Saturday, November 15, 2014

Celebrate French Chocolate History

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To give you a bit of time to plan, on Monday, November 24, marks the introduction of chocolate to France by Anne of Austria when she married Louis XIII of France in 1615.  By many accounts her marriage was not particularly pleasant.  While we don't have any paintings of her and chocolate, perhaps bringing this treat, most likely consumed in the form of a drink at that time, offered her some brief pleasure from time to time.  To help us mark this date on our Chocolate Calendar, let's look at some of the samples that French chocolatier Michel Cluizel sent us this summer in this 16 piece dark chocolate box made from cacao ground on five different plantations.

Half a box or eight pieces is one serving but I only sampled one square of each of the three varieties I tested for this review. Mokaya, in the red wrapper, and Los Ancones, in the green, are both varieties we've looked at in a previous post so I won't repeat that information here. The plantations are not equally represented, they can't be with a 16 piece box from only five locations but oddly three plantations -- Los Ancones, Mangaro, and Maralumi -- each have four pieces while two -- Mokaya and Vila Gracinda -- had only two pieces. These are all dark chocolate but they vary slightly in the amount of cacao in each so I'll note that where it applies.

In a pink wrapper we have chocolate made with cacao from Maralumi on Papua New Guinea and it has 64% cacao.  The first thing I notice is a spiciness to the dark cocoa fragrance with a hint of fruit. It makes a snap when I take a bite and immediately I get a much smoother chocolate than the scent suggested.  The spiciness isn't in the flavor but instead the fruitness is very well balanced with the cocoa so that neither overpowers the other.  Letting it melt in my mouth increases the fruity and creamy flavors. If you are afraid of dark chocolate I highly recommend trying this one because it has none of the bitter or acidic essence that you might have experienced with other darker chocolates.

Yellow wrapper marks chocolate made with cacao from Mangaro on Madagascar, famous for both vanilla and cacao this little bar has 65% of it. This has a kick of ginger and citrus in the scent blended into the dark cocoa. Taking a bite makes an equally loud snap as the previous variety and the first flavor is a smooth dark cocoa that turns to a light ginger and a fruity taste.  Letting a bite rest on my tongue I get a light cocoa taste then a building of ginger with a citrus underlay that returns to the ginger and cocoa by the end.  In this case I really liked just letting it melt in my mouth.  This is also very smooth so again don't be afraid of it if you haven't like darker chocolate in the past.

Vila Gracinda is located in Sao Tomé, an island of Africa lying on the Equator; it's chocolate representative is wrapped in turquoise blue.  It has 67% cacao and is the darkest of the three varieties I'll look at today. This has a very intense spicy fragrance blended into a darker cocoa scent. A bite makes a snap and the first flavor is smooth chocolate then gets more and more spicy with each chew and then finally reveals a sort of licorice flavor yet throughout is that smooth chocolate  This licorice flavor is the stronger when you let a piece melt on your tongue but the chocolate remains strong while the spice is dulled a bit.  Eating this either way is great so it really depends on if you want spicy or licorice -- heads up, readers in Finland and Iceland, this might be the French chocolate you'd enjoy most!

There you have it, some of the single origin chocolate created by Michel Cluizel not only to celebrate French chocolate history but also for you to consider this fast approaching holiday season, Sisters and Brothers. The quality of and the philosophy behind it earns Sacrament Status once more for this company. This 16 piece box is one of many that they offer. This one is great if you just want a little chocolate at a time or you'd like to introduce your loved one to single origin chocolate.

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