Sunday, December 11, 2011

Three (Well, Four) Kinds of White Chocolate Couverture

... for chocolatiers and for the general population, if you can get your hands on them!

Callebaut White Chocolate Callets
I remember the first time I tasted white chocolate.  Real white chocolate, that is. Not the grocery store kind, like "white chocolate chips" made of oils instead of cocoa butter, or solid white chocolate bunnies at Easter that are bleached white and super sweet so kids will like them.  I mean the real stuff that is so ivory it is almost yellow because it is made mostly of cocoa butter and real vanilla. The stuff that melts in your mouth faster than you can say “white chocolate” and tastes rich and buttery instead of like a block of refined sugar.

Since I was first exposed to good white chocolate, I cannot believe how my opinion of it has changed.  I used to turn my nose up at any white chocolate bar on the shelf of any retailer, but now I pick it up and turn it over curiously to read the ingredients.  If the ingredients are acceptable to me, I buy it. If it is filled with artificial ingredients or anything hydrogenated, I put it back on the shelf.

However, because I tend to like darker chocolate, I always question whether or not I have the ability to evaluate and comment on white chocolate. I often find myself asking other people to taste it and give me their opinion.  So last week, when I finally had a good collection of white chocolate couverture (the best kind of chocolate for chocolatiers to work with), and I could not decide which one was best, I decided to hold an impromptu tasting with my sister and brother-in-law. So once again, like at another tasting recently, the kids played while the adults tasted chocolate. But instead of dark chocolate, it was three kinds of white chocolate couverture that included:
  • Valrhona "Ivoire" White Chocolate Discs (Ivory Coast)
  • Callebaut White Chocolate Callets
  • El Rey Icoa Solid White Chocolate Block (100% Venezuelan)
I asked the others to tell me their favourites in order of first to third. My brother-in-law chose El Rey as his favourite (thought it tasted mellow, smooth and refreshing), Valrhona as his second-favourite and Callebaut third.  My sister chose Callebaut as her favourite, then Valrhona and El Rey third.  Although she admitted that she liked the Callebaut because it smelled and tasted like nutmeg, which we all agreed that it did.  I have tasted this type of Callebaut white chocolate before and it never tasted like nutmeg in the past, but the smell and flavour of the spice in this batch of chocolate was  so apparent that it clearly had been stored open at the wholesaler and certainly was store next to some nutmeg and other spices.

My personal favourite was the El Rey.  It is very dark in colour compared to the other chocolate and just has that look (and taste) of something with a lot of real vanilla added to it.  It is smooth and buttery and oh so good.  The only downside is that you have to chop up the massive block, which is time consuming for a chocolatier.

Valrhona White Chocolate Ivoire Discs

The Valrhona Ivoire is my second-favourite; it has a wonderful taste and is easy to work with. 
The Callebaut is sweeter and has less distinct flavours and is likely preferred by a more general consumer.  It is, however, very easy to melt and to work with; it makes beautiful shiny confections.

So clearly each chocolate is unique and will find fans among any group of tasters.  However, for chocolatiers, it depends on what they prefer in terms of workability, flavour and access to the product. Given that I am in Northern Ontario, I have the easiest access to Callebaut and to Camino white chocolate couverture.  The others are more difficult (and expensive) to ship in. Although Vanilla Food Company can help you get our hands on Callebaut and Valrhona couvertures. 

My only regret is that I did not have my Camino white chocolate couverture on hand.  I am curious how my sister and her husband would have rated it compared to the other three couvertures that we tasted.  The unique differences are that Camino`s white couverture is certified organic and Fair Trade, but also it has only three ingredient`s: cacao butter, sugar and milk.  So it has NO vanilla and NO soy lecithin.  Because there is no lecithin, I find it a bit more difficult to temper, but it is wonderful in white chocolate ganaches and cheesecakes. Also, with no vanilla added, it is very interesting in a tasting session to taste the difference to other chocolates with vanilla.

It`s funny, a few days after that white chocolate tasting I attended a party and overheard some ladies talking about white chocolate.  They said they did not think it was "real" chocolate and find it too sweet. I wished I had my supply of the 'good stuff' there so that they could try it.  I think they might have changed their mind about it once they tasted that cocoa buttery taste, real vanilla and real milk...instead of that artificially flavoured grocery store stuff.

I encourage everyone to get their hands on the `real` stuff and hold a tasting of your own.  Once you compare it to the grocery store white chocolate, I am sure you will have a new appreciation for white chocolate!

Here are the full details from the packages of the products I tasted and discussed today:

Valrhona White Chocolate Discs, Ivoire 35% Cocoa Solids, 453 g (1 lb) bag (repacked by Vanilla Food Co.)
Product of France
Sold in Canada by Vanilla Food Company
Ingredients: sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, emulsifier: soya lecithin, natural vanilla extract

Callebaut White Chocolate Callets (W2NV) 28% Cocoa Solids, 1 lb bag (repacked by Vanilla Food Co.)
Product of Belgium
Sold in Canada by Vanilla Food Company
Ingredients:  sugar, cocoa fat, dry whole milk, soy lecithin added as emulsifier, natural vanilla flavour.

El Rey White Chocolate “Carenero Superior® Icoa”, 3kg (6.6 lb) box
Chocolates El Rey , C.A.
100% Venezuelan Cacao (U.S.A. website)
Ingredients: refined sugar, cacao butter, whole and skim milk powder, soy lecithin as an emulsifier, flavoured with natural vanilla.  Contains milk. May contain traces of peanuts, nuts, soybeans.


  1. I'd love to hear you do a follow up including the Camino white....

  2. Does anyone know of a soy free white chocolate??? thanks!

  3. Hey there,

    I'm having wicked trouble trying to get reasonably priced bulk cocoa butter anywhere in Canada.

    Got any tips? Thanks!

    1. Hi! I wrote an article more recently on cocoa butter that lists a few suppliers (at the end of the article). You can see it here: But also, I just bought a bag from to try under the brand Yupik organic cocoa butter. It wasn't bad. Although check with Juan from - he just got a shipment of Dominican Republic cocoa butter in last week. I am not sure of the prices, so check with him directly. I have had the same problem lately, and Juan seems like he might be the solution. Camino/La Siembra had organic cocoa butter from Peru for a while, but discontinued it - we should petition them to get it back :-) Good luck with your search!