Sunday, November 28, 2010

Santo Domingo versus Mexican chocolate

This is a tough one today.  I have two couverture chocolates in front of me that I am about to use for chocolate-making.  I  am tasting two more of the Cacao Barry Origine chocolates, the Mexique Origine rare, with 66% cocoa solids and the Saint Domingue (Santo Domingo) Origine rare with 70% cocoa solids. When I first opened the boxes, I could not identify a difference in smell between the two!  But after sticking my nose directly in each package and then tasting, I can now see an enormous difference between the two chocolates.


The Mexican is sweeter, and since it has a 66% cocoa solids, I guess I need to get past that difference in order to truly taste the chocolate. It seems tangy, yet mellow, and has a distinctly different smell than the Saint Dominique.  Previously, when I tasted this chocolate on its own, I really liked the strong, hardy flavour of it.  But in comparison to the Saint Domingue (Santo Domingo), it seems lighter with citrus-fruit flavours and very tangy. The package says liquorice notes, but I`m not quite tasting it.


I am enjoying the full-bodied flavour of the Santo Domingo.  It is darker, spicy and thick with intense flavour.  The package says `wine-flavoured` and I`ll agree - it reminds me a merlot.  In fruit form, it`s something like deep, dark cherries.


If you are not a chocolate professional, you are probably wondering what on earth you can do with this information about chocolate couverture, which you will not find in any of your regular stores.  Well, many chocolatiers use the Barry Callebaut/Cacao Barry lines of chocolate couverture in their products.  So the next time you go to a little chocolate shop that makes single origin chocolates, ask them what brand of couverture  they use.  If they say Cacao Barry, then it's likely one of the Cacao Barry brand of Origine chocolate. And hopefully this blog will help you select which of the four Origine chocolates you might like to buy. For information on the other two Origine chocolates by Cacao Barry (Venezuelan and Tanzanian), see my previous tasting at: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/venezuela-versus-tanzania-couverture.html.


At some point, I should sit down and compare all four of these Origine chocolates by Cacao Barry - at the same time.  But I won`t bore you with all that. If you would like a four-pack of tasting squares, covering all four of Cacao Barry`s Origine flavours, contact me at ultimatechocolateblog@gmail.com.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Starbucks chocolate...is it as addictive as their coffee?

Today I am tasting two dark chocolate bars by Starbucks.  I have never been able to resist their chocolate bars.  It may be because they sit directly next to the cash register at Starbucks cafe's and I have no self control, or it could be that they are always perfectly portioned (34 grams) and I can justify it. Or, more likely, it is that I love to have some chocolate with my coffee.

The two bars that I am tasting today are:
  • Starbucks® Dark Chocolate, 34 grams - "sourced at origin, artisan crafted."
  • Starbucks® Dark Chocolate with Starbucks VIA Ready Brew, 34 grams - "100% natural roasted instant and microground coffee blended into rich, dark chocolate."
The plain Dark Chocolate bar smells better than it tastes.  Don't get me wrong - it tastes great, but the smell is so intense and rich with aroma that I was instantly surprised by the difference in the taste when I popped it into my mouth. In fact, this chocolate smells so good, that if I ever had to give up chocolate, I could probably just smell this chocolate bar and be happy...probably.   Overall, I do like the taste.  The vanilla is apparent in the flavour and it is sweet, but chocolaty with a rich, organic flavour to it. It is just the kind of bar that I like and it holds up well to other artisan-crafted chocolate bars.

As for the Starbucks Dark Chocolate bar with VIA Ready Brew - I'm not so sure about the smell of it.  It smells like a vanilla ice cream, or perhaps a vanilla latte.  It is a strange combination of very strong vanilla and coffee aroma combined with sweetness. Once again, I am surprised by the flavour which - like the plain dark chocolate bar - is very different than the smell.  It tastes very bitter, and the coffee is strong.  Right now I hate it.  But I think to be fair, I will need to try it at a different time. This coffee bar was just too much bitterness for my taste buds after that first sweet-tasting dark chocolate bar.

Starbucks did not list the cocoa solids percentage on the packaging, but I assume the plain "Dark Chocolate" bar is somewhere in the 60% to 70% range with a lot of vanilla, which makes it seem sweeter than it is.  The coffee bar though tastes so bitter in comparison.  Unfortunately, I have waited a while now and have been drinking coffee and water to remove the taste of the other chocolate bar, and I have to admit that I still do not like the Starbucks VIA chocolate bar.  I am sorry Starbucks - I am still a loyal customer and I like one out of two of your chocolate bars, which isn't bad! The coffee bar is just too acidic and lacks that familiar sweet yet strong Starbucks coffee flavour.  I'm sure I've tasted a different coffee/chocolate bar in the past that was branded as Starbucks and it tasted better than this one.

What is very strange is the Starbucks web site.  I have gone through the site and I can not find these bars listed anywhere.  I know they are newly launched, but I can't even find one chocolate bar listing on the site, and I know for a fact that this isn't Starbucks first branded chocolate bar product.  Just recently, I tried their caramel and dark chocolate bar and loved it, and I know I've tasted the solid dark chocolate bar that they used to sell at their cafe`s.  (And since this post, I've tasted the Starbucks Milk Chocolate bar and liked it a lot).  It doesn't make sense though - it is Starbucks, the biggest coffee retail chain, so everything branded by them should be on their web site, shouldn't it?

Well, check it out for yourself: www.starbucks.com/menu/ - perhaps you can find their website information on Starbucks chocolate bars for me!

So to answer my question asked in the title of this post: is the Starbucks chocolate as addictive as their coffee?  Well, their solid dark chocolate "artisan crafted" bar may be, but their VIA ready brew coffee is better left for drinking, rather than eating.  I think I will mix the rest of this VIA bar into a hot moka drink.

Otherwise, here are the stats on the two chocolate bars that I tried today:

Starbucks® Dark Chocolate, 34 g
Starbucks Coffee Company, Seattle, WA USA
http://www.starbucks.com/
Ingredients: cacao beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla.  May contain traces of milk and tree nuts.
Marketing on package:  "Starbucks is committed to ethical sourcing.", "sourced at origin, artisan crafted."

Starbucks® Dark Chocolate with Starbucks VIA Ready Brew, 34 g
Starbucks Coffee Company, Seattle, WA USA
http://www.starbucks.com/
Ingredients:chocolate mass, sugar, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, Starbucks® instant and microground coffee, emulsifier (soy lecithin), natural vanilla flavour.  May contain traces of peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds and milk.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'Chocolate Treasures' from Equador, Tobago, Trinidad, Peru, Papua-New Guinea, Madagascar, Venezuela and Costa Rica

I was recently shopping at Costco - a large Canadian membership-based discount retailer - and I spotted an amazing box of plantation/single origin chocolates made from cocoa beans from eight different cocoa plantations. Each of the eight varieties are individually wrapped single-serving-sized pieces of chocolate, four of which are milk chocolate and four are dark chocolate.  Each has a different percentage (%) of cocoa solids.  Best of all, they come in a lovely "treasure box" - a great thing to put out with the desserts at a party, or alternately, you could bring it to a party as a hostess gift.

I was very excited to see such a box and I decided that I just had to buy it.  I thought, what a great way to have a tasting of single origin chocolates from one brand name and the cost was only about $15 for 150 pieces! What's more, I don't have to go onto their website and order eight different chocolate bars at $4 or more per bar. It also means that I have left overs for my friends, stocking stuffers and for future group tasting events.

So today I am tasting these chocolates.  Like usual, I have not followed 'proper' tasting rules, I'll admit.  I started with the dark chocolate and worked my way down to the milk chocolate.  However, I did start with the sweetest of the dark chocolate and worked my way up to the most bitter in each of the categories, so I tried to follow standard tasting rules just a little bit.

