A Sweet Offer

January 10, 2005 | 28 comments
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Over on the film thread, a minor side question has arisen over which is the best chocolate: Dutch, Swiss, or Belgian, (or perhaps another?).

These discussions are always interesting. However, as we all know, contention is of the devil. So, out of a heartfelt desire to help quell any contention, I’m willing to do my part to help try to resolve the question of which is the best chocolate. If everyone will just send me a sample of the kind that they believe is best, I promise to taste them all, and then report with results.

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28 Responses to A Sweet Offer

  1. danithew on January 10, 2005 at 11:36 am

    The phrase “the check is in the mail” is rarely believed. “The chocolate is in the mail” may be even less credible.” But I admire your quest.

  2. Bryce I on January 10, 2005 at 11:43 am

    Based on a care package I received as a missionary, I can say that

    Japanese Kit Kat > American Kit Kat

  3. Steve Evans on January 10, 2005 at 11:44 am

    Sumer’s favorite is a variety made by Poulain called 1848, an 80% cocoa dark chocolate with bits of cocoa beans in it. It’s not for the faint of heart.

  4. Steve Evans on January 10, 2005 at 11:46 am

    Here’s a link, for the French speaker, about it.

  5. Mark B on January 10, 2005 at 11:55 am

    I was surprised to see your rating of Japanese over American KitKat, Bryce. I don’t recall ever eating a KitKat in Japan, so I can’t comment directly, but I was all prepared to rate Japanese chocolate as the lowest on any scale, human or eternal.

  6. lyle on January 10, 2005 at 12:00 pm

    (repeated in the side thread…I dont’ know where this conversation is ‘seriously’ going to take shape)

    oh…and Kaimi. Sending chocolate via mail…doesn’t work well. The best chocolate “base” is shipped from S. America…and only in the colder months of the year. The best chocolate must be refrigerated to ensure it doesn’t have temperature changes during the shipment. So your offer probably wouldn’t yield great results. :)

    as the non-resident non-expert on Chocolate, I think the discussion is simply off base.

    First, you have to start with a discussion of the cocoa bean itself. Most “brands� use “mixed� cocoa beans. Frankly, a mixed bean can’t compete with a “single bean� chocolate. Period.

    Second, y’all talking about “brands� of chocolate made by large conglomerates. Wrong place to start. Most of the best chocolate is made by individual chocolatieres (sp?) in various countries, not corporate conglomerates.

    Third, “dutch,� “swiss,� & “belgian� chocolates are all misnomers. There is some historical fact to the “type� of chocolate that comes from these different regions. However, they have been replicated & exported & can now be found just about anywhere.

    Finally, you have to look at the “tablatureâ€? of the chocolate. As noted, it should be single bean. Second, alot depends on the cocoa content, i.e. “darkerâ€? or “milkier”. IMHO.

  7. john fowles on January 10, 2005 at 12:04 pm

    I’ll take all three, Kaimi (but I won’t send any to you!). I am partial to Dutch chocolate but rank Swiss and then Belgian close behind it.

    Bryce, interesting point–I can also say that a Snickers tastes better in Europe than here. I don’t want to think that it might all be in my head, but I’ll admit it might be. Still, wy wife has corroberated this observation.

  8. danithew on January 10, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    I can’t speak much for the quality of various chocolates. I know that European chocolate is far superior to a Snickers bar, but I’ll partake of either one and be quite content. One thing I really like to indulge in (maybe once a month or even a little less) is a thick wedge of chocolate cheesecake from Marie Callendars. It’s so rich … I usually end up sharing this single serving with my wife while we watch a video or the news.

  9. Bryce I on January 10, 2005 at 12:27 pm

    Not that Kit Kats are great chocolate anywhere (they aren’t) but I do know that US Kit Kats are produced by Hershey under license from Nestle, while Nestle produces the Japanese ones themselves.

  10. john fowles on January 10, 2005 at 12:39 pm

    Danithew, I actually meant that even a Snickers seems to taste better in Europe (not that I thought a Snickers was representative of European chocolate).

  11. danithew on January 10, 2005 at 12:48 pm

    John, I had a cousin who served a mission in Belgium and brought back a Snickers bar for us to taste. It was good but I didn’t notice a huge difference. However, I’m very willing to believe that this is more due to my indiscriminate palate than to your being wrong on the matter. :)

    I don’t know if this thought has a palce on this thread but I’ll take a risk. I have a minor theory that some cultures are more into salty snacks or sour snacks and some cultures are more into sweet snacks. I have a sweet tooth. Down in Guatemala it seemed to me that most people preferred the salty and the sour — for example I often observed the native Guatemalans eating fruit while it was still green (unripe) and even salting the fruit (I think I’m remembering that last detail correctly).

