Four chocolate bars in one tasting session can seem a bit overwhelming. Although it is normal to taste four to six bars in a traditional chocolate tasting session, I find that bars in the 85% and above range to be very bitter and so the prospect of tasting four of them not as appealing as if they were four chocolate bars in the 70% cacao range. However, now that I've done it, it wasn't so bad. It just means that I am able to have more self control and limit myself to one piece from each bar. If they were 70% dark chocolate, I like would have eaten 200 grams of chocolate today!
I also found that tasting four chocolate bars gave me a great basis for comparison - better than if it were only two bars. You see, two of the brands in this tasting had artificial flavouring, and two had natural and real vanilla flavouring, so I was able to compare apples to apples and apples to oranges, so to say. The best thing you can do for your palate is to sit down and taste several kinds of chocolate in the same % range that are flavoured with a variety of real and artificial flavours (vanilla extract versus ground vanilla beans versus "flavour" or artificial flavour). It will help you learn to taste the difference between each. Ground vanilla beans offers a wonderful subtle flavour to the chocolate, letting you taste the chocolate more than the vanilla. Vanilla extract also offers a more subtle flavour than artificial flavourings, but has the effect of making the chocolate seem slightly sweeter. Artificial flavouring tends to overwhelm the chocolate and mask all the flavour of chocolate with strong vanilla flavour. I used to like this, or at least not notice it, but since I discovered the difference, I now have difficulty eating any chocolate with artificial vanilla flavour.
What I find interesting about the four bars that I am tasting today is that the two European chocolate bars, Cemoi Desir Noir and Côte D'Or, are the ones that use artificial flavouring. If you read my post yesterday, you'd see that I learned to appreciate natural food ingredients when I spent a year in Europe, so I find it curious that these companies chose the artificial route for their chocolate. However, it may have more to do with the commercial marketing aspect of the brands, that Cemoi and Cote D''Or are marketed on a larger scale and for a lower price, whereas PC Organics is contained in the Canadian market and Godiva likes to market themselves as being "superior" in quality at a higher price point.
The PC (President's Choice) Organics 85% cacao chocolate bar is by far my favourite of the four bars. It has that wonderful organic flavour, with rustic and woodsy undertones. The vanilla extract in it is subtle and seems to sweetened the chocolate compared to the Godiva bar. The Godiva bar, on the other hand, is much more bitter and a little difficult to take, when compared to the PC bar. It has not so much a vanilla flavour (the ingredients do not say that on the package, just simply "natural flavoring"). It's certainly smooth enough and has a distinct flavour, as the beans are supposed to come from Santo Domingo.
Although I like the Cote D'Or 70% Sensations bar for it's texture and mouthfeel, I am not keen on the 85% bar under the same brand name. The artificial flavouring is so overwhelming that is it hard to see past it. However, for those who don't mind artificial flavouring, it is much less bitter, if not sweeter and more refreshing, than the other chocolate bars compared here today. Desir Noir is five times the flavouring and it is completely overwhelming. The chocolate is smooth though and the price was not bad. I recall enjoying Cemoi's flavoured selection of chocolate bars when in France, and would like to try them again someday.
So that's it for this tasting. I hope you will have learned something from it, whether it be to taste a line-up of chocolate bars containing both artificial and natural flavouring, or to try the President's Choice 85% Organics extra dark chocolate chocolate bar (available at a Loblaws or Loblaws Superstore in Ontario). Here is some further information on these four chocolate bars that I have tasted today, so you can find out where to buy them if you so desire:
President's Choice Organics(tm) European Extra Dark chocolate, 85% cocoa solids, 100 grams
Loblaws Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada (product of Italy)
Ingredients: organic unsweetened chocolate, organic cane sugar, organic cocoa butter, soy lecithin, organic vanilla extract. May contain peanuts, tree nuts and milk.
Cemoi Chocolatier Desir Noir 85% cocoa Dark Chocolate, 100 grams
France - www.cemoi.fr
Ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, low fat cocoa powder, soya lecithin, vanilla flavouring.
Côte D'Or Sensations 86% NOIR BRUT, 100 grams
Kraft Foods Belgium
Ingredients (sorry there is no English on this package!): Pâte de cacao, beurre de cacao, cacao fortement dégraissé, sucre, arôme, émulsifant (lécithine de soja). (rainforest alliance certified - whatever that means)
Godiva(r) Chocolatier 85% Extra Dark Chocolate, Santo Domingo, 100 grams
Godiva Chocolatier, Inc., New York, NY USA (Product of Germany)
(I can't believe they didn't put their website on their packaging! Oh well, must be www.godiva.com anyway, right?)
Ingredients: bittersweet chocolate (chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin (emulsifier), natural flavouring). May contain tree nuts, peanuts, milk and wheat.