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Noka Chocolate
December 19, 2006
5:22 pm
Scott--DFW
Dallas, USA
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Forum Posts: 74
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October 26, 2006
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I recently posted a ten-part series of reports on Noka Chocolate at the DallasFood.org web site, beginning with this link:
[url]http://www.dallasfood.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=78[/url]

Here’s the abridged version, for those who may be interested:

(1) Noka Chocolate emerged in late 2004 and immediately began grabbing headlines because of their exhorbitant prices. They offered two products: simple dark chocolate ganache truffles and small molded chocolates. Both the truffles and molded chocolates were available in four single-origin versions: Trinidad, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Ivory Coast.

(2) When I say “exhorbitant prices,” I do mean exhorbitant. Their simple molded chocolates range from $309 to $2,080 (US) per pound. For the Europeans, that’s 517 euros (347 English pounds) to 3,482 euros (2,336 English pounds) per kilo.

(3) Noka does not make chocolate from the bean. But due to vague and misleading statements from the owners (Katrina Merrem and Noah Houghton), and a measure of ignorance and laziness from the journalists who’ve covered Noka, the general belief is that they are making chocolate from the bean.

(4) Noka’s work as a chocolatier is fairly primitive. Their molded chocolates are as simple as they come, yet still occasionally leave the shop with dull finishes or bloom. The truffles are no better–thimble-shaped lumps of dense, fudgy ganache that are either dipped or mechanically enrobed (definitely not hand rolled).

(5) Perhaps in part because they want people to believe they make their chocolate, Noka’s owners talk more about the quality, purity, and distinctiveness of the chocolate itself, rather than their skill as chocolatiers. The properties of the chocolate that they commonly tout are that: (a) it’s 75% cacao solids; (b) it contains no vanilla or vanillin; (c) it contains no soy lecithin; and (d) it contains no additives, artificial flavors or ingredients. These attributes are hardly unique, though, as most participants on this board know.

(6) On December 2, 2006, I called Noka. When pressed, Noka owner Katrina Merrem admitted that they do not make chocolate from the bean. When asked who supplied their couverture, she refused to answer. I called or e-mailed more than twenty other prominent chocolatiers in the US, many with well-established reputations, television programs, popular cookbooks, etc., asking them whose couverture they used. All of them–every last one–told me who they used. Noka was the only holdout.

(7) I prepared a spreadsheet of single origin chocolates, breaking them down by country of origin, percentage cacao solids, and whether they contained vanilla, soy lecithin, and added cocoa butter. The only match for each of Noka’s selected origins (Venezuela, Ivory Coast, Ecuador, and Trinidad) was Bonnat. In the process of preparing the reports, it came to my attention that Noka’s owners were planning an additional line of single-origin chocolates from Venezuela, Madagascar, and “Ceylan” (or Sri Lanka). Bonnat is the only maker I was able to find whose chocolates matched those origins as well. (As many of you know, Bonnat has three Venezuelan chocolates: Puerto Cabello, Hacienda El Rosario, and Chuao.)

(8) To check the results of the process of elimination in the spreadsheet, I did blind taste testing of Noka’s chocolates against other chocolates from the same origin. I did two from Ivory Coast, four from Trinidad, eight from Ecuador, and thirteen from Venezuela. Bonnat was a clear match with Noka for each country of origin. (In the case of the Venezuelan chocolate, the match was with Bonnat’s Puerto Cabello.)

(9) I bought the Bonnat chocolates I used for the tasting from Chocosphere for about $33 a pound. The wholesale price for the 100-gram bars in the US is a little over half that. Buying blocks of couverture directly from Bonnat would be cheaper still. Noka’s prices are often 1,300% or more of the retail prices for Bonnat’s 100-gram bars.

(10) Noka’s prices can’t be justified. They’re not chocolate makers. As chocolatiers, their work is shoddy and unimaginative. The couverture they buy is of good quality, but can’t justify a markup of 13 times the retail price for consumers in the US.

Noka depends on ignorance and gullibility to get away with charging the prices they charge. Though they don’t appear to have been wildly successful, they are still around, still on shelves at Neiman Marcus and Dean & DeLuca (which should be embarrassing for those stores), still getting press periodically for being the cream of the crop in “luxury” chocolates, etc.

As I said at the top, more details (for those who are interested) can be found at the DallasFood.org site.

Caveat emptor.

Scott

December 14, 2007
4:07 pm
alex_h
Member
Forum Posts: 1170
Member Since:
April 29, 2004
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nice series. it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

December 14, 2007
8:27 pm
Ilana
Israel
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Forum Posts: 155
Member Since:
September 1, 2006
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I read about teh dtective work done to find out what chocolate they use – pretty unbelievable. Thanks for all the info.

Ilana Bar-Hai www.ganache.co.il
December 14, 2007
10:04 pm
alex_h
Member
Forum Posts: 1170
Member Since:
April 29, 2004
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and i’d rather have some yummy dummy chocolate than noka anytime!

January 18, 2008
12:44 pm
alex_h
Member
Forum Posts: 1170
Member Since:
April 29, 2004
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now they’re selling wine glasses! what’s next!? silverware? shameless…

March 28, 2008
2:39 pm
chocolatero
london
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Forum Posts: 155
Member Since:
September 5, 2004
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In japan, they have a shop where chocolate “smell” or rather like car air freshener chocolate smell is sprayed when you come in and they greet you by saying ” we sell the most expensive chocolate in the world”…i thought i was going to set sick on the counter…

March 28, 2008
5:35 pm
deb
Calgary, Canada
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Forum Posts: 146
Member Since:
May 29, 2005
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Excellent work and research Scott. Thanks.

March 29, 2008
4:40 pm
choko
Tokyo, Japan
New Member
Forum Posts: 2
Member Since:
March 3, 2008
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Scott–DFW
It was totally interest story such as the whodunit.
Japanese Noka shop opened last year.
The japanese agency was also a diamond dealership,
and the president of the second generation developed
also DEL REY(Belgium, Antwerpen) shop at Ginza and at
the other hottest streets in Tokyo.
He is also the adviser who raises brand value
and his corporate strategy is …
*** to sell chocolate like a diamond ***