Here is the second out of three installments of Valrhona offererings from my generous package. The entire Grands Crus range, minus the already-reviewed Jivara, is here. Sometimes it’s just so difficult being a Chocablogger…
I like that Valrhona doesn’t stick to the same design for everything. There was one design for the Estate range, one for the flavored bars, and another for these, both inside and out. From the lowest percentage up are:
Tanariva – A 33% milk chocolate, which uses Madagascar beans and is described as “sweet & caramelized.” This pale chocolate is as nicely done as a milk chocolate should be. It doesn’t disappear instantly, isn’t weighed down by sugar and grease, and lets the Madagascar flavors come out. It tastes of berries and cream, or caramel.
Manjari – A 64%, “fresh & tangy,” with Trinitario beans from the Sambirano Valley. Fudgy, with red fruit flavors and a nice sweet/dark balance.
Tainori – Another 64%, this time “fruity & intense” with a Dominican Republic origin. I wouldn’t call it intense as the flavor isn’t too bold. It’s still deeply chocolatey for a 64%, not bitter at all, which is nice if you don’t like your chocolate to go too far on either end of the scale.
Alpaco – “Floral & oaky,” 66%, and Ecuadorian Arriba beans. I come to realize that I don’t like my chocolates floral, whether it’s the chocolate’s own flavor or anything added in. If you do, though, this bar has rich chocolate cake feel to go along with those notes of “jasmine and orange blossom.”
Caraibe – “Balanced & velvety,” 66%, and made with Trinitario beans from the Caribbean. This one is dusty, tasting very much like the smell of cocoa powder. It had me rechecking the box, unbelieving that it could be as low as 66%. The sweetness picks up, though, for the enchanting, slightly fruity finish. Very nice.
Guanaja – “Bittersweet & elegant,” 70%, and made from a blend of Criollo, Trinitario, and Forastero beans. It hits you pretty quickly with that slightly bitter taste that cocoa nibs have. Yet there’s a sweetness right in there, too. A banana flavor comes in to give it a tender finish. I’ll have to put it into the “interesting” category.
Abinao – “Powerful & tannic,” 85%, and African origin. This one seems a bit floral, also, with the bitter taste working all throughout. It’s surprising how much sweetness stays in. Don’t get me wrong, by no means is it a sweet chocolate, but the sweetness doesn’t entirely disappear in the bitterness.
These are all mostly flawless chocolate bars, with smooth and perfect melting textures. But most of them don’t stick out to me — that’s why Valrhona works well for making new chocolates with. It won’t distract from added flavors, but still delivers quality. In any case, you can hardly go wrong with the quality of the Grands Crus range. The two word descriptions provide a fairly reliable guide for choosing what’s best for you. My own favorites are the Tainori, Caraibe, and Guanaja.