So there’s not a great deal of this ‘heirloom’ cocoa about. So it’s a Criollo. So it’s supposed to the first variety of cocoa to be ‘domesticated’ by humans – some 2000 years or so ago. Does that actually make it a great bar of chocolate? Does a Chuao necessarily trump a Porcelana from down the road around Lake Maracaibo or a sister cacao from Java? My contention is that just because something is ‘rare’, it doesn’t necessarily make it great. There’s some lovely stuff coming out of Ecuador, Cuba … pretty much anywhere were you’ve got a very good starting point (genetics) and is properly fermented with a good mix of bacteria and dried properly. Genetics only gets you so far. Will David Beckham’s son be a great footballer, or will he have to work at it?
Much of Bonnat’s chocolate reminds me explicitly of Mikkel’s stuff. The reach creaminess, the subtle, unobtrusive flavours. The price of his chocolate is somewhat similar to the price of this chocolate. As a chocolate retailer I work on a multiple of the price I have to pay. So if it costs me more to buy than I apply the same multiple. If it’s taking the piss I don’t. If I’m not buying chocolate direct then the multiple will be smaller. But at £8.95 then as a consumer I’d want my socks blown off.
My problem with this chocolate is that being remarkably enjoyable. And even though the story of exclusivity is both plausible and desirable, I still have a problem with it approaching a tenner. Yes there’s a wonderful richness to it. Yes there are soft mango notes and a very pleasant and controlled acidity. It just seems to be so controlled by process the real beast of a cacao is screaming to get out. I know that ‘Criollo’ isn’t a brutish variant, but I still sense that there is just so much more to offer from this bean.
The point of this chocolate seems to be a ‘ticking’ exercise – as they do with beer. You mark-up which origins you’ve tried, which varieties, plantations, makers. You can go to dinner parties and say ‘yes I’ve tried that rare Bonnat with the green wrapper’. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that – I do it – it’s like people who are seriously in to wine talking about grapes, terroir, soil types and the like. It’s what makes chocolate so much fun. The issue comes when marketeers get involved. I once tried a chocolate that had a story enclosed about having to travel for days, by plane and canoe to get to the source of the cocoa. This makes a great read in a newspaper ‘buyers’ guide’. But does it intrinsically make for better chocolate?
I really do like this Bonnat Xoconuzco. But my socks are still on.
This chocolate is available from my site at £8.95 and from another store whose owners wish mine didn’t exist.