Pairing a 40% milk chocolate with a 60% (the Nicaragua) in the same package would seem to be an odd way to make a comparison, if the objective is the comparison of origins. Perhaps, though, in the milk category, there is somewhat more room, for if the objective were solely the origin comparison, such bars would surely be best delivered in a dark format. Thus here Zotter appears to be aiming as much for a comparison of 2 different approaches to milk chocolate as of 2 different origins. Much here must depend on personal preference and interpretation. For some, once a chocolate has milk in it, it is a “milk chocolate” no matter what the percentage, and if furthermore they prefer strong intensity, they will surely gravitate towards the Nicaragua. Others, on the other hand, prefer a milder, distinctly milky chocolate even to put it in the milk chocolate category, and for them this bar has been targetted. In the Labooko series, Zotter seems to try to package one “fine” chocolate with one “emerging” chocolate; it seems clear this one was intended to be the “emerging” one. This seems to make fairly strong statements about where Zotter’s opinion lies on the interpretation of milk chocolate! Various chocolates from Peru have been appearing recently, in various guises, so this one may not have the originality factor of its Nicaragua stablemate, but it will offer a pleasing exercise in contrasts.
Alex Rast: 14-Oct-2010
A mild milk chocolate that, next to its intense 60% partner, can’t manage to stand out. While this chocolate may appeal to “classic” milk chocolate fans, with its milky taste, and while the organic/fair trade label does add value, on the whole, the chocolate itself doesn’t really add much value. There are several other organic milk chocolates that are at least arguably better, even from the same basic origin. Nor do many of the characteristics of the chocolate itself stand out, which rather begs the question of why use an origin at all? If the intent is to offer a comparison between a “quality” and an “up-and-coming” chocolate, Zotter here just goes a bit far – the “quality” Nicaragua 60% is just so much more interesting in every way that ultimately this offering pales, quite literally.
Out of the wrapper, the chocolate looks quite light, particularly for a 40% which usually has a bit more colour. This could be a good sign, indicating quality beans, and undoubtedly the finish is excellent, with minimal signs of mould imperfections. The aroma, however, hints that the colour is not a particularly auspicious sign: it’s really very plain, creamy mixed with caramel, some dusty hints. In the end very vague traces of woody and citrus suggest what the character of the beans might be, but on the whole the aroma is rather typical of mild milk chocolates.
As suspected, it doesn’t really get any better in the taste. The first flavour is a generic caramel and vanilla, then it moves to creamy and custardy. Evidently almost all of the flavour is coming from the milk, and slight woody and nut hints actually suggest more milk caramelisation than anything about the bean. In addition, it’s quite sweet, surprisingly so for a milk chocolate. Not exactly an experience that makes one think one is finding much about the supposed Peruvian origins.
The texture, reminiscent of most of Zotter’s bars with its incredible smoothness, almost gives away the problem, because in addition it’s perhaps the creamiest of all the Zotters. One therefore must suspect that the cocoa percentage includes a hefty cocoa butter percentage, further diluting the chocolate. It’s too bad – an interesting origin might have had much to say, and a milk chocolate might smooth out some of the harsher edges in chocolates that are still developing, but this is a chocolate where all edges, harsh or not, have been smoothed out. It really suffers put in comparison with the Nicaragua, which was perhaps a poor choice of pairing: it makes an already problematic chocolate seem that much worse in comparison. Zotter should really reformulate this with less cocoa butter (and possibly less sugar as well) – it needs more oomph.