Tonight we had a high absentee rate with only six members present, but were happy to welcome three guests: Mark Liebman with his 10 year old son John, and Lisette Peretti, one of the best tango dancers around.
For reasons too long to explain we did not do our regular blind tasting tonight. In fact the chocolates that were supposed to arrive with a club member never arrived because of a botch, as one might say. So Leonard reached into his own stash of chocolate to make a selection for the evening.

Tonight’s chocolates selected by Carrie
Pralus, Madagascar, 75%. France.
Debauve & Gallais, Papua New Guinea, 64%. France.
Newhaus, Sao Tomé, 75%. Belgium.
Leone, Assenzio, 70%, Italy.
Chocolove, Sao Tomé, Chocolate made in Belgium, bars made and wrapped in US.
Patrick Roger, Brazil, 75%. France.

The highest rated, hands down was Patrick Roger from Paris. With nine people seated at the table two gave it a rating of 8, while the rest gave it an impressive 9, 9.5, etc. Very good indeed.
The Italian Leone scored poorly with a bar heavily flavored with absinthe which many found overpowered the chocolate. It received three 0’s with one score of 4. The others were somewhere in between.
For a chaser we opened a bar of Nestlé Noir Intense, 70% that Leonard picked up on one of his Paris trips. Everyone agreed – should have kept that bar in the wrapper.


Club Meeting of August 21, 2006


An evening of Michel Cluizel.
Tonight we had three guests: Thomas Sanchez and friend Astrid visiting from Los Angeles, and ten year old Robin, daughter of club member Joan Blades.
Carrie decided that tonight’s meeting would be devoted to a single chocolatier and chose Michel Cluizel. Of course, no one had a clue what she was doing as we have now gone to blind tasting.


The six bars Carrie selected were the following:

  • Conception from Venezulea. 66%
  • Tamarina from Sao Tomé. 70%.
  • Maralumi from Papua New Guinea. 64%
  • Noir Cocoa. 72%.
  • Los Ancones from Santo Domingo. 67%
  • Mangaro from Madagascar. 65%



Interestingly, all the bars scored relatively high. There was not a dud in the group. Out of thirteen members in attendance seven gave the Tamarina scores of 8 or 8.5. Pretty good. Two gave it a 4, while three rated it a 7.
The Noir Cocoa received four 9s and one 10. That was a first for the club. The lowest rating was a 5 by Pamela who found it “Good looking with nothing to say.”

Ten year old Robin liked it very much and said, “It makes me feel very happy.” She gave it an 8.5.
It's always interesting when a particular chocolate conjures up strong images of people. 

A most memorable association was Michael who some months ago tasted a chocolate which reminded him of a waitress he once knew in Bayonne, New Jersey. “She always aimed to please.” Well tonight, club guest Astrid found the Los Ancones “Sadistic and cruel.” She wouldn’t trust it, but would come back for more. Hmmm. Thomas on the other hand found it to be "Regal with a good deal of cocoa truthiness." Ken loved the Los Ancones and likened it to a feline, perhaps the lion in a Rousseau painting.
All in all Cluizel left everyone most content.


Club Meeting of July 30, 2006


Firstly, there is no report for June's meeting because Leonard dropped the ball. So be it.

Tonight's meeting was the first where crackers were used as a palate cleanser instead of water and everyone, even the skeptics, acknowledged that this was better.


Tonight's selection of chocolate was made up by Luke and Nancy with chocolates they gathered from their trip to Paris this past spring. The theme they chose was chocolate with nibs.



The eight bars selected were:

  • Ladurée – 80%
  • Pierre Hermé – 75%
  • Debauve & Gallais – 72%
  • Michel Chaudun – 70%
  • Jean-Charles Rouchoux – 70%
  • Pierre Marcolini – Belgium – 70%
  • Bon Marché, Bonne Terre, organic – 60%
  • Michel Cluizel – 60%


The very raison d'etre of nibs was a subject of discussion. Some bars had more nibs than others and some people preferred more or less nibs. The CNB (chocolate nib balance ) was very important and on that basis some bars scored higher than others. But overall the bar to score highest, based on a blind tasting, was Ladurée. It received four nines, a singular achievement.

Packaging came into the discussion tonight and the winner on that score was Pierre Marcolini, which was generally found to be the most elegant. It should be mentioned that their bars are fairly expensive and only weigh 80 grams instead of 100 grams which others bars weigh. The package found to be least attractive was Pierre Hermé.


Club Meeting of May 29, 2006


Tonight's meeting was one of the most raucous ever. Now that we do blind tastings a burning question has come up - do we reveal each chocolate as we go along, or do we wait until the end of the evening and reveal them all at once? Opinions flew fast and furious from all sides. Leonard wanted to wait til the end. Mandy and Michael much preferred revealing each chocolate after it was tasted, their argument being that they will forget what they tasted.

Then someone brought up a compromise of revealing after every two bars are tasted. More disagreements ensued. Scowling looks and gesticulating arms tried to make their point.