The Amacado 60% chocolate comes from the Amacado Plantation in the Amazon in Peru - a co-operative of nearly 1,000 families.  It is sweet, smooth and bitter all at the same time. This would be a good one to keep in your purse or desk at work for the time when you need a pick-me-up.

The El Cuador 70% is from the El Cuador plantation in Ecuador. It has that "organic" chocolate smell to it, and clearly no vanilla is present.  It is bitter and without the vanilla, it is a little flat.  It reminds me very much of Cocoa Camino 70% dark couverture.  So I've had a piece of that too, and they are very similar.  Likely because of the lack of vanilla. Don't get me wrong though, the taste is still great.  I have gotten used to chocolate with no vanilla added, which is often done on purpose so you can taste the real flavours of the cocoa beans, and I have come to like it without the vanilla.

The 75% chocolate from Tobago has a really nice dark, luxurious colour and a wonderful smell.  It is bitter, and tastes like what bitter chocolate should taste like.  It's also thick on the tongue and difficult to melt away and swallow.  But very good. I don't believe there is vanilla in this chocolate either.

The 80% Tembaroro is from a plantation in Trinidad.  It also has a nice smell and is definitely the most bitter (well, duh, it's % is different). There is nothing distinctive about this chocolate compared to the one before it - which may be due to the closeness of Trinidad to Tobago.

Now that I've tasted them all, I realize that I can't really taste any distinct flavour profile differences in these chocolates, which is strange considering that they are supposed to all be made of beans sourced from different countries.  They taste very much like the same chocolate, only more bitter with each % difference. I think I better try this again to really see.

I have laid them all out side by side.  Other than the 60%, the others all smell like the same chocolate, only less sweet as they go up in percentage of cocoa solids.  The 60% is also the only one that looks different - it has a milky chocolate look to it, and in fact, melts in the mouth in such a way that it is possible there is milk products and flavour.   Mmmm...it's very good!

I have now tasted two of each piece and gone back and forth between the different %s and really can't taste a difference between each region that the chocolate is supposed to be from.  Usually I can taste distinct differences.  Either it's my taste buds today, or they are using the same cocoa beans for each chocolate and just varying the sugar content. Alternately, their production process and combination of sugar and cocoa butter is masking the specific flavours in the cacao beans - if that is even possible when the beans come from a single plantation.

I have sampled the milk chocolate, and have noticed that they are melt-in-your-mouth fantastic.
There is a definite colour difference between each of the milk chocolates as the cocoa solids percentage increases.  And like the dark chocolates of the same brand, I haven't noticed any distinct regional flavour profiles between the milk chocolates.

Here are the milk chocolates that come in this `treasure` box:

35% Nouméa  - a plantation in Papua-New Guinea
39% Madanga - a plantation in Madagascar
43% Puerto Cabello - comes from the Barlovento region in Venezuela
47% Guácimo  - a plantation in Costa Rica

I love the 43% and 47% ! I like darker milk chocolates because I feel they have a stronger flavour overall and I guess because I prefer dark chocolate in general, so it is only natural that I like the darker milk chocolates.

Overall, the milk chocolates are creamy and leave your mouth watering for more. So does the 60% El Cuador plain dark chocolate.  If you check their web site, it looks like they have a nice variety of formats of the 60% chocolate, from portion controlled sizes to larger ones.  I highly recommend this chocolate.

The treasure box would be great for a tasting party.  But be sure to include two or three other single origin/plantation chocolates from different brands to really see what flavour differences can be identified between single origin chocolates.  A few Cachet bars or Valrhona would be good ones to try.

All that said, I do recommend this chocolate to people who like portion control - you can just through a few of the individually wrapped pieces into your bag each day for an afternoon-pick-me-up at work.  It is also great for those who like to have a variety of milk and dark chocolate on hand.  For instance, if you really love milk chocolate and your spouse or someone in your family loves dark chocolate (or vice versa), then this is a great box to keep at your house. It is also a great way to introduce yourself to tasting chocolate with different percentages of cocoa solids by giving you the opportunity to taste several at one time.

However, if you are looking to taste chocolate with interesting and different regional flavour profiles of the cocoa bean itself, this is not the box for you.

That's it for today.  I've eaten so much chocolate this evening, I only hope I can sleep tonight! This is why tastings should be in the day time...

Here are the stats on the company that makes the Chocolate Treasure box:

Chocolate Treasures, 8 varieties, 150 pieces (1000 grams) by Rausch Schokoladen GmbH
Berlin, Germany
http://www.rausch-schokolade.com/
Plantagen® Schokolade
Marketing on website: "...a full aroma and still is amazingly mild; every single variety is carefully balanced to bring out the character of its cocoa. For each variety we use only fine flavoured cocoa from one single cocoa plantation."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Raspberries and dark chocolate - the best flavour combination! Godiva, Theobroma and Cocoa Camino have gotten it right...

I'm very excited about the chocolate bars that I am going to taste today.  Raspberries and dark chocolate...Mmmmmmmmm.  My business product line includes quite a few raspberry/dark chocolate desserts because I like it so much, and so do my customers (I can't keep raspberry and dark chocolate tarts in stock!).

I am tasting two raspberry/dark chocolate bars today that are both manufactured by Canadian companies and are certified organic: Theobroma Raspberry Chunks (60% cocoa) 35 gram bar and Cocoa Camino's new Raspberries Dark Chocolate (65% cocoa) 100 gram bar.  They are very similar bars, with the differences being the Theobroma bar is one-third the size of the Cocoa Camino bar and itv is not fair trade, as like the Cocoa Camino's chocolate bar.  I am also going to be tasting Godiva Chocolatier Dark Chocolate filled with Raspberry 43 gram bar today, just to see how it compares to the two organic bars.

When I conduct a chocolate tasting session, I love to introduce people to raspberry-flavoured chocolate. Everyone is always amazed at how real raspberries and chocolate taste so much better than chocolate with artificial raspberry flavouring.  What makes a difference in identifying real raspberries versus flavouring are the seeds.  You will instantly know that real raspberries were used in the chocolate if you are left chewing seeds once the chocolate has melted.  That is the case with both the Theobroma bar and the Cocoa Camino bar.  Sure, the seeds may bother your teeth, but at least you know that the stuff you are eating is real!

So now to my tasting of the first two bars at hand.  Initially, when I tasted them against each other this morning, I didn't like the Cocoa Camino bar in comparison to the Theobroma bar. I think that is because the Theobroma bar is sweeter at 60% cocoa solids, instead of 65%, which the Cocoa Camino bar has. So I decided that, to be fair, I would wait several hours to re-taste the Cocoa Camino bar on it's own. And now I LOVE it!  It is a little bitter and tastes nearly like a 70% dark bar, but the real chunks of raspberries are a nice fit with the chocolate they have used.  The bitterness of the chocolate suits the bitterness (sourness?) of the unsweetened raspberries very well.  Although it is not real smooth chocolate, it is very tasty.  It has real ground vanilla beans and it also has no soy lecithin for those who need to stay away from soy.

So if you like the bitterness of a 70% dark chocolate, and want a simple addition of some raspberries to your chocolate, then the recently launched Cocoa Camino Raspberries bar is a great choice for you.

Now if you like your dark chocolate a little sweeter, then the Theobroma bar is for you.  It is also not very smooth because it has chunks of freeze-dried raspberries and their seeds in it, but the raspberry flavour bursts into your mouth as you eat it. I know a lot of people who are addicted to this particular chocolate bar and believe it is the best of the Theobroma line.  I am in agreement of that.  I like all the Theobroma 35 gram bars (partially because of their flavour choices and partially because of their portion-controlled size), but the Theobroma Raspberry Chinks bar is the one I buy the most.

