Willie Harcourt-Cooze is one of only two bean to bar chocolate makers in the UK. Most famously, he was the subject of Channel 4′s “Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory”, and in chocolate circles, he’s known as much for his personality as he is for his chocolate.
Yet we’ve somehow managed to avoid reviewing any of Willie’s growing range of chocolate. I was excited to learn he was going to be at the Real Food Festival last week, but somehow I managed to miss him, despite spending a few hours there. Of course, I needn’t have worried because my local Waitrose is choc-full of Willie’s products, and that’s where I picked up this 71% Madagascar block.
Actually, using the term ‘block’ is inaccurate, because the 80g pack contains two individually wrapped 40g squares. I think this is a great idea for fine chocolate – I always have leftover pieces of random chocolate in my stash. This way, I know at least half of the chocolate will remain fresh. I could even give it away if I was that way inclined.
But I’m not.
Obviously, I chose this particular variety because of my inability to resist Madagascan chocolate. I’ve tried many such chocolates recently, including the wonderful Mast Brothers with Fleur de Sel, and the Hotel Chocolat Purist bar, which while good didn’t quite reach the same heady levels.
I would have to place Willie’s bar somewhere between the two. It’s a little more refined than the mass produced Hotel Chocolat bar, and the fruitiness which I love so much come through more clearly. Yet it doesn’t quite have the depth of flavour or the refinement of the Mast Brothers bar or Amano’s Madagscar bar. But it’s still something I could happily nibble on all day.
I would say that with Willie’s Cacao being so widely available, it’s a great opportunity to pick up a few different varieties and try them together. At £3 a pack, it’s an affordable way to explore the range of flavours in artisan dark chocolate. Next time you’re passing your local Waitrose, pick up a few blocks and have yourself a chocolate tasting party.
(You can also buy it online, but Willie’s web site and online shop are hideous Flash-based monstrosities that you might want to avoid.)