Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Demarquette African Queen Chocolates

After trying Demarquette's award winning Royal Merina chocolates the next on my list was most definitely the African Queen; in fact it was quite a difficult decision deciding which one to try first in the first place! The African Queen is another massive award winning chocolate, winning a 2014 Great Taste triple gold star and Top 50 foods in Britain award.

The chocolate is essentially two layers and made with a fine cocoa from the Ivory Coast; the bottom layer is a hazelnut praline mixed with Breton wafers whilst the top layer is a 68% fresh cream ganache blended with Tanzanian honey, it is then enrobed in a thin chocolate layer and dusted with cocoa powder. The result is something exceptional.

Demarquette African Queen Chocolates

As I bang on about all of the time, pralines are pretty much my favourite type of chocolate and to pair this with an absolutely beautiful tasting ganache just takes this chocolate to a whole different level. The ganache is gorgeous, light, fruity with delicate honey notes, the flavour profile and melt is exceptional with the flavour profile of this cocoa having been enhanced during the fermentation stages by tapping into boosting factors which are present in natural fauna; this helps to reduce the bitterness and acidity often found in dark chocolate, resulting in a much sweeter eat than what you might normally find in a 68% ganache, whilst the honey helps to add to a subtle floral sweetness throughout the melt.

Demarquette African Queen Chocolates

The melt is similar to that of the Royal Merina, smooth, rich and lingers in the mouth for a wonderful length of time. I was worried that due to the addition of the crunchy Breton wafers throughout the hazelnut praline that it may hinder the smooth feel to the chocolate; but instead you get a two textured experience; when you first pop the chocolate in your mouth the praline melts quicker than that of the ganache, the praline disappears first and you can nibble away the Breton wafer bits and then you are left to savour and enjoy the ganache almost as a separate chocolate altogether, being able to fully enjoy the smooth, rich melt it has to offer. You can of course chew the chocolate and experience them both together; but I found that letting it melt slowly in the mouth fully maximised both the flavour and textural experience.

Demarquette African Queen Chocolates

So what about the hazelnut praline base? How does that taste? Well, as you might have guessed from the rest of the review so far, it was delicious, just the right balance of nutty notes and sweetness with a lovely almost caramelised flavour added from the Breton biscuits. The praline itself is rich and smooth but the wafers add a lovely nibbly element to the overall eat.

Demarquette African Queen Chocolates

It's difficult to say which chocolate I preferred, these or the Royal Merina chocolates as essentially I think the two eat completely differently. I feel that the Royal Merina is more rich & luxurious where as this is still luxurious but offers a lighter eat due to the nibbly praline base that cuts through the ganache. Either way, I'd certainly highly recommend them both.

Taste - 9.2/10 - Equally as good as Royal Merina, just a different nuttier/sweeter eat I would say.
Texture - 9.3/10 - Loved the textural contrast between the smooth ganache and the nibbly hazelnut praline layer; a two texture eat.

Appearance - 9.0/10 - Gorgeous.
Price - 7.9/10 -  £17.50 for 6 chocolates or £32.50 for 12 these work out at £2.90 or £2.70 per chocolate so are 10p more expensive than the Royal Merina chocolates. Expensive, but again the quality justifies the price.
Overall - 8.8/10 - Another masterpiece from Demarquette.

__________________________________________________________________________________WHO WHO FOR?
Anyone who enjoys good quality chocolates will absolutely adore these - especially if like me you are a praline lover.

WHERE TO BUY?Online on Demarquette's website here.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Vanini Latte Finissimo Cacao 49% (Milk Chocolate Cocoa 49%)

I have a soft spot for Italian chocolate, I think it's my love of Gianduja and their fondness for using hazelnuts/hazelnut pastes in their chocolate, but how does it fair when it doesn't have my beloved ingredient in it? Vanini is a brand new chocolate range that has been launched under Italian chocolatier ICAM SpA, that own a range of chocolate brands - including Go*Do, that I've reviewed on here before.

Vanini Latte Finnisimo Cacao 49%

Looking through some of their other sub brands I got the impression that Vanini was meant to be the cream of the crop, the upper crust of their selection, made with cocoa beans grown in Bagua, part of the wild Peruvian territory of Amazzonia, where research has suggested that cocoa has been cultivated since 3000BC, it is a bean to bar chocolate bar, with an emphasis on being "Made in Italy" by using  other locally sourced ingredients, their 'slogan' as such underneath the brand name is "in the heart of cocoa" - "NEL CUORE DEL CACAO", emphasizing their closeness to the cocoa production and their commitment to sustainability and ethics within the Bagua region and the workers that reside their.

Vanini Latte Finnisimo Cacao 49%

I was sent a range of 6 bars to review in total but today I'll kick things off with their simple milk chocolate bar; when trying a new chocolate brand I always tend to head for the simplest bar first, which in my opinion enables me to fully gauge how good they are as a chocolate brand. 

Looking at the back of the bar I was surprised to see that cocoa butter was the leading ingredient, I rarely ever see this in a chocolate bar and it gave me the impression that this bar was going to have a beautiful creamy melt.  Opening up the card packaging you are met with a lovely side page of information about where the cocoa is sourced from and Vanini's ethics in terms of taking care of "people, planet and palate".

