Friday, March 8, 2013

2013 Chocolate Tasting Results

The results are in from this year's chocolate tasting and once again european chocolates triumph, with Switzerland and Germany taking the lead.
Gilgen once again demonstrates the appeal of swiss chocolates- this three-year champion maker once again got high ranks, topping the dark category and coming in second in Milk. Divine also proved themselves perennially popular, with a third place in both the milk and super dark categories. 

Trader Joe's Swiss Chocolate, which is made in the Villars factory in Switzerland, got high ranks- winning the milk category and doing pretty well in dark, though, as it did last year, not quite as well as the Villars' branded Villars chocolate, which placed 5th in super dark.  Still since Villars isn't sold in the US, we highly suggest that you get your hands on some TJ's.  As an experiment this year, we included TJ's milk chocolate from two different production batches a few months apart, and were delighted to see that production quality is very constant, as the votes for both chocolates were nearly identical. 

The other milk chocolate to receive top marks was Galler from Belgium, with rich caramel notes that were popular with everyone, and especially loved by milk fans. Lindt, unusually, did not receive the highest marks in the milk category, at least among the general audience, however when considering the scores of only die hard milk chocolate fans, Lindt Milk beat out every other chocolate on the table, with tasters noting that "it tastes like childhood."

The second place dark chocolate was Edeka's Zartbitter, from Germany, a bargain supermarket bar costing only 0.39 euros, which once again demonstrates both that price is no indication of quality, and that even the cheap bars from Europe beat out what the new world has to offer. Edeka's 72% bar also placed fourth in super dark. Callier slipped from second to third place in dark with their classic Cremant bar, and their new offering of a 64% Cremant bar was poorly received, particularly by dark chocolate fans who considered it mediocre. 

The super dark winners this year were the Russian A. Kourkunov chocolate, a perennially winning performer, a new (to this tasting) Swiss chocolate maker, Schweitzers, and Divine.

Kallari, the big winner from last year, faced an unfortunate challenge in this tasting: due to trouble sourcing the chocolate, the bars we used turned out to have expired two months ago, and the aging showed.  Kallari was the chocolate that received the most "I loved it" votes of any chocolate in the tasting (38% of tasters), but several tasters were off put by the staleness and noted that "it just tasted wrong," leaving it difficult to fairly judge this chocolate in the rankings. 

We introduced a new category this year for the darkest chocolates, because the number of 70%-72% chocolates is exploding, and it seems unfair to compare an 80% bar with them.  This category had a (perhaps predictably) polarizing effect on tasters.  The most dramatic example was Blanxart's 82% Congo bar, which was given very high scores by super dark chocolate lovers, and horrible scores by milk fans, a quarter of whom simply hated it.  Perhaps the complex fruit tones put off the traditionally caramel-loving milk fans, as this chocolate was full of complex fruit flavors. 

Of special note are the Daintree Estates chocolates, which were the most controversial on the table.  Everyone had strong opinions on these chocolates, with many people commenting that they "don't taste like chocolate," or "taste like wine."  This new company is the first australian company to grow beans in the continent, and has taken "bean to bar" to a whole new level by growing the beans themselves. Perhaps there's something about the soil in Australia that polarizes the pallete, but in any event, we suggest you try their chocolate if you have the chance- it's very polarizing. 

For the first time this year, we don't have any "big loosers" to report.  All the chocolates we tried were loved by at least a handful of people, and even the lowest ranked chocolates received middling scores.  Some of the poorer performers include:  Droste from the Netherlands has dropped significantly in the rankings since we last tasted it, earning last place in milk and middling scores for their extra dark chocolate. Equal Exchange, an organic fair trade bar from Whole Foods that we tried this year did pretty poorly in both the dark and super dark categories, though their darker 71% bar was somewhat popular among super dark fans. Sirius, the national chocolate of Iceland (being the only chocolate produced there), got pretty middling scores for all three of their chocolates on the table, with tasters noting a somewhat waxy consistency but good flavor. TCHO has finally (in the third year of tasting) produced a chocolate which no one in our tasting hated: Serious Milk Chocolate. Unfortunately no one particularly liked the TCHO chocolate either- it had the fewest number of people who loved it of any chocolate on the table and nearly everyone gave it middling marks. Madecasse, the new Madagascar chocolate maker was probably the worst performer overall, with both their milk and dark bars receiving very low marks. 

The full list of 54 chocolates we tasted is available here, and the compilation of every chocolate we've ever tried is here

Many thanks to our 52 tasters who provided 1920 tastings for this analysis!  Special thanks also to Madleina for importing most of the European Chocolates and to Cynthia for the Australian Chocolates.  Galler and Blanxart donated chocolates to our tasting and we are very grateful- they were delicious!

Love math?  Curious about the data?  Check out the complete anonymized data set here!