This is the first in what I hope will be a regular series (at least quarterly) of Group Reviews, a new feature for 2014 here on TheChocolateLife.
The idea behind the reviews is to get members to contribute their opinions about chocolates that are either very popular, have been heavily hyped, and/or that have received strong positive reviews from rating and reviewing web sites and/or awards programs.
The inspiration for the feature comes from José Ortega y Gasset’s 1929 book, The Revolt of the Masses [ Amazon affiliate link ]. In this book, Gasset predicts that future generations will come to rely more heavily on the recommendations of friends, colleagues, and even strangers over those of experts. If asked to choose between the advice of "experts" and the impressions of "regular" people, the majority will turn to the latter. This helps explain why many people tend to trust crowd-sourced aggregate reviews over those from reviewers in established media outlets.
This month's chocolate - Fortunato #4
Fortunato #4 is made by Felchlin (Switzerland) from beans sourced in Peru by Marañon chocolate.
While it hasn't received a lot of love from international chocolate awards (though this might be be because it was not entered, not that judges did not like it), few chocolates have been more overhyped in the media in the past five years than Fortunato #4. Some of the claims made are true (a distinct genetic variety of Nacional thought to have disappeared in the early 1900s) while others clearly are not (the rarest chocolate in the world).
Think about your response in three parts.
Part 1 :: Present your sensory impressions - Aroma, Taste, and Texture - of the chocolate.
Part 2 :: Give a rating of the chocolate on whatever scale you want (or that you use for your own purposes) - 1 (low) through 10 (high), 1 through 100, or an impressionistic scale from low (This chocolate is so bad that if I were gifted it I would not even regift it to someone I did not care about); to high (This chocolate is so good that I would have to think three times before sharing any, or This is a desert island chocolate).
Part 3 :: This part is optional and can include a discussion about other aspects of the chocolate - including your thoughts on packaging, marketing -- topics that are not central to the chocolate itself.
There are quite a few makers that have Fortunato bars, so a good place to start may be to identify all of the companies that sell Fortunato #4 bars. To get things started:
Moonstruck by Felchlin
I saw a list somewhere, maybe it was on the Maranon website...
French Broad 2011
Rating = 6, Above Average
See Review notes attached below.
Profile: hard to pin down, but I'll go with Earth. My very first tasting was noticeably acidic and kind of burnt, but I never got that again subsequently. Red wine undertones, but not too strong. There's a persistent "off" note in the undertone that reduces my enjoyment, but it's hard to nail down. Maybe like something green or unripe, maybe like faint red wine. It rather overpowers other flavors, though.
For a first attempt with these beans this is above average. Knowing the French Broad Chocolate's Lounge high standards I expect them to work out the kinks, so I believe that this bar will get even better over time. One reason for my lower rating is because the bar is expensive. I know the beans are expensive, but when I pay more I expect more.
Hi Choco, this Brian Horsley, the bean guy for Marañon Chocolate, writing from Peru. I never comment on anyone's perception of our beans or chocolate, its subjective and everyone has their own opinion which is by definition right for them. I only wanted to comment that our marketing budget is zero. All our PR ( on the Marañon Chocolate side, not our retail clients ) comes from free press. We have never bought an ad, paid for a stand at a trade show, etc. We are a small company - albeit growing due to positive market acceptance of our product - and don't have the budget for any expensive marketing of any kind. The beans are truly difficult and expensive to source, buy, process, transport, and make into chocolate. Those factors, and as with every other product in the world, retail margin, are the basis for the cost, not marketing.
I deleted the message that you replied to because I didn't want to give out information that was not correct. I was making assumptions based on the PR that I have seen, so I apologize if my comments created any negative repercussions. (Some day I may learn that making assumptions so often gets one in trouble!!)
Very decent of you to be so considerate Choco, I think it speaks to your integrity. I didn't feel like you went anywhere near out of bounds in your comment, but thank you for not simply trolling.
