The liberation of the Chuao bean market extends to UK high street chain Hotel Chocolate, with a bar made in partnership with German bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Coppeneur.
For some years the exclusive domain of Italian chocolate maker Amedei, Chuaos are now popping up all over the place. Whether there are actually enough beans produced in Chuao valley for all the bars now coming out from this famous Venezuelan origin, and what exactly counts as Chuao is another matter.
There’s no particular reason to question the source here though more than any other, but withÂ the Venezuelan’s government’s plan to enforce minimum prices for cacao – and Chuao at the top of the pile at a hefty $15 / kilo, there’s certainly going to be a temptation to sell everything and anything as ‘Chuao’.
So we perhaps have to go by taste then, and this certainly smells and tastes like Chuao, albeit at the higher end of the roast scale.
When comparing with others from the same origin, we also have to factor out the usual addition of vanilla. This is not necessarily bad and arguably a more pure expression of the Chuao flavour, but perhaps makes the chocolate a little more bitter than it might otherwise be – it’s possible a little more sweetness could actually help here.
Despite the high bean price, Hotel Chocolat have kept this bar at the same price as the rest of their Purist range (which at ÂŁ5 for 70g is anyway not at the cheap end of the market). But at least this most prized of Venezuelan cacaos is now available on the British High Street,Â and that can only be a good thing.
Alex Rast: 23-Sep-2010
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.
Martin Christy: 20-Sep-2010
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.Â Bring this up to your nose quickly and you get the curious aroma of a match box – a slightÂ 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, whileÂ 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 – Â 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.