I went through the chocolate stash, and put a challenge to the family today: “Here’s your choice, now what will we pick to taste today?” Oldest son has been nagging for months to try the Lindt 99% that we found in Germany. Today he won.
Bear in mind we lugged this around Europe for weeks before getting it safely back to Australia, a mere half a world away. It’s then been safely stashed in the fridge to avoid the hot Australian summer. And before anybody says “What – keeping it in the fridge?” – yes. It’s a tip from Kath that seems to work fine. It sure avoids the destruction of a nice chocolate left in a hot house for a week – as we found last year when we turned 4 blocks of Lindt 70% into a dry, crumbly, whitish powder. Yuk. So the fridge is good.
As you will see from the back of the pack, there is information and ingredients listed in just about every language apart from English. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it’s best stored between 14 and 18 degrees (Doh!), Also that the 99% is achieved from Cocoa mass, Cocoa powder, and Cocoa butter.
The surprises don’t end there. A chocolate must be awfully serious when the inside packaging is firstly, a serious plastic tray, and secondly, comes printed with serious instructions!!!
On that inside packaging, we have a graph showing intensity vs time, with separate lines for Cocoa aroma (steadily rising), bitterness (rising quickly, then very slowly increasing), astringency (bouncing around), acidity (rapid early peak, then falling and rising slowly) and finally, fruitiness (very slow rise). This all seems frightfully scientific. Doing my best with a rough-and-ready translation:
Recommendations for the tasting
Excellence 99% is an exceptional high-cocoa chocolate with an intense cocoa flavour. The full flavour is made up of different components which unfold differently during the tasting (see diagram above).
Experience the unique taste of this unusual chocolate: Aromatic Cocoa in its original form with an intense degree of acid and bitter notes and hints of candied fruit.
To be able to enjoy this particularly cocoa-intensive taste experience, Lindt recommends the palate gradually become accustomed to high-cocoa Chocolate, first with Excellence 70%, followed by 85%. Experience the unique flavour of Excellence 99% by using a small piece to break off and melt on the tongue. A cup of coffee to accompany unfolds the full flavour particularly well.
So after reading the instructions, doing the translation, yada-yada, the moment of truth arrived. Time to open the pack and see what’s what.
On opening, we were immediately assailed by an intense cocoa aroma. Inside we have some very small squares (bear in mind, this is a 50 gram pack), I broke a few squares off, and then broke those into smaller pieces. Whilst the family have been moving gradually to the Dark Side, they are not all content to much their way through a Lindt 70% or 85% block like I am. So I was gentle with them.
First reactions came from oldest son: “Err, tastes of nothing much”. Well, it doesn’t, at first. The flavours build, and so does the bitterness (just like on the highly scientific graph). After about half a minute, there were grimaces all around. This is just too strong for them.
The Lady of the House declared that perhaps this is one for cooking with. Sacrilege! That amounts to swearing! Looks like I score all of the rest of the block for myself.
My own opinion is far more complex than that of the family: This really is a very dark, very intense, very bitter chocolate. The flavours start slightly earthy, and then the complexity builds slowly, over a matter of a few minutes. So does the bitterness. This is truly a masterpiece – to get something to 99%, with only a tiny amount of cocoa butter and sugar to hold it all together and prevent crumbling. But it is an acquired taste, and is certainly not for everybody.
This is the ultimate for the Dark Side Dwellers. Darth Vader, the Emperor, and all their cronies would be terribly pleased. (That’s a joke, geddit? Dark Side. Oh well, try harder next time). For me, I’ll be eking it out, very slowly, whenever I need a super-dark-chocolate hit.
As far as I know, we can’t get this in Australia. It seems to be readily available in France and Germany, and in England we saw it in Harrods for a couple of pounds each.