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?

21 comments on “Is Imported Chocolate Really Worth it?

  1. Jrdunn says:

    If i had to go with a chocolate bar id chose hersheys air delights… Similar to the Aero bar with the air pockets. But imported? Not for me. Heck if I had to choose id have white chocolate which technically isnt chocolate at all!

    • Roger says:

      Of course, the last Hersheys air delight I had was made in Mexico. So it’s kinda like having the more affordable and the ‘imported’ all in one. But truly love dark chocolate, the highest % possible. My christmas list has two items: dark chocolate and Dr Pepper.

    • Crysta says:

      I fail to see the point in aerated chocolate, especially when it costs exactly the same as the regular bars but weighs considerably less.

      I like exotic chocolates, and I am willing on occasion to shell out the extra cash to get a quality imported bar. However, I tend to stick with the domestic stuff like Hershey’s because it’s cheaper.

    • Zachary Jacob Zblewski says:

      White chocolate is chocolate…

  2. Jess says:

    Dude, if you’re going to do a comparison of imported chocolate, find the best stuff: Chuao dark chocolate is really in a class of its own.

  3. Justin ST says:

    Never hurts to try it once. It depends on what you prefer.

  4. Brian V. says:

    If you are a fan of Lindt and its many varieties check out Moser-Roth (The Private Label brand from Aldi). It rivals and possibly even exceeds in the class of chocolate.

    They have afforable imported chocolates that are quite the steal. I have a special liking of their CHILI bar. Dark chocolate thats sweet, with a hint of heat.

    • Adam says:

      Thanks for the suggestions! I actually walked into a Lindt store on Black Friday, and saw they had some cool looking bars. I like my chocolate with mix-ins (especially toffee and nuts) so the flavor route appeals to me.

      • lz says:

        Sometimes the Lindt store near me has factory seconds bars that have sculptural defects, but nothing wrong with the actual batch of chocolate. They are sold a lot more cheaply than their regular bars, but you must buy a minimum quantity of 10. This is aimed at home bakers/candy-makers but I eat them straight up. I much prefer Lindt over Hershey and Nestle, as does the majority of my European immigrant family. They say it tastes more like “home.”

  5. Rodzilla says:

    Vosges is one where I think you might really notice the difference in quality.

    That said, you can’t generalize one artisan bar to all, it’s like saying all fine wine isn’t much better than a box of franzia..too many variations.

    I always feel good about knowing the source of chocolate particularly because of the issues with slave labor.

    • Kokobuzz says:

      The slave labor issue is real. This can be avoided by buying fair trade chocolate. The Blanxart organic bars are fair trade too. They make a milk and dark organic bar. I tasted a couple on kokobuzz.

  6. rob says:

    I usually go for the imported chocolate but not the ultra expensive ones. I like very dark chocolate.

  7. Lindsay says:

    Dark chocolate with sea salt rocks my world!

  8. Sohroosh says:

    Thanks for clear, level-headed review. I’m not of a Hershey’s guy myself, but I think you’re right–you really need to love chocolate if you’re going to spend the extra money on something fancy. If you do want to try some more expensive chocolates, I’d try The Chocolates. They have a pretty good curry coconut dark chocolate bar.

  9. Keith says:

    I overwhelmingly prefer dark chocolate, even to the point where I think milk chocolate can be nauseatingly sweet. I like the flavor of chocolate, even the bitter components in much the same way I enjoy coffee without sugar.

    This makes me think of some interesting articles I’ve read about the taste sensitivities of individuals, and I think that chocolate is great litmus test for where a person falls in that spectrum. While a “super taster” might prefer very sweet and smooth milk chocolate with little or no cacao bitterness, a medium or below-average taster might prefer the subtle complexities of dark or semi-sweet chocolate.

    I have always considered myself below-average in taste sensitivity, which is a good thing as it allows me to enjoy a wide variety of foods without being turned off by foods that are overly bitter, sour or spicy. In fact, I often seek out and prefer foods that have strong flavors. Anyone have any insight into this? It’s an interesting topic.

  10. CM says:

    Chuao Chocolatiers is where it’s at anyways.

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