Monday, 30 June 2014

Montezuma's Creamy White Chocolate

This was my second delivery from Montezuma's, the first never made it to my door. I'm not too sure where my chocolates ended up but Montezuma's kindly offered to send again

I was also sent 2 dark chocolates but as I don't particularly like flavoured dark chocolates (unless they're real good quality), and even more so that I'm not a fan of chilli or ginger in chocolate, I didn't enjoy them and decided not to write about them. But like the old proverb goes: one man's trash is another man's treasure

The typeface of Montezuma's logo (minus the M) looks strikingly boring compared to the other writing on the packaging and especially when considering Montezuma's has such an imaginative and lively branding

On Montezuma's website this is called 'Dominican Republic' but that's not mentioned on the packaging. 29% cocoa butter with 25% milk solids

A gentle vanilla aroma and sweet vanilla taste. The chocolate had a crisp snap and a smooth buttery texture, all without an emulsifier! I loved the mellow vibe. Its soft flavour gave the impression of having little sugar within and you really notice the absence of that sharp and cloying taste commonly found in white chocolate. In the first couple of bites there was a plastic-like taste but that diminished. The chocolate did feel at times that it wanted another flavour to come through, but maybe I had had too was quite irresistible, I couldn't quite put it down

Montezuma's white chocolate was impressive; a soothingly sweet indulgence. It was a shame I didn't like the dark chocolates (chilli and ginger), but I think I'd have had a better experience with Montezuma's milk chocolate. Although Montezuma's isn't the easiest chocolate to find, I know that the Co-op stock it as well as health shops (£2.39 for 100g)

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Prestat Tea Time Frolics and Pecan & Maple Dream Milk Chocolate

This is the final post on Prestat's Art Deco chocolate bar collection. So far I've tasted the salted dark chocolate, the pistachio and passionfruit meringue white chocolates and now finally I'm onto these two milk chocolates. I believed I was saving the best 'til last, though the success of the white chocolates seemed as if it would be a close call

This tasting seemed like battle of the nations, a terribly British Earl Grey tea chocolate vs. the pecan and maple syrup - a synonym of America. The milk chocolate was of 36% cocoa solids and 24% milk solids

Pecan & Maple Dream 
The name and idea sounded so promising. I breathed in the chocolate. Bam- hit with an anticlimax. Just like Prestat's dark chocolate, it was perfumed coconut and sugars I was sensing, not chocolate

The texture was grainy, like hazelnut praline. I'm not too sure what it tasted like but pecan and maple syrup didn't come to mind. However, strangely I did get a taste of maple syrup drizzled on crispy bacon? There was a plastic-like taste that lurked in the background. The nuttiness was most prominent with a sweet little cinnamon spice

Tea Time Frolics
Occasionally I drink Earl Grey but I'd never go as far as to say I enjoy it, and after the disappointment of the Pecan & Maple bar, I wasn't particularly looking forward to this chocolate. Though when I initiated the hard snap of this Tea Time Frolics my hope regained itself slightly

The bergamot shot through in aroma and flavour. The chocolate had a smooth melt and the lemon gave a refreshing citric sharpness on the tongue. The chocolate's flavour started badly but as the lemon slowly came through it became more enjoyable. Only when chewing did I appreciate the ground Earl Grey tea leaves, adding little crunches here and there, but during the melt the leaves would get left behind and the last thing you want in your mouth after having chocolate is tea leaves

Both milk chocolates failed to fulfil my expectations, more so the Pecan & Maple Dream as the Tea Time Frolics actually delivered its proposed flavour, though just a little too forcefully. The Tea Time Frolics also had a good texture and snap, but really the bergamot flavour was too strong. Lemon in milk chocolate would have been more successful

To conclude my whole experience of Prestat's Art Deco collection, the white chocolates were the clear show stoppers. If you wanted to try any of these chocolates, your best bet is the Knickerbocker Glory

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Green & Black's Butterscotch Milk Chocolate

I fell into temptation over the words "37% cocoa". Green & Black's 37% milk chocolate is a chocolate I am so fond of. I've only tasted it once, but that one memory seems as if it'll last a lifetime (update: I now have an addiction of buying it). I'm not too sure as to why I liked it so much, but the real question was: could butterscotch enhance my beloved chocolate? I thought not, but nevertheless I knew I was going to enjoy it

