September 20, 2010

Hotel Chocolat – Chuao – Martin Christy

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Written by: Martin Christy

You wait five years for a new Chuao bar to come along, and suddenly there’s not even three at once, but a whole plethora. Now that this most famous and highly touted of Venezuela’s origins is being freely traded, almost every small chocolate maker seems to be buying a tonne or two.

In this case Hotel Chocolat and Coppeneur have shared a shipment from the 2010 crop. I’m not entirely sure whether the chocolate is a shared batch or has been made to two different recipes. Only time and a taste of the Coppeneur branded version will tell.

No one can quite agree on the best way to roast Chuao, with a range of roasts now in use from the very light Amano roast all the way up to the extreme of Pralus’ high roast style. The Hotel Chocolate recipe seems to lean towards the upper end, and is also without vanilla, but with soy lecithin, so we have a few more variables in the mix, and perhaps a more exposed flavour than some other bars.


The aroma delivers plenty of tobacco and a faint hint of paper ash, along with some dried vine fruits and dried plums. Bring this up to your nose quickly and you get the curious aroma of a match box – a slight sulphur hits you before you can smell the chocolate and fruit notes. It almost smells of Bonfire Night in that first half second. So you can at least say this is an interesting nose!

The colour is dark to red, another indication of the roast. While either the lecithin or proportion of cocoa butter make the texture relatively soft and the snap rather light.

First notes on the tongue are ash, fruit then we’re ten seconds in and this chocolate reaches its peak – the fruit plum / apricot is fully developed and creaminess kicks in. After this we float along with a hint of bitterness, while towards the end there’s a tiny hint of ash again – a slight bitter, ‘cooked’ hint, along with some green tea.

There’s also just the slightest hint here of the ‘rich tea biscuit’ note present in Hotel Chocolat’s Saint Lucia bars. This could come from too much conching and not a fine enough particle size, but I am guessing about this.

The finish is chocolate and cream – a little ‘dusty’ is the best way I can put it, as if we’re tasting cocoa powder. This is where vanilla could have filled a little gap, but you could also argue that this is a purer flavour.

Overall, this is quite palatable and pleasant and identifiably Chuao. Perhaps not the most delicate interpretation, but with some strong points. Given the lack of vanilla and the higher roast – and I don’t say this very often –  a lower percentage may actually be of benefit here, perhaps 65% or 67%.

Personally, I prefer chocolate to taste closer to the cacao from which it’s made, and for me a lighter roast would have helped. Overall not a bad attempt though.

About the Author

Martin Christy
Martin Christy is Seventy%’s editor and founder and is a leading voice in the chocolate industry, promoting the cause of fine chocolate and fine cacao and those who produce them. With twenty years’ experience of fine chocolate, he has travelled extensively visiting cocoa plantations and meeting the world’s top producers and is a consultant to the fine chocolate and cacao growing industries worldwide. Martin is Judging Director of the International Chocolate Awards, which he founded in the UK with Kate Johns of Chocolate Week. He is also Acting Chairman of the new fine cacao and chocolate industry association, Direct Cacao and is a member of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative Tasting Panel. He is also a freelance writer about fine chocolate, contributing to UK magazines and several books about fine chocolate.



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