“ Brand: Willie's „
Bought for 3 pounds; 80g split into two bars of individually wrapped 40g portions.
BRIEF: Taste was truly remarkable; unlike any chocolate i've ever had for this price; you would usually have to pay 4-5 quid for something of this standard (e.g. Valrhona, maybe Amattler);
what helps is that this bar is fairly widely available.
FLAVOURS: Musky oak aroma with strong cocoa, mature ending with sparkly? sweet notes
Complementary tree bark texture / waxy melt
From the above flavours you can probably tell that there's a strong "hand-made" ethic to this; you can feel the grittiness of the cocoa. Wonderful with coffee.
GOOD FOR: True chocolate lovers with nary an opinion on bitterness; this chocolate perks you up.
Fathers who've had a tough day at work, only to face something tougher at home.
BAD FOR: Kids; as a "first" chocolate to start your desserts as its flavours are too strong.
Do you remember that channel 4 documentary, 'Willy's Wonky Chocolate Factory', about the bloke who wanted to make the worlds best chocolate; he owned his own cacoa plantation ect. Very enthusiastic and slightly odd bloke. Well, I managed to get some of his chocolate the other day. Waitrose is his main stocker, and we don't often go in there. It's a rather upmarket supermarket, and to do our weekly shop there would cost a lot more than going to Tesco's. However, we visited, and my mother said she'd indulge me. (At and £2.99 a bar, it really was an indulgence!). There are two types of the dark chocolate bars, soon to be three. I got the San Matin Puruvian 70.
You get two square blocks, each wrapped in a gold foil. Both are also stamped with Willy's logo on. It smells really good, very unique and rich with a fresh chocolate aromo. The box says, 'one for now...', but honestly, it's so rich you wouldn't want one whole bar at once! (especially at the price - gotta make it last!). It would have been nice if the bars were divided up into squares, like your typical chocolate bars, as it's rather hard to break up, especially straight from the fridge.
The taste? What can I say, it tastes like it cost £2.99 a bar! It's really good. It's 70% cocoa, but to me it tastes slightly stronger. You definatly get the 'fruit notes' that the box boasts. It's very rich - as I said before, you definatly don't want much at a time. If you've ever had 99% chocolate, it's shares some qualities to that, but with more intertwining of the flavours. Simply place it on your toungue and let it gently melt to take the most advantage of the flavours. If you're a chocoholic, it's definatly one to try. However, if you have a sweet tooth, and are used to sweet chocolates, then you may not like this.
I love chocolate, and I love this. I shan't be buying it often due to the price, but I'll definatly try to get hold of some more when I'm ever in Waitrose.
Over Xmas I enjoyed a tv show following the exploits of the somewhat eccentric Willie Harcourt-Cooze as he attempted to make a dark eating chocolate, using quality ingredients and his antiquated chocolate factory machinery, and in the process re-educate the British chocolate lovers' tastebuds. Well he succeeded in making chocolate bars, whether he has succeeded in persuading the average British chocoholic that his is the best chocolate only time will tell.
Anyway after seeing the programme I wanted to taste the chocolate. Tracking it down is not easy, the only nationwide supermarket stocking it is Waitrose where I purchased 80g of Willie's Peruvian 70 for the princely sum of £2.99 and hoped I wouldn't end up wishing I'd gone for a sizeable chunk of Cadbury's instead. And in case you are wondering why this is called Peruvian 70 it's because the beans to make the chocolate come from the San Martin region of Peru and the chocolate is 70% cacao - simple really.
The experience of Willie's Delectable Cacao starts with the packaging. The chocolate is contained in a small dark brown box (distinctively different from the other chocolate bars on the supermarket shelf) with , in the case of the Peruvian 70, the brand logo in green and the name of the chocolate in gold. The chocolate bar has a slogan - one for now one for then - also printed on the box. The whole look of the box creates the impression that this is a luxury product and something out of the ordinary. On opening the box it contains two gold paper wrapped squares of chocolate (which is what the slogan refers to). One of the problems Willie had whilst developing the chocolate was getting his workers to hand wrap the chocolate quickly and neatly enough, well the bars are still being hand wrapped but I can say they have got te hang of doing it neatly.
The chocolate is a glossy dark brown colour, about half a millimetre thick, with the company logo impressed in it. The first time I sampled this chocolate it had been in the fridge for a few hours. I took a bite of it (with a little difficulty due to the effects of the fridge) and was greeted by a subtly flavoured dark chocolate. There were definite fruity undertones and a bitterness that you expect of good quality dark chocolate, however, this bitterness did not linger after swallowing the chocolate as I have found with other quality dark chocolates. I was however a little underwhelmed by the chocolate, although I did not dislike it. It became evident that I could not eat this chocolate in large quantities and so I re-wrapped the bar so I could have some more the next day. Unable to resist the lure of the chocolate I had some the next morning with my coffee, this time it had been left at room temperature. And what a difference being at room temperature made, to start with the chocolate was easier to break, the flavours were much more distinctive and the texture of the chocolate was slightly smoother. My opinion was greatly improved.
