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Gourmet Chocolate and Cacao

Updated on January 31, 2012
Chocolate Truffles
Chocolate Truffles | Source

Why is Gourmet So Expensive?

While some people claim that chocolate is an aphrodisiac, for me it has always been about the plain and simple need for something sweet and delicious. After writing a couple of hubs centered around (or specifically about) saffron, I began to wonder about chocolate and spices. Up until recently, I never thought that I had better options, and the more I researched, the more I noticed that top-class chocolate, like any food or beverage, is quite expensive.

I understand the obvious reasons of why elite chocolate costs more—it’s not mass manufactured and the ingredients are harder to find and cultivate. What I didn’t know is that chocolate has become so revered as to join the ranks of wine with the use of the French term cru.

Cru is a French word usually used when describing wine, but with chocolate it refers to the terroir or physical environment where a type of cacao is grown. Each cru name reflects either a single varietal of cacao and/or areas that have specific cacao plants.

A cru name will often represent the country and province where certain cacao plants can be found; for example, Manjari from Madagascar.

Through the use of smell and taste, true experts can determine not only what kind of bean(s) a chocolate bar is made from, but also which plantation they come from.


Cacao pods
Cacao pods | Source

There are countless chocolate houses all over the world, distinguished by the fact that they purchase raw cacao beans, roast them, and process them into chocolate. This can be chocolate bars for consumer consumption (you and me) and pricey blocks of couverture (French for coating or covering) chocolate from which tempering, truffles, pastries, bonbons and coated items such as chocolate-covered strawberries emerge.

Dried cacao beans ready to be toasted
Dried cacao beans ready to be toasted | Source

Why Is Couverture More Expensive?

1. It is made with better beans

2. The beans are ground to a finer particle size

3. It has a higher cocoa butter content than most other chocolate bars

There exist thousands of chocolatiers all over the world, but very few makers of couverture, just about 50 according to thenibble.com. It takes a lot of time and effort to find, roast and process the best beans, into blocks that will later be sold to chocolatiers. While I love the idea of gourmet chocolate, unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford a box of chocolates with a price tag of $180.

However, by cutting out a few cups of coffee a week (yes, I’m dedicated to my chocolate education!), I think I’ve found a way to at least sample (and slowly, very slowly, nibble) some exotic, spicy and oftentimes kooky chocolates.

Lavender Truffles--my first gourmet chocolate!
Lavender Truffles--my first gourmet chocolate! | Source

My First Gourmet Chocolate

I admit that I stood for much too long in front of the glass display, hypnotized by the mocha, café and dark colored jewels that were primped and painted and sprinkled with all sorts of salts, spices and sugars.

My eye landed on the lavender truffles with real lavender seeds, small and violet-hued, nestled atop the mixed chocolate truffles. Normally, lavender is added to salads or herbal teas, well known for its calming and rejuvenating effects. I was curious. At $1.99 a pop, I officially spent more money than I ever have in my entire life on one piece of chocolate the size of a Ping-Pong ball.

Treating my chocolate as I have seen others treat wine, I took a big sniff. It had an earthy scent, but no prominent aroma of lavender. I took a tiny bite and broke into the shell, which was made of Callebaut Chocolate (semisweet, 52.9% cacao) and the first flavor that surfaced was indeed lavender. A relative of mint, the lavender plant has violet flowers and green or chalk-colored leaves, both of which lend a slight bitter taste.

I took another bite; again there was a hint of lavender, but just at the beginning, then it vanished, overtaken more by the filling, a mixture of coconut nectar, agave and coconut powder. Overall, the truffle was light and fresh; the filling had a nice creamy texture contrasting that of the artisanal shell. To my surprise, the lavender was understated—in a good way—and the whole piece was decadent enough to save half of it for nighttime.

Fresh lavender
Fresh lavender | Source

A Much Needed Pick-Me-Up

As it turns out, I needed that lavender truffle after dinner. One excuse for eating chocolate that I didn’t mention earlier is for when one receives disappointing news. While chocolate cannot cure or erase any of my problems, it at least reminds me that sometimes you need the bitter to appreciate the sweet, the marriage of vinegar and oil, wasabi and ginger, ancho chile and caramel. While I may have created a monster, embarking on a search for the most lovingly created, artisanal, and inspiring flavors in bite-size chocolate morsels, there's certainly no turning back now...

Read my recent "Hub of the Day" to learn all about organic chocolate!:

What Chocolate Combinations Have Delighted You?

Please share with me any and all suggestions you have for which chocolates (from the delectable to the just plain weird) to try next!

Just keep in mind that I'm a recent grad and a writer...no $180 chocolate boxes for me!

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      JJ 5 years ago

      I love chocolate and your article makes me want to run to a store and buy a creamy bar! I have tasted quite a variety of chocolates, some exotic like passion fruit but lately I have enjoyed the taste of mint. In your search for chocolate, what would you explore next? And, what you have already tasted, what is your favorite? 

    • Danareva profile image
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      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      Thanks, jj! Where did you find chocolate with passionfruit?? Do you happen to know what kind of chocolate it was or where it was made? That sounds delish...

      My next indulgences, in no particular order, are: basil, wasabi ginger, and Chuao dark chocolate, which is from Venezuela.

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      RebeccaM 5 years ago

      Hey. Love this! I really like dark chocolate with chili or with sea salt! I don't like chocolate with fruit though.... Something about the consistency.

    • Danareva profile image
      Author

      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      Rebecca,

      I agree, I love dark chocolate with salt! I have yet to try chili-but i'll be experimenting with that soon! Thanks for reading!

    • profile image

      'mamita' 5 years ago

      You are exploring one of my all time favorite tastes! Being a lifetime 'chocaholic' I m intrigued to read what you find in your search......I lean towards nuts of all types in dark chocolate....not crazy about fruits either! Enjoy your journey!!

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      revjca 5 years ago

      well done!

      mouth watering...

    • Danareva profile image
      Author

      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      Thanks revjca,

      What chocolate do you prefer??

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      Tia 5 years ago

      Great article d! Once again, I learned something new. Never knew chocolate was rated in similar fashion to vino. And red wine with truffles is a great combo, by the way. There was or still is a chocolatier in Seattle -theo's-who mixed buttery baguette crumbs into dark chocolate...it was scrumptious, hit the trifecta-crunchy, sweet and slightly salty.

    • Danareva profile image
      Author

      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      Mmmm that sounds amazing! Another thing I can't get enough of is bread! I will have to research into this theo's... Thanks for reading and commenting! I have a feeling that some good chocolate karma will reach you soon...

    • profile image

      Naru 5 years ago

      Great article! I share your love for chocolate. Lately, I have been noticing the 'waxiness' of certain chocolates and quite frankly disliking it. Basically, some chocolates melt in your mouth and others just seem waxier. Why is that? Does it have to do with the cacao content in the chocolate?

    • Danareva profile image
      Author

      Dana De Greff 5 years ago from Miami

      You pose a great question, naru!

      A waxy taste can often signify that a cheaper vegetable fat has been used instead of cocoa butter! High quality chocolate should melt in your mouth at about 97 degrees, and our body tempuratures are usually at 98.6. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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