Is it live or is it Memorex? Hotel Chocolat (presumably working through their traditional supplier Coppeneur), manage to put out a Chuao chocolate that is virtually a carbon copy of the Amedei original. The duplication is so perfect one wonders if they put a team to work on reverse-engineering the Amedei. Now, if Amedei have in Chuao what is widely acknowledged to be among the best, if not indeed, the best, chocolate in the world, then clearly the Hotel Chocolat product must objectively be in the same position. But it isn’t exactly original, is it? One can certainly commend the chocolate as a fine achievement, however, a little more injection of style would perhaps have been welcome.
The smallish plastic-wrapped bars don’t instantly inspire confidence in the packaging, but the contents can’t be flawed; and it allows you to see what you’re getting before you buy. It’s classic Chuao-coloured reddish-brown, with a nice glossy finish. A bit of unevenness on the back is nothing to worry about. So far so good.
The aroma is glorious and archetypal, starting out with soft strawberries and cream, then proceeding to blackberry, with hints of molasses. It’s powerful and deep, instantly suffusing the nose as soon as the chocolate is unwrapped. Flavour is similarly right on course, starting out with dried-fruit currant along with cream, then proceeding to a nutty and woody cast with hints of blackcurrant. The finish continues with extraordinary length in chocolatey and raisin, with near-perfect balance and awe-inspiring power throughout. This is certainly a definitive version of Chuao.
All well and good, but almost the same words could have been written about Amedei Chuao. About the only area where this chocolate diverges is in the texture, which is very smooth and exceptionally creamy, in contrast to Amedei’s slightly rougher finish. But this is a trivial detail. Hotel Chocolat have succeeded in replicating the Amedei Chuao. Is this a good thing? Difficult to say. On the one hand, it can’t be denied that Amedei have achieved perhaps the ideal stylistic interpretation for Chuao, resulting in arguably the best chocolate ever made. Thus, if one would work with Chuao, and if the goal be the best possible chocolate, it might be inevitable that the end result will end up being a lot like Amedei. On the other, the interest in a new manufacturer producing this origin must lie almost entirely in the interpretation: if you want something that tastes like the Amedei, then why not simply buy it? So, the conclusion is basically that Hotel Chocolat have here an “objectively excellent” chocolate, but one which makes no fundamental contribution to the chocolate scene. It seems preferable to recommend that they tinker with the style a little bit rather than stay with the bar as is, even though as is, it’s unequivocally superb.