Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark

3.5oz (100g) bar
Ingredients: Chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, sugar, natural bourbon vanilla beans
3g sugar/40g serving (7.5% by wt.)

I put off writing this review mostly because I had computer trouble, but also because I knew I eventually had to write about Lindt’s 90% cacao bar. Unlike some of the bars I’ve reviewed it’s widely available, and it’s been sitting in The Chocolate Basket for ages, so I couldn’t ignore it. I bought it when I was eating even less sugar than I am now; in fact, I was so thrilled to find such a dark bar that I went ahead and bought two. I nibbled at one a bit but didn’t like it, so it just sat there, and now the unopened one taunts me, an unpalatable reminder of my hubris and consumerism and desperation. It’s safe to say that I’ve become biased: I hate this bar.

I’ve tried 99% and 100% cacao bars, and they usually have some bitter or sour taste. This has neither, which sounds good except I’m not sure what’s left. It’s all fruit, or deep wine flavors, but without the sweetness or perfume (caramel or citrus or what have you) or tannins or anything else but Dark. It’s a vacuum of flavor, a sucking, sinking feeling. Eating it doesn’t make me wince or gag, just scowl—from cheerleader to scold in one lingering bite. Oh, and it’s a bit chalky.

Conclusion: Yuck.

I don’t want to be down on Lindt, makers of everyone’s favorite drugstore luxury, the Lindor Truffle. I’ll be happy to try their other products. I’m just not sure what to do with the rest of this one…

Friday, January 15, 2010

Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate 85% Cocoa Content

3.5oz (100g) bar
Ingredients: Organic chocolate liquor, o. cocoa butter, o. fat-reduced cocoa powder, o. raw cane sugar, o. vanilla extract, soy lecithin, o. whole milk powder
6g sugar/40g serving (15% by wt.)

Green & Black’s 85% bar is one of my favorites, a mainstay of the Chocolate Basket and the main reason I have an abiding fondness for Green & Black’s. I don’t know why it took me this long to review it.

The mouthfeel of this bar is fairly waxy: It’s firm and very smooth, but I wouldn’t call it creamy. The flavor  is deep and fruity, with only a touch of bitterness and a minimum of the unpleasantly sour aftertaste of many other dark chocolates. As one might imagine of such a dark bar it’s not exactly sweet, but the lack of bitter and sour notes make it surprisingly easy to eat, and the depth of flavor makes it more interesting than, say, the Newman’s Own 70% bar.

Conclusion: Green & Black’s 85% bar has a mild complexity with few sharp edges. An easy eating chocolate for lovers of very dark bars.

P.S. Big player Cadbury bought Green & Black’s in 2005, but thus far it seems to have maintained Green & Black’s high quality. Now that chocolate giant Hershey’s has made a play for Cadbury, fans of Green & Black’s might wonder if the chocolate would suffer under new ownership. Stay tuned…

[Update: It's Kraft! I have no idea what this will do to Green & Black's--we'll just have to see.]

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Vintage Plantations Artisanal Chocolate 75% Dark

3.5oz (100g) bar
Ingredients: Pure cocoa mass, raw sugar cane, soy lecithin.

Unlike most bars I’ve eaten, Vintage Plantations' 75% doesn’t contain any vanilla, and as much as I like vanilla, I can’t say I taste the difference. (Perhaps I will later, as I become a more astute reviewer.) Then again, it does have a certain pure chocolatey-ness: neither gritty nor too creamy, not too sweet or too sour or too bitter. This bar is like a medium-bodied wine, not especially challenging but retaining a bit of edge and bite.

Conclusion: Vintage Plantations 75% Dark bar is a solid, strong bar, but it probably isn’t distinct enough that I would buy it again. 

[Edit: I'm not sure what happened to my photo of this bar; the one I originally had posted was the 90% bar. See the link above for a link to the photo on the Vintage Plantations site.]

Friday, January 1, 2010

Taza Chocolate Stone Ground Organic Chocolate 80% Dark

3oz (85g) bar
Ingredients: Cacao beans (Dominican Republic), cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole vanilla beans. (All certified organic.)

I found this bar at a specialty chocolate shop, and at $8.00 ($2.66/oz) it was one of the most expensive I’ve considered. (I later saw it for a few cents less elsewhere.) I was able to taste it in the store, and I elected to buy it despite its high price because of the stone-ground texture, which was unlike that of other chocolate I’d eaten.

Taza Chocolate’s 80% bar is gritty and almost dusty; whatever roasting and other processing may go into it, to me the texture makes it taste more “raw” than smoother, creamier bars. The flavor is also somewhat challenging, because it has a clear sour note, coming across as bright rather than deeply fruity, with a bit of a bitter aftertaste. (I’ll be interested to see if this flavor profile will show up in other single-source bars from the Dominican Republic.) Because of the texture, the sugar's sweet counterpoint is distinguishable from the sour and bitter flavors—it’s almost as though the bar's flavors sit side by side in a mixture rather than being melded into one taste experience.

Conclusion: Taza Chocolate’s 80% bar is challenging and relatively expensive, so it’s not for everyone and won’t be a Chocolate Basket staple. On the other hand, if you’re interested in trying something different I’d recommend searching it out. Besides, it’s just a chocolate bar--it’s not like you’ll have to skip a car payment for this sort of luxury.

*You can read more about Taza Chocolate’s bean-to-bar process here.