Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Price of Chocolate

Is the most expensive chocolate worth the cost?
When a single 50 gram chocolate bar costs you $18.95 (CAD) you had better like it, right?  How about if it costs $15.95?  Should you like it less than the one that you paid $18.95 for?  And how about if it is only $5 per 50 grams …what then?
These are the questions that I have been pondering this week while I have chowed-down on some very fine chocolate. I was very lucky at Christmas this year and received a package that contained some of the finest chocolate bars in the world, including Amedei's Chuao and Porcelana bars, as well as chocolate bars made by Bonnat, Pralus, Michel Cluizel and Patric. The prices I mentioned above relate directly to the chocolates I received. 
Although I was not supposed to know the cost, I simply went on the web site where my husband purchased the chocolate from (www.atasteforchocolate.com/store/) and looked it up.  It was the 50 gram Amedei Porcelana bar that cost $18.95, the Amedei Chuao bar cost $15.95, Toscano Black 70%  was $8.50 and the Bonnat Puerto Cabello cost $9.99 for a 100 gram bar (i.e. about $5 per 50 grams).
What did I determine from a whole week of tasting these four chocolate bars?  I liked the Bonnat bar the best!  Yet it was the least expensive. I kept asking myself, “is there something wrong with me?” Each morning, for the entire week, I have done as a 'proper' connoisseur should, and waited for two hours after breakfast until my palette is once again clear and ready for a tasting.  I spent the first part of the week tasting only the three Amedei and finding the Toscano Black 70% to be full of robust flavour, the Porcelana to be free of acidity and have the mildest flavour overall, and the Chuao bar to have more intensity with woody and organic flavours. I liked all of the chocolate bars for different reasons, but it was the smooth, buttery and melty texture of the 75% Bonnat Puerto Cabello bar that really got to me.
Despite all the wonderful flavours in the beans, the purity of the cacao trees or the length of the aging process, the texture can have a huge impact on whether or not a person likes a chocolate. I liked all the Amedei chocolate bars – they were smooth and delicate with wonderful diverse flavours.  But as soon as I put that first piece of Bonnat Puerto Cabello into my mouth, I had an entirely new experience.  My husband – who is a self-proclaimed 'hater' of dark chocolate – also had the same instantaneous experience with the texture of the Bonnat chocolate.  He fell in love with it and actually said that he could see himself eating a small piece of it every day.  I was in utter shock. But thanks to Bonnat Puerto Cabello, we finally agreed on something chocolaty; I too could eat this chocolate every day. (go to the end of this post if you want more info on this Bonnat chocolate bar)
I also was lucky enough to hold two tasting sessions in the last week with an awesome “Chocolate Tasting Box” created and sold by A Taste For Chocolate. At $37.95 for the small box, this also did not come cheap! It is actually a bit shocking when you open the box and see how little chocolate is actually in it. But it came in a beautiful package and there was a chocolate tasters guide and a thorough description of each type of chocolate that the box contained. Also, keep in mind the price of the Amedei Porcelana chocolate bar that I mentioned above. This tasting box included six tasting squares each of the following five single origin/plantation chocolates (including Porcelana):
·  Michel Cluizel “Mangaro Noir” 65%
·  Michel Cluizel “Vila Gracinda” 67%
·  Michel Cluizel “Los Anconès” 67%
·  Amedei “Porcelana” 70%
·  Amedei “Toscano Black” 70%
 
The first session was on New Year’s Eve with my sister-in-law.  I’ve mentioned before that she is one of my go-to people when I have some awesome quality chocolate to taste and want another opinion.  The second session was with friends who I know are “foodies” and I thought they would be fun to hold a tasting session with.  It turns out they were perfect for such a tasting, because they could articulate the flavours they tasted almost instantly.  Since I have “mommy brain” this year (yes, it lasts at least a year after delivering a baby…not just during the pregnancy!), I find myself having trouble articulating what I am thinking and tasting these days, so it was nice to have people around who could.

 
I also laughed aloud when I read some of the notes after each session.  “Grassy, as in a cow’s barn” was one, another I cannot write here but it had to do with a “woody” flavour in one of the chocolates (my sister-in-law thinks she is a comedian), and another note, written by my husband, referred to the flavour of the Michel Cluizel Los Anconès as “tastes like zebra” (another comedian in the family).
  
