Hotel Chocolat provides bars from Saint Lucia made up of cocoa from a collective of farmers grown on the Island, but this bar in particular is made from cocoa grown on Hotel Chocolat’s own Rabot Estate. Unlike their single cote offerings this bar is made from cocoa from across the plantation, which Hotel Chocolat have lovingly restored since 2005. Here they grow trinitario cocoa, a variety known for its fruity nature, although combined with the St Lucian terroir it tends to express itself in slightly darker tones. Saint Lucia is classified by the world cocoa organisation, the ICCO as one of just 8 countries in the world growing exclusively the highest quality ‘fine flavour cocoa’ but until 2005 Saint Lucian cocoa had previously only ever gone into blends until Hotel Chocolat began producing their single origin bars.
I’ve tried a number of variations of Saint Lucian cacao from Hotel Chocolat, their single cotes being distinctly different, but their blends in general having a similar darkly toned theme of earthy qualities like tobacco, leather and dark sugar. Here I’m expecting that to be even more heavily present, without any sugar to temper the strong dark flavours I would expect this bar to be intense, dark and hopefully dimensioned. Opening the bar, it starts out particularly well, the chocolate work is notable with smooth glossy chocolate that’s been particular well tempered. The aroma is intense and refined with some sweet floral notes, suggesting at some decent development. The mouthfeel proceeds in the same way, the smooth chocolate is long, full and heavy owing to the tempering and the lack of added cocoa butter or sugar. To taste the bar is as I expected, its dark and noticeably bitter, with heavy earth and tea like tannin notes that smoothly pull you into the darkness. The problem here is that any 100% is likely to be dark and bitter regardless of the cocoa used, but with that as a given, it’s about how that dark and bitter nature is delivered and this bar goes a long way to try and present itself well. In spite of tangibly dark flavours, the lack of acidity and sweetness, the bar is delivered smoothly, it’s fairly well balanced and to be fair there is an amount of noticeable refinement. While the flavours may be difficult to handle, they are comparable with that of heavily aged spirits or cigars or even dry spices and this bar reminds me that cocoa can be seen as an additive, in the same way that say cinnamon can be. If you like the raw power and intensity of 100% cacao or the darker side of flavour this bar is at least honest, with a very distinctive expression of its terroir.
Ingredients: Cocoa mass
Colour: Darker brown, light purpling
Texture: Very smooth
Mould: Hotel Chocolat Rabot 1745 tablet mould
Snap: Very crisp, thick
Temp/Shine: Glossy matte
Notes: Intense cocoa, lavender, honey
Quality: Sweet, refined
Texture: Smooth, thick caramel
Quality: Full, heavy, refined
Notes: Bitter lemongrass
Notes: Dark molasses
Notes: Earthy mud, bitter tannins, over steeped assam tea, black tea, leather
Flavours build to a long length and round off well given their nature
Notes: Leather, tannins, lemongrass
Quality: General robust flavours come to a finish, leaving a thick cocoa coating in the mouth which fades as it melts away, surprisingly no real bitterness of astringency
Tannins can dominate a little here, but otherwise bar is just about smooth and refined enough to pull out some balance under a medium to strong structure
There is depth and dimension here in the flavour, minor complexities are well balanced and structure is consistent, there is a distinctiveness of expression of origin here that is clear and evident
Hotel Chocolat’s Tasting Notes: This eccentric individual packs a punch. Teasing you in gently with the aroma of freshly cut grass, the intensity builds with notes of leather and tobacco reminiscent of a gentleman’s smoking room.