It has taken me a while to even want to appreciate what a 100% chocolate bar has to offer because my first few tries were not very pleasant. After all, when all the sugar is removed there is a really good chance that the resultant chocolate is going to be extremely bitter and unpalatable. But when it is done properly, it can give the real flavour of the beans a chance to shine.
So with that in mind during my last visit to Hotel Chocolat, I made a beeline for their Rabot 1745 Collection because they usually have some rather interesting things hidden away there. And after a little bit of looking around, I settled on three 100% bars from very different geographic locations. The bars themselves are rather small – just 35g – and packaged simply in a cellophane wrapper with a paper label keeping it shut. There’s really not much difference in the look of the bars – all very dark with a nice sheen to them. All come with brief tasting notes on the labels, but I’ve always found those to be unreliable although they can give a rough idea of what to expect. Here’s the rundown of the three bars.
Saint Lucia Island Growers 100%
This is one of those 100% bars that really tastes like a 100% bar. The tasting notes say that its bark is worse than its bite, but I’m not convinced that is the case. It is very bold, aggressive and hard to do anything with except nibble tentatively. Rather than the promised antique oak, I get lots of harsh whisky notes that are not very pleasant. Their other lower percentage Saint Lucian bars are much better, and I can’t help but think some sugar would mellow this right out.
Dominican Republic Conacado Cooperative 100%
Having had bars made from Conacado beans before, this was a bit of a surprise because this was a lot more robust than I was expecting. Again, there’s some whisky with big coffee notes thrown in – it starts strong and stays strong, with just a few fruitier hints right at the end. Not bad at all, but still one best enjoyed in small doses.
Peru Pichanaki 100%
This is the pick of the trio because it doesn’t possess any of those overly hard edges that the other two did. The chocolate has a smooth earthiness that slowly gives way to a red wine richness that lingers for quite a while leaving behind a wonderfully rich chocolaty taste. It is surprisingly moreish for a 100% bar and well worth seeking out.
So the world of 100% chocolate is still a mixed bag which isn’t for the meek, but it does pay dividends if you are willing to take the plunge.