Friday, 23 April 2010
I imagine most people if offered the chance to try some luxury chocolate for free in return for an honest appraisal on their blog, they'll jump at the chance. So who am I to disappoint the good folk at Fuel My Blog and the suppliers Chocolate and Love?
And lo, a thick padded bag duly arrived containing the pictured chocolate. Luckily I'm a dark chocolate lover, because that's what I received. 2 plain chocolate bars of 71% (Filthy Rich) and 55% (Nirvanabar) cocoa solids respectively, a 65% bar flavoured with orange oil (Orange Mantra), another under the Conscious label containing lots of nuts (my favourite combination), plus a packet of Pacari organic chocolate covered guava which on closer inspection turned out to look like a luxury version of the Paynes Poppets of my childhood.
Chocolate & Love specialise in the luxury, ethical end of the chocolate market, hence the high cocoa solid percentages of each bar and the organic and/or Fairtrade sourcing of ingredients wherever possible. So how best to conduct the taste test? I decided to carry out a thorough survey first, at my local supermarket. I was surprised to find how many brands of chocolate are positioned at this end of the market. So I then tried to be like the magazines and conduct a taste comparison of the bars closest in nature to the ones I'd received. Thus I came home with a further 4 bars to test: 3 of 70% cocoa content (Green & Blacks, Seeds of Change and supermarket Fairtrade own brand) plus a Green & Blacks equivalent of the orange flavoured bar. Well someone has to do it, so why not me?
The plain chocolate bars
This kind of chocolate is totally different to the usual kind of fayre. There's a richness of aroma, a clean snap when a piece is broken off, plus a slowness of melting when placed in the mouth with a long, lingering after taste. All the bars exhibited these characteristics as they should. The 70-71% bars were much more bitter owing to their very high cocoa content, the supermarket brand markedly so such that it was quite unpleasant. The rest were about the same as each other, but I thought the Seeds of Change bar had the slight edge over the other two.
The revelation was the 55% cocoa solids Nirvanabar. For me this had just the right balance between cocoa content and sweetness. It's a shame I didn't find any others of this cocoa content level for a comparison tasting.
The orange flavoured bars
The chocolate exhibited similar characteristics to the plain chocolate bars but were totally different in taste. The Green & Black's bar tasted overwhelmingly of orange peel, whereas the Chocolate & Love bar hardly tasted of anything, despite having a distictly orange tang in its aroma. Neither bar particularly appealed to me and won't woo me away from a slice of dark chocolate Terry's Chocolate Orange
No comparisons here, just straight tasting. I was looking forward to tasting The Nutty One and oh, what a disappointment. No real chocolate or nutty taste, just blandness despite the 25% nut content. Give me Thornton's chocolate covered brazils any day.
So there was just the Pacari chocolate covered guava left and here at last was something worth having! The packet contains just 57g and purports to be 6 servings. This does give you quite a few individual 'pearls' for your portion, thus allowing for slow eating. Each one has a rich chocolate taste, which gives way to an almost red-wine like flavour as the guava fruit comes through. A real treat.
The 71% plain chocolate bar wasn't the best in its class and is quite a lot more expensive than its peers (£2.90 per 100 grammes vs £1.09 to £1.98 for the rest). As this richness of chocolate isn't really to my taste, I can't really recommend any of the bars in this category. The same applies to both the orange flavoured bars.
I liked the 55% Chocolate & Love bar, but can't say whether or not I'd recommend it over any other chocolate of similar cocoa content and ethical stance. If the results of the 70% taste test were duplicated in this category (and there are others of 55% content around, it's just that I didn't find them on the day), I suspect I'd be recommending a cheaper bar than the Chocolate & Love one.
The Nutty One is so unpleasant I've yet to finish the bar and is therefore one to avoid.
The organic chocolate covered guava was great and definitely the chocolate I'd love to have again. It would sadly only be an occasional treat though because at £2.95 per packet (+ p&p) it's a very dear way of achieving my chocolate fix, even though I could make the contents last for a very long time.
My thanks to Fuel My Blog and Chocolate & Love for the opportunity of trying lots of one of my favourite foods :)