If you like your chocolate and raspberries really, really sweet and don't care much about organic or fair trade, then go for a Godiva Dark Chocolate filled with Raspberry 43 gram bar.  If you have never tried this chocolate bar, but you like this flavour combination, then it is time you pull out your wallet and indulge.  It is expensive (around $3.99 Canadian) but so worth it.  This chocolate bar used to be my basis point for comparing all raspberry chocolate bars.  I thought nothing could ever match it.  Until I tried the Theobroma bar, and now I have two basis points.  I compare all bars with raspberry filling to the Godiva bar, and all other bars with raspberry pieces to the Theobroma bar.

The issues I have with Godiva though are this:
-there is high fructose corn syrup in the bar (not good for our health!)
-the dark chocolate is very sweet (which you may like, but I prefer it a bit darker)
-there are additional ingredients that I don't think are necessary (i.e. butter oil, sodium benzoate, etc.)
-the price is very high
-it is not organic or fair trade
-there is no mention of the type of cocoa beans used or % of cocoa solids in the chocolate

However, I do recommend this bar because Godiva has used real raspberries to flavour it, and the combination of raspberry filling and chocolate match so well that it creates a wonderful flavour explosion for your taste buds.  It is the type of bar that you should open in your car after a long day of shopping or working. Just before you start your cars engine, take a moment to sit back, close your eyes and pop a piece into your mouth. As you let it melt, chew a little and start to taste the flavours, and you will instantly feel the energy coming back into your body. 

That's it for today - I've eaten all the chocolate any one person should in a day!

I bought the Theobroma and Cocoa Camino bars at Loco Beanz Coffee House in Little Current, Ontario (Manitoulin Island) and I bought the Godiva bar at Chapters book store in Sudbury, Ontario - they are available at all Chapters stores in Ontario from what I can tell. If you want to find these chocolates in your region, here is the information on all three chocolate bars that I tasted today:

Theobroma chocolat Raspberry Chunks, Organic with 60% cacao, 35 g
Vigneault Chocolatier Ltee, Quebec, Canada
http://www.theobromachocolat.com/
Ingredients: cocoa mass*, sugar cane*, cocoa butter*, raspberry*, soy lecithin.  Allergens: contains soybean and may contain nuts and dairy products. *organic (certified organic by Ecocert Canada)

Cocoa Camino Raspberries Dark Chocolate, 65% cacao, 100 g (3.5 oz)
La Siembra Co-Operative, Ottawa, Canada
http://www.tasteofcamino.com/
Organic Ingredients: cocoa mass*, golden cane sugar*, cacao butter*, whole cane sugar*, raspberries, ground vanilla beans*. *Fair Trade certified. Minimum 65% cacao.  May contain traces of nuts, peanuts, soy and dairy products. Chocolate made in Switzerland.

Godiva Chocolatier Dark Chocolate filled with Raspberry, 43 g (1.5 oz)
Godiva Chocolatier, Inc. New York, NY USA
http://www.godiva.com/
Ingredients: bittersweet chocolate (chocolate liquor (processed with alkali) sugar, cocoa butter, butter oil, soy lecithin (emulsifier), natural flavor, milk), raspberries, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, natural flavoring, raspberry juice, citric acid, sodium benzoate (to protect flavor), invertase, pectinase. May contain tree nuts. Manufactured on equipment that also processes peanuts and wheat.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bitter bitter chocolate....how dark will you go?

I have been contemplating the concept of dark chocolate this morning and now I have a few questions for the God of All Chocolate - if he or she exists out there somewhere. 

How dark should dark chocolate be?  Is 60% dark enough?  Or is 70% considered the standard dark chocolate (it seems like it since, these days, most manufacturers of 100 gram chocolate bars include a 70% dark bar in thier product line).  And as a connoisseur, is it expected that I like chocolate that is darker than 80 or 85%?  I hope not, because I'm not all that excited about chocolate with 90% or more cocoa solids.  Yikes.  If you've ever tried to sneak some chocolate as a child and threw a big piece of your mother's unsweetened baking chocolate into your mouth, you'll understand why I am not so excited about the prospect of eating nearly sugarless chocolate.

So I have decided that I am going to tackle my fear of nearly-unsweetened dark chocolate today and try to answer at least some of the questions above. 

I have always looked at the Lindt Excellence 99% chocolate bar and thought "who buys that?".  I went through a phase where I considered buying it, just to see, but I would always put it back on the shelf just before I got to the cash register.  However, I was in Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory just to check the place out, and saw at 91% cocoa bar called the Nocturne World Blend bar in a 56 gram size.  So I thought, why not? Ninety-one percent has to taste better than 99%. 

I have discovered, after eating no sugar this morning and having waited the approproate amount of time after eating to taste chocolate, that I can palate 91%.  Or at least this bar - I have no others to compare it to at the moment.  I can taste the vanilla beans immediately.  The chocolate doesn't seem to have any strong flavours either way and perhaps that is because it is a "world blend" so the blend is masking the individual flavours.  Also, it is very bitter, but the vanilla and the smoothness of the chocolate seems to be making it palatable. 

I'm not sure how often I could eat this, or if there is any craving at any time of the day that this will satisfy for me, but I have discovered that it is not as bad as I thought.  I may now be ready to move onto the Lindt bar. 

So how does all that answer my questions to the God of All Chocolate?  Well, I have realized today that, as a chocolate connoisseur, I don't have to like extra bitter chocolate over 80 or 90%, but I should be able to taste it and review it criticially.  And I should be able to understand its composition and what makes a good extra bitter chocolate bar.  And as long as I remain curious, I will keep trying extra bitter chocolate over 80% until I find the ones I do like - like the Rocky Mountain 91% Nocturne bar I tasted today.
And as for my question: How dark should dark chocolate be?  Well, I think it can be anything you want it to be.  I think anything over with 45% cocoa solids qualifies, but if you want the good stuff, my recommendation is to stick to something between 54 % and 75%. But if you're definition of 'dark chocolate' is something different, then that's fine too.

If any of you have any suggestions for good, high quality bars with over 80% and 90% cocoa solids, please let me know by commenting below! If you suggest it, I will try it.


Here are the stats on the bar I tried today:
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, 91% cocoa solids, 56 grams
Burnaby, BC Canada http://www.rockychoc.com/
Ingredients: Cacao Beans, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin, vanilla beans.  May contain traces of peanuts, nuts, eggs, milk and sulfites.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lindt Excellence brings us new fruity flavours!

Lindt has recently introduced two new flavours to it's Lindt Excellence line of 100 gram chocolate bars. I was travelling a little while back and saw them and just had to have them: Intense Blueberry Dark (dark chocolate with pieces of blueberries and almond slivers) and Intense Pear (dark chocolate with pieces of pear and almond slivers). I know that Lindt is a very commercial brand, and it's not very "connoisseur" of me to be tasting Lindt bars, but let's face it, Lindt is the most accessible chocolate with a quality standard, and so it is an excellent comparison point for other chocolate bars.

I've started with the Intense Blueberry and there is a little bloom on its surface, so perhaps it was in the sun at the store I was at.  I've tried to store these chocolates correctly since I bought them a few months ago. The taste doesn't seem to be affected though. 

I have to say, it is intensely full of flavour. The first piece kind of shocked me, and not in a good way, but it has grown on me with each piece I've eaten.  I am not a fan of artificial flavour, which is why I was turned off so immediately, but the sweetness and other flavours (pineapple and apple) are working their magic on me. 

