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newbie question
November 29, 2007
12:31 am
deepsplash
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November 29, 2007
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is "bitter-sweet" bitter than "extra bitter"?

what are some great chocolates for a newbie to check out (ive had too many of those "i can't stop eating" chocolate for my own good)... Also, I might not be too accepting of dark-chocolate 'at the moment' b/c I've eaten mostly milk-chocolate my whole life. Maybe with time, I'll learn to love real dark chocolate. For now, what are some not-that-dark but nonetheless, excellent chocolates to try?

Thanks in advance [:D]

yumm...chocolate

yumm...chocolate
November 29, 2007
1:11 am
Hans-Peter Rot
USA
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Extra bitter denotes anything 80% and above, while bittersweet is usually in the 70% range and even in the 60s--according to some people 65% may be the cut-off point before entering the semisweet category. It's all a matter of semantics and shouldn't necessarily be considered as remarkably important, especially when you start concentrating on flavor and actual properties of the chocolate. When you do this, classification systems and their meanings vanish--it's just a way to categorize because humans like order (or at least, a lot of them do anyway). It's crazy.

If you're not too keen on the darker stuff, then you could try sampling some of the darker milk bars such as Cluizel's 45% Grand Lait or Slitti's Lattenero 51%.

If you want dark and no milk, then start with Guittard single origins since all those bars are actually quite mild despite the 65%, and the 61% is good, too. Next, you can try Santander's 65%, which is wonderful on all levels; Cluizel's 60%, Venchi Cru di Cacao 60%, Ghirardelli even has a good 60%. Chocolove has a pretty good 65% and even 55% if you want to go that low, and they have a good organic at 61%. You could also try Scharffen Berger 62%. Dagoba has an excellent 59%.

Hmm, now that I think about it, you should look for anything in the 60s range because that is usually a safe bet, although I make no guarantees. Jumping straight into the 70% pool will shock you probably, so acclimate yourself to various 60%-range bars, and then give a 70% bar a shot, perhaps something a little on the mild side, though, unless you're feeling adventurous.

November 29, 2007
11:51 pm
deepsplash
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November 29, 2007
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thank you so much montegrano for the reply. I will give the 60% ones a go. I tried an 85% lindt (errr...just thinking about it gives me the shivers).

yumm...chocolate

yumm...chocolate
November 30, 2007
2:16 am
Alex Rast
Manchester, United Kingdom
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October 13, 2009
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quote:


Originally posted by deepsplash

is "bitter-sweet" bitter than "extra bitter"?

what are some great chocolates for a newbie to check out (ive had too many of those "i can't stop eating" chocolate for my own good)... Also, I might not be too accepting of dark-chocolate 'at the moment' b/c I've eaten mostly milk-chocolate my whole life. Maybe with time, I'll learn to love real dark chocolate. For now, what are some not-that-dark but nonetheless, excellent chocolates to try?


On the milk chocolate front, you can start right with the best immediately: Cluizel's Mangaro Lait 50%. Like most Madagascans it's very approachable and in milk chocolate form superb. Cluizel is a good general place to start for chocolate anyway. As Monte said, Lattenero 51% is also remarkably good overall.

More challenging in the milk chocolate category but worth it is Coppeneur's Hacienda Iara 62% milk. It's much stronger than the first 2, so it would be one to try later rather than, necessarily immediately, but it's definitely exceptional.

Once you move into dark, start with milder varietals. The most forgiving, overall are IMHO Colombia Nacional and Porcelana, with Madagascar not far behind. The Colombia is your best bet because Guittard (Monte mentioned them) have the definitive Colombia in a relatively mild 65%: Chucuri. They also have a Madagascar (Ambanja), although better in that category is Malagasy's Mora Mora which has a higher percentage but amazingly mild flavour overall (without being washed out). The best Madagascars are superb and *relatively* approachable: Amedei leads the way here, but one must realise that at the higher percentages of the top bars the flavour will probably still pack a punch relative to what you are used too. A similar situation applies with Porcelana, fine bean, very approachable, but inevitably delivered in more potent percentages. Domori is the best if you want to try, but Domori is VERY characterised, thus risky.

The Cuba Venchi 60% Monte talks about, just FYI, is Dutched, and it's worth trying to convince yourself first, what Dutched chocolate tastes like in comparison to "natural", and second, that not all Dutched chocolate is poor in quality.

Alex Rast
Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com

Alex Rast Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com
November 30, 2007
3:55 am
deepsplash
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thanks for the reply, alex. BOth of you have been very informative. I think I'll give the lattenero and mangaro lait both a try (and also the venchi one). also, would either of you recommend I try either or both of the following? (which one is more forgiving)

Bonnat - Asfarth Chocolat au Lait 65%
Bonnat - Java Chocolat au Lait 65%

thanks again!

yumm...chocolate

yumm...chocolate
December 1, 2007
12:14 am
Alex Rast
Manchester, United Kingdom
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quote:


Originally posted by deepsplash

thanks for the reply, alex. BOth of you have been very informative. I think I'll give the lattenero and mangaro lait both a try (and also the venchi one). also, would either of you recommend I try either or both of the following? (which one is more forgiving)

Bonnat - Asfarth Chocolat au Lait 65%
Bonnat - Java Chocolat au Lait 65%


Both are very strong and distinctive, which is probably why neither of us recommended them. I'd reserve these until you've become more accustomed to top-quality chocolate, not the least because there are better milk chocolates to be found than these. Bonnat's strong milks are good but not as accomplished as his dark chocolates.

