Friday, 30 May 2014

Artisan du Chocolat Colombia 72%

This Artisan du Chocolat bar is a blend of lightly roasted Trinitario beans from the Colombian regions of Hulia, Tumaco and Santander. The 'robust' Santander, 'floral' Huila and 'fruity' Tumaco beans are refined with cane sugar, extra cacao butter and soya lecithin

A dark seal brown colour. It was thin and delicate to hold with a crisp snap

In the nose was coconut, light brown sugar, lime sherbet, rich vanilla and a little malt. It was very sweet. It had a low chocolate quotient which was something I found unusual

A slow start on the tongue, opening with a mild cacao bitterness. The "light roast" was so influential of this chocolate, oscillation in flavour between perfectly browned toast and caramelised sugar/créme brûlée. An overlaying touch of vanilla. There were the slightest hints of coffee and tobacco however the flavour wasn't deep enough to pronounce these more clearly. A longer, higher temp roast or higher cocoa mass to cocoa butter ratio would have developed those darker flavours as well as the overall chocolate flavour/aroma. I had a frangipane vibe once

The melt was luxuriously smooth, the added cocoa butter could not have been misinterpreted. However, this beautiful texture often distracted from the flavour, and as there was little complexity in flavours, the chocolate occasionally seemed tasteless

A long lasting finish of hot cocoa, with a sourness intervining after the initial hinting of nut, and malted rice 

Although a very low acidicity, it was mouth watering. The cocoa butter made for such a wet mouthfeel. I couldn't taste floral nor fruity notes at all, and neither did it seem robust. This chocolate was sugar-sweet and subtle in flavous. I was unsure about this Colombian blend at first, but it grew on me after trying it again at night. I guess I'm more alert around 10pm. It seems as though the additional cacao butter compromised the flavour intensity, however the light roast and sweet subtleties created a warm, soft experience which was more than likely Artisan du Chocolat's focal point

I think paying £3.50 for 45g can be easily justified. You are after all paying for quality. Though don't opt for this bar if you want expressive and loud notes. It is a relaxed, soft vibed chocolate. But that sweet softness was unlike any dark chocolate I have experienced yet, which is something encouraging for a beginner in the world of fine cocoa. I really liked this chocolate

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Cachet 32% Madagascar Milk Chocolate

Cacao origin Madagascar, made with a blend of Criollo, Trinitario and Forastero beans. A wide scope, I know, but the "Madagascar" and the unknown brand, Cachet, is what caught my eye and made me to buy. This milk chocolate heavily played on the caramel, with its dark-caramel colour paralleling its caramel aroma and taste. But delving deeper and a soft scent of mint and sweet, creamy taste was perceived

Its sturdy, though soft, snap, long smooth melt and light salted finish impressed me. I enjoyed this Cachet milk chocolate and to see that there was no emulsifier within was surprising as it was just so smooth in texture, but also because rarely do you see chocolate makers avoiding the use of soya lecithin

After a not so great affair with Cachet's Almonds & Honey, I'm glad I also bought this milk chocolate too as it gave me confidence in Cachet chocolate. They have a wide range of origin bars: Ecuador, Vanuatu, Peru, Costa Rica and flavoured bars: cacao nibs, caramel & fleur de sel, pear & almonds, lemon & pepper, blackberry & ginger...

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Prestat Pink Everest Equatorial Dark Chocolate

Prestat's Art Deco Luxury Chocolate Bar collection is a kaleidoscope of colours and along with that hot pink motif it looks an exciting, eye-widening endeavour. This new collection (launched August 2013) follows a different packaging design compared to Prestat's other bars. I loved the shiny gold embossing and with Prestat's logo it was looking rather grand, though I felt the overall design looked a little 'loose'. With names like Knickerbocker and Tea Time Frolics, it really reflects the eclecticism of the Art Deco movement

Prestat, offering us such a diverse collection, know that variety is the spice of life. But by doing so, with this range especially, it just happens to manifest their creativity. They may be one of London's oldest chocolate shops, but they're certainly not, and far from being, obsolescent

