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News The Monthly newsletter from the Tasting Club

Issue 129

DON’T GO! If you’re not ready to let go of summer just yet, you can relive those balmy days with the results of the Summer Desserts special edition! See page 6

Fraternising with the enemy?

The Hotel Chocolat directors head off to explore the cocoa groves


Do men and women really have different tastes when it comes to chocolate, or is that just a load of old generalisations? We could be on the verge of finding out… get your sneak preview on page 12

of Discovery

Last month we reported that the real Hotel Chocolat in Saint Lucia was playing host to some of the trickiest customers around – the directors of the company. We’re happy to report that they all made it back in one piece and here’s what they discovered.

D129 R35 K62 S40 015546

The purpose of their visit was to go through the hotel and all of its facilities with a fine-toothed comb, from bed linen and bathrooms, to the Boucan Bar & Restaurant.The aim was to give everything the thorough testing that will be vital for a smooth and successful opening at the end of the year – and who better to do that than the directors, who are uniquely placed to ensure that everything is finished to the high standards they themselves set? However, as Hotel Chocolat and Tasting Club founder, Angus Thirlwell told us, there was much more to it than that… continued on page 8...

CHRISTMAS treats By popular demand we’re making fresh, new batches of two of the most popular special editions of the year, just in time for the Christmas entertaining season. Which ones? Find out on page 13


Letter from the


elcome to your latest edition of Club News. This month we see that the final countdown for the opening of the Real Hotel Chocolat is under way. As part of those preparations the ‘Hotel Inspectors’ descended in force and proceeded to put everything under the magnifying glass, leaving no bed unturned. However, Club Founder, Angus, revealed he had extra plans for the company directors – as this was the first visit to Rabot Estate for many, he wanted them all to get up close and personal with every aspect of cocoa growing as well as our Engaged Ethics programme. As if they needed to be enthused any further!

The ‘Hotel Inspectors’ descended in force… leaving no bed unturned.

Also this month, you’ll see that a new record has been set (page 10). Unfortunately, it’s a record for the lowest score recorded and I can’t see it being beaten anytime soon! The score of just 3.32 went to a set of 99% cocoa Tasting Batons featured in the Elements box – clearly a step too far for most, but we hope you agree that pushing the boundaries is part of the Club’s ethos – as you’ll see on page 15. Incidentally, those same batons scored a more healthy 7.08 in the Dark box. Until next month, happy tasting!

Are those jingle bells we hear…? Don’t forget your Christmas Collection – see page 4

Simon Thirlwell Club News Editor

Send your letters to The Chocolate Tasting Club, Mint House, Royston SG8 5HL, or simply email me on We are waiting to hear from you!


Improve your chocolate knowledge


That’s another fine mess‌ Editor A blend of ground nuts and chocolate that has made praline one of the most successful genres of chocolate. However, the first pralines were very different – sugar coated whole nuts, usually almonds. Legend attributes the invention to a ham-fisted apprentice in the 17th century. The story

goes that he dropped a bowl of almonds on the kitchen floor and the cook, in trying to thrash him, spilled molten sugar over the almonds. They then served the new concoction to their boss, the Duke of Plessis-Praslin, who liked it so much he gave his name to it!

This month’s Prize Draw

Winners last CALL for

Christmas I D126 Classic Selection prize draw winner is Ms Penny Ballinger of Drybrook who wins a Midnight Mints Selection.

Next month’s prize is a Sleekster Everything Selection.

K59 Dark Selection

prize draw winner is Mr A C Goodwin of Leicester who wins a Le Grand Crunch Dark Giant Slab.

Next month’s prize is a Le Grand Crunch Dark Giant Slab.

S37 Elements prize draw winner is Mrs E Balcon who wins a Le Grand Crunch Milk Giant Slab.

t might still be a little early to be untangling the fairy lights, but Christmas is coming and so is the exclusive Tasting Club Christmas Collection. Created just for members, it’s full of recipes that capture the flavours of the season, all beautifully decorated with reds, greens and seasonal sparkle – so all you need do is lift the lid and you’ll feel Christmassy all over! And because Christmas is a time of get-togethers, it’s also our biggest collection of the year too – with 36 chocolates and 6 solid chocolate festive pieces. Available in Classic and Dark versions for the members-only price of £22.95 (including delivery), freshly made and despatched early December.

To make sure you don’t miss out on the great big Christmas adventure, please order by 20th November Order online at or call us on 08444 933 933

Next month’s prize is a Batons Selection.

