I just ate a piece of Pralus’ Melissa chocolate, it’s their 45% milk. Happened to see it lying around and couldn’t resist. Then, I noticed the use by date: August 2006, almost exactly three years ago. In the old days, that might have surprised me, but now I know how useless those dates can be. The bar tasted incredibly fresh.
Caveat Emptor: What I am about to say definitely does not apply to all chocolates. Some will taste stale before their use or sell by date; but, many others will be fine and dandy well past the numbers on their wrapper.
Valrhona chocolate seems to stand the test of time very well. I have eaten what they refer to as Vintage Chocolate from 2002 that was delicious. It may have tasted better in ’02, but it wasn’t hardship duty to eat it years later. Pralus’ dark bars age nicely, too. On the other hand, I have had some 70% Lindt bars go bad just as their date passed. Some of that may have been the result of improper handling or wild temperature fluctuations, and not the fault of the manufacturer. You just have to experiment.
I keep most of my chocolate in the basement where it’s generally cool and stays the same temperature, more or less, throughout the year. That may have something to do with its longevity. But, this Melissa bar I tried today has been in my nightstand for quite some time….
Naturally, anything with a filling will go bad more quickly, so eat those up ASAP.
As many of you have already discovered, chocolate with nuts can develop little bugs–not a pretty sight. Apparently, the eggs reside in the nuts and, given enough time, they hatch. It’s only more protein, so no worries; but, it’s a completely different experience to find the actual bugs strolling around your pricey chocolate. If that’s not sufficiently unappetizing, and financially disturbing, once roaming around they are happy to infest any other chocolate in the vicinity. The moral of the story is: eat your nut-studded bars by their use by date.
Generally speaking, it’s the plain, dark bars that stand up well, though some dark milks (like Slitti’s) last way beyond their use by dates. A few of my favorites are: Santander with pineapple, L.A. Burkick, Beschle, De Vries, Pure Dark, Scharffen Berger, Amano, Askinosie, and Theo. Of course, that’s assuming you can keep your paws off them that long.