Not long after compiling the two installments of the World’s Worst Chocolate Bars, I realized there are other bars on the market that didn’t make the cut the first go around. I based my list purely off of ordinal rankings from Seventypercent without considering certain subjective values that, as it turns out, are more important than I realized. I also revisited several bars, reviewing and re-scoring each one as they stood at the time of tasting.
Usually, a bar of good quality chocolate is smooth and well-rounded, its flavors controlled and modified to fit a maker’s idea of what he believes to be the ideal flavor profile for an origin or blend. Taza, however, has a different approach. They want to leave the intrinsic qualities of the beans in a more pristine form, as unprocessed and unrefined as you can get without being unpalatable.
In my first Askinosie post, I focused on the two unflavored, single origin bars currently in production by Askinosie. Now, I want to turn my attention to the Nibble Bars, which are basically the same chocolates but studded with nibs on the surface. Normally, I don’t care for such bars, but the Del Tambo bar was just too addictive, while the Soconusco bar, rather mysteriously, was very disappointing.
The letter A is becoming quite heavily populated among the artisan bean-to-bar makers nowadays. First Amedei, then Amano, and now Askinosie (all of which end in vowels, by the way). Named after its founder, Shawn Askinosie, Askinosie is just one of seven companies in the USA that produces small batches of chocolate bars straight from the beans.
When I heard of TCHO (pronounced “choh,” the T is silent), I was quite excited to learn that a new bean-to-bar operation had decided to ply its chocolaty wares in the quickly growing arena of small-scale artisan producers. In a little more than three years, seven such companies have sprung up (DeVries, Amano, Askinosie, Patric, Taza, Rogue, and now TCHO) with such a speedy inertia that England is now getting in on the fun.
Although these remaining bars are pretty bad in just about every way imaginable, I have a confession to make. The quality of these bars can, and probably will, change over time, so I’m not making any guarantees that this list will be valid next year, next week, or even tomorrow. Valrhona’s Le Noir Extra Amer 85% might actually be pretty good in the future, and Venchi may have even developed a taste for dark chocolate.
We often speak of bars that enthrall the senses in ways that only a particular origin can; or those that deliver a breadth of flavor only achievable through a proprietary blend or a distinct set of processing standards. Dozens of these bars come to mind, and they indeed deserve praise and admiration, but now is not the time. Instead, I want to focus on the other end of the spectrum, the amazingly hideous bars that make you cringe at the mere thought of them.
Ever since I moved to New Mexico four years ago, everyone told me that chocolate and the desert do not mix. Although this is true for the most part, I think they forgot about such amenities as ice packs, air conditioners, and overnight delivery, which are formidable allies against the desert sun. As vital as they are, though, I had to say goodbye when I left New Mexico last week for overcast Oregon.
Recently, a friend from Germany sent me a Porcelana bar produced by Bonnat. This bar has been circulating for a couple months now in Germany and only recently has it become available at Chocosphere in America. At a whopping 100g, the bar is larger than most bars of Porcelana composition, and the price certainly shows.
Chocovic’s latest entry into the chocolate world comes in four bars (or four couvertures—more on that below), but the white chocolate selection is what I want to talk about for now. Jaina, at 31% cacao, is unique among white chocolate bars in that it contains a curious ingredient that delivers a distinctly unusual flavor that many people may be unfamiliar with in chocolate. “What is it?,” you ask? “Yogurt powder,” I tell you. It may be meager in quantity but it has an enormous impact, adding an odd and seemingly out of place sourness that is more fitting in a Ritter Sport bar, to be sure.