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News The monthly newsletter from the Tasting Club

Issue 1108


IN A STORM? It was a tough job, but find out if we managed to find the perfect port to go with chocolate. See page 6 for the winners!


Find out what was causing quite a stir in Ghana… Turn to page 7 to find out!

Angus and Gabriela had the unenviable task of choosing the Create a Chocolate Competition winners this year!

Are you a


It’s the moment that we’ve all been waiting for – the entries have been pored over, the arguments have raged and finally the results of our Create a Chocolate Competition are in!


This annual competition is, as far as we know, utterly unique. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine that there is anyone else out there capable of hosting such a competition – giving members the chance to imagine their dream chocolate recipes and then have them made real by chocolatiers. This is now the eighth year of the Create a Chocolate Competition and from the word go it has been extremely popular with members, but every year we continued on page 8...

EXCELLENCE IS COMING! Don’t miss your sneaky peek at this year’s chocolate superstars. More on page 12



It wasn’t just the creative ideas that so impressed, some of the artwork that accompanied the entries was just fantastic.

I know we’ve said it before, but this annual competition really is unique and so it’s great to see so many members taking up the challenge every year and with such creativity and panache! Commiserations then to those who weren’t amongst the winners this time and congratulations to those who were – we look forward to seeing your creations in our tasting boxes.

Letter from the

hat a talented bunch of members we have! I’ve just spent an enjoyable hour or two looking through the entries to our Create a Chocolate Competition and I must say that I’m glad I didn’t have to choose the winners. And it wasn’t just the creative ideas that so impressed, some of the artwork that accompanied the entries was just fantastic.

Speaking of excellence, you’ll see on page 12 that the final places for the unmissable Excellence Collection have finally been settled – after a series of ‘frank exchanges’ on the selection committee… Also this month, I finish off the story of our quest to find the perfect port to accompany chocolate. Did we find it? Find out on page 6. Finally, if you’ve ever wondered if your scores for chocolates are too high or too low, then take a look at page 15 – where Club Founder, Angus, lets us in on the secrets of how he scores chocolates. Until next month, happy tasting! Are you missing out on our monthly Prize Draw? See page 4 for details of how you could win!

Simon Thirlwell Club News Editor Send your letters to The Chocolate Tasting Club, Mint House, Royston SG8 5HL, or simply email me on or via our website: We are waiting to hear from you! Club News Editor: Simon Thirlwell; Contributors: Simon Thirlwell, Terry Waters.


© The Chocolate Tasting Club plc 2011

Improve your chocolate knowledge



he great Aztec ruler, Montezuma, had vast stores of cocoa beans but, although the Aztecs are well known for enjoying cocoa as a drink, these beans were not for consumption. They were regarded as treasure and used as a currency. For centuries before any Europeans arrived, cocoa beans were used throughout the region to buy, sell and give to their ruler

as a tribute. Records show that a turkey hen cost 100 cocoa beans and that you could get a small rabbit for 30, a fresh avocado for 3 and a tomato for 1 cocoa bean. Montezuma himself is reputed to have had a store of 960,000,000 beans. Unsurprisingly, there was also a long history of counterfeit cocoa – clay replicas so accurate they still fool experts today!

This month’s Prize Draw

Winners WHY SCORE?

D136 Classic Selection

prize draw winner Mrs A Lee from Durham who wins a Milk Adventure Peepster Selection. Next month’s prize is a Summer Goody Bag.

K69 Dark Selection

prize draw winner is Mr R Ollerenshaw from Herne Bay who wins a Dark Adventure Peepster Selection.

Next month’s prize is a Midnight Mints Selection.

S47 Elements

prize draw winner is Mrs C Hyam from Cromer who wins a Best Sellers Peepster Selection. Next month’s prize is a Nut Mania Giant Slab.