    I myself have more of a sweet than a salty tooth. But my wife (a Chinese-American) has more of a taste for salty snacks. And that is why her last easter basket from me had nachos, salsa, cheese, etc. I jokingly called it a “Mexican easter basket.”

    So I say … bring on the chocolate and I will not discriminate — even if it is a Kit Kat from Tokyo.

  12. Glen Henshaw on January 10, 2005 at 12:56 pm

    I’m going to be branded a blasphemer, but I have an additional candidate: American chocolate. At least for cooking.

    (stunned silence from readers)

    Not, not Hershey’s. Or Nestle. Or even Ghirardelli. I’m talking about Scharffen Berger, now being mentioned in the same breath as the best European chocolate, and with the added advantage that you may actually be able to find it in your grocery store. Be warned, though, a suitable sized bar will cost you $10.00.

  13. lyle on January 10, 2005 at 1:06 pm

    Again, Scharffen Berger isn’t “American” chocolate. It is chocolate made by individuals in the United States, but using traditional european methods & only the best beans from S. America. They have a great “nib” bar. nib = part of the cocoa bean; e.g. 100% cocoa.

    re: US candy bars vs. foreign. US chocolate bars have a lower cocoa content & higher wax content that other countries. This accounts for the difference in taste.

  14. J. Stapley on January 10, 2005 at 1:15 pm

    Steve, the Poulain 1848 is incredible, but only 76% cacao. And lyle is right, there is something to be said for a single bean chocolate (like a single malt scotch, I would imagine). But do not underestimate the virtue of a fine blended chocolate (a la Johnnie Walker Blue, to stay on the scotch analogy). Moreover, many of the large European chocolatiers lay claim to trees that they have been cultivating for close to a hundred years. As for the difference in American and European, it goes back to processing. The fermentation, roating, dutching (if dutched), pressing, etc. It is against the law to add wax to chocolate in America (and still call it chocolate). But there is definately less chocolate liquor (basically ground up bean) in it.

    Country appellations have more to do with regional manufacturing process than with the bean, so an argument can be made for better chocolate on a regional basis.

    I will stick with swiss. And as for a widely available and affordable chocolate, Lindt Excellence 70% takes the prize.

  15. Nathan Mark Smith on January 10, 2005 at 1:58 pm

    My most memorable experience with Belgian chocolates was the time my early morning seminary teacher – who worked as a Boeing liason to NATO – came back from Brussels with a box of Godiva Liqueurs for the class. One kid had eaten three or four before the gradual consensus emerged that they tasted funny. The teacher was pretty embarrassed when he figured out what he had done.

  16. lyle on January 10, 2005 at 2:02 pm

    thanks for the correction. :)

  17. Mathew on January 10, 2005 at 3:07 pm

    The Lindt store on Fifth and 54th gives out free chocolate truffle balls to customers as they come in. Since that is less than a block from my office I make the pilgrimage virtually every day following lunch. One salesperson briefly refused to give them to me and my fellow associates anymore since we rarely bought anything, but she must have quit because the balls now flow freely.

    NYC specialty chocolatieres of note: Leonidas on Madison and about 48th is on the low end of high-end chocolate but I love the stuff. An added bonus are the fake flowers they add to boxes as part of their packaging.

    Richart on 5th and 55th is supposedly the goldstandard, but their jewelry-like display cases, calipers and miserly portion sizes are off-putting.

    Mason du Chocolat on Madison and 78th is a Gigi fave.

  18. Aaron Brown on January 10, 2005 at 3:10 pm

    All I know about chocolate is:

    (1) See’s Candy’s “california brittle” is absolutely divine;
    (2) Godiva is so overpriced that I don’t care how good it supposedly is; and
    (3) Nothing beats a Haagen Dazs “Belgian Chocolate Chocolate” shake. Nothing. (It does cost a whopping $6.00 though, so Kaimi will have to buy his own).

    Aaron B

  19. Steve Evans on January 10, 2005 at 3:25 pm

    “the balls now flow freely”

    …….

  20. Rebecca Head on January 10, 2005 at 4:23 pm

    Call me a biased English woman, but Cadburys is great. Not the sort you get in the US – it’s made by Hershey’s, but good old English Cadburys. The chocolate in England/Europe is generally more creamier than in the US. Things like Snickers, Kit Kat etc, do taste different. Out of the 3 original choices however – it’s a tough toss up between Belgian and Swiss.

