Strange chocolate

xmas chocolates loose big version2

Believe it or not some people, strange though they might seem, claim they don’t like chocolate. Yes, chocolate. The delicious creamy, sweet, smooth mood-lifter loved by generations of people. From that first foil-covered chocolate Easter egg, to the sophisticated rich and bitter adult concoctions we crave after dinner, chocolate has a place in most people's hearts.

My first encounter with one of these very odd anti-chocolate types, was my father but he is by no means the only one. From as a far back as I can remember he has claimed to not like chocolate. It did of course mean my Easer egg collection was safe (well, from my father at least if not from my siblings) but I always wondered if there was a chocolate flavour he would like.

With so many opportunities to gift chocolate during the year – Valentine’s day, Easter, father’s and mother’s day - I decided to try and find a flavour of chocolate that might appeal to a non-choc’s taste buds. I was surprised to find that along with the now not-so-unusual ingredients such as chilli, there are a rainbow of tasty concoctions that would make perfect present. And if your non-choc recipient doesn’t like them, well, it’s the thought that counts and you can scoff them down yourself.

Claire Burnet, chocolatier and owner of award-winning chocolate mail order company Chococo, has her own views on why some people say they don’t like chocolate. One of the main reasons people (and men in particular), say they don’t like this gorgeous treat is because it’s too sweet, she says. “Most chocolate in this country is stuffed full of glucose syrup or huge amounts of alcohol to extend the shelf life", she adds. "You end up with something that is very sweet by definition.”

Burnet says that by adding sugar or neutral alcohol to chocolate, it can be stored for months, then boxed and kept on a shelf for almost a year. The sugar and or alcohol will “kill bugs and extend shelf life, but you ruin the mouth feel, you ruin the taste, the flavour, the palate everything. It’s all wrong.” She meets people all the time who say they are chocoholics but when she quizzes them about what they are eating, it’s usual industrially produced. “It’s a completely different animal", says Burnet. "You’re getting a sugar fix, not a chocolate fix. There’s not enough chocolate in it to get a chocolate fix.”

She goes onto explain that quite a large number of premium brands are guilty of adding these ingredients as well. “There are relatively few in the country that are making chocolate that is packed, dispatched and designed to be eaten fresh.” Chococo chocolates are a classic ganache-based chocolates made with fresh Dorset cream and Venezuelan chocolate. Chococo have no need to add butter as the cream is so rich. All the chocolates in the range are just a blend of cream chocolate and natural flavours, with a crisp shell and a soft centre.

It’s decided that the only way to test this theory is to find a chocolate-hating tester and ply him with the good stuff. The victim, Darren Christie, 33, agrees that if he has to eat the stuff it’s the better quality stuff that he can stomach but he would just rather not have it at all. Darren has proclaimed loud and clear to all his relatives and friends that he doesn’t like chocolate, this however doesn’t seem to stop him receiving it on a semi-regular basis. “If I do get given chocolate I usual give it away to someone else or it just sits in the cupboard until my girlfriend eats it,” he says. You see this is the problem, even if you don’t like chocolate you still inevitably receive chocolate as a gift. It’s the easiest answer to the ‘what do I get them for their birthday?’ question.

I set Darren to work on some of the most unusual and still accessible flavours in the UK.

1. Chococo – The Purbeck Chocolate Co.

We start with a selection box form Chococo including their Cider with Fifi (Cider brandy with chopped dried organic apples). For Darren, this particular one is too sweet but he liked the apple. He also tries Gold Great Taste award winner Black Strap Harry, judged as “alright but liquoricy.” Surprisingly it’s the Gorgeous Ginger, another award winner, that turns his fancy. He does like the idea of a selection however as he says, “you don’t feel as though you have to have the whole bar in one sitting. You can have one and really examine the taste of it and if you don’t like it there are all the others.” He adds it’s also easy to share with others.

2. Rococo - Arabic Spices Organic Dark and Cardamom Organic White from Natoora

The beautifully packaged Rococo bars have a strong perfume which creates quite a festive air. Darren likes the spice of the Arabic bar but interestingly says there’s too much cocoa. The cardamom bar has a good texture but tastes a bit like a cough lolly to him.

3. Moser Roth Finest Dark Chocolate Chilli from Aldi

Darren doesn’t mind this one. He’s a recent convert to the chilli chocolate combination. Moser Roth’s chocolate is probably a little full of fats and quite processed for Claire’s liking but it has a nice warm mouthfeel without being overpoweringly hot with chillies. It’s the cheapest of the selection.

4. Chilli and Ouzo Chocolate Truffles and Salt Caramel Truffles from Terre à Terre

Fascinating flavour combinations in this range of fresh truffles that hail from a vegetarian restaurant in Brighton. Darren didn’t get to try these but the salt caramel is a delightful combination of sweet and salt. A grown up salt water toffee. Chilli Ouzo would go down well with someone who likes their chocolate boozy and rich.

5. Bara Brith from the Welsh Chocolate Farm

Bara Brith is a tea-infused cream and tastes similar to eating soild chocolate tea-cake complete with raisins. Unfortunately Darren didn’t try this one either but I deduce from his previous tastings that it wouldn’t be his cup of tea. The chocolate is quite sweet and he’s not a huge fan of raisins.

These are just a few of the crazy flavours out there but there are many more. Rosmary and Chimi Chimi from Perfectly Tempered, Marmite Truffles from Paul a Young or even ethical chocolate such Organic Meltdown or Dubble. The result of this experiment highlighted that chocolate is a simple pleasure that can be enjoyed by everyone when chosen correctly. In the words of the chocolatier Claire Burnet, chocolate is “a sensory delight” whose flavours and textures should be clean and clear. If you're buying for someone who is unsure of chocolate, go for a good quality gift box and you’ll have something to talk about whilst you stuff your faces.

IssuesAnne Giacomantonio