Wednesday, February 28, 2007

2007 Chocolate Tasting

Lindt was the big winner in this year's chocolate tasting, taking the first place in all categories, as well as top ratings for most consistently excellent chocolate. The Lindt Excellence 70% and Single Origin Ecuador 75% were hugely popular with intense, complex, fruity flavors. In the superdark category, the American Jaguar bar takes the award for best black chocolate; at 88% cacao this bar stands out with rich, long flavor, the only popular bar darker then Lindt 75%. The Russian chocolate, Krokunov, was a surprise upstart in the superdark category, with many fans of milder chocolates finding it smooth, creamy, and sweet. Ritter Sport also deserves a special callout for consistent excellence in the dark chocolate category, with sweet, milky flavors. Blanxart Dark Chocolate was a surprise to many who thought they had tastes at the extremes; it was most popular among the die-hard superdark chocoholics and the sugar-loving milk fans, with a smooth and very sweet vanilla flavor.

Scharffen Berger Dark Chocolates earned consistently good to excellent ratings, with their limited-edition chocolates taking high marks. The Scharffen Berger Milk takes the award for most controversial chocolate, with fans lauding it's complex caramel flavors, and critics complaining of disgusting burnt flavors. Of course, all the biggest battles took place on the milk chocolate table, with Lindt the only uncontestedly tasty milk chocolate. Guittard remains the only high-volume American chocolate manufacturer to put out a popular chocolate; their highly-rated milk chocolate is used to make See's Candies. The Belgian milk chocolate by Callebaut received high marks despite controversial reviews, with some tasters loving the smooth, creamy melt, and others finding it too sweet and milky. The sugar and caramel taste of the Milka bar was a big hit with milk chocolate fans, who loved the familiar German chocolate. To no one's surprise, Hershey's Milk Chocolate was a waxy disappointment, though the new Hershey's Special Dark received slightly better reviews, perhaps since it's milk-based ingredients and 45% cacao rating classified it as a milk chocolate.

Michel Cluizel and Sharffen Berger were the only expensive chocolates to earn top marks (bars cost between $6 and $8); most chocolates were $4/bar or less, with Lindt Swiss Bittersweet being the most economically delicious chocolate at only $2/bar. Surprisingly, most of the popular chocolates were the easiest to come by, and are available in several local stores as well as online.

Basic Statistics
Tasting Date 2/25/2007
Number of People Participating 38
Number of Sheets turned in 64 (across milk/dark/superdark)
Number of Chocolate Ratings 913
Average Ratings/Chocolate 11

Milk Chocolates (up to 45% Cacao) 26
Dark Chocolates (45%-70% Cacao) 27
Super Dark Chocolates (70%+ Cacao) 30
Total Number of Chocolates 83

Chocolates from 37 Manufacturers: Lindt , Perugina , Nirvana , Lotte , Cadbury , Bloomsberry & Co. , Milka , Droste , Ghirardelli , Hershey , Blanxart , Chocolatour , Guylian , Green & Black's , Nacional de Chocolates , Bernard Callebaut , E. Guittard , Vintage Plantations , Valrhona , El Ray , Scharffen Berger , Oliver , La Dominicana , Ritter Sport , Dagoba Organic Chocolate , Michel Cluizel , Lindt , Isis Chocolates , Valor , A. Korkunov , Endangered Species Chocolate , Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates , Terra Nostra , Chocolat Weiss , Moser-Roth , Schwarze Herrren Sholokade , and Venchi .

Top 5 Popular Chocolates per category (in order):

Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa
Lindt Origins Ecuador 75%
A. Korkunov Dark Chocolate
Endangered Species Chocolate Jaguar Bar: Extreme Dark Chocolate
Scharffen Berger Las Islas

Lindt Swiss Bittersweet
Droste Barettini Bittersweet Chocolate
Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate
Blanxart Dark Chcolate
Michel Cluizel Plantation Maralumi

Lindt Swiss Classic Milk Chocolate
Milka Alpenmilch
Chocolatour Java 2005 33%
E. Guittard Orinoco
Bernard Callebaut Milk Chocolate

Consistently Excellent Chocolates: (High ratings, low standard deviation)
Lindt Swiss Classic Milk Chocolate
Lindt Swiss Bittersweet
Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate
Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa
Lindt Origins Ecuador 75%

Most Contraversial Chocolates:
Scharffen Berger Extra Rich Milk
Bernard Callebaut Milk Chocolate
Endangered Species Chocolate Chimpanzee Bar: Supreme Dark Chocolate
Lindt Excellence 99% Cocoa
Blanxart Milk Chocolate

Least Popular Chocolates (beginning with worst)
Vintage Plantations 100% Dark 2006 Harvest
Vintage Plantations 90% Dark
Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates Organic Bittersweet Chocolate Bar
Hershey Milk Chocolate
Dagoba Organic Chocolate Eclipse 87%

Do you care about the math?

Chocolates are measured by two means:
  • overall average score by all tasters
  • number of tasters who gave a chocolate top marks
These numbers are combined for the final score. Average deviation is used to measure consistancy/contraversiality. The score each chocolate receives is normalized across each sheet.

Thank you
Many thanks to the 38 people who participated in this blind tasting, to all the people who showed up early to chop up 83 varieties of chocolate, and to Anton who helped me computerize all 64 chocolate forms including comments.