Earlier this week, I came across an article announcing that Central Market was adding a new product to their lineup – Amedei Porcelana, also known as the world’s most expensive chocolate. A 1.8-ounce bar retails for $18.99, which works out to slightly over $200 a pound. For reference, Valrhona (probably the best-known and most respected brand in chocolate-making circles) retails, in bulk, for about $20 a pound.
Now, I know chocolate. I’ve done a stint as a professional bonbon maker. I can temper, enrobe and mold with the best of them. I can talk single-origin and bean-to-bar for hours. There’s a whole section in my recipe book just for ganache. I care about this more than is reasonable. But $19 a bar is ridiculous. So, obviously, I drove straight to Central Market after work and bought myself one.
It’s a bean-to-bar chocolate, of course. What this means is, unlike most commercial chocolate bars, which are melted down from pre-manufactured chocolate, flavored and re-molded, Amedei actually controls the entire manufacturing process. With Porcelana, Amedei has the rights to the entire annual crop of the coveted bean from which it is made, also known as Porcelana, and from that harvest, manufactures about 20,000 bars a year.
Still, I needed to justify this purchase somehow. So I came up with an idea: an office taste-test. What better way to evaluate the quality of a chocolate than to give it to enthusiastic but untrained consumers and ask them if they like it? That’s the point, right? That chocolate should, above all else, taste good? Also, it never hurts to curry favor with your coworkers. Plus it’s Friday and taste-testing chocolate is fun.
I bought four different chocolate bars, cut them up into similarly-sized pieces and placed them on plates that I numbered 1-4. All packaging and labeling was removed, and I made a concerted effort to obscure any identifying marks on the bars themselves. In order to control for personal preference, I tried to make sure that all had the same cacao content as the Porcelana (70 percent) and that they were all manufactured bean-to-bar by their respective brands (because otherwise it’s cheating).
FWTX staff and also Adisha from Jimmy John’s (she happened to stop by, so we threw her into the mix) participated in the judging. Each participant was asked to try all four chocolates, then rank them in order of preference. A first place ranking earned the chocolate 3 points, second place was worth two points, third place equaled 1 point, and fourth place got 0 points.
1. Amedei Porcelana: $18.99 for a 1.8 oz bar. A single-origin chocolate made exclusively with Porcelana beans, which are themselves a strain of the high-quality Criollo bean. Manufactured in Tuscany, Italy. Winner of multiple awards from the Academy of Chocolate.
2. Valrhona Noir Guanaja: $8.99 for a 2.46 oz bar. Advertised as a “marriage of grand crus,” this bar is a blend of the Criollo, Trinitario and Forastero beans. Valrhona chocolate is commonly used by high-end chocolatiers in the U.S. and abroad, valued for both its flavor and high cocoa butter content.
3. Mast Dark Chocolate: $8.99 for a 2.5 oz bar. This bar actually identifies as 73 percent cacao, which technically should have disqualified it from competition. However, I was curious. Mast Brothers chocolate is a popular American bean-to-bar chocolatier that is known for:
4. Lindt Smooth Dark: $2.68 for a 3.5 oz bar. This the most affordable bar on the list and was selected specifically for its price. It was the most affordable chocolate I found that still qualified – bean-to-bar, 70 percent cacao, couverture-levels of cocoa butter. I wanted to know if price and quality really did correlate.
1st Place: Lindt Smooth Dark ($2.68 for a 3.5 oz bar)
And you know what, it wasn’t even close. The $3 chocolate bar came in first place in 5 out of 11 cases, second place in five more, and had only one last place finish (submitted by someone who I suspect was just being perverse). This chocolate is creamy, mild and tastes exactly like what we think chocolate tastes like. An uncontested (well, barely contested) classic.
2nd Place: Valrhona Guanaja ($8.99 for a 2.46 oz bar)
The fine dining staple squeaked out a second place finish, but it was hard-won. With two first place finishes, four second place and five third place, the results were all over the board. But in the end, enough people liked its fruity, floral taste and smooth mouthfeel enough to earn it the silver.
3rd Place: Amedei Porcelana ($18.99 for a 1.8 oz bar)
Well, it’s a rare chocolate, so maybe its newness hurt it? I liked it, though I’m not sure I could tell the difference between it and Valrhona with my eyes shut. There was little consistency in the results – three first place, two second place, three third place and three last place. Readers will have to draw their own conclusions – I’ve got nothing.
4th Place: Mast Special Dark ($8.99 for a 2.5 oz bar)
Man, people really hated this one. It *did* get one first place finish, so I’ll give it that, but it was also the only chocolate on the table that regularly elicited open disparagement. People would stop the taste-testing process just to mention how awful it was. Seven last place finishes, three third place, zero second place and one poor misguided soul for the win. Critics, you have been vindicated.