I find it interesting to see what chocolate products Trader Joe’s turns out: they have an attention to ingredients and quality, but also to affordable prices. So when I saw this colorful tower of chocolate bars, dubbed a Chocolate Palette, I was intrigued, though still not expecting quite gourmet standards. Each of the eight bars contains cocoa from a particular origin and the little booklet folds out with a handy map showing all the countries the cocoa is sourced from, along with tasting notes and an ideal pairing (things like mocha and merlot). It’s obviously meant as a response to the growing interest in such details and an introduction for people new to chocolate-tasting.
Going from lowest cocoa content up, I started with the 60% Peru, which is wrapped in bright blue and has jasmine as its tasting note. At only 60%, it isn’t too deep or complicated, just very fudgy – I’m sure something like this will agree with the average palette.
At 66%, the fruit/floral Ecuador is still mild, but you can easier pick up on some of those flavor notes.
The Sao Thome is the first 70%, described as having “intense cocoa flavor with an exciting bitterness.” How’s that for a description to get the likes of me excited and curious? As it begins to melt, you do get a sense of its darker nature–it reminds me of a book, or a villain in a book. It’s deep, but with a warm heart. I can’t call it bitter; to me, it’s an adventure chocolate, complete with a slight woodsy tone.
Ghana, with peppery notes, is dustier and thicker, possibly overwhelming for newbies, though I find it decadent. It’s almost a grown-up version of the Peru with all its chocolatiness.
The Venezuelan bar is supposed to be mild and unique with floral and dried grass notes. While it is gentler, the floral flavors aren’t too strong; it does allow you, though, to get the depth of the chocolate without that potentially scary intensity.
Marked as fruity with a touch of spice, the Papua New Guinea isn’t too deep or intense, but has a slight bite. That note of spice works itself through almost as if it’s an added flavor of its own.
The last 70%, called “slightly nutty” is the Dominican Republic. It’s sort of velvety-tasting, like cool rain splashing against the earth. It’s a light richness this one has–a gentle but firm grasp. The way it finishes is as if you’ve just enjoyed a brownie.
Moving up to 73% cacao, the Tanzania bar is labeled with “subtle fruity and vanilla notes”. It makes for a nice finish to the set. With 73% not being an incredibly high content, these are still gentle and gliding flavors, reminiscent of spring.
At ten dollars for eight 45 gram bars, this set is a good value. The chocolate is of good enough quality to display the flavor notes of the various cacao origins, without being too bitter or intense for the uninitiated. It’s worth picking up.