In looking at the ingredients list, I am surprised to see some ingredients that I haven`t seen before, particularly "vegetable anthocyane".  I've Googled it and, from what I can tell, it is "...a group of FLAVONOIDS derived from flavonols...they are glycosylated versions of cyanidin, pelargonidin or delphinidin. (WHAT?) The conjugated bonds result in blue, red, and purple colors in flowers of plants." (reference: http://www.lookfordiagnosis.com/mesh_info.php?term=Anthocyane&lang=4)  Does that help or confuse you?  From the sounds of this, they are good for us, since flavonols are cancer-fighting.  Technically, blueberries and chocolate are supposed to contain flavonols, so I'm not sure why Lindt has added this ingredient to their bar, or why they don't write "high in flavonols" on their package to add marketing value.  Perhaps I have misunderstood the concept of 'anthocyane'. 

Overall, if you like sweet, flavourful and very fruity chocolate with a smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture, then this Lindt Intense Blueberry bar is for you.  You have to also like artificial flavouring too though. 

Next up: Intense Pear. The smell is like a chocolate covered maraschino cherry or a chocolate covered fruit liquor.  So what's with the apple and pineapple added to these bars - are pear and blueberry not enough to create an "intense" favour?  I think I would just prefer a straight up blueberry bar and a pear bar, with no added apple and pineapple. I'm sure there was a lot of market analysis, and product testing, and this is the best flavour profile they could come up with for the widest audience possible, but it just isn't for me.  I like to taste the distinct chocolate flavour and the distinct fruit flavour, not all blended up and masked by fruitiness and artificial flavours.

What I do like about both bars is the little crunchy almond bits. It's a nice element among the smooth texture of the chocolate.

Lindt, I still love you and your chocolate, but it's time to stop using artificial flavouring and use only the real stuff!

Lindt Excellence Intense Blueberry Dark, 47% minimum, 100 g
Manufactured by: Lindt & Sprungli SAS (France), www.lindt.com
Ingredients: sugar, cocoa mass, almonds, cocoa butter, butter fat, blueberry, apple, pineapple, soya lecithin, natural and artificial flavour, calcium orthophosphate, sodium alginate, citric acid, vegetable anthocyane. May contain traces of peanuts and hazelnuts.

Lindt Excellence Intense Pear Dark, 47% minimum, 100 g
Manufactured by: Lindt & Sprungli SAS (France), www.lindt.com
Ingredients: sugar, cocoa mass, almonds, cocoa butter, butter fat, pear, apple, pineapple, natural flavour, soya lecithin, sodium alginate, citric acid, calcium orthophosphate, artificial flavour. May contain traces of of peanuts and hazelnuts.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Leclerc 70% - celebration or vanillabration?

I've been very busy this week and haven't had much time for "proper" chocolate tastings. However, I haven't stopped eating chocolate!  I've been snacking all week on a chocolate bar that I bought in Quebec a few months back: Leclerc Celebration 70% cocoa Dark Chocolate bar (100 g). 

Leclerc has designed this packaging in a very long format in order to stand out, so although you might think you are getting a larger bar than the average 100 gram chocolate bar, it just has thinner pieces.

Immediately I could smell the strong vanilla flavour before tasting it. And that vanilla comes through so much in the taste, that it is overwhelming the chocolate flavour.  This leads me to believe the beans are inferior, so they have masked the chocolate flavour with too much vanilla.  However, the chocolate is smooth, melts nicely and is likely great for the average North American taste for dark chocolate (i.e. sweet dark chocolate).  The vanilla and milk ingredients make it seem much sweeter than most 70% bars, so it almost seems like it has only 60% cocoa solids and more sugar. I am happy with Leclerc for using real vanilla extract, rather than artificial flavouring.

Overall, this bar is okay - I'd share it with people who are not used to bitter dark chocolate or chocolate with strong regional flavours. It is also in a great price range for the average chocolate taster (i.e. less than $3) and is available at pharmacies in Quebec.  To find it elsewhere, check the Leclerc website at: www.leclerc.ca.

Tomorrow will be a Fun Friday tasting day! It's time to try some funky flavours...

Here are the stats on the bar I have been tasting this week:

Leclerc Celebration 70% cocoa Dark Chocolate bar (100 g)
Biscuits Leclerc Ltd.,
St-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Quebec, Canada
Ingredients:  chocolate liquor, sugar, milk ingredients, soya lecitin, vanilla extract. This product may contain wheat.
http://www.leclerc.ca/en/products.php?cat=chocolate_bars&type=celebration&id_product=78

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rogers` Chocolates - too sweet or too good?

It is very rare that I buy chocolate bars made by Rogers' Chocolates, a chocolate manufacturer from British Columbia.  My perception to this point has been that they produce costly, yet cheap quality chocolate.  Or rather, overly sweet and processed chocolate that costs a lot.  However, I am learning that my perception is flawed. On a recent trip, I found a Rogers' bar at a boutique store that is certified Organic and natural, right down to the organic soy lecithin. It's called the 'Chai Tea High Tea Chocolate Bar' and it is made with organic dark chocolate and "silk road" organic tea.  The chai tea flavour is very strong.  The 70% chocolate isn't overly bitter, so it's sweetness offsets the bitterness of the tea.  Together they seem to be the perfect combination.  I don't like to drink chai tea, but now I like to eat it!  Strange, huh?  I have a friend who hates to drink coffee but loves coffee-flavoured desserts.  I guess everybody has their own little quirks.

The only down side of this bar is the cost; 50 grams cost me $4.29.


I also have a Rogers Chocolates` 'Dark Chocolate Truffle In Dark Chocolate' bar to taste today.  It is 75 grams (2.6 oz) and has 54% cocoa solids.  I normally do not buy off-the-shelf `truffe bars` because they usually have a lot of additives and terrible ingredients in them, like hydrogenated oils, but the ingredients in this bar included real cream and overall didn`t look too bad.

Upon tasting the bar (tasting - ha! - I`m already three-quarters of the way through!), I realize why I had the perception that Rogers`makes overly sweet dark chocolate.  Sure, they have used 70% dark chocolate to make the truffle centre, but the
chocolate shell is so super-sweet that it hardly seems like `dark` chocolate. I`ve tasted other 54% dark chocolate before that does not taste as sweet as this.  Another downside of this bar is the ratio between the chocolate shell and the truffle centre.  The shell is just too thick.  The focal point of any `truffle` bar should be the truffle.  Unfortunately in this bar, there is less truffle than chocolate shell.

But all that said, I have eaten a whole lot of the Rogers` truffle bar and had to stop myself from finishing it, there must be something good about it!

Well, I`m done my 'official' tastings for the day, although that doesn`t mean I`m finished eating chocolate today.  I hope it`s the same for you!

Here are the stats on the two bars I tasted today:

Chai Tea High Tea Chocolate Bar by Rogers` Chocolates, 75 g (2.6 oz)
Rogers' Chocolates LTD. Victoria, BC Canada
http://www.rogerschocolates.com/
Ingredients: 70% Dark Chocolate (organic chocolate liquor, organic evaporated cane juice, organic cocoa butter, organic soy lecithin), organic chai tea essence (black tea, cardamom, ginger root, clove spices & essence).

Dark Chocolate TRUFFLE in Dark Chocolate, 54% cocoa, 75 g (2.6 oz)
Rogers` Chocolates LTD. Victoria, BC Canada
http://www.rogerschocolates.com/
Ingredients: Dark Chocolate - 54% (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soya lecithin, vanilla), dark chocolate - 72% (chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, cocoa powder, sugar, soya lecithin, vanilla), whipping cream, invert syrup, glucose-fructose, vanilla, invertase.  May contain traces of nuts, peanuts or milk.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

White Chocolate for a Dark Chocolate Lover - Godiva versus organic

The delivery man just dropped off a 10 kg box of organic and fair trade white chocolate!  Yay!