If you're determined to try one, the Asfarth is IMHO the better of the 2, the Java being somewhat jarring, but again Asfarth is still very strong and very characteristic

Which brings me to an important point in chocolate-buying. With the popularity of good chocolate these days many shops have decided to try to take advantage of this trend by selling a few quality chocolates. It's important to resist very strongly with this in mind the first chocolate with a brand you're unfamiliar with which comes in view. There are several reasons for this.

First, since most shops carry at most a single brand and quite often only selections within that brand, your choices are limited and it's total random chance as to whether the particular bars they happen to carry are among the greats, or merely decent, or in fact pretty poor. There's high variability even among different bars from the same manufacturer, so the blind sample is purely a crapshoot.

Second, it's unlikely unless they have length and strength in multiple brands that the shop's management are experts on chocolate. Therefore they probably have to take at best an educated guess as to what might be a good brand of chocolate. Don't forget too that they may simply buy the brand whose marketing campaign gives it a push with the distributor that the shop uses for many of the other non-chocolate items they carry. Again, as a result whether the chocolate is truly superb or merely passable is close to a matter of chance.

Third, chocolate not being the main line of their business, their stock probably doesn't turn very fast. Chances are good, therefore, that you'll be buying rather old chocolate, and chocolate does not improve with age.

Fourth, again, if they're non-experts, chances are near-100% from what I've seen that they're completely oblivious to the effects of heat and odours on chocolate. You will therefore have no assurances the bar won't be badly bloomed when you open it, and if it has at any point been exposed to significant temperature cycling, it will be. I've discovered that even if you point out to most shop owners the consequences of temperature (notably heat) and that a bloomed bar is a ruined bar, they basically don't believe you and will do nothing to change things. For an enormous percentage of the retail trade, it would seem, they imagine that a chocolate bar, provided it hasn't melted, must be fine. A similar thing happens with respect to odours and this is particularly noticeable inasmuch as so many shops love to put their chocolate next to the cheese under the idea that cheeses are often associated with "gourmet" eating and that therefore they're likely to have a similar clientele. True though this may indeed be, it's a disaster to site chocolate next to cheese.

All of this adds to a critical point: buy good chocolate when possible from a larger stockist who carries many lines of good chocolate and who obviously understands their differences, how to treat them, etc. It may well end up being the difference between satisfaction and the inability to understand why some people think chocolates costing 3 or 4 times as much are worth it because it's obvious that they're not.

Alex Rast
Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com

Alex Rast Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com
December 1, 2007
1:01 am
ellie
london, United Kingdom
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very timely note, Alex - with so many retailers jumping on the bandwagon!

December 1, 2007
1:12 am
deepsplash
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November 29, 2007
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Alex,
wow! I didn't know there were so much knowledge behind deciding how/where to buy chocolates. Hmm..this makes it quite difficult now. So I presume you're definitely against buying chocolates from online websites?
In that case ill have to start keeping an eye out for good chocolate retailers in my area

yumm...chocolate

yumm...chocolate
December 1, 2007
11:30 pm
Alex Rast
Manchester, United Kingdom
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October 13, 2009
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quote:


Originally posted by deepsplash

Alex,
wow! I didn't know there were so much knowledge behind deciding how/where to buy chocolates. Hmm..this makes it quite difficult now. So I presume you're definitely against buying chocolates from online websites?


There are 2 online sites that are verifiably safe to buy from. In the UK, buy from this site (http://www.seventypercent.com)

In the USA, buy from Chocosphere (http://www.chocosphere.com)

Both are run by knowledgeable professionals who stock only good brands in excellent condition and who can probably give you advice as well on what to choose. There really isn't any reason to go anywhere else, because these sites pretty much have what you need, although it must be said that online retailers seem on the whole to be better than brick-and-mortar shops when it comes to chocolate. However, this assumes you're buying from a chocolate-specialist online site as opposed to a general-foods site: those can be more problematic .

Alex Rast
Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com

Alex Rast Alex_Rast_Alternate@hushmail.com
December 2, 2007
2:33 am
deepsplash
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November 29, 2007
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10

sadly, chocosphere doesn't ship to Canada (but they have a really really wide selection. is there any type of chocolate they actually don't have?)
seventypercent (i checked their store before)..they only have 1 of the 4 kinds id like to try and shipping is a minimum of £6.50 (up to 400 grams of chocolate). its more because of the selection though.
Do you know any sites in the USA or Canada that's good (in terms of handling and selection) that ship to/within Canada?

edit: what do you think of http://bellacabosse.com/ and atasteforchocolate.com

yumm...chocolate

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