Don’t forget


Scoring the chocolates you taste has always been part of the Tasting Club experience – an entirely voluntary one we might add!


on’t worry, we’re not going to make it compulsory – but we did want to point out that there are some very good reasons for scoring, the first of which you can see on the page opposite. Every member who lets us have their scores either by post or via the website is entered into the Prize Draw and, as you can see, every month they can win some gorgeous Hotel Chocolat prizes. And all for just sending in their scores. Of course, aside from the prizes, there are other good reasons to score your chocolates. We use members’ ratings to help guide future selections. It’s what we call our ‘Chocolate Democracy’, whereby members’ scores and comments influence individual chocolate recipes and the direction of whole selections. Not forgetting, of course, that it’s fun and a great way to kick start a debate about the chocolates you’re tasting.

– score by post or online at and you’ll be automatically entered into this prize draw


Our infamous Fortified Collection is back – and the even better news is that it is now a quarterly collection brimming with premium alcohols and liqueurs. So now you can blow your socks off four times a year, starting this September! For more information and to reserve yours now – or call 08444 72 70 70.

Left – one of the hundreds of antique barrels in which port is left to mature. Below – Club Founder, Angus, good job he’s sitting down after all that tasting!

In search of


In the last issue I explained how Club Founder, Angus, asked if I would like to join him in his quest to find the perfect port to go with chocolate.


nd so we found ourselves ensconced in the tasting room of a family run port maker in the heart of Porto. With us was Jorge, the company’s chief wine taster, who was also, it turned out, a real chocolate lover too. As I surveyed the forest of glasses in front of me and the impressive array of ports he had assembled, it was clear that he had embraced our quest to find the perfect port for chocolate with gusto! We learned that Jorge was a perfectionist when it came to tasting his ports, as he was a stickler for tasting them at the perfect temperatures – which are 10ºC for white ports; 15ºC for tawny ports and room temperature for red ports. We started our tasting with a couple of perfectly chilled white ports, before moving on to try three tawnies and then three more reds. Jorge got so carried away that he even brought out the special bottles – a 30-year old tawny port and his pride and joy from 1964 (which were both stunning by the way)! 6

Next we broke out the various grades of chocolate we had brought and started to match them with ports. And, just as we suspected, we found that in general, milk chocolate goes best with tawny port, dark chocolate with red port and white chocolate was just too sweet to go with anything! Surprisingly, we also found that pralines go extremely well with white port. The main surprise, however, was that our very own Rabot Estate 65% dark chocolate was just too full of character to go with red port, but it did find its soul mate in Jorge’s rather special tawny ports. So, rather than finding one perfect port, we came back with several! We’re aiming to put together a special port and chocolate offer for members in time for Christmas, so please do watch this space.

Children and chocolate – An explosive mix the world over!

On her first visit to Ghana, the then Club Manager, Lynn Cunningham, was greeted with an unexpected question, “Did you bring any chocolate with you?” This was a complete surprise as, naively, we had assumed cocoa growers would have tasted chocolate – but of course they rarely got to experience the refined version of what they grow and some had never tasted it at all! Mindful of this, Club Director Terry Waters made sure he had plenty of chocolate on his last visit to Ghana. His aim was to quietly and calmly give it to the children of the cocoa farmers so they could taste it. It didn’t quite work out that way as Terry explains… “I took two boxes of bite-sized, flow-wrapped chocolate because they’d be easy to hand out. At our first stop on the first day I offered the gathered children some chocolate, but they were all very shy and I had to urge them to take it. Then they stood holding the flow wrapped pieces

and it dawned on me that they didn’t know what it was – I had to open it and eat the chocolate myself to demonstrate. We next stopped in Osuben village, where I approached a small group of children expecting the same shyness. But this time it was a different story and I was almost submerged as their screams of excitement attracted other children and adults. Lesson learned! After that I was very cautious and made sure I only handed out to small, isolated groups. But one thing was constant – they all loved the chocolate!”

