Is Imported Chocolate Really Worth it?
My ever-expanding attempts to become an aficionado of all things edible have led me to eat a variety, and in some cases curious, amount of items over the past few years. Some of these items – like kids cereals – have tested the finer points of the various forms of simple and refined sugars, while others – like Bison balls — have led me to contemplate whether the free range diet of a 2000-pound mammal really plays a role in the flavor notes of a reproductive organ.
Meat, cheese, and all forms of prepackaged, high-fructose corn syrup laden “garbage” have always been my finer points, but dark chocolate? Now there is something I readily admit to knowing little about. Don’t get me wrong — I do love me a richly frosted chocolate donut – but I’ve never been one to munch on health-blogger chic pieces of dark chocolate as is. So excuse me when I walked into a local
grossly overpriced gourmet market a few days ago and wasn’t exactly feeling the vibes the counter guy was giving me when it came to the Spanish imported Blanxart Negro Chocolate Bar. At a whopping $2.95 I could have gotten at least two packs of Corn Nuts, but the counter guy’s incessant claims that, “dude, it’s literally the best chocolate ever” won over the intrigued foodie within me. Once more, it spurred a question in my mind; Is imported chocolate really worth the price?
I decided to put my question to the test by not only buying a 62% Blanxart Dark (Negro) chocolate bar, but also buying a Hershey’s Special Dark King sized bar.
Blanxart bills itself as a “master chocolatier” and started in Barcelona in the 1950s, today giving exclusive license to Washington-based Matiz España to distribute its products in the United States. Using “stringent” quality controls to select “the finest” cocoa beans from Ecuador, Brazil, Cameroon, The Ivory Coast and Guinea, the company touts that its “all natural ingredients are blended in to create one of the best quality chocolates in the world.” Obviously, this had better be some good stuff.
Meanwhile, the familiar Hershey’s Special Dark is more marketed to the average American consumer. There’s nothing on either the bar or the Special Dark webpage about small batches or sourcing of cocoa, and instead much more about antioxidants and how the bar is “mildly sweet” and “perfectly balanced.”
I’m careful to open each package and find the individual Hershey’s squares smaller than each the Blanxart squares. At about four grams a square, they’re more brittle and easier to break off than the eight gram Blanxart squares, which feel like an impenetrable fortress of solid chocolate. Smell-wise, the Hershey bar is a bit more assertive. It’s definitely sweeter, but there’s a slightly metallic smell that meshes with a light smoke aroma. The Blanxart bar smells about the same, minus that metal, but it just doesn’t register at the distance the Hershey bar does.
Who am I kidding? They both smell like dark chocolate, and for the most part, they taste like it too. Both are somewhat bitter and bland on the tongue, although the Blanxart “Negro” square is certainly a little less sweet, and because of its size resists dissolving on my tongue. I find it to have more of that woodsy/smoke flavor that dark chocolate fans are always raving about, but not to a noticeable degree which makes me go really savour it. Likewise, it’s also smoother than the Special Dark square, and a cross-section reveals a much sturdier construct, with none of the grittiness or chipping that make up the Hershey bar.
I like the Blanxart bar, but I’m not fall over heels in love with it. Granted, the Hershey’s Special Dark bar doesn’t seem so “special,” but at roughly a third of the cost, I can mind the subtle differences in emulsion and sweetness. My suggestion? If you’re not a serious lover of dark chocolate, than Blanxart’s “Negro” Chocolate bar probably doesn’t have the ‘wow’ factor to convert you.
Anyone have any good suggestions out there for chocolate?