With the rise in popularity of 'bean-to-bar' chocolate since 2006, and the massive American craft chocolate movement that has really picked up the pace in the last few years, so has grown the average chocolate lover's chocolate curiosity. By 'chocolate curiosity' I mean a need and desire to try it all.
Look at wine lovers: are they satisfied with drinking just one or two brands of wine for the rest of their lives? Heck NO! There are so many brands on store shelves, wine lovers are always sampling brands to find new 'favourites'. And so with the number of chocolate brands increasing rapidly, but access still being limited (let's face it, other than just a handful of specialty retailers, most retail stores still only stock Lindt or Godiva and maybe a local brand or two), chocolate lovers are looking for access to a range of brands in order to satisfy their chocolate curiosity.
What's more, just a year ago, signing up for a 'chocolate subscription' in North America might have meant signing up to receive chocolate from just one company each and every month. But if you've been reading this blog over the last several months, you'll know that chocolate subscription services are definitely a 'big thing' right now. In Canada, we just have one, but American subscription services have been starting up that also ship to Canada. This is great news for both Americans and Canadians, since we can all benefit from services that deliver four or five fine chocolate bars each month, from different chocolate makers.
The Chocolate Clinic is the newest business to launch a subscription service in the U.S. They have been "an online shop & pop up store since 2013." Located in Philadelphia, owner Kym Silvasy-Neale is a purveyor of fine chocolate and a chocolate confectioner. She loves bean-to-bar craft chocolate, and is passionate about the products she sells. She recently began a chocolate subscription service that allows customers to pay monthly ($35) for a box containing 4 fine chocolate bars from around the world (with a focus on U.S. craft chocolate) and a surprise confection made by her.
I recently received The Chocolate Clinic's March subscription box, and it was really quite nice. The box included 4 chocolate bars, all from American craft chocolate makers that I have not yet had the chance to taste: Charm School Chocolate, Chocolate Alchemist, Dulcinea Craft Chocolate and Nathan Miller Chocolate. Also, the box covered a range of styles and ingredients, from single origin chocolate made with cane sugar, to blended made with an alternate sugar, to coconut milk chocolate and spiced buttermilk chocolate (scroll down a little to see an overview of the flavours and tasting notes). It allowed me to expand my horizons and was definitely a great way to satisfy my chocolate curiosity.
The boxes ship by the 5th of every month, and if you sign up for a recurring plan, you can cancel at any time. You can also order a one-time gift box, which ships immediately to the person you are gifting it to.
Kym allows you to specify 'vegan' products only. The boxes can include a mix of white, milk and dark, but you can request otherwise if you prefer to stick to one or two types. And there also may be bonbons or drinking chocolate, which is a fun twist on the standard subscription packages out there.
To learn more about The Chocolate Clinic`s monthly subscription service, visit: www.thechocolateclinic.com.
Chocolate Bar Tasting Notes from The Chocolate Clinic's March Subscription Box:
Dulcinea Craft Chocolate's Madagascar 70% chocolate bar certainly says 'hand-crafted' because there is a slightly less processed feel to it. It is overall smooth chocolate, but with just a slight sugar crunch between the teeth if you chew instead of letting it melt slowly in the mouth. This means the sugar is at the forefront, but the high acidity and fruity Madagascar flavours take over quickly. It's quite bold and overall, enjoyable. It certainly makes me curious to taste other chocolate by Dulcinea. To learn more about Dulcinea Craft Chocolate, located in Beaver, Pennsylvania, visit: www.DulcineaCraftChocolate.com.
Nathan Miller's Gingerbread Bar is very interesting. At first sight, I thought, "Oh no, Christmas is long past and I want to forget about snow and enjoy summer flavours," but with one taste, I forgot all about perceived seasonal restrictions and dug into this delicious and very unique treat. It is a 55% dark-milk chocolate, with organic buttermilk instead of regular milk. It is also "Sweet & Salty" and has bits of gingerbread cookie in it, made with organic ingredients local to Pennsylvania where Nathan Miller has his business (Chambersburg). The cacao is from the Dominican Republic and organic and directly traded. This chocolate definitely inspires me to taste more products created by this chocolate maker.
Learn more about it: www.NathanMillerChococolate.com.
Philly Blend, 80% Cacao Bean to Bar chocolate by the Chocolate Alchemist is a deliciously bitter bar, with a nutty and fruity combination that is fairly balanced between the flavours. Also, the flavour of the coconut sugar is mild, but detectable. In fact, this chocolate reminds me a little of Zazubean's 'Nudie' chocolate bar with a similar bitterness level and light taste of coconut sugar.
The extra bitterness likely is the result of the blended origins, and the coconut sugar used instead of cane sugar. Coconut sugar is naturally more bitter in nature compared to cane sugar. Also, in a recent interview with blogger of Estelle Tracy of 37chocolates.com, the chocolate maker, Robert Campbell says he does not conche long to prevent an over-conche. Thus, the chocolate will retain more of the cacao's natural acidity, often resulting in a chocolate that tastes a little more bitter than one with a long conche*. The bitterness is not unwelcome though, but simply surprising upon first bite. I thoroughly enjoyed this chocolate bar.
For more information on the Chocolate Alchemist: http://www.sazonphilly.com/aboutus.htm.
*conching is added refining time where the chocolate continues to be ground or processed, while heating, cooling and movement are applied to burn off the acidity and develop flavour.
Charm School Chocolate's Coconut Milk Chocolate bar is vegan and has 49% cacao solids, placing it certainly in the 'dark-milk' category of chocolate. I actually really like this chocolate bar. I am normally back and forth when it comes to coconut milk chocolate because the coconut flavour can sometimes be way too strong, but although it is noticeable in this chocolate, it is subtle. The best feature is just how smooth this chocolate is. Made from Maya Mountain Cacao, it really is wonderful chocolate, and so very delicious. Charm School Chocolate is made in Reisterstown, MD. Learn more at: www.CharmSchoolChocolate.com.