I've always admired Green & Black's aesthetics: the packaging's fonts, colour schemes and gold foil that wraps the chocolate. This chocolate had a matte finish, black specks -the toffee pieces- penetrating the surface, a soft snap, and a rich cocoa and dark caramelised aroma

The butterscotch sweetly punched through the chocolate. I loved how the toffee was tasted right from the beginning and not just when bitten. Brandt Maybury, Green & Black's taste specialist, said to me a few months ago: 
"A little secret is we add some of the toffee 'dust', so that the flavour goes all the way throughout the bar"
And what a success - I love how a small detail like so is conspicuous; the flavour really was amplified. It also expresses just the passion and precision Green & Black's have for flavour

The chocolate itself had a lovely smooth melt but the toffee, with its sharp and crunchy texture, would stick to the back teeth. The taste was akin, but superior, to the Daim bar

I guess this chocolate was simply Green & Black's Burnt Toffee in a 37% milk chocolate and with a smoother melt. In terms of milk chocolate with toffee, Co-op's Toffee milk chocolate and Elizabeth Shaw's Butterscotch milk chocolate both seemed softer, milkier and more delicate in flavours. This could be down to Green & Black's using more intensely flavoured cocoa (Trinitario from Dominican Rep & Belize) as well as a richer tasting toffee

Friday, 20 June 2014

Taste the Difference Santo Domingo & Peruvian 70% Dark Chocolate

These single origin chocolate bars are made by different unknown makers for Sainsbury's Taste the Difference range and are priced at £1.40 for 100g

The packaging design for both are attractive but I don't like the QR code on front, nor the nutritional information (that belongs on the back). The Santo Domingo picture stands out in particular, the red spectrum provoking a heat and richness whereas the greenery of the Peruvian creates a more fresh and earthen vibe

Both are certified Fairtrade and have added cocoa butter and emulsifier: soya lecithin
"hints of pear and hazelnut"

In the nose was a cocoa body overlaid with spice (notably liquorice: aniseed) and vanilla. There were further notes of leather and malt

In the mouth was tannin and tobacco, but a modulation to a juicy feel and taste. It was sweet and rich with a chocolate brownie taste. Though not fruity, the juicy taste suggested the "pear" stated on the packaging. The finish was sour, somewhat tannin and toast

Above were the fundamental notes of this Peruvian, however the flavours were capricious. Over 4 tastings: mushroom (fungi) hit me twice in the finish, once I had orange in aroma, another was strawberry, then another was celery (a quality similar to this 52% Peruvian and the urine-like aroma). Then finally during the last tasting, being left with the smallest piece solely to taste, it was hazelnut

From afar, the perfumed vanilla overtone of this chocolate was so strong that it suggested an unpalatable experience. It wasn't until I intently engaged my senses with this chocolate that I found there was more to it

Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) 
"hints of red wine and berry"

This chocolate was of organic cocoa and sugar and seemingly simpler and softer in flavours than the Peruvian. I preferred this one, having preference for a fruity chocolate

The aromas were predominantly spice and sweet red pepper. I did at times get a sense of creamy hot chocolate and touches of malt and alcohol. The following day it was predominately red wine/dark red fruits (plum, cherry, raisin) 

The flavour opened with a quick oak bitterness and then the  richness expressed itself. There was red pepper; a blackcurrant (sour) note, nicely complemented by the sweet red pepper; a soft, light-bodied red wine; toast; chocolate. The rich berry and sour note finished the chocolate

Both the Peruvian and Santo Domingo had an excellent temper, shown by the crisp snap and sheen. There were the smallest sugar granules in texture at times. The smooth melting textures were phenomenal 

Paying £1.40 for this chocolate makes me wonder if it's sustainable (especially as one's organic). It seems as if this chocolate is made from fine cocoa beans which rises the question of: are the growers really receiving fair prices to sustain their crops? Theoretically It could be that demand for this Taste the Difference origin chocolate is currently low and/or steady, and Sainsbury's, wanting us to know of their high quality chocolate, are having to attract our attention with low prices (high quality and low prices seems ironic) to eventually result in our loyal consumption and then finally they can rise and set their price realistically, reflecting on what the farmers really should be getting. But as I think of Sainsbury's, the second largest supermarket in the UK, "markup" simply comes to mind, not ethics. So maybe those harvesting the cocoa really are being exploited, and the £1.40 is actually respectable for Sainsbury's...

