I’m pretty sure that, before 2013, I hadn’t thought much of 100% chocolate. As you might already know, I grew up in the USA and, as you may not know, it’s not the healthiest of countries ( joking about you not knowing that) So, my only experience of 100% chocolate was “baking chocolate”, that insanely bitter, chalky crap mom would buy, melt down and add sugar and fat and gooey things like that… only then would it taste good.
in 2013, on my birthday, I was given three bars of 100% chocolate, but not just any 100% chocolate… this was from Hotel Chocolat and each bar was made from beans which came from different regions. On the front of the packaging, it gave a brief description of the flavour journey it would take you on, the layers you could expect and how it might finish.
Now, I was never a red wine person, I never got the whole “flavour note” thing, but last year, something awoke in me, an appreciation for subtly in food, beverages and chocolate. I am very grateful for this awakening as it’s opened me to so much where food and wine are concerned. All in good measure, my friends. Let us not deny ourselves anything in this life.
These descriptions were absolutely spot on, I was rather shocked at how spot on they were. What else shocked me? They were sweet and creamy! Amazing. As I tasted each bar next to each other, the flavour became more apparent between them and it was a wonderful journey through notes of burgundy, olive oil, vanilla, coffee, leather, smoke… I mean, just brilliant! What a birthday present, huh ?
In the UK, 100% dark chocolate isn’t exactly popular, but almost every company has their line. The beans are carefully sourced, roasted to perfection, conched for long periods of time (upwards of 90- 120 hours) and tempered to a brilliant snap and shine. These companies take great pride in their 100% range, as it’s a real show of talent and brilliance – what you can do with one simple, yet highly complex, ingredient.
On a recent trip to the USA, I was so excited to gather some 100% chocolate bars and bring them back (half nibbled) to friends who appreciate them. I excitedly browsed the chocolate isle in Whole Foods Tuscon…nothing. Hmmm… weird. Whole Foods Phoenix ? Nothing. Whole Foods Dallas ? Nothing. Nothing Nothing Nothing. Not one 100% chocolate bar to be found in Whole Foods or Artisan chocolate shops alike. I was shocked and rather let down. What a shame that these chocolate companies don’t even bother making a 100% bar, likely because most Americans don’t know how to appreciate it. What a shame, indeed. The only 100% chocolate is crappy Ghirardelli baking chocolate which is old, bloomed and one note; bitter!
What I DID find in the USA was a wonderful new (to me anyway) chocolate company using stevia, inulin and xylitol to sweeten their chocolate. Coco Polo. I was dubious, obviously, as stevia has a bad reputation for having a bitter aftertaste and so on, but on the back of being highly let down, I decided to give it a shot. Good choice.
Their chocolate was smooth, creamy and well balance. No aftertaste. No lack of sweetness (bear in mind I dig 100% chocolate) I highly recommend giving them a shot if you’re in the USA. I got mine from Whole Foods Dallas, but you can follow that link provided and order from their site.
The best way to explore 100% chocolate is by pitching up to the Chocolate Shows and festivals that take place throughout Europe. A recent one in London had a fair few brilliant !00% bars and the stall holders love talking you through their 100% products, as it’s where they shine.
So, which brands stand out for their 100% bars ?
These are tried and tested by yours truly as being wonderful products.
I’m loving this website for 100%, but if you prefer to shop “live” then Whole Foods Kensington in London UK has an extensive range of 100% chocolates to sink your teeth into.
Enjoy your journey and let me know how it goes !