If truth be told, after Venezuela, Madagascar is my favourite origin of cocoa. The traditionally bright, red fruit, Cornish ice cream flavours that seem to be present in most chocolate from the island nation are exactly what I look for in a dark bar at this time of year, and it’s a credit to Hotel Chocolat for stepping out of their comfort-zone to try and make original chocolate that probably has less margin and requires more effort than their more commercial gift ranges.
This bar may be a month or so after its prescribed ‘best before’ date but what it serves to do is prove how nonsensical it is for best before dates for unflavoured dark chocolate. It tastes crisp, zippy, direct, sharp and everything I would expect from a top class Madagascan bar at this, milder, end of cocoa solid levels. The acidity here is far from the mouth-drying feature that much darker chocolate can exhibit; instead the acidity is just mildly present in an astringent form, but vastly more present in a raspberry jam sense.
But don’t get the impression that this bar of chocolate is a one-trick pony, as it’s not. There’s character there. It has a hazelnut edge lurking beneath which gives it more depth and intrigue. Although at £6 for 70g this may deter some more used to their more whimsical ranges, I do feel that it is crucial for Hotel Chocolat to at least offer single origin chocolate to their massive customer-base, as without it many people will view chocolate as being just pralines, ganaches and the average milk chocolate bars that supermarkets sell.
The packaging also plays its part in educating people as to the important features of chocolate such as the bean used; here it’s a blend of Trinitario and Criollo, as well as conche times and the role of fermentation in developing the flavour profile.
Overall, I feel that this bar is certainly an engaging, sharp bar that lifts the taste buds and gives them a gentle slap. Your mouth will be enlivened and your mind expanded after trying it out.
And now the bad news: it’s currently out of stock until the middle of the month.