I am pleased at the price from consumer perspective though; Sainsbury's are introducing the mass market to fine cacao chocolate. I wonder what Tesco's Finest origin chocolate is like. I do assume that there is a hefty amount of cocoa butter added, but in taste it wasn't very noticeable (that is good)

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Beech's Chocolate Assortment

Before I get on to the chocolates, I feel I need to express my warm approval of Beech's new packaging design for their Thank You chocolate box. Although I'm not keen on the "Thank you" note, I love that Beech's are utilising this patterning which first originated on their Turkish Delight but made more recognisable by their chocolate bar range. I think Beech's should consider having all their products in this style as it would really carry an identity for them and it generally does look more expensive and luxury

This is a selection of Beech's Continental chocolates and with their passion for quality, the environment, their workforce and ultimately their consumers... I wanted to see just how well they could execute in taste

Friday, 13 June 2014

Venchi Mediterranean Sea Salt, Orange & Lavender

I had never had Venchi chocolate before but I of course knew the name. The gourmet Italian chocolate manufacturer is most popular in Italy, with its gelato especially, but I also know it's a well respected name around the world

This Fior di Sale chocolate is a 60% cocoa blend dressed with salt, lavender and orange zest. It's part of Venchi's Sali del Mediterraneo range which entails of the pairing of the "finest cocoa beans" with the "typical aromas and flavours of Italy". I am in love with Italy so I was quite excited to try, however... the idea of orange and dark chocolate, and it especially being candied orange peel didn't enthuse me. But the sea salt and lavender sounded elegant and delightful

Because of its shape and size, I thought and hoped that this chocolate would have a soft centre/truffle filling. But after looking online, I found that it was a miniature of the standard 70 gram bar... so it was of course solid. Probably designed for cafés (Italy's coffee culture) to be served with a hot drink

It had a strong floral aroma, lavender and rose. First taste was a bitter cocoa and orange, then the lavender delicately came through making the flavours feel softer. This chocolate had a smooth melt, though disrupted by the orange peel adhering to the teeth. The orange caused a little sharp tangy, bitter sensation on the tongue. There was a lovely sweetness in this chocolate, possibly elicited by the salt, possibly because of the not-so-bitter 60% cocoa. The salt really revealed itself when the chocolate was chewed, and the salt finished the chocolate

I liked this Venchi chocolate a great deal more than I thought I would. However, I'm still not convinced that orange and chocolate are compatible

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Prestat Toasted Pistachios & Knickerbocker Glory White Chocolate

I have already introduced Prestat and their new chocolate bar range here. Although I failed to mention that they're the proud owners of a Royal Warrant gifted from Her Majesty The Queen. I'm continuing with this art deco range, of which added pizzazz to their exisiting selection of chocolate bars, with these two new fun flavoured white chocolates. Prestat's 'Fabulously Creamy' white chocolate is the platform to showcase these new flavours, with cocoa solids of 28% and milk solids of 22%

Toasted Pistachio 
The green colour on the packaging made me think this was going to be the Matcha Green Tea flavour which excited me as I loved Prestat's Matcha Green Tea hot chocolate flakes! But then I saw it was a slightly less exciting flavour combination; white chocolate and pistachio. It still sounded good though

The earthy, nutty aroma was well defined and distinctly pistachio. It smelt kind of dry but it looked inviting, with the pistachio being scattered throughout. A soft break lead to a quick, creamy melt. A beautifully rich taste, which was not sickly sweet. This bar was just literally pistachios in a rich and creamy, high quality white chocolate. And I loved it. The added sea salt was tasted mainly in the finish, but I did get a few little sparks throughout which I was not expecting (I didn't realise salt had been added)

Knickerbocker Glory 
I thought the idea of passion fruit in white chocolate would work so well because of the sweet and sour contrast. This chocolate had a strong, sweet strawberry smell with a light, creamy nuttiness

It was nice to see the freeze dried strawberries and passionfruit and the crumbled meringue pieces within. The texture of the meringue was light and crunchy and there were also little air bubbles throughout the chocolate. The taste was noticeably sweeter than the Toasted Pistachio. And although at first I couldn't taste the passionfruit, when it did come through it was rather powerful; noticing sharp little twangs on the tongue. It tasted very exotic

