The high cocoa butter content, and creamy mouthfeel of Bonnat's chocolate bars truly showcase that French chocolate flair, where chocolate is all about pleasure or `plaisir`. They perfectly contrast many of the new-style two-ingredient chocolate bars that have become the heart of today's worldwide craft chocolate movement (which are pleasurable as well). This also makes Bonnat's creamy bars a great teaching tool for new chocolate makers as they decide what sort of chocolate they want to create, and what 'cocoa butter philosophy' they want to follow.
So I was disappointed when putting together a chocolate tasting workshop a few months ago and realized that I could not buy Bonnat's chocolate in Canada. I cyber-visited my usual haunts, including ATasteForChocolate.com and other online specialty retailers, but nothing was available at time. So I e-mailed Bonnat directly, and although they responded to my questions about shipping to Canada, I just got too busy with work to follow up.
Needless to say, I was elated when I was perusing www.latablette.ca a few weeks back (which I, admittedly, do often) and discovered some Bonnat chocolate bars for sale. La Tablette is based in Montreal and ships across both Canada and the U.S., so you can now get your Bonnat fix anywhere in North America! The cost is high (between $10.99 and $18.25 per chocolate bar), but consider it an investment in your 'chocolate education'.
The line-up of dark chocolate bars was not dissimilar, all three bars having beautiful chocolate flavour and otherwise mild and delicate tones. The Porcelana and Hacienda El Rosario, both made of cacao from Venezuela, gave me lovely cream flavours with chocolaty aromas. I say both were delicate because they were low in acidity and free of overwhelming flavours, such as no strong fruit flavours, and no strong hint of nut, wood, smoke or other flavours found in chocolate made from different origin cacao. The Java, a dark-milk chocolate bar, was very different, as you will see from the tasting notes below.
Haiti 75% Dark Chocolate
This chocolate bar, made of cacao beans harvested from Haiti, has a high cocoa butter content, a signature feature of Bonnat's chocolate.
I found an upfront roast flavour, with a balanced taste between light citrus and woody flavours. The company describes it as "rich and fragrant", and I have to agree that this Haiti chocolate is more robust in flavour than the two Venezuelan chocolate bars by Bonnat that I tasted also this week. I truly enjoyed this chocolate bar.
This was all cream and mild apricot flavour on my palate, with a delicate roast and beautiful - yet complex - chocolate flavour. For those of you who don't know of the 'Porcelana' cacao bean, which is used to make this chocolate, it is: "Extremely rare" cacao - the name "originates from the porcelain white colour of its beans". It is grown on an ancestral plantation in Venezuela, and Bonnat explains on the website that the annual harvest of the cacao is less than 1000 kg. Bonnat claims "this chocolate will captivate any lover of exception," and I have to agree.
Bonnat's line-up of three 65% dark-milk chocolate bars is on my list of 'all-time favourites'. The Java chocolate bar, along with Bonnat's Surabaya and Asfarth bars, take high percentage milk chocolate to the extreme. With a very high cocoa butter content, Bonnat has achieved a creamy milk chocolate that has very little sugar, a near-exotic colour, and a texture and taste like no other chocolate bar in the world. In a sea of dark-milk chocolate bars, this one truly stands out. This Java bar had just a hint of smoke and cedar wood flavours, compared to my memory of the taste of Asfarth and Surabaya chocolates. But it still showcases that traditional Indonesian cacao. It also featured the taste of heavily cooked caramel and the taste of cooked cream, like in a creamy milk chocolate truffle. I love it. And I think whether you are a dark chocolate lover, or a milk chocolate lover, you will love it too.
For more information on these chocolate bar, visit the Chocolat Bonnat website at: http://bonnat-chocolatier.com/en/.
To buy them in Canada or the U.S., visit www.latablette.ca . In the U.K.try the Cocoa Runners website at: http://cocoarunners.com/maker/bonnat/.