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Confused about high end chocolate
June 6, 2005
12:07 am
ChemicalMachine
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I have always liked chocolate. I like plain baker’s chocolate, but it tends to give me a stomach ache. Below I will list my experience with several bars.

Jamieson’s 70%: I like this bar. It is mild, but still good. It has a unique flavor.
Chocolove 77%: I like this bar. It is almost too mild, but still has a strong chocolate flavor.
Lindt: I like their high perecentage bars. They are a little bitter, but I still enjoy them and I sometimes want a little bitterness.
Valor 70%: Too mild, but I sometimes like it when my stomache is feeling weak.
A. Korkunov 72%: I like this bar. It tastes very similar to chocolove to me.
Various organic bars: I have disliked all of these. The flavor from the unprocessed sugar overpowers the chocolate flavor.
Scharffen Berger: I do not remember the percentage, but it was probably between 70 and 90. The texture was brittle and the flavor too mild. I will probably not try another bar from this company.
Valrhona Le Noir 56%: Not chocolatly enough.
Le Noir Gastronomie 61%: Too sweet and weak. The consistancy was different form the other Valrhona bars, but it appears that this was supposed to be used for cooking.
Valrhona Le Noir Amer 71%: I like this, but too me it is not worth a few extra dollars over the other brands. It is not too strong or bitter, but the fruity flavors are a little too dominant.

So, many of the bars I like seem to be unpopular here, while the ones I dislke get good reviews. http://www.seventypercent.com/…..s=jamieson

Reading through the reviews, each of the high end bars are supposed to taste like things other than chocolate such as blue cheese. I thought that an ideal bar would taste mainly only of chocholate? Where do these other flavors come from? Fermentation?

The above mentioned bars are the only ones availabe to me locally. I am considering ordering a few bars from chochospere, but I am concerned that I will not like them any more than the less expensive bars. Are the fruity flavors as powerful as Valrhona in the other high end brands?

Also, as for the non-chocolaty flavors such as blue cheese, citrus, apricot, and mint, are these considered acquired tastes?

June 6, 2005
2:29 am
Sebastian
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Welcome ChemicalMachine

I think what it boils down to is that you like what you like, and should never rely on someone else’s preferences to dictate what you prefer. I’ve made chocolate for over a decade, and h ave never, ever tasted blue cheese in chocolate – and i’ve eaten more chocolate than your average bear 8-)

Sensory descriptors can be difficult to do in a forum such as this. What one person calls blue cheese, another might identify as something completely different – there is no shared vocabulary. Some people are ‘super tasters’ – able to pick up on just the absolute tiniest trace of a flavor, while others may be completely blind to it alltogether.

You may find that as you eat chocolate critically (think of it as the difference between hearing and listening, except for tasting), that you’ll be able to identify differences between different types. You may be able to characterize them, or you may simply know that it’s different, but not entirely sure why. I often times feel that way with wine – some reviews seem to be awfully wordy for the sake of being wordy, and i may find myself disagreeing entirely with the reviewer. Remember, a review is just that – one person’s opinion – doesn’t make that person or you right or wrong. Taste is wonderful that way. You like what you like, and no one can change that 8-)

June 6, 2005
5:35 pm
Hans-Peter Rot
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Not to beat a dead horse, let’s move on [:)] The flavors most of us describes in a chocolate are inherent flavors that occur naturally in the beans and are enhanced and brought out by such process as fermentation, drying, roasting, etc. It’s a combination of all the processes along with the bean’s natural flavor profile that ends in the final result.

Tasting chocolate is analagous to tasting wine in that both possess flavors that can range from a wide variety of other foods, such as limes, pears, cinnamon, and even cheese. It has been argued that each brand has a characteristic style or taste that sets them apart from the rest. This usually results from bean selection and processing unique to the respective manufacturer, so while the light roasting of Valrhona might produce lighter and fruitier chocolate, the dark roasting of Pralus will yield darker toned and bolder flavors. Fermentation is a complex process, actually, that undergoes several stages and involves several chemicals, many of which must be controlled and handled with precious care in order to release certain flavors. Then there’s the trouble with matching bean type with fermentation time, roasting time, etc. And these are just a few of the factors that contribute to flavor. I could practically write a book on this if I wanted!

After reviewing the chocolate you listed, I can understand why you might feel disappointed and confused. Of course, Valrhona’s Le Noir 56% is too mild (with 56% cocoa solids as a dead giveaway); Korkunov uses cheap beans; Chocolove uses Callebaut and WAY too much cocoa butter; Valrhona Gastronomique 61% is intended for baking and hence has a ton of additional cocoa butter; Scharffen Berger varies…was the bar wrapped in yellow (62%), blue (70%), or brown (82%)? And it seems that you really enjoy the Lindt Excellence bars, which are indeed excellent. They’re curiously intense and I usually have some on hand for a quick munch.

