After an untimely flu, my first Chocolate Week event ended up being later in the week than desirable, but with outcome somewhat better than desirable. This was Chocolate and Love's tasting (and company intro) in London on the evening of 15 October. C&L (http://www.chocolateandlove.com) put on a nice event with the promised highlight a preview of a new Bolivian wild chocolate from small producer Bojesen.
It turned out the vast majority of the audience was a single tour group, which meant that the tasting took on perhaps inevitably some of the characteristics of a packaged private tasting session, but the chocolates were well worth the effort. When I arrived the party was already underway, so to speak, but I didn't miss any of the real fireworks. They were going through Original Beans, who have various chocolates, fairly obviously Felchlin remoulds, whose qualities were nice but not extraordinary. After that, they moved on to Beschle – this may not be a company all have heard of – they have an interesting range including a Porcelana and Ocumare. As it happened, the one we tried was Amazonia, not necessarily fantastic, but not bad. I have personally tested both the Porcelana and the Ocumare, however, and can attest that they're considerably better.
Next up was Amedei, to give people a sense of better chocolate; perhaps for those in the majority of the group unfamiliar, but an old friend, no doubt, to all on this site. They then moved on to a newer friend, but surely one that people here will know: Pacari. I have to say that their corporate philosophy is exactly what I consider the ideal of perfection in a manufacturer: obsessive, committed to building local expertise in the growing country, dedicated to improvement, constantly of a mind to experiment, and with a properly scientific approach. The chocolate, meanwhile, is MUCH improved over the earliest versions; I was very impressed with the progress with the Manabi. I expect great things from this company in future.
Eventually, they got to the real interest, the bars from Friis-Holm and Bojesen. The Bojesen, which I'd expected to come last, was actually first in the “climax” group. Now, small tastings are inevitably preliminary, and I'd need to try more to know more, but my initial reaction is: very nice, but not mind-blowing. It had the sort of classic fruitiness of Felchlin's Cru Sauvage, and a darker, more Amedei-like depth. Apparently, however, these are only the prototype samples; more and reputedly better release-edition bars are on the way from Bojesen: I'll put up the review when available!
Then there were the Friis-Holm chocolates. Initial reaction: mind-blowing. These are amazing chocolates, just completely in another depth compared to everthing else tried. Emphasis is on the dark, liquorice-like flavours. I got all 3 bars: reviews coming shortly!
Chocolate and Love also do Lakrids liquorice. Personally, I love liquorice; needless to say it was very addictive. From the reaction of others in the audience I'm reminded again, however, that it's a substance you either love or hate!
Afterwards there was plenty of time to chat, and taste, as appropriate, and a surprise guest: a pair from Poland showed up with the first Polish artisanal bars. What was that chocolate like? To be honest, a work in progress. But how often is it that you try *any* chocolate from Poland?
C&L will be expanding their range, mostly as I understand it with brands not usually found in this country in any outlet; they look like an exciting venture, surely the most interesting online chocolate shop in the UK.
Still to come: Chocolate Unwrapped!