Lets get back to the chocolate. Prestat use "Africa's finest cocoa beans", and although not certified Fairtrade, they commit to trading fairly. I think I'll start with the only dark chocolate; Pink Everest Dark Equatorial chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt

The imprint upon the chocolate and being scored into only 6 pieces looked luxury. Very British. The aroma of this 53% cocoa solids was pretty standard, a little perfumed with a dominating sugar. I wouldn't say I could smell cocoa, more a nuttiness with strong white sugars overlaying a creamy coconut background

I hope that the cocoa within wasn't the finest Africa has to offer. It sadly tasted cheap and lacked complexity and quality. But then again, it was only 53% cocoa solids? However that's no excuse, Green & Black's 37% MILK was more cocoa defined than this chocolate

As the chocolate was very thick, it made it difficult to snap. The thickness made it more comfortable to just chew.  The salt was initiated straight away and was pleasant. But when left to melt, the salt became overwhelming and made it too sweet. I enjoyed chewing this chocolate more, hearing the crunch of the Himalayan salt and how the salt would come in bursts; just how salt in chocolate should be

With a finish of powdered cocoa and sugar, I wasn't so impressed with this chocolate. £3.50 for 85g seems excessive. As it was missing a creaminess, I really think it needed to be milk chocolate and there was a little too much salt. My family enjoyed it though! 

Prestat's focus is on balancing the perfect flavour pairings, and as it wasn't a flavour bean chocolate, I think I'll have a better experience with their milk chocolate. I'm a difficult one to please when it comes to dark chocolate and only find myself enjoying the delights of expressive, flavour bean chocolate

I've got the milk (Tea Time Frolics & Pecan Maple Dream) and white (Knickerbocker Glory & Toasted Pistachio) bars still to try, so stay tuned! 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Ubuntu Chocolate Orange Spice and Almonds & Sea Salt

"Ubuntu" - a Zulu (south African ethic group) word meaning togetherness and humanity to others. Ubuntu source their cocoa and ingredients from Sri Lanka, I believe they are very ethical; considering the social, environmental and economical factors with everything they do. In the taste, there's a feeling of high quality and well cared for cocoa beans being used by Ubuntu  

Jeremy (the founder) asked for the chocolate to be shared. I started with the Orange Spice bar. However, sadly, I'm not an orange and chocolate kinda-girl, but from my family's reaction to the chocolate I could tell it was good. The cloves were first noted and the orange flavour was fairly minimal, sitting lightly in the background. My family have a preference for milk chocolate, and it was great to see them all enjoy this 60% cocoa dark chocolate. This chocolate seems rather seasonal, maybe not one for summer but definitely winter

The Almonds & Sea Salt, on the other hand, got me excited. The almond fashioned a slight alcoholic aroma but the chocolate itself smelt so rich and earthen. The chocolate tasted incredibly rich in cocoa which could only be explained by the whopping 44% cocoa solids! I felt the salt was a little lost in taste but when it touched my lips that's when I felt the impact; like little sparks

I must admit, at first I didn't think much of this milk chocolate but, after my delusional thoughts had passed, and the flavours mixed on tongue, I realised the beauty of it. Higher cocoa milk chocolate is now in vogue

Price: 70g bar for £5 (check here)

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Chocolate Tree Madagascar 72%

The Chocolate Tree, artisan Scottish craft chocolate makers, specialise in many things, but what I'm most interested in is their forte in bean to bar chocolate and hand crafted chocolates. I have six 45g single origin bean to bar chocolate bars, all cacao being organically farmed: Madagascar 72%, Peru 70% Nibs & Salt, Peru 80%, Ecuador 84%, Ecuador Milk 55% and Ecuador Milk 55% Bergamot & Raspberry

All of The Chocolate Tree bars came wrapped in gold foil paper and a thick floral paper sleeve. The sharp imprint of flowers and leaves upon the chocolate create an intricate and delicate finish design, bringing real opulence to it and unlike any I've seen before

