Sunday, January 03, 2016

Hotel Chocolat, UK

Ok, Hotel Chocolat is rather fascinating.  A UK company.  They do have a hotel, but it isn't in the UK.  Rather, it is in Saint Lucia, amongst the cocoa groves where they source the cacao to make their chocolate.  In addition to the random hotel, and chocolate factory, they also operate several restaurants, in London, Leeds, and in Saint Lucia, using cocoa as a savory spice throughout the menu.  Plus cafes all over Europe, selling drinking chocolates, chocolate pastries, and more.  Such a random, but actually tied together, assortment, revolving around one of my favorite things: chocolate.

The primary business of Hotel Chocolate is chocolate making, which is how I became familiar with the brand.  The chocolate line is extensive, containing everything you'd expect, ranging from bars, to truffles, to enrobed fruits and nuts, to drinking chocolate.

It doesn't really stop there though. They make things like chocolate spreads, mixed with things like gingerbread spices (the Gingerbread Christmas Spread) or the even better sounding salted caramel and pecans.  They also make jams, chutneys, and marmalades infused with cocoa. And ... cocoa pesto ... yes, basil, pine nuts, cheese, and cocoa nibs.  And cocoa pasta.  And cocoa nib ketchup.  And cocoa balsamic vinegar and finishing oils.  And even beer, vodka, and gin infused with cocoa pulp.  The list goes on and on.  It seems crazy at first, but I guess if they are developing menus for the restaurants and cafes to feature cocoa in many forms, these products probably just came out of that collaboration?  A little harder to explain is the beauty product line (body creme, eau de parfum, bath oils, candles, etc, etc), although, I guess those were developed for the hotels?

Anyway, totally fascinating.  I usually go to look up a chocolate maker, read the quick little details about where they source the cacao from, and quickly move on.  I totally got lost in Hotel Chocolat's website.
British Airways Treat!
Now, the chocolate.  I received this aboard a British Airways flight, a cute little package of two chocolates, wrapped in plastic, inside a cardboard tube.  Hotel Chocolat offers a zillion packaging options and very, very elaborate gift boxes.
Chocolate Menu.
The backside featured my "Chocolate Menu".  Inside, I'd find:
  • "A silky soft and perfectly creamy 40% milk chocolate truffle"
  • "Indulgent 70% dark chocolate filled with slated molten caramel"
The packaging also boasts "Hotel Chocolat represents a new model of luxury chocolate-maker.  Growing cocoa ourselves on our plantation in Saint Lucia enables us to link the world of sustainable cocoa agriculture with the hedonism of fabulous chocolate!"
Milk ganache in a milk chocolate shell.
I started with the milk chocolate, 40%.

The shell was smooth and quite creamy, with a nice snap.  I don't tend to go for milk chocolate, but this was actually a really complex milk chocolate.

The ganache inside was perfectly soft and almost oozed out.  I'd certainly prefer for it to be dark, or flavored, and of course they do make all these options, but for a very basic milk chocolate with milk chocolate ganache, this is clearly a quality product.
Salted runny caramel in a dark chocolate shell.
After the success of the simple milk chocolate, I eagerly moved on to the dark chocolate with salted caramel.

And ... I didn't like it nearly as much.  The shell was a shiny, snappy 70% dark that just didn't have any complexity.  Honestly, I think the milk had more going on than the dark.

Inside was a perfectly runny caramel, not too liquidy, not too firm, but I didn't taste any salty quality.

This wasn't a bad chocolate, but it certainly didn't come close to the milk, which really surprised me, as I always prefer dark chocolate, and mmm, salted caramel!
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