Overall (and more seriously), everyone felt that the Amedei 70% Porcelana had less acidity and less distinct flavours compared to all the other chocolates.  It seemed sweeter, even than the Michel Cluizel 65% and 67% chocolate tasting squares. The Porcelana was also very fine and smooth. 
The Toscano Black 70% was also quite popular - for the opposite reason - because of its robust flavours with grassy overtones and abundant acidity. The three Michel Cluizel`s were smoother than the Amedei`s and melted in the mouth quicker and each had a different flavour.  Although I have a lot of notes on the flavours in these, I will let you determine them for yourself when you taste these chocolates.  But I did notice that I can now tell if a chocolate is from Madagascar (Cluizel Mangaro), with its strong flavour and citrus fruit overtones. It helps that I have also been tasting an Amano Madagascar and Patric Madagascar this week. So I think I might be making progress little by little on this mission to become a chocolate connoisseur.
So was the high cost of these chocolate brands worth it? YES! The money was worth it because the experience was worth it. I had a fun time both tasting the chocolate and researching it. For instance, this week I learned a lot about the rare white Porcelana criollo bean used to make the Amedei Porcelana bar, and about the protected region of Chuao, and how Amedei works hard to come up with new recipes that highlight the wonderful flavours in chocolate. If you are interested, there was a great article in MoneySense magazine a few years ago, which is now online.
I highly recommend trying a tasting box like the one by A Taste For Chocolate, or creating your own tasting  session by selecting up to four different single origin chocolate bars in the same range (i.e. all 65% to 70%). Once you start to taste various kinds of plantation and single origin chocolate, you quickly see that each can have very different flavours from the next.  In fact, it is so similar to wine in that way – each varietal, brand and origin grapes can create very different flavours in each bottle. And eventually you settle on one (or one type) that you like the best, whether it costs $40 a bottle or $8 a bottle.  It depends on your own taste buds, and your history and memories of wine (or chocolate) tasting.
I am quite happy with how this week turned out in my month of going “dark and bitter” (read more about this here). I gave myself something to look forward to each day, even though I was not eating any sugar (other than +70% dark chocolate) and treated myself with some very high end chocolate bars.
Tomorrow I begin a new week in my `month unsweetened` (you can read about this here). I will still not be eating sugar in my regular diet, and I will be moving up from dark chocolate with +70% cacao to chocolate in the 80% to 90% range.  I imagine it may be a little tougher, since I have been used to sweeter chocolates in the last year, but I have another great line-up of chocolate bars to taste in the + 80% range, so I am looking forward to the week.  I also intend to share truffle and other recipes throughout the week on this blog.
Here are the details of the chocolates that I wrote about today:
AMEDEI PORCELANA, 70% (50 g / 1.75 oz)
AMEDEI srl (Pontedera (Pisa) – Italy)
Ingredients: cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla. Cocoa min. 70%. May contain traces of hazelnut, almond, pistachio, walnut, milk.
“Pure cocoa butter. Soya lecithin and gluten free. Without colouring agents and artificial flavours.”
“White, delicate and fine. Earning the name Porcelana…only 3,000 kilos is made a year” (taken from the back of the package).
My notes: What I have learned about Amedei's Porcelana chocolate - after the third tasting - is that it just melts away into your mouth like no other chocolate I've tasted.  It is light, airy and makes me think of Spring time.

 
AMEDEI CHUAO, 70% (50 g / 1.75 oz)
AMEDEI srl (Pontedera (Pisa) – Italy)
Ingredients: cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla. Cocoa min. 70%. May contain traces of hazelnut, almond, pistachio, walnut, milk.
“Pure cocoa butter. Soya lecithin and gluten free. Without colouring agents and artificial flavours.”
“…after a 20-day aging period, this chocolate – unlike any other – continues to develop and improves its acidity and aroma” (taken from the back of the package).
My notes: Robust and acidic but not abrasive.  Smooth, woodsy and lovely overall.

 
AMEDEI Toscano Black 70 (70%, 50 g / 1.75 oz)
AMEDEI srl (Pontedera (Pisa) – Italy)
Ingredients: cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla. Cocoa min. 70%. May contain traces of hazelnut, almond, pistachio, walnut, milk.
“Pure cocoa butter. Soya lecithin and gluten free. Without colouring agents and artificial flavours.”
“…made from a blend of Trinitario and Criollo….traces of tobacco and toasted malt in the background” (taken from the back of the package).
My notes: I loved how strong the flavours are in this chocolate! It is bold, smoky and very addictive.

 
CHOCOLAT BONNAT Puerto Cabello “Venezuéla”, 75% Cacao, 100 g (3.5 oz)
“Dark chocolate from Puerto Cabello 75% Cacao”
“Product of France” (Voiron, France)
Ingredients: Cacao, sugar. May contain tree nuts, milk, eggs and or derivatives.
Packaging is completely in French and the tasting notes are covered by the import label.
My notes: Roast flavours, hickory, toasted marshmallow (mind you, I was toasting marshmallows near this chocolate yesterday, and I thought it was sealed, so it is possible that I accidentally added this flavour to the chocolate myself.  I don`t recall it tasting like toasted marshmallow before yesterday).

To me, it is just the rich, deep brown colour that chocolate should be.  The bar is beautiful, solid-looking in an almost chunky kind of way that is promising you a lot of rich chocolate. The smell is strong and the flavours bold, but palatable. The texture is absolutely addictive.  It tastes like it is always on the verge of melting and is soft on the teeth as you bite in.  I could eat this chocolate every day for the rest of my life!

 
The noticeable lack of vanilla enables you to taste chocolate in its purest form and completely embrace the flavours that are within the bean.

 

3 comments:

  1. This is a very insightful article. I agree that paying higher prices can be worth it, but that you can also find what you like for less money. Recently I've found that Fresco has a great balance of price to pleasure. Just for fun, I've developed a "Price to Pleasure" index of the bars I've reviewed. It breaks down in lots of ways, especially since I'm willing to pay high prices for rare and desirable chocolate. But believe it or not, on a 1-100 scale Trader Joe's 72% dark bar tops the chart at 165! It's only average chocolate but so amazingly inexpensive!

    OTOH, Amedei Chuao is my all time favorite bar, but it's so expensive ($23.90 per 100g) that it's index rating is only 11. I'll still buy it again in a heart beat, though.

    If you're interested to see my full results of my "Price to Pleasure" index just send me an email to ChocoFiles at gmail.com

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  2. Oh I finally found someone that noticed the lack of vanilla would allow you to taste chocolate in its purest form! You're absolutely right.
    Another thing is that, I recently discovered a new way to fully enjoy every single chocolate tasting experience: Put a small piece on the tip of your tongue and let it melt, slowly, then move it closer to your teeth and finally smell the aromas developping in your mouth...:)

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  3. Get all the best spirits and wines at Duty Free Depot!

    All the popular brand name beverages for unbelievable discounted price tags.

    ReplyDelete