Starting with the only Madagascan bar. This is a blend of Madagascan Criollo and Trinitario beans with cane sugar

A bold, deep red fruit aroma, with a tight smoked touch. Noting a blackcurrant tartness and toasted body: cool, malt roast. The bar was a dark shade of brown, with a slight lack of sheen. The snap was soft

The Madagascan started bitter with a depth of earth, then the fruity element came through almost right away.  An astringent feel on the tongue was balanced then surpassed by the acidity. The sugars within tasted of an incredible quality, along with those cacao beans of course, very rich sweetness. The tannin returned and finished the chocolate, leaving a slight wooded taint

Now to their Artisan Chocolates: made from fresh cream, ethically sourced ingredients and no added preservatives. I adore handmade chocolates

The Coconut
This one was made with Ecuadorian milk chocolate. Creamy. I suspected white chocolate was in the cream filling, but don't take my word for it. Either way, it was just wonderful and very rich. I really couldn't fault it even if I tried

The Rosemary & Salt 
This chocolate was made with the Peruvian 80%. The subtle rosemary and crackles of salt were a celebration on the tongue, just wonderful. The salt lifted up the sweetness so delicately. Rosemary is such an aromatic, graceful herb and this chocolate really did it justice

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Willie's Cacao El Blanco White Chocolate

White chocolate is notorious for its possession of heavy sugars, powerful vanilla and sickly taste: making one feel very guilty. But what about a white chocolate that ditches the vanilla and places sugar last on its ingredients list? Well, Willie's Cacao El Blanco white chocolate features only 3 ingredients: Venezuelan cacao butter, British milk and Guadeloupean raw cane sugar; "all in perfect harmony" says Willie

First thing that is noticed is the colour: the darker shade of cream and then the absence of vanilla in aroma! Usually white chocolate to the nose screams an excess of sugar and vanilla, but with Willie's it was different. It was a very soft, light, mellow aroma. But dig a little deeper and there was little nutty notes

*I tried this chocolate a second time round (almost a year later), and the aroma was of stale cigarette smoke and light vanilla*

The snap was hard. The chocolate had a light flavour, evident of there being no vanilla and definitely little sugar, but despite this there were subtle smoked tones which could be found in the aroma too. I found the predominant taste to be floral. The texture was extremely light on the tongue with an impressive long smooth melt leading to a little fragrant aftertaste

*However, my second bar's flavour was predominantly smoke and rubber but then once I got into it it became more delicate and very creamy, more like a white chocolate. This bar didn't specify the sugar's origin, unlike my first bar which was Guadeloupe*

With this white chocolate, because the cocoa butter is NONdeodorised, you discover what the Venezuelan Trinitario cacao butter really tastes like; it was an experience quite mesmerising. If you are a white chocolate fiend, I hate to say it but this chocolate make take some time getting used to... However, do try it!

One small detail that I was perplexed by was that at times the taste almost resembled a flavour similar to melted ice cream ... odd

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Elizabeth Shaw Dark Chocolate Cocoa Crunch

57% cocoa solids
Compared to the image on the packaging, the chocolate inside was far darker in colour. I thought that this chocolate tasted and smelt similar to the Callebaut dark chocolate I had recently, and I was so surprised to find out (and proud of myself for recognising) that Elizabeth Shaw does in fact use Barry Callebaut cocoa! The cocoa is sourced from Côte d'Ivoire

I initiated a sweet dark chocolate taste when I had the Callebaut a few weeks ago, and with this chocolate it was the same; very sweet. The cocoa in aroma was the predominant element, but after a while I found a hint of floral hiding in there

Cacao nibs in dark chocolate is a growing concept. The spark up of cacao nibs having health benefits and considered a 'superfood' is driving the demand for the nibs, particularly by health and nutrition enthusiasts

This chocolate had a caramel taste. The nibs were left after the chocolate had melted, and when bitten alone had the expected crunch texture of nibs which then lead to a light bitter finish