And since it's cool and crisp (yet sunny and happy) outside, it's a great day to taste some white chocolate. Today I am tasting Cocoa Camino organic white chocolate couverture and a Godiva solid white chocolate bar.

So I am not traditionally a white chocolate lover.  At times, the smell of it makes me want to gag.  However, since I have been introduced to good quality white chocolate, I find myself craving it on occasion and am excited to introduce other people to the creamy, cocoa buttery stuff too - provided that it is high quality.

I went to a "chocolate tasting" a few weeks ago, which was organized by people who are not chocolate coinnoiseurs.  The person leading the session presented the chocolate with a lot of bravado, but did not offer a whole lot of information about chocolate.  And he made one enormous error.  He told the attendees that white chocolate is not really chocolate and is just candy.  I wanted to speak up and insert my opposing opinion, but didn't want to be one of those annoying-know-it-all audience members, so I said nothing.

Well, I am saying something now.  The white chocolate that is NOT real chocolate is commercial, grocery store white chocolate and "moulding" chocolate, which often have oils in them, lot's of sugar and lot's of sickening smelling artificial flavouring that is supposed to represent vanilla.  Good quality white chocolate has real cocoa butter in it, real vanilla and is a delight to eat.  Just go and buy a bag of Chipits white chocolate chips and then purchase a good quality organic white chocolate bar (like Green & Blacks) and have a little tasting of them both and you will instantly see what I am talking about.  Real white chocolate has real cocoa butter, real vanilla and is not overpowered by sugar.  Therefore it is real chocolate because a good portion of it is actually made from the cocoa bean. So there to the man who said, so generally, that white chocolate is not chocolate!

All that said, I am now on the fence about the Godiva white chocolate bar that I have been tasting while I've been ranting to you.  It claims to be "solid white chocolate", but once on your tongue melts very quickly.  So quickly, in fact, that I could instantly tell that some sort of oil was added to make the chocolate smoother (like a dense truffle). The ingredients list has proved me correct.  There is butteroil added to this Godiva bar, along with milk and skim milk.   The vanilla is natural, but these additives make their statement "solid white chocolate" not so true.  Technically, yes, it is a solid bar without filling, but it could also be labelled as a "truffle bar".  The overall taste is good, but the buttery flavour of the butteroil is overpowering the cocoa butter and even the vanilla flavour.

The Cocoa Camino organic white chocolate couverture is refreshing, has a bit of a crispness to it (it's cool in here so the chocolate is hard) and a has lovely sweet aftertaste.  It feels crisp and cool on the tongue with a mellow and sunny glow of real flavours  - a perfect chocolate for this type of mild, sunny and crisp November day.

Clearly, in this tasting we can see that the commerical bar (Godiva) is designed for the commercial taste buds - with additives to appeal to a wider audience.  The couverture chocolate is designed for creating quality chocolate bars and confections without additives so the taster can truly taste the cocoa butter and focus on the smoothness of the chocolate.

If you want to take your white chocolate tasting a step further, try the Venezuelan single bean origin white chocolate bar made by El Rey (http://www.chocolateselrey.com/).  I've tasted it in the past and have kept the wrapper all this time because I enjoyed it so much.  It was a crisper, harder bar, but very tasty. 

Here are the stats on the two bars tasted today:

Cocoa Camino Organic Couverture White, 10 kg boxes in drop form
La Siembra Co-Operative, Ottawa, ON Canada
http://www.cocoacamino.com/
Ingredients:  cocoa butter*, SYRAMENA(r) raw cane sugar*, whole milk powder*.
*organic.

Godiva Chocolatier Solid White Chocolate, 43 grams (1.5 oz)
Godiva Chocolatier, Inc. New York, NY USA
http://www.godiva.com/
Ingredients: sugar, cocoa butter, milk, skim milk, butteroil, soy lecithin, tocopherols, vanilla. May contain tree nuts.  Manufactured on equipment that also processes peanuts and wheat.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Changing Tastes of Chocolate

It's funny how one chocolate bar can taste so different each time you taste it.  It all depends on what you have - or haven't - been eating or drinking.

For instance, I was craving chocolate (nothing new there) and I needed to use up some of the opened chocolate from the past week, so I went back to the Cachet Costa Rica 71% bar that I tasted last week.  I hadn't eaten in over an hour, but had just started sipping a glass of warm milk. So when I tasted the bar, it tasted like a sweet, dark chocolate bar with a nice flavour kick.

Still being hungry (I ate a small lunch), I decided to warm up some ricotta-gnocchi leftovers (admittedly a strange thing to eat in the middle of a chocolate craving). After I finished eating, I went back to eating the Costa Rica bar. Wham!  I was hit with bitter chocolate flavour full of coffee and smoke! But my milk was still warm so I snuggled up, sipped at the milk and went back to my chocolate. Suddenly, the chocolate changed again and became sweeter.  That's what I love about chocolate, it changes with our foods and suits our moods.

I have read the book "The Chocolate Coinnoisseur" by Chloe Doutre-Roussel, who tastes up to one pound of chocolate a day and who has one of the most refined palates for chocolate tasting in the world. The author says that, in order to properly taste chocolate, you need to wait a few hours after eating anything so your palate is clear. In fact, she prefers to taste chocolate in the morning before breakfast because that is when her palate is clear and at its best.  However, I am always pondering this.  Does she brush her teeth first?  If so, her mouth is full of toothpaste and her palate isn't clear.  If she doesn't brush her teeth first, wouldn't morning breath be a factor in her tastings?  I can't eat anything until I've brushed my teeth - I am grossed out by the idea of swallowing all that morning breath.  Maybe I'm weird. Maybe she's weird.  She eats one pound of chocolate before breakfast!  And I eat almost that much post-breakfast to bedtime. Maybe we are both weird. Or maybe, we are just addicted to chocolate.

I will try some new and fun chocolate tomorrow.  Have a great tasting day everyone! 

For details on the Costa Rica 71% chocolate bar, see blog posted Nov. 3/10 at http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/costa-rican-versus-peruvian-chocolate.html.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Venezuela versus Tanzania Couverture - fruity versus woodsy

As promised, I am back to some proper tastings today.  I am making chocolate products for Christmas and am planning to sell single origin chocolate truffles this year.  I've just received a shipment of Cocao Barry's "Origine rare" line of couverture products and today I am working with the Venezuela 72% (with 41.8 % min. fat) and the Tanzania 75% cacao (with 45.4% min. fat).  The idea behind couverture, for those who don't know, is that it is supposed to have a higher cocao butter content to provide a nice shine to the chocolatier's finished chocolate products and a smooth, creamy flavour.  I love working with couverture as it is always creamier than your average chocolate and although sinful to simply eat handfuls of, it is tasty.

Immediately upon opening the 1 kg packages, the Tanzania has a lovely smell of soft sweet vanilla combined with smokiness and spice. On the other hand, the Venezuela has a terrible smell.  It smells like fruit, including dried apricots and spice and vanilla and Play-doh all mixed into one.  I had high expectations today for the Venezuela, because in most tastings that I've done with other Venezeulan chocolate bars, people always seem to prefer it.  Perhaps the taste will be better than the smell!


The flavour is actually better than the smell.  Sometimes the smell can lead you down the wrong track, so watch that you don't reject a chocolate based on smell alone.  Aromas don't always produce themselves in the taste.  The Venezuela is very bitter, a little creamy but a little gritty on the tongue at the same time.
Instantly when I taste the Tanzania chocolate, I like it better.  It is creamier (well, I guess so  with  45.4% fat!) and has a real strong spicy flavour.  I personally have grown to like bitter chocolate with strong smoky, woodsy flavours.