On the back of the packaging this is described as a chocolate with maximum taste from minimum meddling which can be seen from the fact that it contains only three ingredients - cocoa mass, cocoa butter and Cuban raw cane sugar - however there is a warning that it may contain traces of nut. There is no nutritional information on the packaging and as, mostly due to the cost, this is likely to be an infrequent treat I'm not too worried.
I was not previously a fan of high cocoa content dark chocolates finding their bitter taste very unpleasant however I do like the Peruvian 70 a lot. It is not an everyday chocolate, and as yet has not weaned me of more meddled with chocolates, but I will definitely buy it again when I want a real treat. I'm not sure it will convert the average Cadbury's fan but for those who like darker chocolate this is definitely worth trying and, I'm sure, enjoying.
Last year, my husband and I were thoroughly entertained by a Channel Four series documenting the exploits of a rather eccentric Willie Harcourt-Cooze to create a chocolate factory in rural Devon. Following on from 'Willie's Wonky Chocolate Factory' came 'Raising the Bar: Willie's Chocolate Revolution' in which Willie tried to establish a range of high quality chocolate bars based on the cacoa produced in his own Venezuelan plantation - the 'Delectable' chocolate bar range. There was something incredibly endearing about Willie and his family. Much as Channel Four tried to portray Willie as a struggling entrepreneur, I suspect that the closest thing that his family has been to the breadline is the queue for home-made ciabatta at the local farmers' market! Despite being a rather wacky toff, Willie's enthusiasm and passion for his own products was really infectious and we really wanted his chocolate bars to be a commercial success.
After the series finished I made several fruitless (or chocolate-less) trips to Waitrose (one of the main stockists) before finally tracking them down yesterday. There are two varieties of chocolate bar available in the Delectable range - Venezuelan 72 (containing a minimum of 72% of cocoa solids) and this, the Peruvian 70 San Martin (which contains at least 70% cocoa solids.) Obviously, with this large percentage of cocoa, these are dark chocolate and bear little resemblance to the (comparitively poor quality) milk chocolate usually consumed in the UK.
Both chocolate bars come in a very distinctive and distinguished little box, containing two small square blocks of chocolate. At £2.99 per box, (2x 40g) make no mistake, this is a premium chocolate product. The chocolate itself comes emblazoned with the 'Willie's Delectable Cacao' logo and each of the two bars is (hand?) wrapped in gold foil. (There was an episode during the series where the expensive second-hand wrapping machine that Willie had purchased was faulty and each individual bar had to be painstakingly wrapped by hand!)
Having fallen in love with the concept and been impressed by the quality packaging, I was desperately keen to adore the chocolate itself. Admittedly, I'm not a big lover of dark chocolate and this chocolate is particularly pure so I was prepared for this to be something of an acquired taste and I hoped to acquire it. So, on to the first bite... Both my husband and I bit into one of the little squares at the same time with some excitement. (We don't get out much nowadays!) And then it hit me - the most bitter taste that I can recollect from a food substance. To me, it had a coffee like flavour, not your cheap Nescafe instant coffee but the finest ground coffee made from the finest coffee beans. Unfortunately, I detest the taste of coffee so this was not a positive for me. My husband couldn't immediately identify the same coffee-like taste but he wasn't exactly overjoyed by the sheer bitterness of the chocolate. In all honestly, I only took the one tiny bite out of my bar and that was plenty for me to be convinced that this was not the chocolate for me. My other half perservered but the look on his face was that of the proverbial 'wasp licking something of a nettle' and in the end I told him not to force it down! Being something of a tightwad, I've rescued the majority of the uneaten bars and I'm looking out for some nice simple recipes using high quality chocolate. (Well, it did cost £2.99 for the pack!)
I'm in no doubt that this is a premium quality chocolate product and I really, really wanted to like it but the reality is, with a palate raised on Cadbuy's Dairy Milk, a rich dark chocolate such as this was just too good for me! If you enjoy eating good quality dark chocolate, please go ahead and try this chocolate. I'm sure that you'll love it. If, like me, you're a born and bred Cadbury's girl I'd give Willie's wonky chocolate bars a miss!
After reading numerous reviews of chocolates, lollies, cakes, biscuits and various other sweet things on this site, I finally caved in and decided to write one myself - all in the name of research of course.
As I am diabetic, and currently going through a lifestyle change (I don't like calling Slimming World a diet as that suggests a temporary, transient state) I usually refrain from eating chocolate. My main problem is that once I start a bar, however big or small, it usually doesn't last very long. Moderation is clearly not my thing.
