When I was asked to pick an Easter egg from the Hotel Chocolat range to review for the blog it wasn’t that difficult . I love chocolate, no, I mean REALLY love chocolate and the darker the better. I plumped for the Purist Extra Thick at £30.00. One side of the egg is 65% cocoa solids the other is 70% and if that’s not enough there are ten pralines coated in a 65% dark too.
It arrived this morning with the postman – and well worth being woken up for – thank you Steve. Royal Mail had treated it with the respect it deserved and the packaging was blemish and dent free which lasted all of 90 seconds. The gift message is a nice touch if you’re sending it to someone through the post and not actually going to the high street. It was like Christmas morning all over again. By the time I ripped the cardboard shell away from the box I was into the egg proper. Protected in a dark square box, patterned to look like a wooden case, it was plain and simple yet elegant with Hotel Chocolat ribbon keeping the lid firmly in place. Immediately I think they’ve saved the money on packaging and invested it in the contents which pleases me greatly and I wasn’t disappointed.
The first thing that hits me is the tasting menu – heavily scented with smell of the chocolate within. The tasting notes explaining the contents and a little bit about the cocoa used is a really nice touch – other chocolate artisans learn well from this. The egg halves were wrapped in thick silver foil and nestled within each were five handmade – 65% dark, intense pralines, wrapped in tissue paper.
I bit into a square embossed with the initials H&C and the smooth, thick, hazelnut centre was incredibly rich – exactly what you’d expect from a top notch handmade chocolate. They’re made with cocoa from Saint Lucia and eating these are about as near as I’m going to get to the island.
To the egg – beginning with the 70% side – labelled clearly to differentiate from the other. Made from beans from Chuao in Venezuela where they grow Criollo cocoa beans. These babies are to chocolate as the Arabica bean is to coffee. Only very few Criollo trees remain so when Hotel Chocolat say on the tasting notes ‘we managed to get hold of some of the most prized cocoa on earth!’ they mean what they say.
I loved the thickness of the chocolate and the finish – you could see exactly where the final pour was left to set and clearly underlying the attention to detail the egg has undergone. I bit straight into the tip and have to admit to tasting just two of the suggested flavours – caramel and malt – but for the more discerned palate the notes say you can expect roasted nuts, cream and raisins.
After a break, a clearing of the palate and a deep breath I opened up the 65% side. This cocoa is from the Rabot Estate in Saint Lucia. They’ve rated it as their best cuvee yet from the Estate and the beans benefit from a lower temperature roasting – avoiding the midday sun whilst they dry. Now I really did taste the red fruit flavour notes and was left with a hint of citrus and spices. The oaked wine, however, passed me by. This was my favourite and I was left with its sweet, richness for a long time after I’d swallowed.
This Easter Egg is a real indulgence – it’s aimed at someone who knows their chocolate and at £30 I think that’s exactly who will be receiving it. If you like chocolate with more sugar or fat avoid this – it’s not going to be your thing. Is it worth it? Absolutely. You get what you pay for and personally I’d rather be bought just one of these than any number of thinner skinned, less satisfying, imitations.
I was also heartened to read about Hotel Chocolat’s Engaged Ethics Cocoa Programme and how they’re doing their bit for the cocoa farmer – they guarantee a fair price for the crop, they get paid on time and that their future is secure.
As if you need anymore encouragement to treat yourself – honestly – don’t wait for Easter.
Thank you too to Hotel Chocolat for sending it just before I embark on the give-up-chocolate-for-Lent diet – like that’s going to work!
The Purist Extra Thick Egg £30