Here we have more chocolate from Eastern Europe – Latvia to be specific – and this bar from Laima features a Fruit & Nut combination I haven’t seen before, namely Dried cranberries and hazelnuts. I picked this up in a supermarket in Riga and it’s a mid-price bar along the lines of UK supermarkets’ ‘Best’ ranges. The bar itself is fairly thick (in order to accommodate the whole hazelnuts and cranberries, I imagine) and as you might expect it has a fruity, light aroma.
What surprised me when I tasted this bar was how sweet it was in comparison to other chocolate bars with similar content, and it wasn’t just down to the fruit. The cranberries don’t seem to ‘pop’ in the way you might expect from a normally tart fruit but the hazelnuts are crisp and retain their essential nuttiness. I found myself wondering whether those cranberries had been treated to a little sugar before being added to the bar.
The chocolate flavours seem to be overshadowed by an overarching sweetness which had a hint of coconut about it (even though coconut isn’t a listed ingredient) and the most striking thing was just how sweet this 70% bar was. The combination of chocolate, cranberry and hazelnut is pleasant enough, but once again it’s the sweetness that I found myself taking issue with. It was only really the finishing notes that allowed the true flavour of the cacao to come to the fore, which was a little disappointing.
Having recently tasted bars from the likes of Mast Brothers which have only two or three percentage points more cacao, I was amazed at just how different from those bars this particular chocolate is. While it’s not unpleasant, it is a world away from ‘high end’ chocolate in terms of complexity and character, and this graphically illustrates the differences between chocolate made from proprietary blends by large corporations and those products made by chocolatiers who carefully select their ingredients. In short, a little love and care results in an entirely different kettle of fish.