Club Meeting of August 30, 2009

    Tonight’s meeting featured five bars that we had never seen before.

    How interesting! Typically we taste six bars but Jules brought two kinds of mousse to taste tonight and even for us sometimes enough can be enough.

    The five bars in order of their rating:

    • Melt. 68%. England. Cacao from Bolivia

    • Rio Napo. 73%. Switzerland Cacao from Equador.

    • Cuorenero. 70%. Italy. Cacao from Bolivia.

    • Laenstein. 75%. Germany. “Crillo-type” from Venezuela.

    • Hotel Chocolat. 72%. England. Cacao from St. Lucia.


    Jules (right) and her bowls of homemade mousse - YUM!

    Highest rated Melt got a 10 from Michael, followed by a 9.5 from an exuberant Carrie. 8.5's from Joan, Ken, Marissa did not hurt either. It’s lowest score was a "pretty good" 7 from guest Laura.

    Scoring is always tricky as are individual tastes. While Hotel Chocolate came in last in the overall rating, Leonard found it to be full, balanced, a “stand up chocolate,“ and gave it an 8.5. Susan also gave it a high 8. But Ken, Joan and Marissa felt otherwise and their three 4s can tip the scale. In between were two 7s, and two 5s.

    Rio Napo, it should be pointed out, got two 8 from Joan and Jules.

    Cuorenero got three 8s and an 8.5 from Michael.

    Laenstein managed an 8,5 from Susan. Michael gave it a 7. It’s lowest score was a 5 from Ken.


    Club Meeting of July 26, 2009

    Tonight's meeting had 12 members present.

    The six chocolates tasted are listed below in their order of ranking by the club.

    Beschle came out, not only on top but remarkable three 10s, two 9.5s, and two 9s.
    This is a record.

    Leonard scored Beschle the lowest with a 5 and thought it no better than a chocolat ordinaire. This did little to dent this chocolate's momentum. Carrie found there was nothing to criticize. Susan thought it was fabulous. Pam loved it. David thought it was outstanding and Ken said it was one of the best he has tasted. Leonard was flummoxed in the extreme.

    That Cazenave came in last was somewhat difficult to swallow ( pardon the pun) given their long history as part of the chocolate culture of Bayonne, the door through which chocolate entered France hundreds of years ago. For more on their chocolate at other tastings as well as some history on Bayonne and chocolate go to our club Home Page and click on Bayonne at the bottom of the page on the left.

    Beschle, Switzerland, Cacao from Venezuela, Criollo variety, 74%
    Xocolatl, Switzerland, 71%, Cacao from Equador, Madagascar.
    Bonnat, France, 75%
    Summerbird, Denmark, organic, 75%
    Chocolate Factory, Switzerland, 71%
    Cazenave, Bayonne, France, 70%


    • .
    • .
    • .
    • .
    • .
    • .

      Beschle also got highest marks for packaging. It was elegant, and the gold foil wrapper inside was a delightful treat.

      • Too often, chocolate is put in a plastic wrapper, and we have learned that it can be picked up in the taste of the bar.




    Club Meeting of June 28, 2009


    Tonight's meeting had 10 members present.

    The six chocolates tasted are listed below in their order of ranking by the club.

    The highest scores tonight were from 8.5 from Ken and David who both gave an 8.5, Ken for Valrhona Caraibe, and David for Pralus, Sao Tomé.


    1. Valrhona, French. Guanaja. 70%

    2. Valrhona, French. Caraibe. 66%

    3. Pralus, French. Sao Tomé. 75%

    4. Tie. Felchlin, Switzerland. Madagascar. 64%

    4. Tie. Olivier, French. Sao Tomé. 70%

    5. Fortnum & Mason. Sao Tomé. 70%




    Club Meeting of April, 2009

    Tonight we had ten members in attendance including one guest from Antwerp Belgium, Michelle Meermans. Unlike most meetings there was a general agreement about all the bars and how they rated. All except for member Ken that is who has a penchant for sweet, cloying chocolate, to everyone’s dismay.

      Guest, Michelle Meermans front, right.

    For reasons too complicated to understand tonight’s meeting was not a blind tasting. We sampled six bars, three from Bittersweet the Chocolate Café made by chocolatier Seneca Klassen, plus Newman’s Own, Original Beans, and Mast Brothers.

    In all fairness it must be said that club member Penny Finny is a co-owner of Bittersweet and she did attend the meeting, but it can be stated with all confidence that her presence did not influence the tasting one way or the other. Taste buds do not lie and neither do club members.

    The chocolates in order of tasting were:

    • Bittersweet, Sambiran, 71.7%, Madagascar. Oakland, CA
    • Bittersweet, Puerto Plata, 68% Dominican Republic. Oakland, CA
    • Bittersweet, Singaraja, 68%, Bali. Oakland, CA
    • Original Beans, Cru Virunga. 70%, Democratic Republic of Congo.
    • Mast Brothers, Hispaniola, 75%, Dominican Republic, Brooklyn.
    • Newman’s Own, 54%, Place of manufacture in USA unknown.


    It must be said with all due respect to Paul Newman who has always been highly esteemed and is much missed, that his chocolate continues to scrape the bottom. Some comments: “Cheap,” No chocolate, peppermint, medicine.” “Was it chocolate?” “Redefines awful.”