Upon second tasting of the Venezuela, it now tastes sweeter in comparison to the Tanzania with the initial bitterness practically disappearing, although it is still less smooth and creamy than the Tanzania. That strong dried fruit smell is now coming through in the flavour, along with vanilla. 


Going back to the Tanzania for a final tasting, its spicy flavour is even stronger and its bitterness more apparent.


Although it may seem a bit confusing above, I find it is good to go back and forth among two chocolates in order to really taste the flavours of each.  Just tasting each chocolate once, and then not returning to them again and again within the same tasting session can cause missed opportunities to taste something new that you didn't taste the first time. It enables a true comparison. Just remember to drink some warm water between each chocolate, and do not take a long break between each type or you will lose your basis for comparison.


I have gone back and forth between these two origin chocolates several times now and realize that I personally prefer the Tanzania.  However, I could see how others, who prefer a sweeter (fruitier) flavour, might choose the Venezuelan.


I will put a picture up of my finished tasting squares and truffles in the coming weeks, in case anyone is interested.  I am curious to see how these flavours translate when cream is added to each.


Here are the stats on these two chocolates:
Cacao Barry Dark Chocolate Couverture Tanzanie Origine rare, 75% cacao, 1 kg package (2.2 lbs)
Ingredients: Unsweetened chocolate (origin Tanzania), sugar, cocoa butter, natural vanilla.  May contain milk. "...a subtle mixture of Forastero and Criollo" beans. (quoted from Cacao Barry package)
Barry Callebaut Manufacturing France www.cacaobarry.com


Cacao Barry Dark Chocolate Couverture Venezuela Origine rare, 72%, 1 kg package (2.2 lbs)
Ingredients: Cocoa mass (origin Venezuela), sugar, cocoa butter, natural vanilla flavour.  May contain milk. A blend of "...highly aromatic Criollo with Trinitario from the famous Venezuelan regions of Carenero Superior and Rio Caribe." (quoted from Cacao Barry package)
Barry Callebaut Manufacturing France www.cacaobarry.com

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ho Hum...more of the hot stuff

I'm sorry to say that I don't have much of anything new to talk about today, except that I've made myself (and a few friends) more hot chocolate. The difference today is that I made it entirely from scratch.  Also, this batch of hot chocolate is a little richer than the stuff I made yesterday because I made it entirely with whole milk and threw in some milk chocolate, along with a little semi-sweet.  I used a combination of President's Choice Milk Chocolate Bar, Cocoa Camino 56% dark couverture and Cocoa Camino ogranic and fair trade cocoa powder. See below for the recipe - it was sweet and delicious and I think everyone who tried it today liked it.

Since I write about Cocoa Camino so often (because I use their products in my chocolate & pastries), I will instead focus on the President's Choice Milk Chocolate bar that I used.  It is 300 grams in size, which is great for the home-baker who wants to use real chocolate for baking, since the ingredients are good quality and natural.  It is also interesting because this particular brand of bars uses "canola lecithin", making it very unique, since most other chocolate bars have "soy lecithin" as the emulsifier to blend and stabilize the chocolate. I am not sure why the makers of the President's Choice brand have chosen to use canola lecithin over soy lecithin, but since it is a "non-allergenic lecithin", it is great for people who can't have, or prefer not to consume products containing soy. Life must be difficult for those who are allergic to soy or traces of soy, since soy lecithin is in most chocolate (except Cocoa Camino & several President's Choice 300 gram bars)! I can't imagine my life without chocolate!

Tomorrow I promise to get back to more serious tastings.  I will not mention now that I also ate half a Wonderbar and half a Bounty bar today (every serious chocolate connoisseur needs a day off now and then to satisfy their cravings for sweet, cheap chocolate candy!).

So here are the stats on the PC Milk Chocolate Bar:

President's Choice Milk Chocolate Bar, 300 grams
Product of France.
Loblaws Inc., Montreal/Toronto/Calgary CANADA
www.presidentschoice.ca
Ingredients: sugar, milk powder, cocoa butter, unsweetened chocolate, canola lecithin, natural vanilla flavour. May contain traces of wheat, egg, soy, peanuts and/or other nuts.

Recipe:
6 cups of whole milk
1/4 to half cup of cocoa powder (to colour and taste)
6 tablespoons of sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
2 to 3 tablespoons of honey
1/4 PC 300 gram Milk Chocolate Bar
1 to 2 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate

Top with marshmallows or whip cream for a richer treat!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lazy November Saturdays call for a "Double Double" Hot Chocolate

What is a "Double Double" hot chocolate, you ask?  If I tell you, you may never be the same again. Are you ready?  Here is the recipe for heaven in a mug:

Lisabeth's "Double Double" Hot Chocolate
1. Whip up two cups of 35% whipping cream.
2. Once cream is whipped (until stiff), stir in a packet of organic hot cocoa mix (sweetened) for a sweet cocoa whip cream
3. Heat a cup of milk to near-boiling point (I use skim milk, but 1% or 2% works too!)
4. Add a packet (or a few tablespoons) of organic dark hot chocolate mix to mug along with one or two ounces of extra bitter (70%) dark chocolate and stir (it's okay if the chocolate doesn't completely melt, it's nice to savour the melty chocolate on the bottom of the cup after you've drank your hot chocolate)
5. Top with a quarter to half cup of the hot chocolate whip cream.

WARNING:  You WILL feel dizzy, sleepy and slightly disoriented if you drink this too quickly, as I have just done. But in the end, you will be happier for it!

Here is what I used for my hot chocolate:
-Cocoa Camino Bitter 70% Dark Chocolate Couverture Drops - organic and fair trade(http://www.lasiembra.com/camino/en/professional-industrial-lines/bittersweet-chocolate-couverture-european)
-Cocoa Camino Organic Dark Hot Chocolate (28 grams) instant packet - organic and fair trade (http://www.lasiembra.com/camino/en/hot-chocolate/dark)
-35% whipping cream

The Cocoa Camino hot chocolate line is by far my favourite hot chocolate.  The ingredients are natural, minimal, organic and fair trade.  Also, their couverture chocolate has no soy lecithin, no vanilla and just has three ingredients: cocoa liquor, sugar, cocoa butter.

Well, I am warm and cozy now, the initial dizziness has gone away and I am happily enjoying the spike in my blood sugar and the little bit of caffeine from the chocolate.  Have a great Saturday everyone.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Peruvian Chocolate - Baking Chips or Tasting Bars?

