Tag Archives: intense chocolate

TCHO Chocolate

When I was growing up, there were basically two chocolate options: Hershey’s and Nestle’s. Once in a while I would eat some semi-sweet chocolate chips while making cookies. Very occasionally, someone would come home from a trip with Swiss milk or bittersweet chocolate, but that was unusual. Nowadays, we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the incredible variety of high-quality chocolate available in grocery stores, food co-ops and online.

One company that makes affordable delicious bars in a wide variety of flavors, cacao contents and textures is TCHO (pronounced CHO, after the first three letters in the word chocolate).

The company assiduously works to create a more delicious product and better conditions for the farmer owned cooperatives that provide the beans, all of which are Fair Trade and organic.

This may surprise you, but most cacao farmers have never even tasted a chocolate bar. TCHO makes sure their suppliers know what the finished product looks and tastes like.

I sampled nine of their bars.

Classic Milk Chocolate is a 39% bar that satisfies any cravings you might have for a milky, caramel-intensive experience.

Their 54% Dark Milk bar is a more complex version with undertones of butterscotch. It’s incredibly easy to like and a definite crowd pleaser for those who love Milk and dark bars.

70% Dark is full of coffee and true rich chocolate flavor.

68% Dark is a fruity Peruvian chocolate that could easily be a daily indulgence. A delicious choice for eating or tempering.

67% Dark from Madagascar is a more earthy experience, with fig, dark fruits, and a drier finish.

Almond Sea Salt 62% has a balanced chocolate-salty-nutty flavor profile with small pieces of almond throughout the bar.

Toffee + Sea Salt 54% is a luscious choice if you like sweeter chocolate. The sea salt perks up the toffee while giving the whole experience another dimension.

Mokaccino 47%, made with Blue Bottle Coffee, has its own devoted following. All I have to do is mention TCHO and people rave about it. With its creamy texture and incredibly satisfying mocha flavor, it’s a great way to perk up your energy and mood when the afternoon slumps hit.

I have also been a big fan of their Snickernoodle bar, made with that dream-worthy 54% chocolate and enhanced with cinnamon and delightfully crunchy sugar crystals. You might not think those small differences make it unique as compared to the plain dark milk 54%, but they do.

If you sign up for their newsletter you can get a discount on your first order. You will also be notified when they have a special limited series bar, or seasonal offerings.

Dante Confections: 98% Organic Stevia sweetened bars, Turtles, and Truffles

It is unusual to find both traditional and organic high intensity chocolates under one roof, but Dante Confections straddles these two often disparate areas. Their handmade truffles are lovely little domes of shiny, well-tempered white, milk or dark chocolate encasing ultra rich, smooth ganache centers infused with 25 different flavors. From liquors, to fruits, to eggnog, to peanut butter, and mint, there is something for everyone. They come in petite and large sizes. I found the petite version offered up a few bites of snappily textured chocolate against velvety centers. The flavors are on the mild side, so if you are someone who loves a hint of Grand Marnier, for example, and doesn’t want an alcohol wallop, these would be perfect.

In addition, I sampled their milk and dark chocolate Turtles, also available in white chocolate. Every chocolatier seems to have their own rendition of these classic treats. Dante’s are huge 2″ rounds with thick layers of chocolate encasing a super chewy caramel. The very fresh and crunchy nuts, either pecans, cashews, or almonds, are embedded at the edges. The whole experience is quite decadent: über-chocolatey, with a very satisfyingly caramel presence, and enough whole, roasted nuts to keep you coming back for another bite.

On the other end of the spectrum are Dante’s 98% chocolate bars sweetened with stevia. There is the traditional bar, and a Fair Trade, organic variety. Both would surely sate anyone’s craving for the densest chocolate experience this side of a roasted cacao bean. While not for the faint of heart, their flavor profile is almost hard to discern because the intensity just blows your taste buds away. A friend of mine was crazy about them. He loved the thick texture, super slow melt, and lack of sugar. Stevia adds some sweetness, but it definitely doesn’t make these bars sweet. To my surprise, I actually found the original rendition a bit gentler on my palate. It is interesting to note that one bar, 45 grams, gives you 70% of your daily requirement for iron, 7 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of protein. Both of these 98% extreme chocolate bars provide one of the strongest, most concentrated chocolate experiences out there. If you are looking for a wild gustatory ride, this is it.