I think perhaps you need just a bit of a tour guide to help you get better acquainted with fine chocolate. But just remember: you might try hundreds of chocolate, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll like every one of them. It’s all trial and error, and the fun part is figuring out what you like. Once you grasp a better understanding of chocolate, you’ll be able to scroll through a list of, oh say, 78 chocolates and then be able to pick out the top five you want to try first based on your taste preferences. Of course, if you get to the point where you like it all, that would be a different problem altogether [;)]

Anyway, if you order from www.chocosphere.com, here are some recommendations:

1. Cluizel Amer Brut 72% – totally noncomplex and completely chocolaty (also called Noir de Cacao 72%; same chocolate)
2. Castelain 85% – one of the better 80%-class chocolates around; it’s intense and chocolaty
3. Guittard Sur del Lago 65% – one of my favorites; tastes like a dark chocolate Nutella
4. Pralus – Ghana 75%, Colombia 75%

These are but a few chocolates for now. They predominantly are noncomplex, bold, and are very, very chocolaty. I doubt you’ll be disappointed if you try these. But please don’t take our words as gospel because chocolate is an utterly subjective experience.

June 7, 2005
9:47 am
alex_h
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nicely put, sebastian.

September 20, 2005
3:56 am
pelos
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I agree with you. I haven’t tried everything, but the ones that are recommended that I did try, I either didn’t care for or didn’t think they were anything special.

September 21, 2005
1:14 am
Hans-Peter Rot
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I recommended those to Chemical because apparently he wasn’t too thrilled with the upfront fruity chocolates. So I offered some bolder and more full-bodied varieties. I assume that the Scharffen Berger he tried was the 62% because unlike its 70% and 82% counterparts, it is comparatively mild. After reviewing the list of chocolates he tried, it’s fairly obvious that he set himself up for disaster. Which did you try, btw?

September 24, 2005
6:05 am
ChemicalMachine
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It was the 70% Sharffen Berger.

Since then I have tried the three bars from Chocovic and I was very pleased with all of them. These bars were the first for which I thought they tasted like all of the little things which people claim they taste like.

I have also tried a few Weiss bars. The 85% Weiss is the best 85% bar I have had so far. It was much better than the 85% Valrhona which I see was not very popular with anyone else here either.

I am now findind that for the most part I agree with the tastes of others here. I tried a Hachez bar and a Dolfin, and neither was very good.

I am hoping to eventually mail order some chocholate, but it has been too hot all summer. What happens to chocholate when it freezes? (I am wondering if mail order chocolate is easier during the winter, or if it will then be too cold)

Chocovic’s Ocumare and Guyave taste fairly complex to me, and they are among my favorites so perhaps I do not like dislike all complex chocolates.

September 24, 2005
7:33 am
Hans-Peter Rot
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I have gone through some Weiss bars as well, and I was very pleased with the 57% and the flavored varieties, especially the 64% Mendiant bar. Although a 57%, give it a try anyway; it has a nice chocolatiness and lacks the cloying sweetness typical of 50%-class chocolates. I have a 72% Ebene awaiting tasting, so one of these days….

Chocolate does very well when frozen, actually, just as long as it’s kept that way and is not subjected to extreme changes in temperature and moisture levels. It ships very well in the colder months, so there’s certainly no need to worry about that. The place from where you order will take the appropriate precautions to protect your chocolate regardless of weather.

Summer shipping can be problematic, depending upon where you are, how well the chocolate is packaged, and how quickly it is shipped (e.g. 2-day air, next day delivery, etc.). I am currently in the desert and have not experienced any problems with damaged chocolate; next day air, and well insulated packaging have ensured safe deliveries thus far.

I need to re-visit those Chocovic bars. I have a funny feeling my last Guaranda bars were poorly stored because the flavor just tasted “off.” If I remember correctly, I think Ocumare was a little bland and lacked depth, while Guyave was definitely the better of the three. Chocovic is now producing three more retail bars that you can view on their web-site: http://www.chocovic.es I forgot what kinds they are (only one 70% class), but you’ll see them on the site.

Funny you mention Dolfin. While their 70% is certainly lackluster in flavor, although intense in chocolatiness, their 88% is rather interesting regarding its easiness on the palate. In this respect, I recommend it, especially if you want to acclimate yourself to higher cocoa content chocolates.

September 27, 2005
1:36 am
ChemicalMachine
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Earlier in this thread you said, “Valrhona Gastronomique 61% is intended for baking and hence has a ton of additional cocoa butter.”

