We’ve long known that chocolate, particularly dark (with cocoa solids of 70-100%), is extremely good for us. Chocolate is mineral rich and pumped full of antioxidants which helps reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol, improve blood flow and lower blood pressure and it promotes better mental health because eating it releases endorphins that makes us feel better and relieves stress. But the majority of us have an acquired taste when it comes to all things chocolate and opt for milk chocolate bars that have pretty low cocoa and high sugar content- so we get practically zero health benefits from our treats and pretty limited satisfaction too.
I have to admit, I’ve been sat in camp crap chocolate too for too long- mostly though because I’ve had bad experience with dark chocolate. I have quite a sweet tooth and any ‘dark’ chocolate bars I’ve found are too bitter for my preferred taste buds. But in a quest for better health, and satisfaction over my sweet cravings, I was willing to challenge this.
Hotel Chocolat, in their latest quest to deliver the best chocolate in the world, travel to the most remote parts of the planet in search for distinct and unique cocoa. The result, is the specially curated range, Rare and Vintage. Which really tells a story about distance they cover, the unique journeys they endure and the communities they help support in bringing to us some of the most truly divergent chocolate the world has ever known.
Made in small batches; this selection offers chocolate with 45%-100% pure cocoa solids that each have their own distinct combinations and flavours to elicit what chocolate can and does offer. I had the absolute pleasure of playing chocolate connoisseur in trying this range and I have to say it completely changed how I saw, taste and think of chocolate- most chocolate I’ve had to date is like plastic compared to this experience. Here’s how I found it:
50% St Lucia Milk Chocolate
Even milk chocolate I’ve had before now has not been as creamy or as enjoyable as this bar has been. It’s a luxury experience. It’s a perfect balance of milk and chocolate. On a bit of research I am completely taken aback to find that popular milk chocolate bars have only 25% of cocoa solids in them; the St Lucia bar has double the amount of cocoa solids and tastes much better for it.
55% Ghana Milk Chocolate
I’m expecting as I move closer to the 100% bar that it’ll become more bitter- even at 5% more I’m expecting a significant difference; but I actually found this bar, compared to the 50% St Lucia bar to be even creamier and smoother; it was silk like in its consistency and found it to taste more like expected milk chocolate than the St Lucia bar. I found this bar was better enjoyed slowly to really tease out the sweetie goodness. I also found it had a toffee like distinction to it too which was a welcome surprise and small quantities was very satisfying; I didn’t feel I had to devour the whole bar to get a chocolate fix.
65% Buffalo Milk Chocolate
The buffalo milk gives this bar a distinct flavour that makes the chocolate creamy and rich in taste. It’s satisfying but quite moreish. This chocolate is best left on the tongue to melt in the mouth; trust us.
70% Supermilk Ecuador Organic
When you open the packet to this bar, you get a kick of strong cocoa aroma that’ll instantly lift your spirits. In the mouth, it still feels smooth like the milk chocolates before but you get a sudden blast of the stronger, purer chocolate. The ‘supermilk’ taste follows which is strong like goat’s milk, to calm the chocolate and leaves you with a smooth, creamy finish. It has a satisfying after taste that keeps the experience going.
72% Dark Honduran
I’m expecting this to pack a powerful punch as we’re entering pretty strong chocolate territory now- particularly as this is 65% more cocoa solids than I am use to. But actually I found this to be much more like milk chocolate than most of the other chocolates I’ve tried so far. This bean has distinct fruity tones (the bar itself in light has a red tinge to it too) that is delicious and the chocolate itself is smooth and creamy. It’s a bar that could be devoured but was enjoyable to sit and savour every last taste of it.
75% Dark Genga, Columbia
I’m totally shocked and surprised to find that this bar is also much too much like milk chocolate than dark; it’s has a rich chocolatey goodness without the bitterness, it has a kick of freshness so it’s an enjoyable treat but it has a potentness in that you can tell the chocolate is of a higher quantity but it’s sweet;you feel indulgent but completely guilt-free whilst eating it.
100% Dark St Lucia
Ok, we’re in mega chocolate territory now. I, personally, found this to be too strong for my tastes, however, although it has the distinguished dark chocolate tang, it isn’t purely bitterness. It is thicker and much more luxurious than typical dark chocolate bars which I find just crumbles, this doesn’t; like the other bars in the Rare and Vintage range I’ve tried, it is richer and more creamier than most dark chocolates I’ve had before and they’ve at least 30% less cocoa solids than this bar. Though it is an acquired taste, I think it is one you could build an acceptance and even an enjoyance for.
From this experience I’ve found that there is a misconception on how dark chocolate is meant to taste. There is a conditioning with such chocolates that it is too bitter but likely, based on the quantity of cocoa solids, that the cocoa used in mainstream chocolate is of a poorer quality and so they pump their chocolates with sugar and milk powders and solids to make it more appealing but this ultimately distinguishes the health benefits and satisfaction chocolate should offer. I was completely surprised that the chocolates in the 70+% ranges were so smooth and creamy and had quite distinct flavours of their own; I found that I actually preferred these chocolates over the 50% chocolate bars- I can actually say I enjoy dark chocolate!
If you’d like to play chocolate connoisseur then you may be interested in their Tasting Adventures where they teach people all about different chocolates and why they all taste different and how it’s made. Chocolate isn’t just one dimensional born out of a single bean so these classes are really interesting to a true chocolate lover. I think I’ll be signing up after my experience.
You even have a chance to try a selection of this range for yourself in our latest Hotel Chocolat competition.