Club Director, Terry, suddenly becomes very popular!


continued from page 1

Are you a


This really doesn’t get any easier to judge. Every year we get more entries and every year they are of such an impressively high standard that we have to be very strict with ourselves. Left to my own devices I could quite easily pick 30 or 40 winners… But as each winning chocolate goes on to feature in a tasting box, we clearly can’t have that many!

receive more and more entries. So what does Angus look for in a winning chocolate recipe? What does it take to impress the judges? “I’m extremely open-minded when it comes to judging and assessing the entries. Of course, an innovative concept will always catch my eye, but it doesn’t always have to be something brand new – a new twist on a classic is an equally valid approach. Unusual ingredients or an unorthodox combination of ingredients is refreshing and will score points, as will slightly eccentric designs or moulds. However, at the back of our minds, we must always remember that the winners must also be feasible too – unfortunately. In past years I have been known to infuriate our chocolatiers by choosing winning recipes that are extremely ‘challenging’ to make!” So, without further ado, here are the winners of The Create a Chocolate Competition 2011 (in alphabetical order): Camaretto – by Angela Gittings A very more-ish sounding combination of caramel and one of the Club’s favourite liqueurs, amaretto. Dark Munro – by S Waters Bringing together the unusual combination of marmalade and fine Scottish malt whisky.

Fleur d’Orange – Clare Hockley A refreshing new take on a classic vanilla ganache, paired with a zesty orange water fondant. Scrumpy Crunchy – Lynn Leary Taking inspiration from a fantastic local ingredient, this one features a Somerset brandy apple ganache and crunchy biscuit. Sore Throat Soother – Alan Giles Never mind the sore throat, this one sounds just plain soothing! With honey, lemon and ginger – a great one for the chillier months. Time for Bed – Valerie Womble We loved the simple concept behind this recipe, which also manages to be quite unusual too. As Valerie says – it was inspired by the final malty drink and biscuit before bed. So, congratulations to all of our winners whose creations will appear in forthcoming tasting boxes (starting in the new year). Plus, they’ll all receive a whopping 5kg of their chocolate to do with as they wish – flaunt in front of friends and family for example. Thanks must also go to each and every member who submitted an entry – there were just too many that came close to winning to mention, but as you can see from the designs and drawings opposite, the standard was extremely high. Bring on next year’s competition!

Left – just a small selection of the amazing drawings, illustrations and photos that accompanied members’ entries this year



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

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

Selection – D136

Raspberry Amaretto by M Meier 8.53 (36% scored it 10/10) Salted Caramel Mousse by R Macfadyen 8.47 (29% scored it 10/10) Double Decker by E Desmet 8.41 (27% scored it 10/10) Gianduja & Nibs by K Kalenko 8.36 (29% scored it 10/10) Champagne Truffle by O Nicod 8.33 (29% scored it 10/10) Pecan Feast by R Macfadyen 8.30 (24% scored it 10/10) Pomegranate Tasting Batons 8.25 (28% scored it 10/10) Calypso Coffee by E Desmet 8.24 (26% scored it 10/10) Cranberry & Pear by O Coppeneur 8.18 (26% scored it 10/10) Raspberry Amaretto Peach Truffle by O Nicod 8.14 (25% scored it 10/10)

Selection – K69

Calypso Coffee by E Desmet 8.59 (38% scored it 10/10) Champagne Truffle by O Nicod 8.50 (32% scored it 10/10) Gianduja & Nibs by K Kalenko 8.47 (31% scored it 10/10) Pecan Feast by R Macfadyen 8.37 (26% scored it 10/10) Ginger Florentine by G Pereira 8.35 (23% scored it 10/10) Double Decker by E Desmet 8.29 (21% scored it 10/10) 67% Dark Tasting Batons, Grenada 8.24 (29% scored it 10/10) Calypso Coffee Salted Caramel Mousse by R Macfadyen 8.17 (20% scored it 10/10) Raspberry Amaretto by M Meier 8.12 (23% scored it 10/10) The Naughty Noggin by S Mortimer & JC Vandenberghe 8.09 (29% scored it 10/10)

