Michel Cluizel Sao Tome Plantation Vila Gracinda 67% 83/100

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Created from forastero cocoa beans grown on the West African island of Sao Tome off the coast of Gabon. Once harvested these beans are shipped to Damville in Normandy just west of Paris to Manufacture Cluizel to be turned into one of their single plantation chocolate bars.

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I’ve tried a couple of bars from Sao Tome, although none that you could describe as being overtly craft chocolate. My experiences were of a cacao with potential, yellow and orange fruit notes with a tendency towards spice, flavours that suggested they weren’t particularly in need of extra cocoa butter and vanilla. Here I’m hoping that this bar plays out as refined and developed and not creamy and underwhelming. Opening this bar, I’ve started to get used to Michel Cluizel’s relief squares and they’re a good size for appreciating chocolate. Breaking one off I’m a little underwhelmed by an aroma that hints at a subtle complexity, but in reality delivers a fairly simple account of sweet nuts, spice and citrus fruit. Placing a piece in my mouth there’s a pleasant silky mouthfeel that opens up giving way to a set of sweet, but simple flavours. This is an easy bar to enjoy, but it’s not an easy bar to fall in love with, the flavour set is pleasant, but it lacks depth and dimension and it feels both a little over processed and a little under developed. Its smooth and soft nature offers something easy going and there’s nothing unpleasant here, rather the bar is just a little underwhelming. If you like sweet flavours and enjoy confectionary then this is a pretty inviting bar, but it’s not one for those who prefer more refined or developed flavours.

Ingredients: Cocoa, sugar, cocoa butter, bourbon vanilla pod

Appearance 8.5/10

Colour: Medium to light milky brown
Texture: Smooth, minimal flake
Mould: 5×3 Michel Cluizel relief slab squares
Snap: Crisp
Temp/Shine: Matte gloss

Aroma 8/10

Intensity(0-10): 7
Notes: Almonds, sweet spice, mace, orange peel, lemongrass
Quality: Simple

Melt/Mouthfeel 9/10

Length: Medium to long
Evenness: Malleable, speeds up a little
Texture: Glossy, silky, smooth
Quality: Refined, coating

Acidity 8/10

Intensity(0-10): 4
Notes: Orange, papaya
Quality: Soft, underdeveloped

Sweetness 8.5/10

Intensity(0-10): 8.5
Notes: Honey, meadowsweet, marshmallow
Quality: Light, complementary, confectionary

Flavour 8/10

Intensity(0-10): 8
Type: Sweet
Notes: Orange, milk, vanilla, cinnamon
Quality: Simple, hollow, smooth

Length 8.5/10

Flavours are soft and smooth, but do subtly stay the length, rounding with peaks of fruit

Finish 8/10

Notes: Sweet confectionary
Quality: The bar slowly makes its way to the finish providing these light and sweet flavours that remind me of meadowsweet or marshmallows, leaving a lingering confectionary tone

Balance 8.5/10

Sweetness drives this chocolate, but it’s fairly complementary to the other aspects of this bar, there is a soft balance here with a medium structure that provides some backbone

Overall 8/10

Bar lacks some depth, but more importantly lacks worthy dimension, subtle complexity is well balanced, structure is consistent, expression seems honest, but a bit lost or distant, processing provides smoothness at the expense of some flavour

Michel Cluizel’s Tasting Notes: Accents of volcanic and marine earth: grilled, spicy and herbaceous, in a stretch of ripe tropical fruit and licorice stick.

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