April 18 2011
The minute I tasted Hotel Chocolat’s 50% Milk Island Growers St Lucia chocolate from their Purist Rare & Vintage Range, I knew I was done for. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Despite its name being a bit of a mouthful, the merest nibble of this ambrosial confection will change your life, or at least your chocolate consumption. Once I’d snapped off a piece from the glossy tablet of 50% Milk and allowed it to melt on my tongue, discovering the creamy texture and caramel flavour with just the vaguest hint of citrus, I knew I was ruined for any other chocolate, including Pierre Marcolini, one of Brussels’ finest, which I’m sorry to say tastes like wax in comparison.
For me, 50% Milk is the chocolate equivalent of that deliciously crisp yet aromatic and musky wine, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc – not too much of a stretch into unknown territory for the non-aficionado, but immediately recognisable as something infinitely superior. Nestling midway between a classic dark chocolate (too bitter) and a classic milk (for lightweights), 50% Milk is the best of both, with minimal sugar added and “just shown” the milk jug.
As with fine wine, this chocolate has a back story, too, so that people like me can extol its virtues at dinner parties to annoy the wine bores. The essential facts are that it’s made with what’s known in the industry as fine cocoa, as opposed to bulk cocoa (95 per cent of the world’s supply is bulk cocoa). Trinitario is the specific type used for this chocolate, a hybrid of varieties originally thought to have grown in the Amazon and Mexico, but now produced on St Lucia under the Engaged Ethics programme, which works to encourage and sustain cocoa production by 80 independent growers.
You can see why this chocolate deserves its special status as something rare and exclusive. You can even stay at the Rabot Estate eco hotel where the cocoa is fermented and dried. Or you can save the air fare, stay at home and have a bar – or several – delivered to you by Hotel Chocolat.
Island Growers St Lucia 50% Milk chocolate, £5 per bar.