I was invited to an exclusive chocolate tasting event at Koko Monk, among 10 other food media/bloggers. Koko Monk is the new retail shop for what you may previously know as Levni Chocolates that had been at five Vancouver farmer’s markets since 2010.
The event was set up like a wine tasting, with chocolates placed in a pre-determined order. In fact, the chocolates progressed like wine, from lighter flavours to a stronger, punchier finish. The best part is that it was a blind tasting, meaning we didn’t know what we were eating until we took our first bite, made a guess at ingredients that were used in each chocolate, then owner/chocolatier Paul would reveal the “correct answer”.
By the way, according to Paul, you’re not supposed to chew on the chocolate after you took a bite. Let it sit inside your mouth and let it melt away. Use your taste buds to sense all the different flavours/ingredients.
Here are the first four that we tried:
The flavours are a lot more complex than what’s listed. For example, La Petite Amour may have featured mango, but it also has lemongrass and lime. Zentrophy has wasabi, ginger and orange; Brunette Bangle used curry, fresh green curry leave and Sri Lanka coconut. I personally quite like the La Petite Amour because I’m often drawn to tropical fruit flavours.
The Bacchanalia was interesting. It’s not a regular caramel chocolate. It’s caramel made from 12-year-old aged balsamic vinegar. It tastes like regular caramel chocolate, with a hint of tartness that reminds you of balsamic vinegar. It’s a twist to a classic flavour. The caramel just bursts into your mouth; I quite liked it.
You will see from the first picture that there’s a gap between the 4th and the last chocolate. That’s the cue for Paul to whip up a mysterious case of chocolate.
He opened it and out came a strong smokey smell. Voila! It’s the Smoking Heart.
It’s a twice-smoked chocolate with tropical fruit and single malt scotch. It has a strong smokey flavour that’s almost savoury at first (bacon, anyone?), then slowly you would taste the sweetness from the chocolate and filling. What a unique piece of chocolate!
Lastly, the stronger and punchier finish to the evening. The Blue Moon is a blue cheese chocolate with candied pear. Now that’s a flavour that I would never imagine pairing with chocolate! You can definitely taste the pungent flavour of the blue cheese, but not as strong as eating it alone, and I think it’s partly because of the addition of candied pear.
Apparently this is the best seller at the store, and this is the only chocolate that Paul needs to enforce a quota to keep it from selling out too quickly. I personally don’t like blue cheese so I didn’t enjoy it as much.
About Koko Monk
- Owner Paul Diner tries to make chocolate like how it’s made 200 years ago
- Chocolates are hand tempered, hand crafted, and hand painted
- Seasonal and local ingredients would be used whenever possible
- Chocolates are made with Paul’s own chocolate mix. It’s the same chocolate base for everything but the fillings would “interact” with the chocolate and gives you different flavours.
- Chocolates have about 6-8 weeks of shelf life.
There are many chocolatiers in Vancouver, but Paul is an interesting guy. With his writing background, he’s a great story teller. His passion for chocolate is shown through the way he describes them, and of course, through the way the chocolates taste. Some flavour combinations sound quite bizarre, and I didn’t necessarily like every piece that I tried, but I appreciate Paul’s effort in trying to come up with something different for the sophisticated palates that Vancouverites have. Drop by his shop for a visit and you won’t be disappointed. Don’t forget to grab a cup of Turkish coffee.
1849 W 1st Avenue, Vancouver