As I was recently stumbling about in my favourite Vietnamese Butchery (yes, the one that seems to stock the entire Wawel range, brought to us direct from Sunny Poland) I stumbled upon a block of Wawel Dark 90%.
Regular readers will know that I’m a bit of a fan of the dark side – though I do admit to having been beaten by the Lindt 99%. I also find that the Lindt 85% is a pretty tough beast, and usually only eat it in small quantities. But by way of comparison, the rather excellent Cote d’Or 86% is a tiny, cheeky, bit higher in cocoa but is a much easier chocolate to eat. So the rule of thumb: “More cocoa = more bitter = a bit harder to eat” does not necessarily apply. It just depends on the chocolate.
With all that in mind, the finding of the Wawel 90% was one of those times when just trying it didn’t seem right. Instead, it presented another opportunity to do a side by side comparison. The closest I could easily come to about the same cocoa percentage going up against the Wawel is the old faithful – the Lindt 85%. Both are 100 gram blocks; the Wawel is slightly cheaper than the Lindt.
Opening them both, I’m struck by the similarity of aroma. They are both rich, and slightly earthy. The aroma isn’t strong though – in wine-speak, you’d say they are both a bit “closed” – they don’t leap out and grab you.
Time to move on to tasting: I started with the Wawel because it’s one I’ve not had before. The only way to taste is to pop in a small piece and let it s..l..o..w..l..y.. melt. And slow indeed it is – there does not seem to be a huge lot of cocoa fat. This is a deeply rich, complex, and slightly bitter chocolate. There are some strange early flavours that seem have slightly tart fruity hints, my very first impression was a slightly mushroomy flavour. As it melts the flavour develops and noticeably changes. Mushroom and tart fruitiness seems an odd combination, but they are subtle and the bitterness is far from excessive. This turns out to be quite an easy-eating little chap.
Next up – the Lindt 85%, tried immediately after. First impressions: the Lindt has a sharper “crack” when breaking a piece off. This is rich, very powerful, more noticeably bitter, but does not seem to have quite the same changing and complexity of flavour over time. It leaves me with a slightly grainy feeling – probably from bitterness or tannins or something mouth puckering, because I don’t think the chocolate is grainy during the eating – only after.
This comparative tasting turns out to be one of the hardest I’ve done. In the interests of fairness, I’ve had both blocks by the desk while I’ve been working, so for the last three days I have sampled both and compared again and again. First impressions continue to be confirmed: The Wawel 90% seem to have a more complex flavour, and is slightly less bitter. I find it less of a challenge to eat. But I do like them both – a lot. So which is better? Hard to say – really hard. I think though, the Wawel, by only a hairs breadth.