For many people living through the Covid pandemic, this has been a time of concentration on the minutiae of life. With both challenges and joys heightened, there can be a new appreciation for more basic comforts, like chocolate.
In the spirit of learning to hone our attention and home in on the more subtle aspects of anything enjoyable, we can take chocolate tasting to new experiential realms. If you need more reasons to focus on your chocolate, I suggest mindfulness practice. Tasting anything, but especially chocolate, as mindfully as possible is a sensual meditation.
Millésime offers a bounty of choices ranging from 50-90% cocoa, some with inclusions and some in their pristine form.
The company was founded by Jean-Christophe Hubert, a chocolate aficionado. He trained in a French agronomy research center center, where he focused on the development of sensory chocolate, analysis and cocoa expertise. He also studied at the Fine Cacao and Chocolate institute in New York. His bean-to-bar chocolate has won numerous awards.
Each of this Belgian company’s cocoa vintages comes from a specific terroir, with its own unique flavor profile. Similar to the wine-making world, Millésime’s aspirations include promoting naturing processes promoting flavors that change year-to-year while keeping the basic characteristics of each region.
Millésime only uses cocoa beans from environmentally friendly plantations that do not engage in intensive farming. Even more interesting, all Millésime’s beans come from non-modified strains carrying ancestral cocoa genes. And all their beans are sourced from plantations that engage in sustainable agriculture.
I sampled eight offerings, each of which is packaged beautifully in artistic cardboard envelopes with cellophane encased bars. The bar’s design is a bas relief pyramid, and they are all tempered to a perfectly crisp snappiness.
Guatemala 50% Dark Milk Chocolate. This is a rich, not too sweet bar with a slightly dry finish. There are notes of flowers, plums and a hint of caramel. As there is no added vanilla, the bean’s full flavor profile, even with the addition of milk powder, shines forth.
Peru 55% Dark Milk Chocolate with Salted Butter Caramel, a gold medal winner, is studded with tiny, crunchy bits of caramel. You might think that would make the bar overly sweet, but it isn’t. The salted butter caramel was cooked to the point of flirting with bitterness, but not consummating the relationship. This resulted in a wonderful counterpoint to the dark milk chocolate.
Madagascar 55% Dark Milk Chocolate Bar with Hazelnuts & Almonds Praliné Filling. I let this melt slowly in my mouth until the teensy bits of nuts demanded a little chewing. Completely different from the other bars in this line, it has a more pronounced creaminess from the filling and an extra dose of sweetness from the dark milk base. Though sweeter than the other two bars, it was far from cloying. Very satisfying for those who seek a more velvety texture.
Nicaragua 65% Dark Chocolate with Pistachio Nougatine Filling. This filling has far more depth of flavor than you might expect as the bar is fairly thin. 65% dark chocolate is the perfect foil for the creamy center, while the added light crunch of caramelized pistachio pieces adds extra texture and interest.
Millésime India 74% Dark Chocolate Bar. Forastero beans from Kaithapara, a village in the Idukki district, give this bar an edgy quality, while the dry finish keeps its dense chocolate flavors lingering.
Millésime Panama 75% Dark Chocolate Bar. Immediate fruity notes with banana undertones make this a delicious, rich experience.
Millésime 75% Dominican Republic with Hazelnuts. There is something incredibly satisfying about beans from the Dominican Republic, and this bar won a gold medal to prove my point. They possess a richness whose softness keeps the finished product from being too intense or overwhelming. Crunchy bits of buttery hazelnuts amplify the whole experience.
Millésime Tanzania 90% Dark Chocolate Bar. Another gold medal winner, this bar is made with beans that have woodsy, earthy flavors. 90% bars can be a bit challenging if this is not your usual fare. Here is an opportunity to sample one with a hint of dark fruits that keep it friendly and accessible.
If you’re reading this in Europe, you can find their wares on the Belgian site: https://www.millesime-chocolat.be/fr/
You can also buy a wide variety of bars at: https://www.worldwidechocolate.com/product-category/millesime/