  21. Steve Evans on January 10, 2005 at 4:31 pm

    English “chocolate” is good for what it is: chalk. Take a Fruit and Nut bar with you to Sunday School in case the teacher runs out.

  22. Eric James Stone on January 10, 2005 at 8:24 pm

    I find it hard to take this discussion seriously when it shows such a Eurocentric bias.

    Forget Dutch, Swiss, Belgian, British, etc.

    The best chocolate comes from Bariloche, Argentina.

  23. Jim F. on January 11, 2005 at 12:16 am

    Why has no one mentioned Valrhona chocolate? It has great single bean chocolates as well as excellent blends. I am getting low on Valrhona’s cooking chocolate (68%). I have less than three kilos left. But it makes exquisite desserts. And, Steve, has Sumer compared their chocolate with nibs (I don’t recall the name) with Poulain’s 1848? The latter is, I agree, fantastic, but I think Valrhona’s is even better. She would probably also like Michel Cluizel’s “Eclats de cacao,” individual cocoa bean fragments coated in dark chocolate (60%). There is a lot more cocoa bean in those than chocolate.

    If you are thinking of truffles and dipped chocolates, I think you would have a hard time finding better than those in the artisanal shops of Belgium, where the proprieter makes them on the premises. (When we lived in Leuven, perhaps the size of Provo, there were 28 such shops doing business, which didn’t include those sold at the bakery. That alone made returning to the States difficult.) However, larger houses like France’s Maison du chocolat also produce some amazing things. Same for Godiva, though it is a step down from Maison du chocolat. Leonidas is to Godiva, Maison du chocolat, Valrhona, etc. as K-Mart was to Saks: good chocolate, but not great.

    If you are talking about bars, a different thing, Poulain is great, much of what Cote d’or produces is pretty good, and (to repeat myself) Valrhona is fantastic. Lindt, however, is fine if (but only if) you can’t get one of those.

    But people ought not to overlook Glen Henshaw’s recommendation. Sharfen Berger probably makes the best chocolate of various kinds in the U.S. (though I understand that Jacques Torres is getting ready to give them a run for their money). Scharffen Berger is comparable to the best European chocolates, both in quality and in price.

  24. Hans Hansen on January 11, 2005 at 1:52 am

    Favorite American Chocolate: See’s (anything)

    Favorite European Chocolate: tie, between Switzerland’s Lindt truffle balls and Austria’s Mozartkugeln (made in Salzburg).

    Favorite Norwegian chocolate: Helnøtt, a hazelnut candybar made by Freia Sjokolade of Norway

  25. Jason Johnson on January 11, 2005 at 3:25 am

    I enjoy all of the snobby tough-guy how-high-a-cocoa-solid-content-can-you-handle? dark chocolates, but my asolute favorite chocolate experience:

    Hike several to several dozen miles

    Climb a tall mountain

    Unwrap a Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut

    Nirvana

  26. Mike Heninger on January 11, 2005 at 2:31 pm

    This tread makes me ill. Let me explain….

    Two Halloween’s ago my kids (who amazingly do NOT like to eat much candy) brought home about 75 pounds of trick or treat booty. I was determined to not let it rot or attract rodents again and I intended to consume all of the chocolate items by Christmas. The reward for my gluttony was: two 6 mm kidney stones, a trip for the paramedics to my house, weeks of narcotic semi-coma, a temporary bowel obstruction and a minor (not to me) surgical procedure. By Thanksgiving I was just grateful to be alive. I can not begin to describe that pain and it is a wonder my heart didn’t give out.

    The surgeon told me that if I wanted to avoid a repeat performance and to not help him in further paying off his Lexus, I would stay away from CHOCOLATE, colas, coffee and peanuts; along with several other items I have forgotten. And drink 3 liters of water a day.

    What makes me so ill is that my chocolate sampling days have ended, aside from a rare little snitch (which feels so dangerous and wicked) and I never got to try all the various delicious suggestions in the fullness of their glory as described above.

    Can I hope for chocolate in the terestrial kingdom, if that is as far as I get?

  27. lyle on January 11, 2005 at 3:06 pm

    you can if i’m there…although my wife would probably be upset if i dont’ shoot higher

  28. D. Fletcher on January 11, 2005 at 3:11 pm

    The best chocolate made in America comes from Vermont. Try them (any brand) and see for yourself. Good milk up there, I guess.

    Apparently, some blind taste test was made by Nestle, comparing their normal milk chocolate bar to Hershey’s. Blind, the vast majority preferred Nestle. But when the testers could see the wrapper, Hershey came out ahead.