Like their milk chocolate brethren, these four also offer a unique flavour from a different part of the world, and as such would make a great little stocking filler for your chocaholic friends/relatives/self.
The first of this quartet is perhaps the most ‘normal’ of the four.
Having said that, it is rather unusual to come across a bar with this high a cocoa content. I have stated in the past that I consider 86% to be cooking chocolate, as extreme levels of cocoa tend to make the whole taste experience rather cloying as there isn’t much room left for cocoa butter or other ‘smoothing’ flavours. Well, I’m pleased to say that this bar has forced me to revise my opinion. Yes, it’s dark, and has a bittersweet edge to it, but it also packs a rich, deep cocoa flavour with a soft, tangy finish. It’s not as citrussy as some cocoa beans, but the dark, rich taste is very pleasant indeed.
The second bar has been commented on here by a reader, who I believe said it was too much for them to take.
This isn’t the first peppery bar I’ve tried, in fact one of the first bars I ever reviewed here was a Hotel Chocolat Pink Peppercorn and Chilli bar, so I had a good idea of what to expect from this little feller.
The scent of peppercorns is immediately noticeable – a sharp, slightly tangy smell which of course is only amplified when you pop a piece in your mouth and it starts to melt. However, unlike the HC bar (Which was studded with whole peppercorns) this is a Dolfin blend, and so you only come across tiny fragments of peppercorn as the rich dark chocolate melts away. I found this to be perhaps the best peppery bar I have tasted, The balance of flavours is (once again) brilliantly executed, and while it might not be to everyone’s tastes, Dolfin have carried it off in style.
Another flavour I have come across before is Lavender. Indeed, my first Lavender bar (New Tree’s Tranquility) proved to be child-proof, The smaller tasters didn’t even manage to finish a single square, and I seem to remember stating that I thought it more of a novelty item than a ‘regular’ treat. Well dolfin have come up with a blend of Lavender and 60% dark chocolate.
I must admit that when I saw a Lavender bar I was a little trepidatious. The New Tree experience wasn’t one of my great favourites, as I found the taste a little overpowering and the texture somewhat strange. Well, for a second time I am forced to rethink my opinion of Lavender and chocolate. Dolfin have blended the two flavours together to create a lightly scented, floral bar with a delicate, soft taste. As the chocolate melts away, you do come across tiny fragments of what I assume is Lavender flower, but at no time does the flavour become overpowering – not a hint of Granny’s pot pourri here. Well worth trying if, like me, you’re a little wary of flowery chocolate bars.
The last of the four contains one of my all-time favourite spices, and has been somewhat hard to trace in a chocolate bar.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m cooking a curry I find myself leaving the Cardamom pods out so I can nibble on them. I adore the taste, and have only ever come across chocolate and cardamom once (in a Belgian truffle) so this was going to be my special treat.
Of course, the tastes of pepper and cardamom have been blended with the chocolate in the Dolfin style, and so I wasn’t going to get the ‘big hit’ of cardamom I wanted, but I found the balance of the peppery flavour and the cardamom produced a warming, slightly sweet spicy flavour which was both interesting and delicious. Of course, there are tiny chips of cardamom among the fragments of spice in the bar, and I was able to nibble little pieces to enhance the overall taste.
My overall opinion of these bars is that they offer the inquisitive chocolate fan a marvellous opportunity to sample a disparate range of flavours from all over the world, made by a company whose approach to chocolate making typifies the current wave of exciting, bold chocolatiers who are striving to bring us new taste sensations without compromising on quality (or being ‘wacky’ for the sake of it). Admittedly, at first glance some of these flavours may seem a little strange, but if you’re curious about new tastes and interested in exploring what the world of chocolate has to offer, I’d say that these little bars are a fantastic way to start. A couple of these bars have made me change my opinion of certain flavours, which can only be a good thing.
Many thanks to Chocolates Direct for allowing me to taste them (particularly the Green Tea bar!). They offer a mail order service to UK customers, so if you’re stuck for a pressie for someone, get over to their site.