocolate superstar! With a backstage chocolate pass! And a chocolate cape! But as uber duper super extra lucky as you think you are, I think I’m more uber duper super extra lucky to know you, your fella, and your psychic cat will soon be coming to live with me.

    And bringing more Chuao, so I can compare it to Amadei’s version.

    1. Hannah, pish posh. I WISH I had a chocolate pass (made of chocolate) and a chocolate cape (also made of chocolate), it would probably make a week-long move to Australia both feasible and easy.

      I don’t have any more Fresco on my chocolatey person. Can chocolate passes make more chocolate appear instantly, on demand?

      1. I don’t know about the last part, but I promise that if you use your cape to fly to Australia, I’ll have a dinner feast ready for you made from my Kirsten’s Cookbook AND my Laure Ingalls Wilder cookbook!

        1. You are a QUICK responder! Do you have a computer built into your body? Are you a Borg? Amazing.

          I pictured the cape allowing me to swirl about those I want something from (chocolate maker, airline ticket sales man), and whirl stealthily. When they emerge from the cape swirls, they will have been brainwashed into giving me what I want.

          Kirsten’s AND Laura Ingalls Wilder cookbooks?!? Rawwwrr! I once visited the “On the Banks of Plum Creek” dugout house, where I bought a miniature statuette of Jack the Brindle Bulldog! Proving that Minnesota does have some nifty things to interest you! :)

          1. I wish I were that cool, but the truth is that 10pm-midnight is generally my on-the-computer-blogging time :)

            But now I’m so full of envy at your dugout story that I cannae speak no more.

    1. sarah, thanks! Yes, such a lovely green end-of-summer trip! St Paul and Minneapolis always seem so incredibly lush in the summer when I return to visit. I miss it already:/

      1. Thanks for the write-up and photos of Fresco Chocolate. I’m glad you enjoyed our Chuao 217 recipe.

        Best Regards,

        Rob Anderson
        Chocolate Maker
        Fresco Chocolate

        1. Rob: Thank you for taking the time to thank me, I really appreciate hearing from Fresco. You have a great product, and a terrific overall concept, on your hands – I am impressed.

          I hope to try more of your products in the future; thanks again!

  4. I love the idea of these chocolates, one could learn a lot and taste good chocolate!
    And your pictures are lovely again as well.

    Maybe I’m lucky once to get my hands on these chocolates.

    1. Silvia, isn’t it a great concept?? Let the taster discern what creates the flavors and depth in their chocolate? I think it’s a fabulous idea.

      Good luck getting a hold of some of these!

And now I'd like to pass the mic / So you c'mon and do anything you like ...aka, Leave your reply.

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