Earlier today in California, between two lectures on basic concepts of crystallography, I spoke to one of the other teachers of the workshop on the topic of chocolate. Chocolate is a fine topic for a crystallographic lecture itself, but the different phases, how transitions change the texture, and how heating it too much causes it all to go to hell weren't on our minds.
There is, of course, plenty on the internet on the science of chocolate. If you're crystallographically inclined, you might appreciate the talk by Elspeth Garman (fast forward to 15:15 min). Coincidentally, she used to teach at the same workshop as my chocolate-loving friend and I.
Chocolate comes in many guises. Switzerland is famous for milk chocolate, though they didn't invent it. Thirty years before M. Nestlé and colleagues stirred cocoa powder into condensed milk in Vevey by Lake Geneva, gourmets at the court of the Elector of Saxony in Dresden had already been enjoying something very similar, concocted by the company of Jordan & Timaeus, and found it rather delicious.
I frequently get into trouble for this, but I don't like Swiss chocolate much because I don't like milk chocolate much. Since that random discovery all these years ago, I much prefer darker varieties. They have so much more to offer than the sugary sweetness of milk chocolate. Somewhere between 60 and 75% of the right cocoa gives delicate flavors without being too tart.
Good chocolate can come with eye-watering price tags. I remember a little shop in St-Rémy-de-Provence, full of tiny delicacies expensive enough to make you want to cut your ear off. (If you're lost, use the Google to make the connection. Better yet, visit this beautiful town.) Some are advertised as luxury products, better flaunted than enjoyed. Do not purchase chocolate by price! Purchase it by this guide:
- Valrhona Ampamakia 64% – This single-estate chocolate comes with a vintage, which always cracks me up a bit, but it tastes like heaven.
- Madecasse 70% – A chocolate with a story to match the taste. Two Peace Corp volunteers in Madegascar see the value in turning locally sourced cocoa into locally produced chocolate.
- Grenada Chocolate Company 71% – Purchased at Rococo Chocolates' Kings' Road store in London mostly because I was working with a student from Grenada at the time.
- meiji THE Chocolate 70% – A random purchase in one of the few proper grocery stores in Tokyo, this turned out to be a much better pick then the matcha milk mix I bought at the same time.
- L'Amourette Grenada 75% – This bar and the next shouldn't be on this list, but I need to reach seven. I've bought this in Palo Alto just today to see whether Grenadian cocoa is a thing.
- L'Amourette Nicaragua 80% – Another purchase from today. This is a bit outside my comfort zone, but one needs to be adventurous to be rewarded.
If you read this far, do you still remember the title? Internet wisdom has it that listicles sell best, that links with a number in them get the most hits. It said 7, there's only six. Two shouldn't be there. I wonder how the views will compare.