What separates good chocolate from great? Would chocolate made by men sporting Quaker-style beards qualify? If chocolate had a scarcity value, would it automatically be pushed to the top of the tree? How about chocolate that seems to have been wrapped by Santa’s most experienced and talented helper in the off-season be an indicator? What about if the bar was made from made a variety of cacao bean and sourced from a location that bloggers and critics wax lyrical about? Accepting past reputations as an indicator of good quality chocolate is a trap most people fall in to, and was very much evidence when I judged at the Academy of Chocolate Awards. To me great quality chocolate is chocolate that exceeds your expectations. With this bar I was was very much unsure, at the outset.
I’m wasn’t sure because I appreciate all sorts of chocolate and depending on my mood on the day I’ll prefer more elegant, soft notes, whilst on others I’d like my proverbial socks to be knocked off. This was more of a Hansel and Gretel halfway house of neither a bodice-ripper nor flowery fairy tale. It had more of a M. Night Shyamalan mischievous-style plot which takes you one way but delivers you somewhere completely different.
Visually this bar is more chic than you would expect from its Bohemian creators. It’s tight, elegant and understated. There’s no Prestat-esque excess. This bar is for fine chocolate fanatics that know the Mast Brothers pedigree and what can be achieved with Chuao Criollo. There’s just no need to overplay the bar with bells and whistles – you’ll pick this bar up because you want to see what someone else can do with beans from Chuao.
I’ve been unsure about this bar as I’ve reviewed it because I’ve found it hard to categorise it. Often when you try a bar you’ll lump with other similar bars, it’s more of a subconscious, involuntary action than anything scientific, but I just can’t do that with this bar. It’s neither smooth like a Chapon or as rustic as the first generation Go*Do. It doesn’t seem to fit into any other mental box in terms of flavours either. I picked up a variety of flavours (similar to their tasting notes) of freshly cut grass, then lemongrass and fairly strong apple crumble and double cream at the end. It’s very much like a Thai meal with the spiciness, richness and a touch of acidity. With some bars it seems that the chocolate maker has tried to force flavours out, rather than make the best of the bean’s inherent quality, it seems that Rick and Micheal just tried to show the real character of the raw ingredients.
If I unshackle myself from my task of reviewing it and just allow myself to enjoy it for what it is then it is an immensely pleasing bar of dark chocolate. If you love chocolate that’s manufactured to an inch of its life such as Lindt then you won’t like it. If you pass through the Amedei and Pralus style chocolate and move more towards the earlier rustic, almost naive Duffy bars then you’re in the same sort of ball park with this one. There are rough edges, but that is the point of the bar, I presume. I see it as aiming to be a more natural, unadulterated bar that has no interest in being commercial – just desirable. This is more of a beautiful girl next door than a Cheryl Cole with her hoard of image consultants dictating her appearance.
Seeing this bar as one that doesn’t aim to imitate any other then there can be no ambiguity, you either love its lack of pretence or hate it’s unrefined character. I’m now in the first camp purely because it has intriguing flavours which aren’t enhanced with vanilla or a texture ‘improved’ with soya lecithin. It’s what all chocolate would like if they had the time to master their craft, didn’t have marketing department forcing them to create mass-market chocolate or accountants instructing them to cut corners.
This is not chocolate by numbers, but two guys doing what they love. It shows.