I’m super excited to introduce my first guest post, written for National Chocolate Week, by Judith Lewis from the Mostly About Chocolate blog. I met Judith at the recent Food Blogger Connect Conference in London and was so impressed with her knowledge of chocolate that I asked her to put together her ultimate chocolate shopping list – available on the high street – for National Chocolate Week. As well as writing her amazing chocolate-focused blog Judith is also a judge for the Academy of Chocolate…so there isn’t much Judith doesn’t know about a good bar…enjoy!
Top Ten High Street Chocolate Bars
When I go looking for chocolate in the supermarket or on the high street, what do I choose? I’ve been asked this question so many times and sometimes it is actually related to my mood – do I want something sweet, high quality, chewy, filling… what do I want out of a chocolate bar at the point at which I’m being asked.
When I was asked to choose my top 10 however, I got a chance to think about it, really ponder it and also take a trip to the supermarket and really test some of the chocolate I hadn’t reviewed that had come on to the scene lately.
I have a feeling sometimes the choices are going to shock you and at times it’ll be wholly predictable. I’ve chosen to go with the supermarket chains of Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco for this and while I realise not everywhere has a Waitrose, also not everywhere has a Hotel Chocolat, Thorntons or a Seed & Bean Stockist but they are in a large number of places so I went with what I could get in Manchester or London and also near my own home in Oxfordshire.
Tasting chocolate is an immensely personal thing. Something I like, someone else may hate. I favour slightly acidic, fruity chocolate with a heady scent and clean finish. I’m not a huge fan of a woody/spicy edge nor of leather and tobacco flavours so I tend to choose certain chocolates as top. In an attempt to be more balanced, I’ve chosen a variety of chocolates for this from the sweet to the dark, from the fruity to the leathery.
You’re going to notice I’m slightly biased – unflavoured, single origin bars tend to be ranked more highly here than flavoured or milk bars. That’s because taste is personal but I really recommend you discover chocolate for yourself. You may enjoy Jivara more than Willies, or the Thorntons Tonka more than the G&B Almond. This is one person’s opinion and I hope it inspires you to try them yourselves!
10 – Lindt Lindor Chocolate Bar – Available at Waitrose & other shops – Now, this isn’t a high quality, fancy chocolate bar but I love the way the bar melts in my fingers as I eat it and how if I let it get warm each square seems to have a liquid centre. This is a yummy, delightful bar which is a bit too sweet for some but I just live the Lindor truffles and the bar us just as yummy. I have been known to keep a bar in a pocket until it warms and then get all mucky and messy while eating it!
9 – Thorntons Milk Chocolate with Tonka Bean Bar – Available from Thorntons Shops – The milk chocolate was very sweet and the flavour of the tonka bean is difficult to describe. It is slightly floral with an overtone of vanilla mixed in with almond and a touch of buckwheat honey.
8 – Valrhona Jivara Milk Chocolate Bar – Available at Waitrose – This sweet malty milk chocolate is delicious. If you like sweet chocolate or milk chocolate and worry that fancy chocolate will not be appealing but want to start trying something better, this is a good starter bar. Of all the available milk chocolates, this has a deeper, more interesting flavour and while sweet to me, it also melts and finishes cleanly.
7 – Green & Blacks Almond & Darker Milk Chocolate – I feel I need to specify here that the milk chocolate is slightly darker here. This is a delicious darker milk with mostly whole almonds in it. I actually think it tastes different than the miniatures but it is just so yummy. I really enjoy this as a slightly sweet, almost malted milk chocolate with delicious whole almonds. Not one for sharing!
6 – Divine 70% Dark Chocolate – Available from a number of shops – This bar is a firm standard in my cupboard. It is a delicious mild dark chocolate with a slight hint of fruit at times but a good smooth dark chocolate without any hint of a bitter edge. I have, in the past, been known to take a strip of 4 squares off, melt the rest and use the strip as a dipping stick to dip and lick the melted chocolate off of. Ya, I know – totally decadent.
5 – Sainsbury’s Santo Domingo Organic Fairtrade Dark Chocolate – Available from Sainsbury’s – I’m not sure whether the flavours were intentional but there is only a light acidity here and the fruit is absolutely a dried grape or raisin flavour. There is a hint of earthiness that occasionally raises its head but on the whole it is an inoffensive dark chocolate with a slight dried fruit flavour.
4 – Tesco Organic Dominican Republic 70% Chocolate – Available from Tesco – I was so surprised by this bar. Slightly leathery mellowing into a light raspberry but with an almost spicy (not hot – just flavourful) edge mellowing into a delightful deep brownie chocolate flavour with a light, clean finish. If this is a flavour profile you enjoy it is absolutely a great buy.
3 – Rococo Sea Salt Milk Chocolate Bar – Available from Waitrose – This milk chocolate is interesting with a malted flavour and a delicious deep milk flavour. I note that there is a slight flavour of something floral. The sea salt isn’t too intense and for me that makes it delightful because I’m not a huge fan of intense salt flavours in my chocolate. I don’t want the salt to be front and centre and here it really comes through gently. The chocolate isn’t too sticky as some milk can be. The milk chocolate is delicious and I ate a lot in a single sitting! This is a 37% bar and I think they could even go slightly darker and keep this bar yummy.
2 – Hotel Chocolat 120h Conch Purist 65% Chocolate Bar – Available from Hotel Chocolate shops – The tiny granules of this 120 hour conch make this chocolate melt like butter in your mouth. This chocolate tastes less of fruit and has a subtle flavour. It tastes almost creamy with a slight hint of vanilla. It’s difficult to describe how the finer grain of the chocolate which is a result of the longer conch time really mellows out the flavour of the chocolate and gives it a smoother taste, but it does.
1 – Willie’s Delectable Cacao 71% Madagascan Sambirano Superior – Available from Waitrose – When I opened the foil and released the scent of chocolate and mixed ripe red berries, I knew I was in for a treat. The initial flavour of fruit is joined with a sharp acidity as the very first thing you get. I was then surprised a bit as an earthy chocolate flavour developed in my mouth. I’m not a fan of that dark, almost drying sensation but I was willing to stick with it. The subtle flavours of fruit keep poking their way through the melt but I’m moving it around a lot in my mouth to get it – pushing it to the front of my tongue to let it melt there to capture the fruit and acidity. Lovely experience but really any of the range are delightful!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list and I hope you’ll discover them for yourself. This is my opinion which does happen to also match the Academy of Chocolate 2011 opinion of which I was one of the judges. Please do discover these yourselves and comment about what you like from your high street or supermarket shop!
You have FIVE chances to win a selection of my favourites from Judith’s list (minimum five bars) – simply do one of the following:
1. Follow Mostly About Chocolate (@MostlyAboutChoc) on Twitter and leave me a comment here to tell me you have done so
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3. Tweet this post using the button below and leave a comment telling me that you have done so including your Twitter username.4. Follow me @RenBehan on Twitter and again leave a comment in the box below to tell me that you have done so, including your Twitter username.5. Visit the Fabulicious Food on Facebook and “Like” and leave a wall post to tell me you have done so.