The Great Taste Awards 2014 three star sticker certainly instils a sense of anticipation - even if I have tried this chocolate a couple of years ago. Then I didn't give it enough attention. It coincided with moving house, having children and it spent far too long stuck in my chocolate stash whilst other, more unusual chocolate cross my path. But as we all probably know: new-fangled stuff isn't necessarily better. But when Duane Dove, the proprietor of the estate the cacao used here is grown, contacted me, it jolted a sense of guilt and I gratefully accepted a new sample.
Far too often new chocolate tries to be punkish to get attention. In terms of flavour it wants to be left-field, almost garish and uncouth. It's like youths today wearing their trousers around their knees as they try to buck society's accepted methods of dress. After a while it gets boring. It's the same with the current fad of chocolate packaging. Many do the 'wallpaper' wrapping introduced, I believe, by Mast Brothers. This may help sell chocolate in the first instance, but what keeps people coming back is a good, solid, consistently gastronomically satisfying product. Experience, dedication and a love of the bean (seed) more than the business gives you that. Living, breathing chocolate shows compared to those that play at it so they don't have to get a day job.
And that's what we have here.
Duane, along with his team which includes Dr. Sukha from the Cocoa Research Unit in Trinidad have worked to create a new strain which includes genetics, according to C-Spot, from TSH 919, ICS and Criollo. When the beans have been through the initial post-harvest processes they're shipped off to Pralus to final few stages of the chocolate making process. Of course, the roasting and grinding protocols play an important part in the final flavour profile, but it's the stages firmly in Duane's control that I proffer play a greater part. Initially my reluctance to get too excited about this chocolate a couple of years ago was my naive belief that Duane didn't have as much input as he evidently is. My view was that this was just going to be just another meek Pralus. Even though the high roast combined with creaminess is certainly consistent with a Pralus, there is still a great deal to love here (as I generally do with Pralus).
Of course the chocolate is physically crafted with perfection - a great shine, finish and texture. I wouldn't expect anything different. But there is a very endearing quality to the flavour. The high-roast is certainly evident which gives it a 'crispy brownie' note that I loved so much about the Pralus Chuao four or five years ago, but there is more to the experience.
Yesterday I had a honey ice cream at the National Herb Centre - and this chocolate reminds me so much of that. There was nothing complicated, fancy, pretentious or Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen about it. No harshness, no gimmickry, nothing complicated or brash. Just darn good, satisfying chocolate - and what else do we want?
When the sultry heat starts to become cold rain we'll certainly work with Duane and the guys at Pralus to stock this chocolate.