    One member remarked how at least it was not as bad as the bar from the Soviet Union we tasted some years ago. That was in a category by itself. There is so much right about Newman’s Own that we wonder how they could get the essential so wrong. The chocolate is organic, profit goes to charity and the bar is certified by the Rainforest Alliance. All good. Now get down to work!

    Mast fared better but was up for criticism. Whereas Newman’s scored several zeros, one 3, several .1 or .3's and one 6 from who else but Ken, Mast got three 4's, several 3's and a couple of 2.5's. “Phantom” was one remark, “Snarky” was another (for insiders, not Carrie). Original Beans got into the 5's with one 8 from, yes, Ken.

    Curiously Original Beans does not state anywhere on the packaging or on their website in what country their chocolate is made. They have plenty to say about the origin of their varieties with maps, photos, descriptions of locales, etc, but is this French chocolate, Belgian, Italian, or was it made in New Jersey? Like Newman’s there is a lot to like here on the PC side of things. Original Beans is a bean to bar chocolate maker who has developed close relationships with growers co-ops “to preserve the rainforest biodiversity.” “With each purchase, you contribute to the replenishment of these forests and protect original beans for future generations.” Their motto: The Planet : Replant It is to be lauded. We look forward to future tastings.

    Everyone liked the Bittersweet Singaraja best. Of the three it was the most balanced. It scored five 8's, two 7's, and a 4 from Rob. There was also general agreement that Sambiran, while rich and complex, had a finish a bit too on the acidic, astringent side.

    One really important note. When a chocolate bar is wrapped in a plastic wrapper, the flavor gets picked up in the bar - and discerning members can distinctly taste it. It is usually the first descriptive word they use. Since club members are not aware which bars are wrapped in plastic before the tasting, we think this is really significant. When we break up bars before a meeting, we put them in wax paper sandwich bags with clear markings to know which bar is which. But if a bar is purchased in plastic, alas, the taste is already in the bar.





    The final ranking of scores was as follows:

    1. Bittersweet, Singaraja

    2. Bittersweet, Puerto Plata

    3. Bittersweet, Sambiran

    4. Original Beans

    5. Mast Brothers

    6. Newman’s Own



    Clifton Baron informed the club that he regrets he could not attend tonight's meeting.

Club Meeting of January, 2009

Tonight’s meeting was a follow up to December with a second tasting of most of the Pralus we could not taste last month because he offers too many bars for any one meeting. As it is there are still two bars we have not tasted.

After much debate about how much chocolate anyone can taste in an evening before hitting total saturation we have arrived at 6. And some think it could be 5. For the time being we’ll hold to 6.

There were 10 members in attendance. Leonard, Carrie, Mark, Gloria, Ken, Michael, Joan, Ralph who is back after a year’s absence, Jesse, and Penny.

These are the bars we sampled, all 75% cacao, in the order of how they scored:

1. Tanzania, Forastero.

2. Jakarta, Criollo Trinitario.

3. Java, Criollo, Trinitario.

4. Indonesia, Criollo.

5. Sao Tomé, Forastero.

6. Dominican Republic, Trinitario.

The Tanzania got a high 9.5 from Ken, plus two 9s from Michael and Jesse. The lowest score was a 5 with a couple of 8s in between.

The Jakarta got a 9.5 from Lenny (he gave the Java a rare 10). Gloria gave it a 9. The other scores fell into the 7 and 8 range with a low 4 from Jesse who found this bar bland. The low scoring Dominican Republic was largely faulted for being too sweet. It’s highest score was a 7 from Gloria who found it to have a good crisp break with a flavor of menthol.

Everyone was surprised at the range from this selection of 75% bars. The Indonesian was the strongest bar and could almost pass for an 85% or 90% with a strong tarty, some thought bitter, even acidic finish.

Even though Java came in third several thought that it was compromised from being entirely wrapped in cellophane.

We have always wanted to score packaging but in the raucousness of the evening we usually forget. This is such an important component of the experience, even though we don’t feel it affects the tasting. Tonight we remembered. Pralus comes out at the very top. Handsome, simple and tasteful design.

Tonight we took care of some very important business. After all these years we finally distributed club membership cards. Now there is no more doubt among friend and acquaintances, no more false accusations, “Your in what! Impossible!” We can simply whip out our card and everyone falls silent.

Leonard, being founder of the club, presides over the meetings and has the grueling task of keeping order which is not easy given the loquaciousness of so many. To aid him he has a bell at hand which he rings vigorously whenever the group gets too rowdy and unfocused. Last month someone in the group sneakily hid the bell when Leonard was not looking. This was a cause of great consternation. Accusations flew in all directions. Just as mysteriously as it disappeared, it reappeared. Accusations continued to fly.

Tonight Leonard was especially careful, but to no avail. While the bell remained on the table right in front him, someone not only sneakily, but most cleverly made off with the bell’s clapper. Leonard was most flummoxed when at a moment of group hilarity that would not stop, he raised the bell to bring order to the gathering and got a weak tinkle from the piece of wire used to secure the clapper that was left in the bell. Then mysteriously the clapper returned. Leonard was doubly flummoxed. He is working on a plan to insure that these depravities do not occur again.

Return to homepage