The addition of butterfat makes it more appropriate for this chocolate to be termed 'milk', but really the butterfat seems unnecessary. Maybe in the long run it works out cheaper for Elizabeth Shaw to do so, but for me it doesn't look too good on the ingredients list

This 'dark' chocolate wasn't my kind of chocolate, but i'm glad I tried it. Personally, I think the cocoa beans Barry Callebaut source from the Ivory Coast lack flavour, but note that I do love Callebaut's milk chocolate. I don't think this chocolate was anything special, but also note that I did love Elizabeth Shaw's Butterscotch Milk Chocolate

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Montezuma's 54% Dark Chocolate Giant Buttons

I've tried Montezuma's chocolate only once before; their American Idol truffle. A salted caramel milk chocolate truffle which I really enjoyed. So with that in mind and Montezuma's being fairly difficult to obtain I thought that it was highly regarded chocolate

Montezuma's use source-certified organic cocoa grown by small farmers' co-ops in the Dominican Republic and Peru

I loved the paper bag packaging. When opening, I was hit with the smell of cocoa. Taste wise I was again hit with the cocoa. The buttons were thick and had a hard bite in comparison to Cadbury Buttons which was great. They tasted reasonably dark with rich cocoa. There were no subtle notes that were picked up on, but they tasted like hot chocolate and brownies

I love dark chocolate but really only powerful dark chocolate which: bursts of subtleties, has distinctive and developmental flavour profiles and has a general high quality feel about it. And these, Montezuma's buttons, were high quality, but they lacked the edge that bean-to-bar chocolate has

The best way to eat them was letting them melt slightly on the tongue and then chew. With a soft, slightly burnt finish, and a hot cocoa flavour, they were good, something I'd have again maybe at the cinema or theatre, but nothing I'd write home about 

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Green & Black's Milk Chocolate 37%

The dark aroma gave a feeling of there being little sweetness compared to your standard milk chocolate. It was incredibly rich and with vanilla. I fell in love with this chocolate. With such an intensely chocolatey flavour, and its dark berry overtone and deluxe treacle, you can't help but love it. The richness of such a widely available milk chocolate amazed me

The cocoa flavour was gradually intensifying. The finish was rich and chocolate and, because it was so powerful, it had an incredibly long finish. There was a creamy dairy aroma and taste, though sometimes a bit like butyric acid. The firm snap sounded clear and crisp, but didn't snap along the scoring (like all Green & Black's chocolate bars)

*8.5.15 (exactly one year WOW) update* I regularly buy this chocolate, and the bar I'm eating right now has real notes of liquorice! I've not experienced this before!

Green & Black's using Trinitario beans- sourced from the Dominican Republic and Belize- differentiates this 'everyday' chocolate from the likes of Cadbury and Galaxy etc., well that, the price and the superior quality and taste. They use raw cane sugar -which adds an exceptional deep flavour-, everything (except the emulsifier) is organic and the cocoa is Fairtrade. The vanilla has no intention of flavouring the chocolate, but simply to enhance that magnificent cocoa!

The 37% milk chocolate was the best melt I had experienced from Green & Black's, and the snapping of the egg was superb. I think I preferred the thinner form. Nevertheless, this chocolate is now a favourite milk chocolate of mine. Cracking stuff

Like I said "The richness of such a widely available milk chocolate amazed me", although a subjective matter, I think this is one of the best widely available milk chocolates... in competition with Willie's Cacao Milk of the Gods (can be found in Waitrose)

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Cachet Milk Chocolate Almonds & Honey

A rich smell of honey, fairly sweet with floral notes. A milk chocolate combined with honey and roasted Californian almonds sounded delightful. Envisioning standing in the midst of mountains and greenery, drinking fresh milk with herds of cows and sheep before me

A surprising bitter-sweet taste, one that almost seemed acquired. The honey wasn't sweet tasting, but this made the flavours to feel slightly more balanced; it wasn't overwhelmingly sweet. It had a floral taste too, notes of rose flower. The almonds gave a creamier taste, yet added a slight bitterness but overall were generally mild