All these factors - and more - played a key part in carefully selecting my review subject. I don't normally go to Waitrose, but on a recent trip to pick up a jar or two of elusive SuperJam, I was asked to get some Willie's Chocolate, which my wife uses in cooking and baking. Next to the usual packet of Willie's was this new, pocket sized box of dark chocolate meant for eating. It was enough to get my teeth into, but not enough to pig out on. I was sold.
A LITTLE ABOUT WILLIE
Willie Harcourt-Cooze came to prominence on the Channel 4 food documentary "Willie and His Wonky Chocolate Factory". His mission was to be the first chocolate producer to grow his own beans and make 100 per cent cacao from bean to bar.
He accomplished this by setting up his own plantation in Venezuela, and importing the beans to be processed and converted into cocoa powder and chocolate in his own Devonshire factory. He seems to be on a one man crusade to move chocolate from its perceived status as a sweet treat into more general use as a cooking ingredient.
I suppose you would class this chocolate as "artisan" - because exceptional care and attention has been taken at every step of the production process to ensure the consumer gets a taste of what chocolate used to be like. Willie has even gone so far as to source antique cocoa processing machines - including the creaky old roaster (now refurbished and reconditioned) featured on the programme - to keep things as authentic as possible.
So, is this a huge exercise in pedantry? Or is there method to his madness? Read on and find out.
PACKAGING, PRICE & AVAILABILITY
The chocolate comes in a small square brown box, with the "Willie's Delectable Cacao" brand in green. It's hard to spot unless you know what you are looking for. The only flashy bit is the word "Peruvian" which stands out in gold lettering against the dark background.
The product is packaged in two separate squares - individually wrapped in gold foil - which the label suggests is "one for now" and "one for then". The cacao beans the chocolate is made from are sourced from the province of San Martin in Peru (hence the name) rather than Willie's own plantation in Venezuela.
The final product is made of all natural ingredients (70% cocoa solids, cocoa butter and raw Cuban cane sugar). It is a premium chocolate and deserves to be savoured and enjoyed in small doses. The package oozes sophistication and quality, and given the way it is described on the box - almost like a fine wine - it merits tasting in the same way.
This product clearly falls into the "boutique" category - that is to say, not widely distributed or available because of the small quantities in which it is produced. That said, of the three branches of Waitrose within driving distance in my area - two stock it - although it seems to disappear off the shelves as rapidly as it arrives sometimes.
This product is not cheap, and the expense alone might put off all but the most dedicated connoisseur. I paid £2.99 for the 80 gram box (for the mathematically challenged like me, that means each square is 40g or £1.50 - whichever measure is more important to you!). Willie also makes a "Venezuelan 72" variant in the same form, but sadly, this was not stocked at the shop I visited.
What I say next may come across as a little patronising, and for that I apologise, but the best way to eat this kind of chocolate is at room temperature. If you are tempted to store it in the fridge given the warmer weather (this is the UK, so perhaps I am being a touch optimistic) leave it out for a bit before trying it. It makes all the difference.
The first thing that hit me when I opened the box - I hadn't even unwrapped the chocolate at this point - was a lovely, rich, velvety, warm scent. The aroma was practically pouring out of the box, due in large part (I was soon to discover) that the bars themselves are loosely wrapped and unsealed.
The bar itself has an imprint of Willie's logo, but is otherwise in one solid piece, without any sections or scoring to help you break it. It's a lovely dark brown, and with my senses working overtime, I did well to resist the urge to take a large, rather unseemly, bite out of it. Back in control of my urges, I broke off a 5p sized piece with a very pleasing dull "snap", and, for the purposes of being thorough, wafted it gently under my nose, breathing deeply.
I suppose I could write a whole load of tosh about how it smelled, but there are only so many ways you can say "bloody gorgeous" without sounding like a pretentious git with nothing better to do than sniff chocolate. With the briefest nod in the direction of patience dutifully delivered, I ended my self-inflicted torture and popped it into my mouth.
It's smooth and melts perfectly, filling the mouth with a creamy, soft and very satisfying burst of flavour. Bitter and fruity, but not harshly so, this is extremely satisfying and flavourful. The taste lingers on the tongue for ages. On the one hand it is very more-ish, but its richness and satiety mitigate against over consumption. This is a chocolate best taken in small doses. I had a little bit more - for a second opinion obviously - but, frankly, I would have been hard pressed to have finished one 40g square.
In a word? Sublime. This is the perfect chocolate for me - intense chocolate flavour, smooth fruity notes, and long in the finish - this I a chocolate I can readily enjoy without overdoing it. As for the price? Well, some things are worth paying for, and in my eyes, this is definitely one of them.
© Hishyeness 2009