Xmas special: chocolate cheating

Christmas is coming, THE chocolate season of the year. So most us buy, eat, and give away a LOT of chocolate over the next couple of weeks1. Which is great!
Just try avoiding the most common dirty tricks in selling chocolate to make sure you really get something that’s worth being praised as ‘chocolate’.

 Many nasty ways to reduce production costs and quality of chocolateThere are many nasty ways for reducing production costs (and quality) of chocolate. Low quality bulk cocoa is much cheaper than premium cocoa. Sugar and other ingredients are even cheaper so reducing the overall cocoa percentage also saves money. And often products are marketed as ‘premium’ to sell for much higher prices even if there is nothing premium inside…

  1. Actually, we already might have during all the last weeks I guess…. []

Don’t trust these guys!

Christmas time, chocolate time. That seems a pretty universal law1 although it comes in different styles and shapes. Today for instance, 6 of December, many Germans will get their chocolate ‘Nikolaus‘, but chocolate Santa-Claus-like treats are fairly common in many places. It relates to a lot of great childhood memories, probably not only for me. However, when I had a closer look at my ‘Nikolaus‘ today, it felt devastating. These guys are clearly made of bad bad crap chocolate!

Two chocolate Santa ClausTwo chocolate Santa Claus (here from Lindt)… as sad as it is: most of these guys are made from very low quality chocolate. Actually, it is hardly ‘chocolate’ at all and the best part of chocolate, the cocoa solids, are only present in traces…

  1. At least in moderate climate regions. []

Palatable vegan milk chocolate!

Facing the limit of growth and the threat of climate change, the term ‘sustainability’ has seen a rapidly rise in usage in recent years. The food sector is responsible for about one fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions1. Out of those food-related greenhouse gas emissions, 20% stems from cow’s milk production2. It hence makes total sense to think about how to create good milk-free alternatives, and this not only for those with allergies or the like.

Vivani rice milk chocolate with 40% cocoa - first palatable vegan milk chocolate I had so far. Vivani rice milk chocolate with 40% cocoa – first palatable vegan milk chocolate I had so far.

  1. This number comes from here. In general this is a wonderful site to look up numbers, facts, graphs related to climate change and food sector contributions. []
  2. Again, same source. []

No grown-up taste buds

Maybe some find the design cute, I actually don’t. Anyway… I still got very interested when I recently came across some “Grown up chocolate bars” in a shop. After all I like (and consume) candy bars a lot. Most of the time, though, it doesn’t really end with great satisfaction. The majority of candy bars is made by mass production containing poor, cheap ingredients and usually they are very clearly on the sweet side. The Grown Up Chocoalte Company promises “deliciously decadent” hand-made candy bars “for grown-ups only”. I wish that was true…

Two of the candy bars from The Grown Up Chocolate Company. Nothing grown-up in there, though. Two of the candy bars from The Grown Up Chocolate Company. Nothing grown-up in there, though.

Defending chocolate: Askinosie

This might sound like a random pick. I didn’t do many chocolate reviews so far, so why elaborate on chocolates made by Askinosie? Partly, it’s random indeed1, but Askinosie is also a great chocolate maker that is still far less known than many of the ‘classic’ bean-to-bar chocolate makers2.

One of Askinosie's chocolate bars that's definitely worth a try: the dark goat milk! One of Askinosie’s chocolate bars that’s definitely worth a try: the dark goat milk!

  1. I happen to sit in front of four opened Askinosie chocolates enjoying my evening… []
  2. Such as Domori, Pacari, Prallus, … []

Good or Gooey?

When I converted into a 99% vegetarian many, many years ago most people around me expected I’d be challenged by all those fantastic, delicious meet dishes. As a matter of fact, I am more tempted by the trashiest of all candies: wine gum!1 Unfortunately, most of them are based on gelatin as gelling agent2.

Goody good stuff makes gooey vegan wine gums Goody good stuff makes vegan wine gums – but are they really good?

  1. All those really trashy wine gums: colorful, sticky, artificially flavored, and best if covered with extremely sour stuff. []
  2. And gelatin, as you will probably know, is extracted from animal bones. Not vegen. Not vegetarian. In many cases not halal… []

Not fancy. Not bad! Holtkamp.

The patisserie Holtkamp is another well-established Amsterdam location. In particular their pastries and –very Dutch- their “croquetten” can be found in many cafés and restaurants in Amsterdam, but also their handmade chocolates enjoy great popularity.

Patisserie Holtkamp in AmsterdamPatisserie Holtkamp in Amsterdam

The sweet, the bitter.

Last Sunday I enjoyed another chocolate tasting at Chocolátl1.

Chocolate tasting bitter and sweet at Chocolatl, Amsterdam
Chocolate tasting “bitter/sweet” at Chocolátl in Amsterdam

  1. A wonderful chocolate shop in Amsterdam. []

Exploring your dark side

Sometimes I like making things dramatic, saving the best until last. In food as well. I save the asparagus heads until the end and finish my favorite side dish last, if you know what I mean.

Chocolabs - chocolate tasting at Chocolatl in Amsterdam
‘Exploring your dark side’ chocolate tasting at Chocolatl in Amsterdam

Kallari Ginger & Andean Salt

Today I tried the “71% Cacao with Ginger & Andean Salt” chocolate from Kallari, a Ecuadorian chocolate maker with a good story. Actually it is one of the very few chocolate makers that produces in the region where the beans grow1
Medium Dark Chocolate with Ginger & Andean Salt from Kallari
Very pleasant ginger taste that teams up very well with the chocolate. The ginger flavor is intense but not harsh or hot, and it stays around for quite a while. Good, interesting chocolate.
However, the chocolate flavor itself is too mild in my opinion (too much cocoa butter?). As it is, the chocolate in this bar is only the support that transports the ginger. A stronger chocolate and a little more salt would probably be better to balance the dominant ginger taste.

  1. Other examples I can now think of are Grenada or Madécasse. Both also produce great high quality chocolates. Producing the actual chocolate in the same region where the cocoa growth typically results in a higher fraction of the sales remaining in these regions. []