Sometimes I have too much leftover chocolate in the house that needs to be finished.  And since I am the only person in my household who likes bitter chocolate, I often have many half bars left around the house that need to be finished.  It’s strange to hand out half of a bar to friends and acquaintances, so I have to find a way to finish the bars myself (oh darn), while satisfying my need to taste something new on a regular basis, even if “new” just means comparing one previously tasted chocolate to one that I haven’t compared it to before.
So in order to use up some opened packages, today I am re-tasting the Cachet Limited Origin Selection Peru 64% bar that I tasted on Wednesday, and comparing it to another chocolate sourced from Peru: the Cuisine Camino semi-sweet baking chips.
I have a lot of the Cuisine Camino Baking chips on hand on a regular basis for the cake-making side of my business, and I have had the privilege of tasting them often.  However, I have not had a chance yet to compare it to other Peruvian chocolate. So this is new for me. 
I have always thought there was a very strong smell in the Cuisine Camino baking chips, and a very strong flavour too.  And although there is a hint of fruit bouquet in the baking chips, it definitely has a strong organic smell and taste.  (To clarify, when I say that something tastes or smells organic, I mean all of the following: earthy, woody, slightly smoky, the smell of soil and of stepping into a thick forest.)  
In addition to the strong “organic” flavour, the chocolate baking chips also have a flavour that I can only describe as "automobile", or exhaust fumes.  It’s not a bad flavour and aroma, it just seems to be mildly present.  So perhaps the processing plant is in a very industrial area, or the cocoa trees are next to a major autoroute?  I’ve done a little research and Cuisine Camino’s baking chocolate seems to come from Cacvra, a coffee and cacao bean co-op in the Apurimac Valley of Peru – a co-op of 3,700 family cocoa bean farmers. Based on the images online, it does not look like an industrial area, but with all the trucks coming and going for coffee and cacao beans, it’s possible the flavour has been affected.  However, I would recommend Cuisine Camino baking chips despite the mild flavour industrial, because they are tasty and I seem to be the only one I know who can taste that added flavour (I’ve asked carpet installers, plumbers, inlaws, friends and basically anyone who has been in my home recently to taste the Cuisine Camino Peruvian chocolate and they have all liked it and preferred it over the other choices I’ve given them!). Plus, Cuisine Camino uses no soy lecithin, no artificial flavours, and they are certified organic and fair trade.  The chips also hold their shape well when baking with them.
If you want to just snack on a bar of this stuff, you can now buy the Cuisine Camino Peruvian baking bar – the chocolate tastes the same to me and has the same aromas.  It comes in a 200 gram format and can be found at grocery and other stores across Canada and from some online retailers (check: http://www.lasiembra.com/camino/en/cuisine-camino/semi-sweet-baking-chocolate to learn where you can buy it).
The funny thing is, the Cachet bar has that industrial paint smell mixed with fruitiness as well. So perhaps all Peruvian chocolate has a strong industrial smell to it overall?  Or, more likely, these beans are sourced from the same cacao co-operatives in Peru or processed in the same region. 
The Cachet bar has a higher cocoa solids % than the Cocoa Camino (64% versus 50%) so it’s a little difficult to make a flavour comparison because of the sugar content difference which can mask some of the flavours. There is definitely more bitterness, and fruitiness to the Cachet bar though. The best I can say is, if you are like me and can taste/smell a strong industrial flavour in both chocolates, then perhaps you’d prefer to try chocolate from a different origin country.  If you cannot taste that flavour, both chocolates are a great choice to support Fair Trade.
Here are the stats on both types of chocolate tasted today:
Organic Chocolate Chips by Camino by La-Siembra Co-Operative, Ottawa, ON
Ingredients:  Cane sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter,  vanilla extract. 50% minimum cocoa solids. May contain traces of dairy products and soy. Certified organic by QAI. Fair Trade Certified.  www.cocoacamino.com
Cachet Limited Selection Peru, 100 gram bar, 64% cocoa solids
Ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla (nat. flavour). May contain traces of nuts, peanuts, soybeans, eggs, milk and gluten.
Company info and web site: Kim's Chocolates, no web site on package but I found this one: http://www.kimchoc.be/

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Green Chocolate

I am not talking about environmentally friendly chocolate, as my title today suggests.  I am eating chocolate with green leafy things in it - mint and kale to be exact! Sound gross?  Read on...

So the weather has been dreary and colder and it feels like that time of year to add more mint to my diet to give me that warm and fuzzy feeling.  Some people may think of mint as "icy" or "refreshing", but for me mint means winter time and sipping on minty hot chocolates in cozy cafe's. To me, mint also is a whole box of After Eights while lying on the couch with hot milk in December just before Christmas (it's an annual tradition).  So today I thought I'd compare three specialty mint chocolate bars, two of which are organic:

-Green & Blacks Organic MINT "Dark Chocolate with a soft mint centre", 70% cocoa solids in shell
-Dolfin The Art of Blending "Dark Chocolate with Mint Leaves", 52% cocoa solids
-Cocoa Camino Organic MINT, 67% cocoa solids

So here is the low-down.  If you want a good organic one, I like the Cocoa Camino bar best over the G&B's bar.  It is mintier and has little crunchy peppermint crisps in it.  That doesn't mean that I don't like the Green & Blacks, but the centre is clear gooey sugar (organic glucose syrup) and it just a bit weird for me.  HOWEVER, I've eaten half the 100 gram G&B mint bar, so it must not be so bad! But, if you are the type of person who, like me, likes that refreshing mint flavour that you get from an After Eight, but want to change things up, go for the Cocoa Camino bar.


If you prefer the flavour of real mint leaves (which is more like food than dessert to me), then go for the Dolfin.  It's grittier because there are little bits of mint leaves and their stems in it, so it's hard to tell how smooth the chocolate is, but it's a nice bitter treat. 

If it's cold outside and you want to warm up with a home-made extra rich mint hot chocolate, melt down the Cocoa Camino Mint bar. The CC bar is mintier than the other two, it has more chocolate than the G&B's bar so your hot chocolate will be richer, and the peppermint crisps may add that peppermint punch to the drink.

Look at the bottom of this post for the stats on these three bars (e.g. websites, ingredients, etc.).
 

Now onto the other "green" item...

The thing about me is: I will try any and every new chocolate flavour.  So when I was at a chocolate & confections show last weekend, I bought a bag of Chocolate Kale, by Blue Mountain Organics in Virginia.  It sounds yucky, and after tasting it just now, well...it is yucky. The first bite was okay, and I liked it initially.  However, after a few pieces the taste became grosser and grosser.  At first I thought this was a really healthy snack, but now I am not sure it is a snack I want to eat!
The good points about the Chocolate Kale is:
-it's raw (raw food is supposed to be better for you with less processing so the nutrients stay within the food)
-it's organic
-it's vegan
-it's kosher
-the other ingredients are healthy

The problem is that the chocolate has been created by the manufacturer from some strange ingredients.  From what I can tell of the ingredients, there is more cocoa butter than cocoa powder, just coconut sugar to sweeten and some vanilla bean for flavour.  So it needs more real chocolate with more sweetness to offset the harsh flavour of the kale.  Don't get me wrong, Kale is exceptionally good for you.  But together with chocolate - I'm just not into it. Plus, there are a few long, hard kale stems in it, which make it seem like I might be chewing on tree twigs.

Here is the info, in case you are interested in trying it, despite my poor review: 

Earth CHIPS Chocolate Kale, 3oz package
Manufacturer: Blue Mountain Organics, Floyd, VA, U.S.A. 
www.earthchips.net
Ingredients: kale, cashews, coconut sugar, coconut flakes, chia seeds, cacao butter, cacao powder, coconut oil, vanilla bean. Non-GMO, vegan, raw and organic.  Produced in a peanut-free, soy-free, and dairy-free facility.

Here are the stats on the above-mentioned mint bars:

Green & Blacks Organic MINT "Dark Chocolate with a soft mint centre", 100 grams, 70% cocoa solids in shell
Ingredients: organic cocoa liquor, organic raw cane sugar, water, fatreduced cocoa powder, organic glucose syrup, prganic invert syrup, organic cocoa butter, organic alcohol, invertase, organic peppermint oil, vanilla extract, organic whole milk powder. 
Made in Italy. Produced by Green & Blacks Ltd. London, England. www.green&blacks.com Organic certification by: IT-QCI.

Dolfin The Art of Blending "Dark Chocolate with Mint Leaves", 70 grams, 52% cocoa solids
Ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, mint leaves, natural vanilla, soya lecithin. This product can contain traces of nuts and milkprotein. Made in Belgium. 
www.dolfin.be

Cocoa Camino Organic MINT, 100 grams, 67% cocoa solids
Ingredients: Cocoa mass, golden cane sugar, cocoa butter, peppermint crisps (cane sugar, peppermint oil), whole cane sugar, ground vanilla beans. Fair Trade certified.  May contain ttaces of nuts, peanuts, soy and dairy products. Certified organic by QAI.  All ingredients organic except "peppermint oil".  La Siembra Co-operative, Ottawa, ON, Canada.  Made in Switzerland.  
www.cocoacamino.com

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Costa Rican versus Peruvian chocolate by Cachet...it's all good!