As a compromise, during tonight's meeting the chocolates were revealed in groups of four. At meeting's end discussion ramped up again as a vote had to be taken on what the protocol would be in future meetings.


The bars Carrie chose for the evening were:

  • Lindt, 70% 
  • Korkunov, no % given
  • Plantations, 75%
  • Hachez, 88%
  • Chocolove Tanzania , 76%
  • Chocolove Organic, Caribbean, 73%
  • Chocolove Sao Tome, 70%
  • Chocolove Grenada , 60%




The Hachez with it's cocoa content of 88%, elicited strong reactions. Mandy thought it was like eating dirt and gave it a zero. Leonard, Carrie and guest Jean-Luc Szpakowski scored it the same. Michael played the rebel and gave it an inexplicable eight. Rebecca thought it might be good for cooking and on that basis gave it a six. A heated discussion ensued from her rating. Is it right to rate a chocolate based on its cookability or should scores be based solely on taste? It's hard to imagine people getting so wound up over something so seemingly, well can we say irrelevant? But wound up they were. Majority ruled and after all the dust settled her score was left standing.



The Russian Korkunov showed the wide range of opinions always present at our table. Several scored it a low three, with comments like it tasted like industrial sandpaper, or an overdose of M&Ms. But Mandy thought it was terrific and gave it a winning nine. Michael thought it was promising, a chocolate that liked to please, like a waitress he once knew in Bayonne , and gave it a six. Susan likened it to kid's candy and gave it a magnanimous 4.5.

The Chocovic Organic, Caribbean , got high marks from many. Leonard, in a rare mood, gave it a ten. This brought gasps from the group. Michael, giving it a nine, said it was near perfect. David gave it an 8.5. Ralph, at the other end of the spectrum gave it a three, and with clear displeasure said that if he had to eat this chocolate, he'd quit.

The top rated bar of the evening was the Lindt. At the bottom stands the Hachez.


Club Meeting of April 24, 2006



The club's first blind tasting last month was so interesting that we have decided to make it standard for all meetings.

Carrie selected the eight bars for tonight's tasting and as last month, broke them up, scratched off any identifying marks, and separated them into plastic bags.

The bars she chose were:

  • El Rey, 73.5%
  • Hachez, 77%
  • Rechiutti, 85%
  • Pralus , Ghana , 75%
  • Valrhona, Grand Couva, 64%
  • Dagoba, Conacado, 73%
  • Domori , Madagascar , 70%
  • Valrhona , 39%, milk chocolate


The shock of the evening was reserved for Leonard. Little did he know that two of his favorite bars were in the mix: the Dagoba Conacado and the Domori Madagascar. Not only did he not recognize either but he gave them a relatively low rating, at least for him, of 5 for both. When the brands were revealed he nearly fell out of his chair. He was ready to resign from the club and relinquish his position at the head of the table. The next day he bought both bars and enjoyed them as much as ever.









Everyone's taste buds were tested to the extreme with results that were in the least challenging, and in some cases shocking.

Luke, to the amazement of all correctly identified the Hachez at first bite. He estimated it's cocoa content at 80%, only 3% off. Good going Luke! Rating wise, he gave it a three, commenting that it was waxy, sour and bitter. As usual, the group varied widely in its reactions. Carrie found it over processed and over fermented and gave it a zero. Pamela gave it the highest rating of the group with a six noting that she found it had intriguing complexities, like a good book where you read one chapter and want to go on.

The Rechiutti 85% elicited reactions from across the board. Mari ssa thought it tasted like perigoric, or old Ex-Lax and gave it a one. Guest Mark Liebman thought is was fruity, smoky, cherry, and gave it a six. Pamela bettered him yet and, finding it deep and rich, and gave it a seven.

The overall results were as follows. First place went to the Dagoba Conacado. Second was Pralus. Third went to the Domori. Fourth was El Rey. Both Hachez and Rechiutti tied for fifth place. Sixth place went to Valhrona and last was the Valhrona milk chocolate that Carrie slipped in to throw us off. No one was fooled and easily identified it as cocoa challenged. It got six zeros and one rating that went as high as two. We just like our dark chocolate.

Blind tasting brings up interesting questions that seem unsolvable. Are we really influenced by packaging, by name and origin? At first blush one would think not.

An interesting twist on blind tasting will be to do two tastings in a row with the same bars and see if people rate the bars the same or not. We may be in for yet more suprises.



Club Meeting of March 21, 2006

Berkeley Chocolate Club has two firsts!


The first first.

Only six members of the club attended tonight's meeting. This is our lowest number yet. Leonard takes responsibility for this as he was so late in getting the date out to people. With so much room at the table, three guests from the list of club alternates were invited to join in. This included Lorri Holt, long time Bay Area actress with companies such as ACT and the Berkeley Rep, Mark Leibman, President of Pictopia Inc. and all-around digital wunderkind, and Sara Alexander, marriage and family therapist and writer. Titles Sarah is currently working on piqued everyone's interest, e.g., Country & Western Dancing and Menopause , and Women Who Remodel Too Much.