Overall, I enjoyed these two chocolate bars much more than I did Prestat's Salted Dark Chocolate and I knew I would. The only flaws of these white chocolates would be how chewy and soft the Pistachio bar was, but the melts for both were smooth. Also, the pistachios could have had a little more crunch; they were slightly on the soft side. I still have Prestat's milk chocolate bars to enjoy: Tea Time Frolics and Pecan & Maple Dream

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Lindt Excellence 90% Dark Chocolate

Lindt use a "high percentage of flavour beans" and source mainly from Ghana. This 90% cocoa chocolate is an unknown bean blend, and the ingredients is as follows: cocoa paste, cocoa butter, low fat cocoa, sugar, natural Bourbon vanilla beans

I do enjoy Lindt Excellence (also their Creation range!) but I wasn't too sure how I'd feel about this 90% bar. The added vanilla suggested that the beans weren't so flavoursome, but the 'natural Bourbon vanilla' sounded promising 

It was jet black in colour, suggesting over-roasted beans? The aroma was sweet and soft, with the vanilla and cocoa overtones. I liked it, but there were no real subtleties

The chocolate had a sharp snap. When in the mouth, the bitter cocoa was first tasted and persisted. The dusty melt was not enjoyable but the cooling feel was fairly pleasant. There was a vanilla sweetness but the blunt bitterness overpowered 

I understand that this is no fruitful cacao (flavour beans), but for a "premium" and well established brand, who do offer such great chocolate, it's disappointing that I found the taste (and texture) to be so disruptive. I would have liked more cocoa butter. It tasted of cocoa, not chocolate. Though the aroma was lovely

This 90% cocoa chocolate isn't so much "high quality" chocolate, just excellent marketing

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Nero & Bianco Milk Chocolate

Reading that Nero & Bianco started up their chocolate venture with the imperative idea of being Fairtrade and organic, I was only hoping that taste and quality was their paramount interest. This niche brand buy their cocoa from the Dominican Republic, Peru and Ecuador, and their bars are manufactured by an Italian chocolate company (I believe Agostoni)

This 39% cocoa milk chocolate is an organic and Fairtrade Dominican Republic and Ecuadorian cocoa blend. It's of 30% milk solids, it doesn't include an emulsifier and its sugar (grown in Paraguay) sits 3rd on the ingredients list. Nero & Bianco, on the packaging, also mention the co-operatives from where their cocoa and sugar is grown. Loaded with all this positive information about the chocolate I was about to taste, it really seemed as if it was going to be an "indulgence with conscience"

The aroma was creamy, a soft cheese, butter and nut with the lightest cacao background. The sugar had a sharp caramel, vanilla sweetness but it was far from overwhelming. The creaminess really mellowed the sugar and I found the aroma to be so captivating. It smelt very much like white chocolate. It had an immensely soft snap and bite

The taste was creamy with the sweetness being almost quite earthy. There were notes of nut and cheese. It had a long melt which had a pleasant enough texture compared to when chewing. As when chewing, because it was vastly high in cocoa butter, it felt fat and viscous in the mouth and as the chewing required some effort it made the taste to go unnoticed at times. With all this cocoa butter, it was a real surprise that the melt wasn't that smooth

Before tasting this chocolate I knew that there was a significant difference between the cocoa butter and mass. As "cocoa butter" was first on the ingredients list, followed by milk powder then cane sugar; and then penultimately "cocoa paste" (or 'liquor' approx. 53% cocoa butter). The aroma also indicated the little cocoa mass within, it wasn't so much cacao I could smell...more a white chocolate vanilla cheesecake. The taste actually reminded me of Willie's white chocolate, the sugar being soft and delicate with the natural, earthed flavour of cacao butter

The colour and mould of the chocolate wasn't the most attractive but I really fell for the aroma. And because of how calm it was, I enjoyed this milk chocolate and would happily have it again. Despite its limited distribution, if you do see this 60s psychedelic inspired packaging, I really do recommend you try it (£2.30)

I must say that I would have preferred more cocoa liquor/mass for texture and taste reasons; I wanted more of an expressive chocolate flavour. It is interesting to see how the ratio of butter to cocoa mass differentiates chocolate bars, for example Nero & Bianco has more cocoa than Green & Black's 37% milk chocolate yet isn't as cocoa defined

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Digby's Fine Chocolates

I always wonder whether to write up on a selection of chocolates as an ensemble or not, but the enjoyment I get of looking at each chocolate alone rules my decision; for chocolates are a work of art after all