Don’t forget – score by post or online at 4

and you’ll be automatically entered into the prize draw

Mystery, Mischief... and Chocolate!

It’s Christmas Eve at Ganache Towers but all is not well… foul play is afoot and one of the world’s greatest chocolatiers lies slumped across his desk. Specially created for the fast approaching Christmas season, The Chocolatier’s Mystery is the perfect game for friends and family to indulge in a little sleuthing and lots of riveting chocolate tasting – with 30 chocolates, an exclusive CD and an array of suspect cards. Plus there’s the chance to win a year’s worth of FREE chocolate tasting!



SUMMER DESSERTS Summer may well be gone, but judging by your scores and comments, it was fun while it lasted! For those of us who love chocolate, it’s virtually a dead cert that we’re partial to a gorgeous dessert too – let’s face it, not many of us can resist either. And so it proved with this summer’s exciting special edition, Summer Desserts.

In fact, with all 18 recipes scoring well over the 8 mark, it seems that the mere mention of the word dessert is enough to send us all into a dreamlike state! The only shock result, perhaps, is the fact that Tiramisu did not win, but narrowly missed out and ended up in second place. With the worldwide popularity of Italian cuisine, Tiramisu has become one the world’s favourite desserts, if not THE favourite. So it’s all the more impressive that Blueberry Bombe scooped the top spot.

1.  Blueberry Bombe by O Coppeneur & G Bernardini 8.73 (49% scored it 10/10) 2.  Tiramisu by E Desmet 8.68 (35% scored it 10/10) 3.  Raspberry & White Chocolate Cheesecake by E Desmet 8.66 (39% scored it 10/10) 4.  Eton Mess by E Desmet 8.65 (45% scored it 10/10) 5.  Crème Brûlée by O Coppeneur & G Bernardini 8.64 (40% scored it 10/10) 6. Peach Melba by M Meier 8.62 (37% scored it 10/10) 7.  Pannacotta with Cherry by O Coppeneur & G Bernardini 8.53 (40% scored it 10/10) 8.  Lemon Meringue Pie by E Desmet 8.52 (32% scored it 10/10) 9. Summer Pudding by K Kalenko 8.51 (44% scored it 10/10) 10. Tarte au Chocolat by JC Vandenberghe 8.49 (33% scored it 10/10)

Summer Desserts proved so popular that we’re already planning next year’s. Although we have listened to the one criticism – that the box was too long to fit in the fridge – so it will definitely be fridge-friendly! 6

Winner – Blueberry Bombe This recipe has quickly become a modern classic, so what more can we say about it? Well, we’ll leave that to Joanne North, who sums it up nicely,

This Blueberry Bombe just explodes in your mouth. The blueberries are divine, the white chocolate just goes so well with the blueberries – great texture, lovely design.

Without a hint of a stereotype, Terry gets ready to take the Club stateside

Milton Hershey, the founding father of American chocolate

Terry in AMERICA With plans for the Tasting Club to head stateside in the next few months, Club Managing Director, Terry Waters, recently headed off there to dot a few i’s and cross a few t’s.


he plan is to begin with a test, fittingly, in New England with both Classic and Dark Introductory Selections – as it seems that Americans have a slight preference for dark chocolate. As with our other overseas ventures, it’s important to do our testing thoroughly, because there are some clear differences to overcome. One of which is America’s national preference for chocolate. If you’ve ever tasted America’s

leading brand, Hershey’s, then you’ll know it has it’s own distinctive flavours and textures. Those flavours date from the late 1800s when America’s leading chocolate pioneer, Milton Hershey, decided not to follow the chocolate recipes developed in Europe, but to create and taste his own.The only problem being that Mr Hershey was extremely fond of smoking cigars, which would undoubtedly have impaired his sense of taste.We’ll let you know how we get on! 7

continued from page 3


of Discovery

First though, we’re very pleased to report that the ‘Hotel Inspectors’ didn’t experience any Fawlty Towers style calamities! That’s not to say that there weren’t any minor blips to iron out, but that is why they were sent there in the first place. Angus was particularly pleased with the reaction to the style of cuisine created for the menu at the Boucan Restaurant.