Our second first!

Tonight the club did it's first ever blind tasting. The idea had been brought up before but never got very far because we were not convinced it would make that much difference. Ha! Were we ever wrong. Everyone jumped in trying to guess percentages, brands, etc. and couldn't wait for the unveiling to find out which chocolate was which. The best part came when people found how differently they scored a chocolate in a blind tasting compared to earlier non-blind tastings.



The selection of chocolates for the evening fell to Carrie Olson. She picked seven, cut them into pieces and placed them in numbered plastic bags. In order of tasting they were:







  • Sharffen Berger 70%
  • Valrhona, Le Noir 71%
  • Green & Black 70%
  • Newman's Own
  • Plantation 90%
  • Valrhona, Palmira 65%
  • E. Guittard, Madagascar 65%

At a recent tasting Ken gave the Plantation 90% a very high score. Tonight he winced at the first taste and gave it a two. Imagine his shock at the unveiling. Leonard has never like Newman's Own and in the past has scored it zero. Tonight he gave it a five. But as the evening went on with second tastings, plus comparisons, etc, he bumped it down to a four, then a three, and finally to a two. At the unveiling he was dismayed that he scored it even that high.

As always, the disparity in the scoring was most interesting. Sara gave the Guittard an 8.5, and thought it was mysterious, cherry and smooth. Carrie found it too sweet and gave it only a three. Newmans Own, aside from Leonard's response, did poorly in the group. It received five zeros with comments such as, “icky, boring and too sweet.” Sara described it as “chocolate for diabetics, made with artificial sugar.” Another taster simply noted, “Candy (bad).” In all fairness we must mention that it did receive one five rating.


The two chocolates that got high marks all around were the Valrhona Palmira and Valrhona's 71%.


No doubt we will do a blind tasting at the next meeting so everyone can have the experience, and who knows where it will go from there.


Let us say how much we love Paul Newman and the fact that all proceeds for his food products go to charity. We only wish he had a better chocolatier on hand.


Club Meeting of January 2006

Alternate Club Meeting

With over 100 people on the club waiting list I thought it was time to have a special meeting for list people only. I couldn't accommodate everyone, of course, so I put the word out and the first 12 to respond were in. Of the 12 only 8 showed. Part of this, I later learned, was due to my not confirming with people. Drat!

For the evening's tasting I made a selection of 8 bars, trying to make it as interesting as possible with some premium bars along with a couple of more common bars easily found in Paris supermarkets.

In every tasting I have lead outside the club I always throw in a bar of Newman's Own Dark Chocolate. We love Paul Newman and commend his position of turning profits from his consumer products over to charity. But why can't he produce a better chocolate? His bar always receives a unanimous thumbs down. He must contract with a manufacturer who simply puts the Newman's Own label on the bar.

The choice of chocolates for the evening from lowest to highest in cocoa content were:

  • Michel Cluizel, LosAncones, 67% France.
  • Monoprix Gourmet, Noir Extra, 70% France.
  • Lindt Excellence, 70% Swiss.
  • Yamate, Dark, 70% US.
  • Sharffen Berger, Bittersweet, 70% US.
  • Villars, 72% Swiss.
  • Novi, Fondente Nero, 72% taly.
  • Pralus, Vanuatu, 75% France.

Club member Carrie Olson began the evening with a brief history of chocolate, it's journey from central America to Europe, and how it is processed from bean to bar.

Once the tasting got underway there was plenty of fun. As always there was great variety in people likes and dislikes. The distinctive smoky and earthy flavor of Pralus' Vanuatu never fails to get people's attention. A few rated it high at 8 and 9 while others, with a scowl, scored it at 0. The Novi Fondente Nero was even more split. Four at the table scored it an 8. Four others gave it the NCV rating (no commercial value).




Club Meeting of January 6, 2006


Tonight we decided to focus exclusively on two brands of chocolate. For this difficult task we chose Valrhona and Dagoba. We sampled four bars of each.



  • Palmira Noir, 64 % from Venezuala Criollo bean
  • Cao Grande, 70% Organic
  • Ampamakia 2005, 64% from Madagascar
  • Noir Amer 71%




  • Conacado, 73% from Dominican Republic
  • Los Rios, 68% from Ecuador
  • Pacuare, 68% from Costa Rica
  • Milagros, 68% from Peru
Esteemed Founder






Pamela Prince
Club guest Bobby Buechler


Response to the Valrhona Palmira Noir 64% elicted an interesting mix from Pamela and Rebecca.

Pamela exhulted, “It gave me the taste I've always wanted in a chocolate. It's the best I've ever had!”

Rebecca, less enthusiastic, said it reminded her of the classics you read in school and are supposed to like, but didn't.


The two highest scores went to Valrhona Palmira, and the Dagoba Conacado.


The two lowest scores in the group went to Dagoba Pacuare, and Dagoba Los Rios.



Return to homepage