The saying goes: one man's meat is another man's poison. What millions of ordinary people think is good or luxury chocolate will be different from what you or I think. But the press really should know better. Trotting out articles such as this from the Independent which features, I can hardly bring myself to say it but having Montezuma's as the number one 'best luxury chocolate bar' does absolutely nothing to educate chocolate-buyers as to the awesome chocolate available - if they just look for it.
From my calculations I can only count four bean-to-bar chocolate makers listed. Friis Holm would be top of my version of that list and Hotel Chocolat next down. The others are run by absolutely wonderful people, but to class them as the pinnacle of the chocolate industry doesn't do chocolate makers the justice they deserve. The Independent left off many great chocolate makers and chocolatiers such as Amano, Amedei, Akesson's, Antidote, Askinosie, Bouga, Dandelion, Domori, Dick Taylor, Duffy's, Fresco, Fruition, Grenada, Madre, Mast, Menekao, Pacari, Potomac, Ritual, Rogue, Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé, Valrhona, Willie's and Zotter - to name just a few. I find myself enraged by the media's lack of fine chocolate knowledge.
The problem is the much of the media like clichés. They don't want to really have to think about an article.They'll do a few quick searches on Google, find some interesting looking chocolate, contact them for samples and write up whatever they get sent through - and in my case not even attribute you when you give them free chocolate (the bacon bits).
What's even worse, they repeat the line 'the new Willy Wonka' ad nauseum whenever a new chocolatier starts up. A little tip here for journos: not every one is the new Willy Wonka, just like the next half-decent footballer isn't the next George Best.
But can we really blame them when mediocre chocolatiers also label their products as 'luxury'? Do we really expect companies that remould cheap as chips couverture to describe their chocolate as 'alright' or 'not bad' even though many should be given the moniker: 'pretty average to be fair'.
It also happens frequently with the term 'artisan'. I view that term as describing products created by someone with great skill and craft. I don't want to demean the hard work chocolatiers put in, especially as its so hard to make money, but surely people need to be educated about the absolutely stunning chocolate that is made by true crafts people in this country and beyond?
The only way that consumers are seemingly able to differentiate mediocre chocolate from the rest is by the promotion of awards from The International Chocolate Awards, The Academy of Chocolate or the Great Taste Awards. However, still those awards aren't branded on consumers' psyches yet, they're not ingrained in the chocolate buying decisions of the mass-market. There are events such as Chocolate Week which does a great job promoting very good chocolate, but still companies making decidedly average chocolate free-ride this event. They don't contribute either financially or with cross-marketing before hand. They don't submit their events for chocolate-lovers to find, they just say 'ooh its chocolate week, buy our chocolate'. That does nothing for the good of the industry. If you're insanely proud of your chocolate really take part, put on events, invite people to tour your premises, put on a demonstration for them, when over people's hearts. Anyone can mark down a few products and send out a press release to their local paper.
Luxury chocolate has been devalued by people seeing as a way of making a quick buck. True luxury chocolate makers have been marginalised into calling themselves 'bean to bar' or 'craft' to differentiate themselves from the rest. I do hope we never see the day when chocolatiers call themselves bean to bar chocolate makers. My fear is we already have. And if the media gets the industry wrong, who really is to blame?
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