he recipes have been created to showcase the amazing local ingredients available in Saint Lucia. And, as you’d expect, they also have strong connections with cocoa and chocolate. Locally caught fish, like red snapper and bonito tuna, were on the menu, together with fresh vegetables and salad leaves grown nearby – all of which flourish in the lush, tropical growing conditions. However, as Angus revealed,“This visit was about so much more than testing out the hotel and fine tuning the facilities. For most of the directors, this was their first visit to Saint Lucia, so it was the first time that they had come into physical contact with the cocoa growing side of Hotel Chocolat. Of course, everyone in the company knows what we’re doing at Rabot Estate, but seeing it in action is another thing altogether.” And so this was the perfect opportunity for the directors to see for themselves the progress that has been made at the plantation and the difference that our Engaged Ethics cocoa

programme is making. Estate Director, Phil Buckley, showed them the full process from beginning to end, including – the nurseries where seedlings of the rare strain of Trinitario cocoa discovered and isolated at Rabot Estate are nurtured; newly planted groves; harvesting techniques; and how the beans are fermented and dried. Lynn Cunningham, one director who will be familiar to many as our previous Tasting Club Manager, also grabbed the opportunity to meet with the Island Growers who participate in the Engaged Ethics Cocoa Programme. Lynn told us, “I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Ghana on many occasions and to have met many cocoa farmers, so there was no way I was going to miss out on meeting their counterparts in Saint Lucia! It was fascinating to gain an insight into cocoa growing in Saint Lucia and to see how our Engaged Ethics programme works there. In fact, I feel an article coming on – so I’ll save my news for then.” We look forward to reading that!

This visit was about so much more than testing out the hotel and fine tuning the facilities. For most of the directors, this was their first visit to Saint Lucia…



Classic 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.

Dark 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.

Selection – D126

Raspberry Butterscotch by E Desmet 8.56 (45% scored it 10/10) Passion Fruit Truffle by O Coppeneur & G Bernardini 8.37 (36% scored it 10/10) Light Bite by K Kalenko 8.37 (26% scored it 10/10) Singapore Sling by R Macfadyen 8.36 (31% scored it 10/10) Nutty Latte by E Desmet 8.32 (25% scored it 10/10) Salted Caramel Melters by O Nicod 8.31 (23% scored it 10/10) Whisky Manon by JC Vandenberghe 8.28 (30% scored it 10/10) Mousse au Chocolat by K Kalenko 8.21 (27% scored it 10/10) Orange & Almond by O Nicod 8.15 (24% scored it 10/10) Lazy Hazy by M Meier 8.14 (33% scored it 10/10) Kooky Praline by G Pereira 8.11 (21% scored it 10/10) Strawberry Dream by M Meier 8.09 (28% scored it 10/10) Banana Milk Tasting Batons 7.98 (22% scored it 10/10) 36% Milk Tasting Batons 7.98 (22% scored it 10/10) Moscow Mule by R Macfadyen 7.78 (29% scored 10/10)

Selection – K59

Singapore Sling by R Macfadyen 8.45 (38% scored it 10/10) Raspberry Butterscotch by E Desmet 8.41 (37% scored it 10/10) Light Bite by K Kalenko 8.35 (27% scored it 10/10) Passion Fruit Truffle by O Coppeneur & G Bernardini 8.32 (31% scored it 10/10) Nutty Latte by E Desmet 8.31 (18% scored it 10/10) Moscow Mule by R Macfadyen 8.26 (35% scored 10/10) Salted Caramel Melters by O Nicod 8.23 (21% scored it 10/10) Whisky Manon by JC Vandenberghe 8.16 (30% scored it 10/10) 64% Peruvian Dark Tasting Batons 8.09 (18% scored it 10/10) Kooky Praline by G Pereira 8.07 (17% scored it 10/10) Orange & Almond by O Nicod 7.88 (21% scored it 10/10) Mousse au Chocolat by K Kalenko 7.84 (13% scored it 10/10) Strawberry Dream by M Meier 7.75 (17% scored it 10/10) 99% Dark Tasting Batons 7.08 (15% scored it 10/10) Lazy Hazy by M Meier 6.65 (22% scored it 10/10)

Elements 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 10

– S37

Chocolate Brownie by R Macfadyen 8.64 (36% scored it 10/10) Smooth Praline Cup by E Desmet 8.40 (35% scored it 10/10) Light Bite by K Kalenko 8.30 (26% scored it 10/10) 36% Milk Chocolate 8.19 (25% scored it 10/10) Kooky Praline by G Pereira 8.11 (26% scored it 10/10) Mousse au Chocolat by K Kalenko 7.98 (9% scored it 10/10) Orange & Almond by O Nicod 7.85 (21% scored it 10/10) Salted Caramel Melters by O Nicod 7.82 (16% scored it 10/10) Banana Milk Tasting Batons 7.62 (21% scored it 10/10) 99% Dark Tasting Batons 3.32 (6% scored it 10/10)