I thought that the blocks would be the same as the bars because in a different thread alex_h said, “If you truly want to maximize chocolate quantity without compromising quality, then I suggest you not buy bars, but rather you buy the large blocs or the bulk bags of pastilles. Look on http://www.chocosphere.com because they offer chocolate that is available in bloc and pastille form. Gram-for-gram, they’re a much better value than the bars, which are desgined specifically for straight consumption. The advantage of buying bars, however, is that they’re available in more manageable sizes and allow for more variety, so while you might spend a lot of money on individual bars and get a good variety, the blocs or pastilles will damage your wallet the same way, but you’ll simply end up with a greater quantity of just a single type of chocolate. Order a bloc of Amedei’s Chuao. Although it’s $50 for a 2.2lb bloc, it’s much more economical than buying a 50g bar for $8.50. Also, Amedei’s Chuao is one of the best chocolates in the world, imo, so this is practically a steal. “

So which bulk chocolates taste the same as the bars, and which are different?

September 27, 2005
3:24 am
Hans-Peter Rot
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Actually, I said that. Alex deleted a post I had made and started a new thread because we were going off-topic. That was simply my original post.

Anyway, couverture and chocolate bars differ in their amounts of cocoa butter, with the former containing more to allow for increased fluidity and a glossy appearance. It’s hard to say which blocks will actually contain significantly more, but it’s always recommended to ask the manufacturer first. If he sees you’re interested in buying a block, then he will be sure to reply.

October 1, 2005
3:03 am
ChemicalMachine
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Today I tried the 82% Scharfeen Berger and Valrhona’s Caraibe and Guanaja.

I did not like the 82% any better than the 70%. I do not think that it is the fruity flavors, but something else. It has sort of a metallic type taste. I think this may be what others here call an acidic flavor?

The Valrhona bars were all slightly soft from the car ride home, but I went ahead and tried them anyway. My first impression was surprise at how similar in taste they were to Valrhona Le Noir Amer 71%. They were much redder, so I was expecting for them to be more different.

I tried them again tonight, and I noticed more differences this time now that they have cooled off. I am pleased with both. I taste an egg-like flavor in the Guanaja which reminds me of cookie dough. This sort of gives it a very different feel than the other bars. Has anyone else noticed this flavor?

I am not sure if I will buy many more bars of these two, as locally they are the same price as the Le Noir Amer, but contain only 75 g compared to 100 g. (I eat on average between 50 to 75 grams a day)

Over the past few weeks, I have eaten more Valrhona than anything else. Unlike some other bars, I seem to like the Valrhona more after each bar.

” need to re-visit those Chocovic bars. I have a funny feeling my last Guaranda bars were poorly stored because the flavor just tasted “off.” If I remember correctly, I think Ocumare was a little bland and lacked depth, while Guyave was definitely the better of the three”

The Guyave is probably my favorite of the three also. I was excited by the Ocumare because it is the only bar that I have tried with noticeable wood-like flavors, which I found to be a pleasant change. Can you recommend any better bars with smoked wood flavors?

October 1, 2005
3:29 am
Hans-Peter Rot
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Guanaja has a distinctly heavy vanilla flavor that to me is almost too pronounced, and there’s even brown sugar in the profile as well. It certainly does lend a dessert-like impression, perhaps even berries and cream when combined with the red sharpness. It takes a little too long to develop on the tongue as well, something which tests my patience a little too much. Maybe I’m too picky….

Acidity is not a flavor but more of a sensation. If your mouth waters or puckers, or if the chocolate just tastes tangy, tart, or sharp, then that’s the acidity. Combined with a medium-to-heavy body, then I refer to it as sharp, whereas combined with a lighter body, I refer to it as tart or tangy. That’s my general rule of thumb.

For smoky and woody chocolates, try these:

Pralus Java 75% – smoke, leather, mushrooms; very heavy and bold

Pralus Indonesia 75% – somewhat light, hay, brown grass, light fruits

Marcolini Java 72% – smoke, leather, citrus, sweet spice; light

Grenada Chocolate Company 71% – highly acidic, juniper, cedar; medium

lots of Ghana and Ivory Coast chocolates will have tobacco and smoky flavors, but they’re very noncomplex; try Jacques Torres Ghana 72% bar

read my reviews of Domori Chacao Absolute 70%, El Rey Apamate 73.5%, Marcolini Java 72%, Domori Puertofino, Marcolini Madagascar 72%

Oh, and do try Valrhona Gran Couva; it has some wonderful grassy notes. And maybe Weiss Noir Ebene 72% (I haven’t tried this yet, but it smells heavily of tobacco, which to me implies heavy Ghana or Ivory Coast base)

And Dagoba’s Los Rios has a curiously strong leather component to the flavor.