Other brands making chocolate from those beans: Ritual, Naïve, The Chocolate Tree and Bar au Chocolat.
I tasted Felchlin, French Broad and Naïve. I definitely prefer Felchlin. I love their style. The long conch creates a sublime texture and melting. The flavours are very delicate and nice layered. Flavours I tasted: cassis, blackcurrant, nuts, a little spicy, burned sugar, cream, butter, liquorice. So on a scale of 10 that will be a 10 for texture and melting and a 9 for taste :-)
Hi Vera, this Brian Horsley, the bean guy for Marañon Chocolate, writing from Peru. I'm so glad you enjoyed the chocolate, i really love the swiss style and slow conch too. when I visited the Felchlin factory in Schwyz last year i was overwhelmed by the care and attention to detail given to the beans by the Felchlin team. Sepp Schoenbachler, the chocolate boss at Felchlin, is truly a master in my opinion at bringing out balanced and rounded flavors from what are considered to be difficult and temperamental bans to work with. Thanks again for your patronage!
I just tasted the Maranon from Bar Au Chocolat. Complete different than the others. I love this one too :-)
I tried one of these in Australia the other week as my father bought some. Its not often that I get to sit down and just enjoy chocolate any more. Anyway, my father told me about it first and said it was Tasmanian chocolate (the reason he bought it) which baffled me. I'd heard about these special Peruvian beans but knew they were only made in Switzerland. Obviously I scoured the packaging to disprove this and sure enough it didn't say where it was made but instead had a vague statement about the Tasmanian retailer. I looked it up just to double check and sure enough they don't make it in Tasmania.
I found this incredibly misleading and even fraudulent. Surely saying something is made in Switzerland is actually a good thing? So why leave it off your packaging? I'm unsure if that's even legal but perhaps Anvers in Tasmania moulds the chocolate themselves, technically not 'making' but still processing it?
Anyway, I think I was pretty overwhelmed by the amount of 'spin' plastered all over the packaging. Marketing 101 is always to have your product exceed expectations, not create expectations that can't be fulfilled. It also came in this huge box that was like 3-4x the size of the actual chocolate inside which seemed to serve only to prove further that what you see is most certainly not what you get.
I didn't really sit down and make detailed tasting notes as at the time I was only looking to eat some chocolate and try something new.
1 - It was quite a thick chocolate perhaps due to the lack of an emulsifier but it was smooth and well made, achieving the right balance in flavours. As a chocolate maker myself I don't think the flavours could have been balanced any better than they were. Flavour wise it reminded me of Christmas pudding being quite rum and raisin like too. It was flavoursome and warm but not particularly intense as the packaging would lead you to believe. I didn't really try to pick it apart, that's just where it took me. I also found a small piece of plastic in it, I'm sure I must have been that 1 in a million but it did surprise me.
2 - Its probably not fair to really give it a rating without sitting down again and tasting it properly but just from that brief experience it was probably an 8.5-9 out of 10. It was a really nice chocolate but it wasn't the best chocolate I've ever tried and the other members of my family would also agree. It would be really good to try blind sometime without having read the spin of the packaging before hand but the flavour is also quite distinctive so I might have to give it a few months.
3 - They should be clear about where its made; surely as a chocolate maker it must be hugely disappointing not to be recognized and have consumers buying your product because they think its made somewhere else. Don't set expectations beyond what you can deliver. The goal should always be to either match or over deliver on expectations which this really failed to do by setting the bar too high.
I guess most of all I was so disappointed by them not declaring the real story and turning it into some Anvers private label product more than anything. If I wanted to buy a private label chocolate I'd go to the chocolate isle in a supermarket. Anver's logo took up probably 10% of the back of the box; usually importers just put a small sticker on the box or have their details in small print somewhere. It would have been much better to see Marañon Chocolate take up that 10% along with being made in Switzerland mentioned somewhere even if Felchlin wasn't mentioned which oddly it isn't anywhere anyway.