Have Your Say! Bouquet  Light Bite – Classic If this was a GCSE I’d give it an A*. Lovely, lovely, lovely! Sue Page, Halesowen

Bouquet  Passion Fruit Truffle – Classic Pow! Just what you’d expect from passion fruit. A good fruity kick but without the alcohol.

Hazel Brewer, Erith

Brickbat  99% Dark Tasting Batons – Elements This was truly revolting, but thank you for giving me the opportunity to taste it and find out why we normally have sugar in our chocolate! Elizabeth Jones, Eastleigh

Bouquet  Raspberry Butterscotch – Classic Considering I don’t like Raspberries or butterscotch – WOW! A definite 10! Gordon Smith, Machynlleth

Brickbat  Moscow Mule – Classic Please kick this mule of a chocolate back to Moscow.

James Wilson, Eastleigh

Bouquet  99% Dark Tasting Batons – Dark Creamy, then acid, long on flavour, would make a great bar. Gillian Watts, Rushden

Brickbat  Strawberry Dream – Dark ...Errrrr, where were the strawberries? Lara Meischke, Fife Bouquet  Chocolate Brownie – Elements I loved this one so much I didn’t share it with anyone else! Brownie in solid chocolate form – delicious! Penny Meadowcroft, Oldham

Bouquet Orange & Almond – Dark Roasted almonds in dark chocolate – wonderful – add orange – heaven – best chocolate EVER! I could eat these forever and ever, forsaking all others. Karen Ette, Loughborough

In The Postbag… Summer Desserts

I opened the box and had to divide each choc in three, as there were six of us! The scores were eventually decided by secret ballot after a lot of disagreement. Lots of fun but I’m left with an empty box and ages till my next delivery. A Adamou, London


At first glance this looked to be a selection full of chocolates I wouldn’t enjoy, but was proven wrong. Some interesting flavour combinations that really work. Stephanos, online

Summer Desserts

An excellent selection based on a novel idea – loved the recipe cards and have already made the raspberry & white chocolate cheesecake – there weren’t any leftovers! Elizabeth Richardson, online


Just spoilt by not being able to finish every last bit because of the 99% dark. Linda Brock, Portsmouth

Summer Desserts

The extra touch of including actual recipes for these desserts was great. It’s inspired me to have a go at some myself. Linda Corrin, Isle of Man


Simply delightful! And I was thrilled to see my comment as a Bouquet :) Heather Cawte, Durham 11




It’s often remarked that men and women have different tastes and like different things, but is that true or just a load of old generalisations? More to the point, does it apply to chocolate? Well, this February we may well get the chance to find out once and for all with the His & Hers Collection! The idea is to divide the box right down the middle, with half of the chocolates created with so called ‘feminine’ flavours and the other half appealing to what could be called more ‘masculine’ tastes. However, the key is that there are two each of every chocolate, so ‘she’ can taste ‘his’ chocolates and vice versa – and both parties will be able to score all of the chocolates. This is the second edition of His & Hers – the results of the first, back in 2008, produced mixed messages, with a win for a ‘Her’ chocolate, swiftly followed by two ‘His’ chocolates.This time we’re hoping for a definitive answer to the question – who prefers what? Then again, we may well prove that there’s no such thing as masculine or feminine preferences. However, one thing is for sure, it’ll be fun finding out – especially as it will be released in good time for Valentine’s Day!

Nobody will ever win the battle of the sexes. There’s too much fraternising with the enemy…

Dwight D Eisenhower



Bonds – An update With all of the Chocolate Bond certificates now issued and sent to their rightful owners, we thought it was a good time to look ahead at the exciting plans in store.

EXCELLENCE & fortified Fresh for Xmas

If you’re entertaining a small horde this Christmas, looking for gift ideas or just thinking about having one or two special treats in the house, then help is at hand.


or the first time, by popular demand, we’ll be making fresh, new batches of two of this year’s most popular special editions – The Excellence Collection and The Fortified 5-Star Collection. Last Christmas we had many comments from members saying that our Club special editions would make great Christmas presents and would be very handy to have around for entertaining. And so this year we are doing just that – with special, fresh batches of Excellence available for £17.95 and Fortified for £22.95 (both including delivery). Order via manage my membership or call 08444 933 933.

