After a few days, this super-dark-and-almost-completely-unsweetened-except-for-1% chocolate became edible. After three days I almost started to enjoy it. Although I am not converted yet, I have one week to go of tasting only the bitterest of the bitter (I am moving on to 100% dark chocolate next week), so perhaps in a few days, 99% will seem like the sweetest chocolate in the world.
Because I live in a small community in Northern Ontario, it takes a lot of planning before I can spend a week tasting only one specific type of chocolate. I have to order online a few weeks in advance, or even buy a few months in advance when I am visiting a larger city. Unfortunately, I thought I had planned ahead by asking for 90% to 100% dark chocolate bars for Christmas, and I received some, but clearly not enough to make great comparisons during a two-week tasting period. I only had two chocolate bars on hand in the 90% range: Lindt Excellence 99% and Michel Cluizel NOIR INFINI 99%. But on the upside, it gave me the time to taste these chocolate bars every day and really evaluate them, without too many to saturate my taste buds.
When I put that first piece of Lindt 99% in my mouth (as I mentioned in one of my previous posts), I did not think I was going to be able to spend two full weeks tasting chocolate this bitter. Then I tasted the Michel Cluizel, and everything started to change. Well, at least after the second day of tasting, when I started to get used to the extreme bitterness of 99% chocolate.
After four days of tasting, my comparative assessment is this:
Michel Cluizel is more palatable. The smell is wonderful. There is a crunch every now and then, which is maybe the vanilla bean flecks (see below for the ingredients list). You can smell the vanilla more than you taste it. And the ginger, cinnamon, Bourbon vanilla pod is not noticeable, except that there is a slight spicy taste to the chocolate. After all, how much spice can there be in 1% of the chocolate bar?
The smell of the Lindt chocolate bar fools you. You think it is gong to be sweet, wonderful chocolate, then the bitterness hits you like a tonne of bricks. Although the pieces are very thin, it is still very harsh on the palate and there is a strong flavour of both real and artificial vanilla, even though there is no vanilla or flavour in the ingredients list (this is presumably because it is made at a factory that also makes chocolate with vanilla flavour and the aroma is so strong that it is affecting the flavour of the 99% bar).
Don't get me wrong though, the Lindt 99% bar is still beautiful looking and as smooth as all other Lindt Excellence bars are. But compared to the Michel Cluizel, it is just not in the same league. And at a price of $4.95* for only 30g (1.05 oz) of Michell Cluizel, the Lindt Excellence bar, at about $3 or $4 for 50 grams, is definitely not in the same price range. The Lindt bar may be better suited for use in a chocolate ganache recipe.
(Do not be confused by Lindt's packaging for their 99% bar, the chocolate inside the package is really thin, but the box size is exactly the same as Lindt Excellence 100 gram chocolate bars).So I begin my last week of going "dark and bitter" tomorrow where I will be tasting the Pralus 100% and Bonnat 100% chocolate bars, and possibly a few others by the end of the week (I've been ordering online!). Hopefully I will be used to all this bitterness come January 31st!
Here are the package details of the two chocolate bars that I tasted this week:
Michel Cluizel NOIR INFINI 99% Dark Chocolate, 30g (1.05 oz)
Michel Cluizel (Paris, France)
Ingredients: cocoas, cane sugar, ginger, cinnamon, Bourbon vanilla pod. May contain traces of shelled tree nuts, milk and gluten.
Lindt Excellence 99% Dark Chocolate, 1.8 oz (50g)
Manufactured by: Lindt & Sprungli S.A. (France)
Imported by: LINDT & SPRUNGLI (Canada), Inc, (Toronto, Canada)
Ingredients: cocoa mass, cocoa powder, coca butter, brown sugar. May contain traces of peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, milk and soya lecithin.
*Canadian $$ at http://www.atasteforchocolate.com/.
Want to Know More about 99% or 100% dark chocolate?
Check out this post on Zotter's Peruvian 100% dark chocolate bar, which has become a favourite of mine since I wrote this post on Lindt and Michel Cluizel. Also, Soma's Arcana chocolate bar is quite tasty, and takes sugar-free chocolate to a whole new level. And East Van Roaster from Vancouver, Canada offers a different approach to unsweetened chocolate, which you can read about here. Plus, check out this review of Bonnat and Pralus' 100% chocolate bars from 2012.