One of the elements that caused this year’s absence from the industry was the over-use of ‘buzz’ or ‘marketing’ words that the connoisseur could not easily disprove but which which increased the caché of a chocolate. What is the definition of ‘rare’ and ‘vintage’ when it comes to chocolate? Does it mean anything unless you explain it. What is the variety of beans that makes it ‘rare’ and what harvest makes it ‘vintage’? I have a great fondness for Hotel Chocolat, but to me these are throw away phrases and should be used as ‘stop words’ when selecting chocolate – they should be ignored unless backed up with credible context.
There are two sides to the promotion of ‘rare’ chocolate. The first is that we absolutely have to increase demand for chocolate made from unique cacao. But at the same token, just because something is ‘rare’ it doesn’t make it especially good. My wife’s cooking is rare, but I’m sure sure she wouldn’t win any awards for it. The other side to the promotion of chocolate is that my using these terms the manufacturer will typically sell more and demand a higher price – even when there isn’t anything particularly special about a chocolate.
The issue is: with this chocolate I have nothing in particular to compare it to. I know the origin, but I don’t know the bean, region, estate, season or year of harvest. It’s a big black hole. Is it a Los Rios, Manabì, Esmeraldas, Guayas, Bolívar? I just don’t know. So I just have to approach this review of the Hotel Chocolat Ecuador Rare & Vintage 90% from the point of view of “do I like it”, “what does it offer” and how does it compare to my Ecuadorian prejudices?
Saying cacao from Ecuador should have flavour notes of XYZ is just the same as saying all British people eat is fish and chips – its a pointless assertion to make. Ok, floral. I said it. Is this chocolate ‘floral’? Yes. But along with that there’s a brandy-like offering with a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon. It’s not a chocolate that will knock your socks off, but if you’re buying a few from Hotel Chocolat then I’m sure it’ll give you a nice opportunity to compare what different origins can bring.
I do hope Hotel Chocolat’s content team can harass the manufacturing and buying guys and get some real answers about the beans so their customers can make better informed decisions about what they’re buying.
You can pick up this chocolate here.