It seems that we in fine chocolate have made it completely wrong so far, after years of tasting and discernment between a note of raspberry and blueberry, jasmine and violet, orange and passion fruit.
The flavor wheels designed to appreciate the wonders of fine chocolate are going to be rediscussed since charcoal and burned coffee are no longer sensory defects but flavor notes—according to some cheap chocolate brands.
And that’s not all.
You can even dare to pair such carbonized ‘flavors’ with a sophisticated drink, perhaps with a Cabernet Sauvignon.
In case you ever wished to check out where humankind is at when it comes to understanding chocolate, then, definitely, go visit the Amazon mayhem.
Being difficult to just describe in plain words the kind of aversion that regularly afflicts us, lovers of aromatic chocolate, against the myth of ‘Extra Dark Chocolate,’ I tried to condense all the pain into a single image.
On the one hand, there’s a brand (one in the ‘mass-market’ premium range) that attempts to describe the product with consummate attributes that refer to that ‘deep intensity’, ‘full-body’, and ‘bitterness’ extra dark chocolate is famous for:
“Dive into the refined richness of Lindt EXCELLENCE 95% Cocoa with all your senses. This full-bodied dark chocolate bar is distinguished by a powerful earthiness and notes of licorice. Whether you prefer to indulge in Lindt EXCELLENCE for baking, like a dark chocolate gift, or paired with your favorite after-dinner drink, the complex flavor and sophisticated texture of our dark chocolate always deliver a gourmet experience. Masterfully crafted with the highest-quality ingredients, Lindt EXCELLENCE is chocolate for the true aficionado.“
On the other hand, there’s a consumer who, with the pretension to expect quality behind a low-price tag, reviews the product with 5 stars, despite an inconsistent and even contradictory logic, that reads like:
“It’s not the chocolate that seems to taste awful. No-no-no-no-no… It’s you, dummy! Your nose and palate aren’t still accustomed to the inebriating scents of moldy, burnt, and alkalized cacao.“
What to say?
Although the brand appears sincere in describing the chocolate according to the prospectus shown on its very website, it also shoots itself in the foot. Actually, it’s all good news for those who know a little more than the average about good chocolate—but less so for an uneducated mainstream share of consumers that keeps perpetuating a distorted perception about ‘extra dark’ chocolate.
As it’s necessary to take into account and satisfy the appetite of the average consumer for extra dark chocolate, it’s also essential to point out a distinction between the cheap brands and those of a higher level (among all, Michel Cluizel and Guittard). Although little less known than Lindt or Ghirardelli, these premium chocolate brands use high roasting to confer the chocolate the typical dark and intense appearance, without alkalizing it. In fact, processing the cocoa solids with alkaline chemicals would make for a cheaper and inferior chocolate product, nutritionally scarce, as the process tends to nullify all the antioxidant properties contained in the natural cacao beans—let alone the inherent chocolate flavors.
When the main concern with high-quality chocolate is all about flavor, percentages and definitions that evoke an idea of ‘intensity,’ ‘body,’ and ‘bitterness’ associated only with a darker color have no sense.
As online marketplaces like Amazon are a melting pot of brands with different levels of quality, the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) has recently launched Make Mine Fine. This initiative has the mission to feature recognized fine and craft chocolate brands, selling products made with specialty and fine cacao and natural food ingredients, through webshop links posted in a one-page directory.
Whether you are a chocolate maker, chocolatier, retailer, cocoa importer , or equipment supplier, read this post to know more about this global initiative as a fine chocolate/cacao business during these challenging times.