I found this 31% cocoa solids milk chocolate tasted best when it was chewed as finely as possibly, this way I was increasing the taste of almond. Having contained only 18% milk solids made it really lose its 'milk and honey' feel that was only hoped for. I won't be inclined to buy this chocolate again, nor recommend it, but it wasn't bad. I really thought this chocolate was going to be sensational

The cocoa beans sourced from the Quality Partner Program (Ivory Coast)

Like the Elizabeth Shaw Butterscotch Milk Chocolate, the mould of the chocolate was not admirable 

Monday, 5 May 2014

Seed and Bean

Organic and Fairtrade Seed and Bean are on a mission to create the most ethical, sustainable and delicious British chocolate. With 5 Great Taste Awards and 2 from the Academy of Chocolate, you get the impression that they must be doing something right. Also with them sending me four of their chocolate bars to taste and review showed the clear confidence they have in their chocolate; I think it was safe to presume I was not going to be disappointed

After a recent rebranding their lively and attractive packaging design really catches the eye, especially compared to their previous minimalism. In addition to this, new flavours had been launched; three of which I have here (Ginger Dark, Sea Salt Lime Milk and Raspberry White)

Just Ginger Dark
58% cocoa solids
The light and warm ginger aroma juxtaposed the spicy sensation in taste. The ginger flavour was actually quite sweet, but this was probably due to the fairly low cocoa solids. It had a long melt with the ginger giving it a grainy texture; often finding myself being left with a shaving of stem ginger. I liked the fact that it was quite med-low cocoa solids because any darker and the ginger could have lost its warm, spicy impact. I don't particularly like ginger and chocolate together but I have a feeling the Dominican Republic Trinitario bean chocolate alone is quite incredible

Cornish Sea Salt & Lime Milk 
37% cocoa solids
Such a beautiful, dark muscovado sugar colour with a very creamy, less-acidic-than-lemon (lime) aroma which I likened to lemon curd. It was smooth and soft melting which was no surprise as it did look ever so silky and incredibly creamy! The sparks of sea salt livened up the already very magical chocolate and delicately enhanced further sweet notes. A beautifully soft finish complemented the luxuriously smooth texture and this chocolate left me feeling very overwhelmed

I must admit that when I saw lime was in conjunction with sea salt I thought it was going to undermine the effect salt has with chocolate, but how wrong could I have been. This chocolate was sublime

Raspberry & Vanilla Creamy White
30% cocoa solids
This one had the potential to be very sickly. The darker colouring of the chocolate surprised me, and so did the aroma as it wasn't as sweet as expected. It actually almost hinted a dark chocolate aroma with its slight earthiness. The raspberry tasted cool and although it wasn't immensely tarty I still appreciated this being raspberry opposed to the more mellow and sweeter strawberry. Its grainy texture was no surprise as the ingredients stated 'raspberry powder', but I think freeze dried raspberries would have worked better

There's no doubting that this was a very creamy tasting white chocolate and the raspberry and vanilla pairing was well balanced; tasting very much like a summer dessert. Unlike most white chocolate, the word that comes to mind when tasting this chocolate is creamy, not sugary

Lemon & Poppy Seeds Creamy White
30% cocoa solids 
This chocolate looked and sounded great, and winning a Great Taste Award; I was fairly excited. The warm, creamy, lemon aroma was as expected. It wasn't zesty but very creamy. The white chocolate alone was smoother than the previous but the poppy seeds gave it a quirkier texture. The seeds didn't add to the flavour but their texture allowed for a distraction away from naturally clingy white chocolate, however this chocolate didn't feel particularly clingy. The creaminess really did remind me of lemon meringue, but I can't help but wonder what a more zesty lemon would have been like

Seed and Bean's great flavours, textures and overall high quality chocolate really make £2.49 for 85g seem like nothing. I was impressed with each of these chocolates and look forward to trying more from their range