And now that we know exactly how much has been raised from the loyal support of members, we’re delighted to say that everything on our list is achievable. It seems obvious to say, but no matter how good our estimates, we did not know for certain how much would be raised until the closing date had passed. So, thanks to our members’ overwhelming support, we can now start to firm up those plans set out in the Bond Invitation – including expanding our chocolate making facilities and opening new shops here in Britain; taking the Chocolate Tasting Club to even more countries; and realising our ambition to make chocolate in Saint Lucia, as well as growing even more fine flavour cocoa. We’ll keep you posted with all of the latest developments right here.


and finally

A royal tipple There’s a definite spa theme to Hotel Chocolat’s latest shop openings – and we start with a trip to the ‘Wells’.


ust over 400 years ago a chance discovery of the Chalybeate Spring marked the beginning of Tunbridge Wells.The iron-rich water was reputed to cure all sorts of ills, from infertility to hangovers, and by the 18th century anyone who was anyone came to drink the water and be seen. It was especially popular with the well-to-do-set from London and gained a royal charter in 1909 from King Edward VII.

You can now find Hotel Chocolat at 257 Royal Victoria Place, Tunbridge Wells

If you go in the summer, you can still taste the water and have it served to you by the traditional ‘Dipper’. But no matter what time of year you visit, you’ll now be able to sample Hotel Chocolat – just don’t forget your membership card for your 5% discount!

Bath time? From the Celts and the Romans onwards, the naturally hot springs of Bath have been attracting visitors for over 2,000 years.


here’s even a legend that Bath was founded as early as 860BC, when Prince Bladud (father of King Lear) caught leprosy and was exiled from court to tend pigs. Unfortunately his pigs had a skin ailment of some sort, but after they wallowed in the mud around the hot springs they were cured. Prince Bladud followed suit and was also cured – he returned to court, became king and founded the city of Bath. Fascinating history, stunning architecture and restorative hot springs aside, Bath is now also known as a shopping destination. And the recent opening of Southgate, a brand new open plan shopping area, is 14

Take the waters then find chocolate bliss at Southgate, Bath

adding to that reputation. Designed and built with Bath’s striking aesthetics firmly in mind, it’s where you’ll find Hotel Chocolat Bath, slipping easily into those classical surroundings – open the first week of October. So once you’ve taken the waters, you can then take in the aromas at Hotel Chocolat.

Balancing the box Every so often we receive comments from members regarding the make up of their tasting boxes – suggesting, for example, that we include more pralines or fewer buttercreams, more alcoholic recipes or fewer fruity recipes… Of course, it’s all down to personal preference, but we thought you might find it interesting to hear how we go about putting together a monthly selection. As we suggest in the headline above, it’s all about achieving the right balance, so that each monthly box has the broadest appeal, whilst remaining exciting.

Firstly, there are the new and experimental recipes. A box full of those would certainly be very exciting but, by its very nature, it would enjoy only limited appeal. On the other hand, it is in the nature of the Club to be creative, so it’s important to include these experimental chocolates. Indeed, we receive many comments along the lines of, “I really wouldn’t have chosen that myself, but I actually loved it.” Secondly, your monthly scores constantly tell us which types of chocolate are the most popular – so, for example, if pralines and fruity truffles always score well, then we

must listen to the wishes of members and give those most popular chocolate types a heavier weighting. Thirdly, we get down to the nitty gritty of balancing milk, white and dark chocolate; making sure there’s a variety of filling types including smooth and textured pralines, alcoholic and fruity recipes, coffee, caramel, vanilla and one or two unusual flavours. And finally, we make sure that there’s an array of textures too, from soft and light, through to smooth and then on to crunchy and firm. So please do keep sending us your scores and comments because, as you can see, they’re invaluable to us.


Christmas Message Card

Delivered Chocolate

Gift Service Telephone: 08444 93 13 13

Write to us at: The Chocolate Tasting Club, Mint House, Royston, SG8 5HL Email: or via our website: Club News: Editor: Simon Thirlwell; Contributors: Simon Thirlwell, Terry Waters. Š The Chocolate Tasting Club plc 2010

The Chocolate Tasting Club News - D129 October 2010  

The latest News from The Chocolate Tasting Club