Vanini Latte Finnisimo Cacao 49%

The bar itself is quite thin, split into large size chunks, a similar size to Lindt. A deep cocoa colour and a clean firm snap, this chocolate bar is absolutely delicious. The melt is so luxurious and smooth, due to the high content of the cocoa butter; whilst the flavour is gorgeously rich, with lovely light notes of caramel and vanilla against a creamy milk chocolate backdrop, with a flavour that lingers on the palate long after the chocolate has gone.

Vanini Latte Finnisimo Cacao 49%

This is one of the best milk chocolate bars I've had in a long time; quite often with higher % cocoa solid milk chocolate bars I find them slightly too bitter, straying into the territory of their dark counterpart; however this bar manages to maintain it's creamy, sweet milk quality whilst also being satisfying and rich at the same time, without providing a ridiculous sugar rush. Spectacular.

Taste - 9.2/10 - One of the best milk chocolate bars I've had for a while.
Texture - 9.0/10 - Superb, creamy, smooth melt.
Appearance - 9.0/10 - Beautifully packaged and loaded with information.
Price - 9.6/10
- Currently under discussions to be stocked in UK suppliers but sold online at Vanini's website for €3 for a 100g bar, what a bargain for such a great quality chocolate bar.
Overall - 9.2/10 - When this pops up in a UK shop I strongly advise anyone to snap it up, it's utterly delicious.
Anyone looking for a more indulgent quality milk chocolate affair.

The brand is currently in negotiations with UK suppliers but you can check out Vanini's full range online here.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Seed & Bean Chocolate Bars : White Chocolate Lemon & Poppy Seed, Milk Chocolate Sicilian Hazelnut & Almond

Fairtrade fortnight is about to kick off, so it's time to highlight and review another great Fairtrade, ethical chocolate company - Seed & Bean. All of their chocolates are 100% organic, ethical and handmade in England, producing in small batches, saving food miles and helping provide local employment in Northamptonshire, where their production facility is located; they also ensure that all of their Cocoa suppliers are paid a fair wage and help them to fine tune their skills to try and produce the best quality cocoa beans possible for use in their chocolate bars. Even the "foil" packaging that is wrapped about the chocolate are made from natureflex and are fully home compostable and are made from trees!!

So what kind of chocolates do they produce? Well they like to call it  "Kaleidoscopic - moments of pleasure" a range of various coloured bars, all with different flavours/chocolate bases. Today I have a review of the 30% cocoa Creamy White Chocolate with Lemon  Poppy Seed and also the 37% Rich Milk Chocolate with Sicilian Hazelnut and Almond. All bars are 85g.

Creamy White Chocolate with Lemon & Poppy Seed - 8.5/10
Seed & Bean Chocolates  

The bar has a lovely light refreshing aroma and flavour and you can see the little poppy seeds flecked evenly throughout the bar. 

Seed & Bean Chocolates

The melt is gorgeous, smooth and luxurious and thankfully the poppy seeds don't turn it into one of those bars that you need to "crunch" to enjoy, they don't hinder the melt at all - although I did find a few getting stuck in my teeth!

Seed & Bean Chocolates

You can definitely tell that the white chocolate used is good quality and high cocoa percentage, there's no cloying sweet flavour here but a light creamy eat with lovely light acidic citrus notes from the lemon. Beautiful.

Rich Milk Chocolate with Sicilian Hazelnut & Almond - 9.0/10
Seed & Bean Chocolates

I knew just from reading the description of the bar that I was going to absolutely love this bar- it pretty much sounded like eating a pure praline filling. 37% cocoa solids milk chocolate is blended with ground Sicilian hazelnuts and almond to create a gorgeously smooth bar that just melts in the mouth.

Seed & Bean Chocolates

The texture is gorgeous; a bit firmer than what you would find of a gianduja/praline filling and you're met with gorgeous rich nutty flavours with both the hazelnut and almond flavours coming through. The rich milk chocolate provides a lovely background flavour with its creamy cocoa notes. I could have quite easily have eaten this whole bar in one go.

I thoroughly enjoyed both bars and priced at £2.49 each I think they're great value for money; they provide a range of flavours that aren't too "out there", with something for everyone and best of all you can feel great about supporting a company that not only produces great chocolate but also does so in a fair and eco-friendly way.

COMPETITION - Seed & Bean have offered 1 lucky reader the chance to win 3 chocolate bars of their choice, all you have to do is simply Follow + RT @lotochoc on Twitter.

Taste - 8.8/10 - Delicious. Great quality chocolate bars.
Texture - 9.3/10 - Melt of both bars was beautiful - the milk chocolate bar however was the real star of the show for me.
Appearance - 9.0/10  - Love the way they were packaged.
Price - 9.1/10 - £2.49 is definitely affordable, very reasonably priced.
Overall - 9.0/10 - Great flavour, great melt, great ethics. Overall thoroughly impressed.
There's a flavour for pretty much everyone in Seed & Bean's range.

Online at Seed & Bean's shop here and at other independent stores which you can find here