Today saw another Chocolate Mission first, this was my first ever review of a 100% cocoa bar - the Hotel Chocolat Organic Dark 100%. The bar was another from 'The Purist' range I have been sampling over the past few weeks, and was farmed at the Hacienda Lara Plantation, Ecuador. On pack the bar described itself as '100% cocoa and nothing else, but far more mellow than you would expect thanks to extra-long conching' ... what is Conching you ask!? Well refer HERE for the long explanation - in short it is the one of the final processes of chocolate production that involves using machinery to heat the chocolate so that the cocoa butter is evenly distributed, thus making the texture smoother ... you learn something new each day.
I will only fleetingly play tribute to the appearance of the bar - like the rest of 'The Purist' range it was spot on. The cardboard sleeve was full of interesting information on the farming and production of the bar, the foil packaging provided an outstanding freshness and the slab itself had a shiny, glossy appeal ... everything about it just radiated class. The smell of the slab was very indicative of the taste; it was very intense and had a strong cocoa aroma - there was no element of sweetness about it whatsoever. The boldness of the smell although expected was not the most enticing.
This was always going to be an experience slightly out the norm ... and that it was. Placing the first piece in my mouth I literally felt the moisture in my mouth just disappear. The texture felt chalky and dry, and the initial cocoa flavour was nothing more than I could describe as extremely bitter - my taste buds felt extremely overwhelmed. Despite my initial displeasure I did continue eating the slab, varying the size of the chunks I consumed. As I progressed eating the bar my taste buds became more at ease with the intensity of the flavours. The texture of the melt seemed to get smoother the more I ate, and the flavours more pronounced. After a few chunks the overwhelming burnt taste subsided, and I did start to appreciate the deep flavours of the bar more. The taste was extremely rich, the cocoa very pronounced with coffee and fruity notes ever present. The aftertaste as you can imagine was extremely long lasting in the mouth, I could taste the cocoa for a good deal after. Like the other variants from the range the bar came in a 75g serving, it took me days to finish; its intensity meant that it was best to only eat in very small servings.
Overall I found this bar extremely hard to rate. Appreciating this chocolate required a degree of dedication, if I had judged the bar on my first few mouthfalls I would have told you it was overly intense and repulsive ... well after getting used to the concentration of flavours my appreciation for the taste grew. The chocolate does indeed have a nice deep clean cocoa flavour with a number of spicy edgy notes in the formulation of its rich overall taste. The texture for me wasn't the best, initially it felt quite dry, however like the taste I did become more accustom to it over time. Personally I have much preferred the more straight forward offerings from Hotel Chocolat ... ones that instantly struck me as flavours I could appreciate like the 85% Dark, Caramellow and Praline White. If your after a really full flavoured chocolate this could be a bar that you could really enjoy, just beware this is one intense experience and certainly won't be everyones cup of tea.
7.6 out of 10