Reviews

September 23, 2010

Hotel Chocolat – Chuao

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Written by: Alex Rast

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.



About the Author

Alex Rast
Alex Rast is a long-time chocolate experimenter, taster and part-time consultant to chocolate companies. Starting in 1990 with early experiments himself in making chocolate, he quickly moved into evaluating chocolates in commercial production and assisting other companies in improving process. Over the course of many years he has evaluated over 700 distinct chocolate bars. He is one of the earliest reviewers for SeventyPercent and has helped to define and systematise the ratings system. In addition to bar chocolate, he also experiments with chocolate baking and the formulation of "canonical" recipes for classic chocolate items.




 
 

 
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3 Comments


  1. Georg

    I don’t share your opinion that this bar is a copy of Amedei’s Chuao.
    At this moment I am tasting the Amedei Chuao and the Coppeneur Chuao. The difference between Coppeneur and Hotel Chocolat Chuao is only, that for the Coppeneur Chuao they don’t add Soya Lecithin.
    The taste profiles of the two Chuao bars are completly different. Coppeneur’s aka Hotel Chocolat’ s bar is much more aggressive in taste and has much more flavours of the original cocoa bean than Amedei’s bar.
    Amedei’s Chuao is a very mild version of Chuao chocolate. To see any common between this two (or three) bars is curious and in my opinion not possible, almost ridiculous.
    Amedei’s chocolate is added with cocoa butter and vanilla. Coppeneur aka Hotel Chocolat don’t add both ingredients.

    Already the add of cocoa butter change the total taste of the Chuao-beans. The vanilla even increase the changement of the taste.
    For me the Amedei Chuao is surely an excellent chocolate bar, but completly overstyled. This bar don’t have realy the character of Chuao.

    Coppeneur made a long experience to find out which would be the best way to get a pure taste of the Chuao beans. In my opinion they found it.
    I don’t say that the Chuao bar from Coppeneur or Hotel Chocolat is the best of all Chuao bars. But I can say that the taste of this two bars (Coppeneur and Hotel Chocolat) is the most representive taste of Chuao cocoa in the world.

    In Coppeneur’ s bar you might find some traces of undesirable flavours of the cocoa. That’ s true. This is done to the roasting temperatur and the technology of the production. The Chuao beans need a longer conching time. For this I prefear the 100 hours conched chocolate than the 70 hours. You might taste the limited edition from Coppeneur. One Chuao bar with 70 hours conching time the seocond one with 100 hours. Both are from one production batch. The only difference is the conching time.

    I could write more about this chocolate, but I think that it is enough for today.

    Georg


  2. Alex_Rast

    Others have commented (privately) that they didn’t think the bars were clonal copies either. I found it to seem near-identical (again with A/B comparison) so this one seems to come down to personal opinion.

    On the other hand, I’ve always been vaguely skeptical of the notion “pure taste of the beans”. It seems to be fairly in vogue to think in these terms currently, but I think that whether there is such a thing, really as a “pure taste” is somewhat questionable. For each bean, I do agree that there’s probably a best interpretation, i.e. a way of processing that yields the most satisfactory flavour, but in my view this is different from being a pure taste of the bean: chocolate is a processed product, and the nature of process decisions affect the result, so that to say that there is an “intrinsic” taste to a given bean is at best only half the story. Yes, two different sources subjected to the same process will arrive at two different endpoints, but whether one bean subjected to different processes can be said to have one version that is most representative of the taste of the bean as such is, I think, an imprecise statement. Better to say that there is an optimal result, without any particular claim as to whether this is closer to the bean – and this does more justice to the manufacturer in his efforts to give the best possible outcome.

    In my opinion, Amedei have achieved that “optimal result” with the Chuao bean. I’ll admit that this is personal. But you’ll note in my review that in my view Coppeneur have arrived at the same end point, i.e. likewise achieved an optimal result. So, rather bizarrely, like you I feel that Coppeneur have “found it” – the best outcome.

    I suppose this also reveals my opinion, that in my view there is usually going to be a single best outcome, so that, with any origin, two independent manufacturers working towards the same optimal outcome will almost inevitably end up with identical results. Interestingly, as you point out there are some “traces of the undesirable flavours of the cocoa” – and it seems, based on what I’ve experienced, that the optimal result with Chuao does indeed have this property: traces of aggressiveness remain. I do agree that it would interesting to try the 100 hour conche, to see what differences that would make. I think I can probably predict this quite well, but we will see!

    Now, to me, again, the Hotel Chocolat/Coppeneur bars seem very, very similar to Amedei. That’s a personal opinion. But let it not distract from the basic fact: Coppeneur’s result is a *great* bar in every way, one of the best chocolates made.


  3. Anne

    George,
    Good points, well made Sir.
    It always amazes me how many people fall for the Amadei hype.,apologies if that is a little strong but though certainly a good chocolate , great it is not.
    Rather amusingly it is not really rated in Italy , the Italians Chocolatiers prefer Domori, Felchlin and Valrhona in the main.



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