I find the best way to taste a new chocolate is to compare it to another chocolate in the same category.  You can choose any category that you like.  Perhaps you want to try two different commercial chocolate bars with the same cocoa content (i.e. Lindt Excellence 70% versus Nestle NOIR 70%), or the same brand of bars that are made with cocoa beans from different regions of the world (called "single origin" chocolate), or even two different chocolate bars with a specific flavour (i.e. comparing one brand of blueberry-flavoured chocolate bar to another brand also with blueberry flavouring). It doesn't matter what the category, it's just good to compare what you are tasting to something similar.  That way, you can better understand your feelings about each one.

Today I am tasting and comparing two bars by Cachet, a chocolate brand that is made in Belgium by Kim's Chocolates (http://www.kimchoc.be/cachet/pages/default.asp?langue=3).  It was imported to Toronto, and I purchased four different single origin bars on a trip to Sudbury, Ontario recently. They were at the Bulk Barn of all places and only $2.99 CAD each - which is a great price for single origin chocolate.


So the two I am trying today are: Limited Origin Selection Costa Rica 71% Dark Chocolate versus the Cachet Limited Origin Selection Peru 64% Dark Chocolate.


I have to admit, I already started into the Costa Rica bar because I was writing my blog introduction post, which took longer to write than I thought, and I couldn't wait anymore with fine-smelling chocolate sitting under my nose.  I am an addict and like any addict, resistance is futile when the substance is sitting right in front of me!


So, I've cleansed my palate with some warm water (I like to drink warm water for many reasons, but also because it helps make the chocolate melt faster in my mouth). Now I'm starting to open the Costa Rica package again.  The smell is wonderful - it smells like the rainforest and has that very earthy and organic flavour that many organic dark chocolate bars have. The Peru bar, on the other hand, has a strong smell, but is a little like "paint fumes" mixed with earthy.  It's not a gross paint fume smell, more like a room that has recently been updated with fresh sunny yellow paint on the walls.  There is also a nice smell of natural vanilla. The Costa Rica bar on the other hand has a vanilla smell too, but it is overwhelmed by this fresh earthy smell. 


As for flavour, I can't help but initially taste that paint flavour of the Peru bar.  But, it's not a bad flavour, in fact, once the first bite is out of the way, the flavours open up to a sunny, delicious and sweet chocolate bar.  


Now, in comparison, the Costa Rica bar tastes much more bitter than it initially did, given that I've since tried the sweeter Peru bar. Initially, I loved this bar and could not get enough of it 10 minutes ago.  It's earthy smell does not translate into the flavour as much as you would think, except that it adds a certain harshness that is not in the Peru bar.  It is bitter, but really smooth and luxurious and the vanilla flavour comes through nicely.


"A-plus" for both bars on using natural vanilla.  Perhaps though, less vanilla would let the flavours come through a little more when tasting them.  I also commend Cachet for the following elements:
-making a nice smooth, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate,
-for creating very different flavour profiles from one of the single origin bars to the other (some commercial single origin bars, like Russell Stover`s line, make it harder to tell the difference because of all the flavouring that is added), and
-being environmentally conscious by using 20% renewable energy solar panels to make their chocolate and by having "Rainforest Alliance Certified" cocoa mass and cocoa butter (www.rainforest-alliance.org).

So if you have recently been feeling guilty about your impact on the environment, choose a Cachet Limited Origin Selection bar today! Also, if you prefer bars with no artificial flavours, Cachet is a good choice.


On another day sometime soon, I will try the Cachet Uganda 80% bar or the Madagascar 32% bar. However, tomorrow I will try some fun flavours to change things up a bit.


Thanks for experiencing some new chocolate with me today!


Here are the stats on both bars I tasted today:


Cachet Limited Origin Selection Costa Rica, 100 gram bar, 71% cocoa solids
Ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla (nat. flavour).  May contain traces of nuts, peanuts, soybeans, eggs, milk and gluten.
Marketing on Package: "Rainforest Alliance Certified" and a lot of information on Costa Rican cocoa beans and the smoke and wood flavour (that's what I meant by earthy...really, it is).
Company info and web site: Kim's Chocolates, no web site on package but I found this one: http://www.kimchoc.be/


Cachet Limited Selection Peru, 100 gram bar, 64% cocoa solids
Ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla (nat. flavour). May contain traces of nuts, peanuts, soybeans, eggs, milk and gluten.
Info same as above, except the info on Peru on Package: "An unmistakable hint of fruit with a slightly bitter cocoa taste..." and it mentions that it is a surprising first impression.  That`s what I thought too, but the surprise was more in the paint flavour, but perhaps that was just fruit aroma, whatever.

What is this chocolate blog all about?

So what is this Ultimate Chocolate Blog about anyway?  It's pretty obvious, but let me tell you in my own words.  It's about chocolate. It's about all flavours of chocolate and all forms of chocolate. Although the focus will be on finer chocolate and often on dark chocolate, I will also, at times, write about milk and white chocolate because I have developed a certain level of appreciation and passion for the sweeter stuff over the years.

So who is this blog for?  It's for chocolate-obsessed people like me who are addicted to the "new" factor in chocolate tasting.  For instance, I am addicted to constantly trying new chocolate flavours, brands, cocoa percentages, origin chocolates and any type of chocolate bar that I have not tasted before.  Once upon a time ago I would try a new chocolate, then go back to that same one time and time again.  But then I went to France for a year and it changed my chocolate-tasting life. There were so many different brands and types of chocolate there and I wanted to try them all! Now I need to try new types of chocolate all the time, by different manufacturers.  Don't get me wrong, I will often go back to the same chocolate bar for an indulgence, if I can find it again. But most often I just want to try a new type of chocolate every single day.  And I do eat chocolate every single day.

In this blog I will focus on chocolate bars - usually in the 35 to 100 gram format - but will sometimes write about different types of chocolate treats or snacks, baking chocolate, chocolate couverture for professional chocolate making, and other forms of fine chocolate.  I do not discriminate when it comes to this wonderful substance.

This blog does not contain pretentious chocolate tasting information.  I will not often be discussing with a pretentious air the specific aromas and flavours in the chocolate. That will only confuse people as they taste.  Instead, I will be focusing on the emotions that the chocolate evokes and the experience that the combined flavours, textures and aromas create for the chocolate taster.  I might make recommendations as to when to eat that chocolate (i.e. if you are having a sad day and want an uplifting dark chocolate, try a Lindt Excellence 70% to "smooth" out your problems, or if you are having an indecisive day, try a chocolate bar with sea salt and experience the balance between sweet and salty to help you find the solution that meets all your needs). At times I may look to certain berries and flavours that may help us with learning to taste the specific aromas in chocolate, so we can all learn together.  But I'd rather have fun tasting and learning about chocolate, without worrying too much about tasting "properly" and according to standard rules. This blog is for people like me, who want to experience chocolate while learning about it and about which flavour combinations they like best.  And as I said before, it is also for those people who, like me, are addicited to "newness", meaning an addiction to constantly trying new flavours and needing to taste every kind of chocolate that exists and all the existing chocolate flavour combinations. This could take a life time.

My goal is to reach out to people like me, and perhaps offer ideas of new chocolates to try from regions nearby and from around the world.

I think it's time to start tasting, don't you? Read my next blog post to try some new single-origin chocolate from Costa Rica and Peru!