At the moment, I have a stash of bars in my chocolate fridge that were bought on a trip to New York City. All are brands that I cannot purchase locally. Nineteen bars, total money spent about $200.
A lot of people who would have spent that same money very differently. But they don’t write about this stuff, and don’t care as much when it comes to what they consume, so long as the package says “chocolate” somewhere on it.
Was my money well spent? I certainly think so. But is there science to back up the idea that an expensive bar is better than a cheap one? And are there indicators to show that in spite of the economy, consumers are not only spending money on chocolate, they are spending more money on the best?
Yes, yes and yes.
The high-quality bars, those made from single-plantation beans, are dark and pure, with 60 to 70 percent cocoa, and that makes them expensive, often in the $5 to $10 per bar range. It also makes for a satisfying eating experience. The flavor of these bars is so intense that a square or two at a time is all you need; your brain simply cannot fathom gobbling the entire bar. Whereas the cheap, mass-produced milk chocolate, containing chemical elements of the cocoa bean, plus large amounts of fat and sugar,does not give your brain that same satisfaction with a small amount; you need to eat more of it, and consume more unhealthy ingredients, to get the same “high” as you do from the good stuff. Moderation is always the key, and because of the price of the high-quality bars, moderation is built into your consumption. *
And while chocolate isn’t recession-proof, it is certainly a commodity that has shown resilience when it comes to a bad economy, According to market research publisher Packaged Facts, chocolate consumption increased 3% from 2008 to 2009, the first full year of the current recession. The rise in sugar prices has not eroded the public’s consumption, and the trend towards eating more chocolate has been helped by the turn towards “healthier” dark chocolates, with additives such as dried fruits, herbs and spices. Chocolate sales in the U.S. are expected to exceed $19 billion by the year 2014.
And to get you in the spending mood (after all Valentine’s Day is coming up), here are a few more bar blasts from my past. I’ll be starting on the NYC stash shortly.
- Nirvana Milk: a Belgian bar with nice snap, and good consistency. Very smooth, no air bubbles. Creamy and not as sweet as I would expect from a milk chocolate. It had a general dairy aftertaste, but not so much that I needed a palate cleanser after a few bites.
- Valrhona Caraibe 66%: Smooth and fruity taste. The labels states that the flavors are almonds and roasted coffee, and those do come into play, but as an aftertaste. An excellent bar with a lot going on.
- Caffarel 70%: I found this bar in an Italian deli in Portland, Oregon. A little grainy and chewy. Dense chocolate flavor and slightly bitter, it reminded me of an espresso with only a dab of sugar.
- Chuao 41%: I expected to hate this, as I rarely go to this end of the spectrum in terms of percentages. But it turned out to be very smooth and dense, with a good balance of cacao, milk and sugar. Long butter aftertaste.