Hotel Chocolat have created a range of chocolates using cocoa from their own Rabot Estate on St. Lucia, and I have been fortunate enough to have received a box of assorted bars and pralines to sample.
As mentioned in my interview with Angus Thirlwell, the Rabot Estate cannot produce enough cocoa to supply all of HC’s needs, so they’re using it to produce these rather special chocolates. As you might expect, this sort of high quality, rare chocolate comes at a price (around £4.00 for two 50g mini-slabs, to be precise) but as the wrapper explains, your money is going towards revitalising an industry that had all but died out on St. Lucia.
So what of the chocolate? Well 42% isn’t the highest cocoa content we’ve seen for milk chocolate, but when I opened the wrapper and sniffed, I knew immediately that this was no ordinary product. The chocolate has a purity about it – citrussy high notes and an underlying richness which hinted at great flavours.
At this point I feel I ought to warn you – tasting this chocolate will corrupt you forever. A small piece placed on the tongue unleashes the most amazing set of flavours. There’s very little initial sweetness and bags of lush, fruity, well rounded flavours from the Trinitario beans. It floods the mouth with a kind of ‘essence of pure milk chocolate’. To me, this was what all milk chocolate should taste like, with the cocoa flavours completely dominant and only a hint of sweetness beneath the milky, rich and frankly ridiculously moreish cocoa flavours. I will have a very hard time eating any milk chocolate after this, I’m afraid!
Of course you can’t realistically compare this with ‘ordinary’ milk chocolate. It costs many times more than a bar of Dairy Milk or Galaxy and has a pedigree most chocolate producers can’t get near. It’s a rarity, exclusive, the peak (or one of them!) of Hotel Chocolat’s work in St. Lucia. Comparing this to a bar of high street chocolate would be like trying to draw comparisons between Cheryl Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. You simply cannot.
I don’t know whether to thank Hotel Chocolat for sending me this or not. I’ll never eat a piece of milk chocolate again without casting my mind back to the day I opened this box. I’ve been corrupted forever.