These are my notes about what I think of many of the types of bulk chocolate I’ve bought. All of these chocolates are excellent and I would recommend them to anybody. My rating system is a little unusual, but I hope it is a little more useful than a 0–5 rating system (most of the chocolates here would rate a 4 or 5).
|[Stock]||This chocolate is worth buying in large quantities and keeping around. If you have all of the chocolates labeled “Stock,” you will have a full range of price points and ﬂavor proﬁles with little overlap.|
|[Try]||This chocolate is worth trying, but is probably not distinctive enough to warrant keeping around on a regular basis. It is probably either priced too high or is too similar to one I like slightly better.|
|[Skip]||This chocolate is very similar to another chocolate here that is marked as “Stock.” This does not mean that it is bad; all of the chocolate here is good. It just means that there is no point in buying this if you have other chocolates to ﬁll the gap.|
Cacao Barry Tanzanie is a very fragrant, ﬂowery, probably more so than any other chocolate discussed on this page. It has only a trace of sweetness, and I think this is the best of the three Cacao Barry varieties mentioned here. Very nice for just eating plain. You can get this at Chocosphere.
This chocolate is possibly illegal in the US due to its Cuban-sourced beans. This chocolate is supposedly unique because of the high latitude in which it is grown. It has a nice earthy ﬂavor. Canadian chocoholics can order this from Chocolat-Chocolat. Americans might consider picking some up while you’re up there getting your prescriptions ﬁlled.
Saint Domingue [Skip]
Saint Dominque is quite good, but not particularly distinctive. For the relatively high price, I think money is better spent on another chocolate.
This was described by my friend Matt as “The Hershey’s of Europe.” Fortunately, European chocolate tends to be a bit better than the average stuff we have in the US, so Callebaut isn’t actually that bad.
They have a confusingly large array of similar chocolates which are identified by number. I usually get a 52–54% one like Callebaut #811 [Stock]. Be sure the one you get has natural vanilla, they make some with vanillin instead.
This chocolate’s primary asset is that it is very inexpensive. It has a simple flavor which goes well with almost anything (I particularly like Grand Marnier); if a recipe calls for “sweet dark chocolate,” this is usually the one I reach for first. I also use it to make hot chocolate, which I generally prefer to be sweeter than a chocolate truffle or bon-bon. Adding some Scharffen-Berger cocoa powder is a great way to give the hot chocolate a little more punch.
The simple flavor makes this chocolate poor on its own. You really need to add some other good flavoring to it, and let the chocolate provide the “chocolatyness.” I’ve gotten darker Callebaut 70% [Skip] on several occations as well, but I feel that darker chocolate demands more character than this one provides.
You should be able to find this chocolate almost anywhere. The cheapest place at the moment appears to be ChocolateSource.
El Rey makes two lines: Carenero and Rio Caribe, referring to the varieties of beans used. Both lines have a similar æsthetic but are detectably different. I slightly prefer the Rio Caribe ones, although both are excellent and interchangeable for many purposes.
I think El Rey Mijao is probably the most versatile of the collection. It is a semisweet (61%) chocolate with a nice, slightly nutty, flavor. I think it goes particularly well with almonds. This chocolate (along with El Rey Bucare) has the most fantastic “mouthfeel” of any of the chocolates on this page: it quickly melts in your mouth into an amazingly smooth and liquid mass.
One thing I like to do with this chocolate is to dip one inch round disks of Stramondo Organic Marzipan (not a chocolate, but still a [Stock]) into it. This is the best marzipan I’ve found. Unlike most, it is not too sweet, and actually tastes very strongly of almonds.
I used to have El Rey Bucare [Skip] in this spot, but I’ve decided, at 58%, it is just a little too sweet for my purposes. Bucare and Mijao are similar, and you could use them interchangeably for most things.
Gran Saman [Try]
I once got 5kg of El Rey Gran Saman but found it a bit strange. It is fairly dark, and I felt the taste was a little too simple to be highlighted that strongly. More significantly, it is really thick and is quite difficult to work with. El Rey describes it as “the least fluid of our chocolates” and they aren’t kidding. I think it has little or no added cocoa butter (most chocolates have extra cocoa butter added for additional smoothness and fluidity). It is probably perfect for baking, though.
El Rey makes two dark milk chocolates, El Rey Caoba (41%) [Skip] and El Rey Irapa (40.5%) [Skip]. Both are great, but I like the Michel Cluizel one so much I only use these as a second choice. If you need a milk chocolate with a less characteristic flavor than the Michel Cluizel, however, these would be good.
Icoa (white chocolate) [Stock]
El Rey makes by far the best white chocolate. The cocoa butter used in this confection is not deodorized as in nearly every other white chocolate, giving it actual flavor other than just sweet fat. It has less sugar than most white chocolates and possesses a slightly tannic character that, without being bitter, makes your mouth pucker a little as would a moderately dark chocolate. Read another glowing review at chocophile.com.
I usually get El Rey from chocosphere. They have a bar sampler pack containing small bars of most of the El Rey varieties which is great if you are deciding which ones to get.
Hacienda Los Anconès [Stock]
Los Anconès is possibly the most distinctive chocolates on this page. It has a very strong ﬂavor that contains most strongly a green olive taste. This description makes most people think that it would taste horrible, but it’s actually amazing. According to Clay Gordon at chocophile.com, “This is, to my taste, one of the single most interesting chocolates currently being made anywhere.” On the down side, this chocolate is so distinctive that it does not really go with any other ﬂavors. If you make something with it, the chocolate really needs to be the dominant ﬂavor.
I think Michel Cluizel makes the best milk chocolate. It is a very dark 45% cocoa chocolate with rich smoky notes that gives it a much more satisfying flavor than even El Rey or Valrhona’s very good milk chocolates.
Everything else Michel Cluizel makes [Try]
Everything Michel Cluizel makes is excellent and worth trying. Most of the chocolates have a characteristic smoky flavor not commonly found in other brands of chocolate. The single origin “hacienda” chocolates vary a bit more: Hacienda Mangaro is less smoky while still tasting like a Michel Cluizel; Hacienda Los Anconès is discussed above. I don’t remember enough about any of the others to write them up.
Budding chocolatiers will also want to try Coffret Nuanciers Origins, which is a sampling of 70% cocoa chocolates from different regions. It is expensive, but worth trying because it is very interesting to taste the difference between the regions.
Corporate site (French only).
The Boutique has bars and chocolates, but no bulk items, and shipping is very expensive to the US.
Chocosphere has most of the bars (they cost a little more but shipping is less), as well as bulk chocolate. One nice thing is they offer smaller repackaged versions of many of the bulk chocolates, which makes a big difference for something costing $16/pound.