Hank's Chocolate Blog

By Hank Cohen, hancohen@aol.com

This is the second in my series of tastings for the Burleith website, the first of which made its debut in April 2015. I plan to taste and rate two gourmet chocolate bars every quarter, ranking them on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the best. The chocolate selections must have a minimum of 70% cacao content to qualify as “gourmet.”

Of the four I have evaluated so far, only the Safeway Select rated in this posting comes close to the top. The brands below were selected at random from the Safeway at 1500 Wisconsin Avenue NW on June 25.

Ghirardelli: Intense Dark: 86% Cacao “Midnight Reverie”
Price paid: $3.25 for 3.17 oz. (90 grams)*
Origin:  California: Beans sourced worldwide.
Intensity of chocolate flavor: Strong, especially as it is going down.
Duration of taste: Short. Limited to the time it is going down.
Overall appreciation: 7

Eighty-six percent cacao is about the upper limit of edibility for gourmet chocolate. In this case, I felt nothing at the beginning. It was just a smooth velvety mass that needed to be crushed in my mouth. But once it got crushed, it exploded in a complex chocolate taste with other tastes (cherry, peach) sneaking in. And then it disappeared. The taste was awesome, but short lived.

*This bar is 90 grams. The standard bar is 100 grams. Thus, the price is higher per gram.

Safeway Select: Dark Chocolate: 78% Cacao
Price paid: $2.99 for 3.5 oz. (100 grams)
Origin: Switzerland
Intensity of chocolate flavor: Very strong, from start to finish.
Duration of taste: Long, from start to finish.
Overall appreciation: 9+

This bar has real character. A strong bittersweet, almost tart, sensation hits you right away, as soon as the square enters your mouth. It announces its presence with a blast. The strong taste persists and is quite agreeable. It is also velvety and smooth. This is a winner. The 78% cacao is becoming an important factor in the gourmet scale.

Hank Cohen and his wife, Suzanne, have lived at 3605 R Street since 1969, with some absences due to foreign service in Africa. Since retiring from the State Department, Hank has been consulting for U.S. companies doing business in Africa. He just published The Mind of the African Strong Man: Conversations with Dictators, Statesmen, and Father Figures, which is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 Image from  Cocoa and chocolate: a short history of their production and use  by walter baker & Company, 1907. Library of Congress/the internet archive.

Image from Cocoa and chocolate: a short history of their production and use by walter baker & Company, 1907. Library of Congress/the internet archive.