Saturday, November 6, 2010

Scharffen Berger Bittersweet 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate



3oz (85g) bar
Ingredients: Cacao beans, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla beans
13g sugar/43g serving (30.2% by wt.)

Once upon a time I heard Berkeley, California's Scharffen Berger touted as the source for American dark chocolate. Nowadays it's owned by Hershey (as is Oregon's Dagoba), and the Berkeley plant was closed last year. While I respect small chocolatiers' decisions to sell their companies, in the aftermath of a big sale the chocolate's history no longer means much to me. So make no mistake, what I'm looking at here is a Hershey product, albeit one from a different recipe than the iconic Hershey bar. Can present-day Scharffen Berger's 70% Cacao bar stand on its own?

This bar certainly looks mid- to high-end, thin and flat, glossy and imprinted with crossed lines and the Scharffen Berger logo. Its smell isn't distinctive, though it's nicely chocolatey. A cross-section breaks cleanly and looks dense and uniform. The taste: first rich and creamy and fairly sweet, then intense in a sour way, darker tasting than some other 70% bars I've had. It's not super interesting (but then, most bars aren't) and not mild or balanced enough to be an everyday bar for me, but it's legitimately tasty.

Personally, I wouldn't buy this over a comparable bar from an independent company. It's not especially cheap (If I recall correctly, I've only seen it for $4 and up) or organic or fair trade, and Hershey doesn't need my money. But taste-wise, it's decent.

Conclusion: Scharffen Berger Bittersweet 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate is dark, dense, and creamy, not amazing but good.

4 comments:

  1. Even if owned by a bigger company, I hope Scharffen Berger won't compromise quality for earnings... like Godiva did.

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  2. Me too. I recall thinking soon after Hershey took over (in 2005) that the quality had gone down, but I wasn't paying that much attention and don't remember what Scharffen Berger was like before. Because of that I was curious to try this bar, and I wasn't blown away, but I was pleasantly surprised.

    I've been disappointed with Godiva too--it seems to have a good reputation, but I find the chocolate to be mediocre. I don't know if I've felt that way since before their big sale or only recently...

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  3. Munching on Scharffen Burger's 82% dark chocolate bar at the moment. Really enjoying the bitter-to-sweet ratio and the mouthfeel - I like it a lot better than the 70% bar. Not excited to hear they're owned by Hershey's, though. It's a reason not to buy more; i'd rather support smaller companies.

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  4. Once upon a time I found Scharffen Berger's dark milk chocolate bar (http://shop.scharffenberger.com/68-Cacao-Dark-Milk-Chocolate/p/SFB-CBDARKMILK&c=ScharffenBerger@Bars) and really enjoyed it (or at least that's how I remember it), but I haven't spied that bar in stores since. For that I'd try something Scharffen Berger again, but otherwise I'm with you: Why spend my high-end chocolate money on Hershey's when it can support small businesses instead?

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