I just love what Hotel Chocolat are doing with their The Purist Range! They’re allowing people to experience the impact of tweaking the manufacturing process by producing bars with different conch times. Conching does two things; firstly it turns the “chocolate” from a powder or paste into a liquid that can be used to form chocolate bars (or other shapes). The other purpose of conching is to develop the flavour of the chocolate. During the fermenting (and roasting process) the cocoa can become overly sharp with the creation of ethanoic, propionic and isobutyric acids. Conching helps to reduce that acidity and basically the longer you conch for, the less acidic the chocolate becomes. Here Hotel Chocolat have the cocoa and conched it for 96hrs with the other version of the bar being conched for 120 hours. I’ll keep some of this one back for when I review the 120 conched chocolate next week.
The style that Hotel Chocolat have gone down for this range is more rustic than the last. It’s essentially a bar of chocolate kept fresh in paper that reminds me of those “make your clothes smell nice” sheets that my wife puts too many of in the drier. Which is then wrapped with some fairly thick card – perhaps 170gms? Actually the whole thing is very much like a dressing-gown as you wrap it around yourself on a cold winter’s night after you’ve got home from work. I’m sure the chocolate itself will give you that warm snug feeling too.
Also with the packaging you’ll get a nice little bit of a story and full information (which I find often missing with most chocolate bars) about the type of bean used (Trinitario) and the flavours they feel you may be able to witness.
I’m old fashioned when it comes to the design of the chocolate bar itself. I’m not a huge fan of the odd-shaped bar and much prefer the rectangular approach. However, I do recognise that Hotel Chocolat are trying to create a new paradigm in luxurious, but accessible chocolate. They (I believe) want to proffer the concept that they’re not like the other chocolate companies – and they’re right – I just need to get over my rectangular chocolate hang-up!
The aroma is distinctly acidic, but not as much I’ve tried over the years. I’ve been told by the guys at Hotel Chocolat that the cocoa they use from St. Lucia is naturally more acidic and bitter than most, so they have to give it a long conching time and that it still does come through in abundance even after the 96hours, but I feel they’ve done a grand job in keeping the character and integrity of the intense notes.
There’s still a great perfumery aroma to it but balanced with the sort of organic, slight farmyard note as the Green & Blacks Organic Easter egg had.
This is mad: the flavour reminded me a touch of the recent chocolate I reviewed which was made with cocoa grown and processed in Hawaii, but with this bar there’s more of a milk-powder, blackberry crumble flavour that is actually very nice indeed. There’s also a peppery dimension that just lifts it and combines with that slight acidity to make it sharp but with mellow rounded edges. The packaging says there are notes of figs, I didn’t pick them up, but on reflection I did get a very slight tobacco note which I feel can really add a nice dimension.
The texture was slightly dry and a touch crumbly, but nowhere near as marked as the Go*Do Organic Espresso 60%. The snap was exceptional, however. It felt substantial and meaningful and added to the overall experience.