I know that many reputable chocolatiers here still use chocolate couverture, often made by Valrhona, because the whole process of getting that far is fraught with problems. But you have to give extra credit to those chocolatiers, known as “bean to bar” chocolatiers, who go the extra miles. They manage the process of making chocolate from the raw cacao bean and transfer it with great skill and dedication, into a bar of chocolate. The Mast Brothers do it, so does Duffy, Artisan du Chocolat has just started to do it, but this is my first try of some proper French bean to bar chocolate.
As with everything the French do, they do it beautifully. I’m not just talking about wall art or football, but with chocolate and pastries too. Having seen the Patrick Roger chocolate drop through my letter box last week I hoped that the collection of about five or so chocolate bars from Jean-Paul Hévin would be just as beautiful. Alas not. They all came in the brown envelope containing a bar wrapped in cellophane. Only after opening up the outer layer were you able to find out which bar you’d selected. In this case it was the Madagascar, with the others being from Papua New Guinea, Venezuela, Sao Tomé and Principe and a 70% bar labelled as “Home” – I have no idea where that is from!
If we move on from the packaging and on to the chocolate itself then we’re met with a wonderful looking bar which’s beauty comes not from any elaborate design, but from its simplicity. It may not be the most shiny bar of chocolate that I’ve ever tried but that’s not to its discredit. It just looks like a good-old-fashioned bar of chocolate aimed at adults without any fancy bells and whistles.
The melt and texture is superb as it holds together exceptionally well. It doesn’t seem to shoot across your mouth trying to tantalise every taste bud and get lost in the areas of your mouth not made for enjoying chocolate. Instead this bar stays smack-bang on the most pleasurable part of your mouth – just like an experienced lover. And this bar knows it’s good.
In terms of flavour, it’s not a vigorous bar of dark chocolate. It’s certainly not going to knock your socks off. There is a sharp acidity but its kept under wraps. There is a sweetness which gently subsides into mellow bitterness and a very slight saltiness – but don’t assume that its ever-present as it’s not. It just seems to be like a French sports car of old that just has the body of a family car but purrs like a kitten – you can see its been refined and honed to perfection. You can also tell there’s science behind it, but it just feels so natural. I am actually sat here licking my fingers. If you need any more indication of how fantastic that bar is then that’s all you need to know.
But how much is this bar going to set you back? Are you waiting? 4.40€, that’s right, about £3.65. The exchange rate may have moved in our favour over the past six months or so, but this bar was never expensive. For an 80g bar of this quality anything under £4 is great value.