This feature is dedicated to the one we love. Yet how do you tell the difference between a rich, highly sophisticated soul mate and a sweet phony?
The cacao king
We asked Devon’s bean-to-bar chocolatier, Willie Harcourt-Cooze, how the discerning chocoholic gets the best from every bar.
Snap it up
Chocolate needs to be stored in a cool place at approximately 18°c to stay smooth and shiny. A well-tempered bar will snap when broken.
Eat chocolate at body temperature. Too cold and the chocolate will melt in your mouth slowly and taste differently as a result. If your bar is too cool, Willie advises surreptitiously popping it under your clothes and allowing your skin to warm it up.
Don’t be choco-late
Willie recommends starting your tasting session two hours after eating. He taste tests first thing in the morning when the palate is clean and all the flavours of the cacao can be experienced.
It’s a wrap
It may be advisable not to taste more than four chocolates in a single session – although Willie admits to breaking this rule on more than one occasion. Drink plenty of water between bars to keep your palate clean.
The couverture connoisseur
When it comes to life behind bars, chocolatier Claire Burnet has the inside story. The co-founder of multiaward winning South West chocolate house Chococo reveals what you need to know.
Is chocolate the new wine?
Yes, it’s just like fine wine – the types of beans, the terroir in which they are grown and how they are processed all influence the final flavour notes. So for example, the chocolate we work with from Madagascar is bright with red berry fruit notes, while Grenada harbours citrus top notes and Colombian is more earthy.
Become a cocoa-nut
Check the label. In general, chocolate produced on a large scale uses a low per cent of cocoa (as it is expensive), replacing it with inexpensive sugar. To save costs, some of the cocoa butter is replaced by cheaper vegetable fats, such as palm oil, which is hugely contentious and has no place in chocolate.
Come on strong
Looking at cocoa content alone is not an indicator of quality. When buying bars, check for information about the bean type, where it was grown and how it was processed. Hopefully then you will be eating a bar of chocolate with more integrity and flavour than a mass produced product.
Top of the chocs
The thing I always notice when tasting commercial chocolate is just how sweet it is. And the vegetable fats leave a claggy layer in your mouth as they don’t melt in the same way as cocoa butter. With quality chocolate, you should be able to taste delicious flavour notes that have depth and linger on the palate. If the chocolate is flavoured it should enhance the chocolate, and that’s something that is always lacking in mass produced products.
There’s a new type of chocolate on the block and it looks to raise the bar when it comes to different ways to experience the cacao bean. Mark Claydon of Adam’s Fresh Chocolate in Bristol gave us the run-down on raw.
Forget spiralizing courgettes into noodles or liquidising kale into green slush, the latest superfood craze is well and truly aimed at healthy hedonists in search of a high.
‘Chocolate makes us feel good but it isn’t the sugar that does this,’ says Mark. ‘Raw chocolate gives a darker, richer, more natural flavour, with a wonderful aftertaste. Your craving for a treat will be satisfied much more quickly than from a bar full of sugar.’
While traditional chocolate-makers roast beans, Mark and fellow chocolatier Adam Farag don’t cook their raw chocolate above 42°c (the point at which the nutrients start to degrade). As for dairy, refined sugars and cheap filler ingredients, they don’t get a look in.
‘By eliminating these factors you’re left with a nutrient-dense product,’ says Mark. ‘What better way to support a healthy diet than a mineral-rich raw treat, still in its natural plant state?’
Mark and Adam use natural organic ingredients in their bars, fusing a strain of ancient chocolate grown in the Amazon rainforest with berries, fruits and nuts.
‘Raw chocolate came into being as a health food,’ enthuses Mark. ‘Cacao is packed with vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, copper and potassium.’
Snob’s wish list
- Lick The Spoons’ Bish – caramel pralines which scooped Diana Short the prize of Supreme Champion at the Taste of the West Awards 2016.
- Chocolarder’s Wild Gorse Flower milk chocolate – gorse flowers handpicked from Cornwall’s rugged coastline are added to 50 per cent single origin milk chocolate.
- Chocolate Society gift box – nothing says connoisseur like a well made champagne truffle.
- Gilbert & Swayne gift box – the flavours are great and we like that 10% of the online price is donated to a charity of our choice.
- Stack of Willie’s Cacao bars – give us a pile of flavoured bars such as Sea Flakes or Luscious Orange, or a Wonders of The World box of five single estate dark chocolate slabs – we’re happy either way.