You can buy the bars from Dante’s website, on the right side of this page, or on Amazon.

Marou Faiseurs de Chocolat

Marou Faiseurs de Chocolate, a Vietnamese artisanal chocolate company founded by two Frenchmen, creates exquisite bars in the 70-78% range. What makes them so marvelous? Everything. Their single-origin beans are grown and sourced locally by farmers who are paid a fair wage, with no middlemen. Even the cane sugar is from small Vietnamese farms.

There is a wonderful piece on their website detailing their philosophy on organic and fair trade that I heartily agree with. (Here’s the link: http://www.marouchocolate.com/?page_id=46 )

Let’s start with the packaging. The background color of each wrapper is inspired by the color of the cocoa pod the chocolate comes from. A silk-screened gold overlay, reminiscent of fin de siècle design, is just beautiful. No matter how great the chocolate, I find my anticipation is heightened with captivating packaging.

Upon opening the outer paper you find a gold foil inner liner sealed with an attractive “M” logo. Just one more example of their attention to detail I find noteworthy as it’s a harbinger of the Marou chocolate gestalt. In every aspect of manufacture, from sourcing the beans to final presentation, Samuel and Vincent share their vision for what a wonderful chocolate experience can be.

The glossy dark bars are scored into irregular funky shapes with that “M” set off in a square in the middle. The bar itself snaps to attention when broken as its perfect temper gives off a heady chocolate scent. All five varieties in their current range possess a deeply satisfying texture that has a chewiness I always find quite fetching.

The 100 gram bars range in cacao content by 2% increments from 70-78%.

Tien Giang starts this flight at 70%. Immensely complex, yet with gentle undertones, this bar, made with Trinitario beans, has a slightly spicy character and a bit of a dry finish.

Dong Nai, 72%, seemed creamier, had a subtler profile, and just a smidgeon of dryness to its finish.

Lam Dong, 74%, a rare chocolate made in mico-batches, was a little less complex with more memory of soil.

Ba Ria, 76%, is also made with Trinitario beans and tasted woodsy.

Ben Tre, 78%, seemed to incorporate many of the qualities of the previous four bars at once, though it was a bit more fruity, and had an earthier presence.

All five bars tasted different from other single-origin offerings I have sampled, and would make an exciting addition to a chocolate tasting.

Though the company is based in Ho Chi Minh City you can buy Marou from Dark Chocolate Imports: http://darkchocolateimports.com.

Lindt Chili

In general, chocolate is more predictable than life, which makes it so reliably satisfying. However, there are some exceptions. A notable one is when chocolatiers add chili to their wares. Without purchasing the goods there is no way to discern how hot the resulting product will be. It’s not as if they have Scoville units printed on the wrapper. (But, if they did, there is a vast difference between, for example, jalapenos with Scoville units between 2,500-8,000, and cayenne peppers at 30,000-50,000.) Perhaps, they should take a page from a Thai menu and indicate the level of heat with varying numbers of stars. If they did, it would make choosing a bit easier. On the other hand, I might miss the element of surprise.

Lindt’s dark bar with Red Chili delivers a decent level of cacao solids (the number is not on the wrapper, but I would guess it’s about 60%), is full of sugar (19 grams in a 40 gram portion), and quite seductive. My only quibble is their use of Vanillin, rather than the genuine article. Lindt’s chocolate is ultra creamy, giving it a very refined mouth feel. Paired with chili, this incredible silkiness soothes the fire. It definitely has some heat, but not so much that you feel steam coming out of your ears. Like an Escher print, the red chili dances in and out of prominence as the chocolate melts in your mouth. One second you taste the complexity of sweetness and warmth, and the next it recedes. This is quite an accomplishment for such a ubiquitous bar. Subtlety and wildness vie for your attention in every bite. I would have thought that intermittent reinforcement schedule of taste would make it incredibly addictive, but the intensity of the chili left me feeling very satisfied after a square, or two.

Considering the nuances, this is an amazing value. (My local Walgreens has them on sale for $1.50 each at fairly regular intervals.)

If you are iron deficient, each serving has a whopping 18% of your RDA for iron. For those seeking fiber, there are 3 grams in each 40 gram portion.