There are some days in the course of a year which force us to reflect or to pause for celebration.
On Thanksgiving, we show our gratitude. On New Year’s, we recall a year gone by and get excited for the year to come. On the 4th of July, we honor our nation’s history.
And, on National Chocolate Day, which falls October 28 this year, we spend absurd amounts on sugar and celebrate the finer and sweeter things in life.
To kick off the festivities this year, I indulged in a complete box of this season’s truffles from Condor Chocolates in Five Points.
The quaint shop smells deeply of cacao and happiness and serves up gelato, macarons and chocolate bars in addition to their colorful array of truffles.
The store was opened just before Christmas in 2014 and is co-owned by Nick and Peter Dale.
I spoke with Nick for a quick Q&A about chocolate, also popularly referred to as “the meaning of life,” and sampled Condor’s current truffles, which are described below.
Spoon: Why did you start Condor?
Nick Dale: We started it because our mother is from Ecuador where they have a very rich history of cacao. When we would go down to Ecuador to visit family, we would always want to bring back chocolate, but when we went to look for something, we didn’t find anything that different from a Nestlé Hershey Bar.
So, we really have created an exhibit of Ecuadorian chocolate. Also, my background in manufacturing matched up with Peter’s culinary side.
SU: What has been the most challenging part of running a chocolate business?
ND: The heat and humidity of Georgia. Chocolate has a lot of natural fats so the humidity levels in the air in the summer cause a lot of issues in the manufacturing process because water and oil don’t mix. We have to run multiple dehumidifiers.
SU: What is one interesting fact most people don’t know about chocolate?
ND: Chocolate comes from a fruit; it is the seed. When we talk to to elementary school kids, we tell them to tell their parents they can eat chocolate because it’s a fruit.
SU: Why do you think chocolate is so universally loved?
ND: It is just one of those flavors a lot of people’s palates like. There are a lot of varieties of chocolate, and it is sweet but can also have bitterness and acidity.
SU: How do you come up with flavors?
ND: For the bars, a lot of the flavor comes from how we roast the beans. It is a lot like coffee. The testing happens right when we get beans from a new harvest.
For the truffles, we started with an initial list of flavors, and we have been adding and tweaking to try to be seasonal. We tried to do lots of fruits in the summer and did holiday flavors around Christmas.
About half the flavors have become staples, like the bourbon and the caramel.
SU: What is your favorite chocolate flavor pairing?
ND: That actually changes a good bit. I really like caramel; I have a bit of a sweet tooth. I also really like the ginger cardamom because of the nostalgia; it reminds me of my grandmother’s rice pudding.
SU: What is most gratifying part of your job?
ND: I really enjoy the educational part and talking to people who are interested in the process. We have also talked to elementary school classes after they have read Willy Wonka. Seeing the kids’ raw emotion and excitement is really cool.
This caramel is smooth and delicate. Instead of your usual chunk of caramel, this truffle blends the flavor in seamlessly with the rest of the chocolate.
Unlike your average artificial mint flavor, this tastes and smells like a fresh mint leaf and has a nice light crunch on top from the sugar crystals.
If you are a dark chocolate fan and like your tea time, this flavor is for you. The truffle truly tastes and smells of tea with a slight bitterness. It is like a tea party in your mouth with a side of chocolate cake.
For tea fans, this is definitely worth a try. If you prefer your tea sweetened and your chocolate even sweeter, go for one of the other combinations below.
The smell on this one is stronger than the taste itself. You get a hit of citrus as you waft it and then as an aftertaste. If candied orange slices are your jam, this is the truffle for you.
For those who like a double shot of awesome and live for mocha, this truffle has your name on it. The beans on top are a bit crunchy, but this entire packet of happiness smells like a coffee shop.
At first, this truffle tastes like your standard dark chocolate, but don’t be fooled. As soon as you swallow, the heat will catch you. Keep a cup of water nearby to enjoy this punchy flavor.
Nick said the flavor comes from a combo of cinnamon and cayenne grown by a family in Louisiana and Texas.
I am not personally a coconut fan, but this truffle had a nice, smooth consistency and the coconut could be tasted throughout. If you like coconut milk, this truffle is your new best friend.
Milk & Honey
This nugget easily wins the presentation prize for its beautiful top covered in elegant bees.
With a clover flavor, it leans more towards the honey than the milk but is the way to go if you have a true sweet tooth.
As with coconut, this one really depends on personal preference. If you are used to adding rum or alcohol to homemade truffles for flavor, this is for you.
Similar to the espresso truffle, the smell came through strong here, but the flavor was definitely not too overwhelming.
If you are looking for something more complex than a standard chocolate flavor but aren’t ready to jump into the Mayan truffle, this is a good option.
If you are dropping $2 on a truffle, I would go with one of Condor’s more dynamic flavors. For the purists though, the dark delivers despite its simplicity.
When you lift this truffle to your nose, you might as well be strolling down the most fragrant spice aisle in the world.
The chocolate-ginger-cardamon pairing is definitely not traditional, but is worth a taste for the smell alone.
Last, but certainly not least, is my personal favorite among the contenders: raspberry. Unlike the other truffles which had flavored chocolate fillings but were homogenous on the inside, the raspberry truffle is filled with a jelly.
The flavor is strong but perfect for anyone who loves to pair raspberry and chocolate (me!). In the truffle, the fruity and chocolate flavors complement one another more than creating competition for attention.