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

Purist 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Selection – S47

Pecan Feast by R Macfadyen 8.23 (27% scored it 10/10) 40% Milk Chocolate, Ivory Coast 8.18 (7% scored it 10/10) Mousse au Chocolat by G Pereira 8.07 (17% scored it 10/10) Gianduja & Nibs by K Kalenko 8.06 (25% scored it 10/10) Cranberry & Pear by O Coppeneur 8.00 (10% scored it 10/10) Mississippi Mud Pie 7.95 (24% scored it 10/10) Double Decker by E Desmet 7.94 (24% scored it 10/10) Ginger Florentine by G Pereira 7.88 (21% scored it 10/10) Pomegranate Tasting Batons 7.77 (21% scored it 10/10) 67% Dark Tasting Batons, Grenada 7.57 (4% scored it 10/10)

Selection – P01

Hazelnut Bûche 8.30 (41% scored it 10/10) 70% Chuao Dark, Venezuela 8.19 (36% scored it 10/10) Salted Caramel Almonds 8.13 (35% scored it 10/10) 65% Dark Alto El Sol, Peru 8.12 (31% scored it 10/10) Cocoa Nibs 7.86 (24% scored it 10/10)

6. Extreme Caramels 7.55 (24% scored it 10/10) 10

Pecan Feast

Hazelnut Bûche


Have Your Say! Bouquet Pecan Feast – Classic Yes... yes and more yes... LOVED it... Feasted alone on this one – too good to share with anyone, even a husband!

In The Postbag…

Carol & Franco, Isleworth

Hi Simon

Bouquet  Extreme Caramel – Purist

I enjoyed reading the magazine as I broke into this month’s tasting selection – Ginger Florentine is a legendary chocolate. I’ve just returned to the Club after a year away. I had felt it was too selfindulgent and so stopped my membership, but I couldn’t stop liking Hotel Chocolat chocolate. I found I was in our local HC shop here in Brighton virtually every month. So I realised I’d be as well re-joining the club and getting all the extras that Club members get. It’s good to be back! I feel St Lucia calling as well.

I don’t often give a score of 10 but this one deserves even more. The best chocolate I have tasted in a long while.

Janet Oliver, Morpeth

Brickbat  Peach Truffle – Classic It may just be me, but this chocolate had a hint of spring onion in it.

Mrs Court, Edinburgh

Bouquet Raspberry Amaretto – Classic The moment I bit into this I knew it would be a 10/10 straight away! Totally gorgeous!

Robert Hall, Sutton Coldfield

Brickbat  Salted Caramel Mousse – Dark Why??

Ian Argyle, Southampton

Bouquet Salted Caramel Mousse – Dark

Best wishes Alistair Elliott, Brighton

As I bit into this, the voice on TV at the time said “just delicious”. How did they know?

Lynn Eaton, Doncaster

Dear Simon

Brickbat  Cranberry & Pear – Elements

I’m severely diabetic, however, I love your chocolates so much I work hard to get my bloodsugar readings down to an acceptable level, just so I can enjoy one of your chocolates, every day until I’ve emptied the entire box. They’re that good!

The description said these two aren’t usually found together, I would say there is a good reason for that. Horribly sweet and sickly.

Michelle Teale, Kenilworth

Bouquet Almond Marzipan – Dark Best in box. Wonderful to taste marzipan that isn’t too sweet. You could really taste the almonds. Very well done.

Diana Patterson, Ingatestone

Mr Aitken 11


How the final selections for Excellence are made… All but our very newest members will already know all about Excellence – it’s our annual collection that brings together the very best of the best from the last 12 months of tasting. But what you might not know is how we choose the chocolates that go into each Excellence Collection. The vast majority of the ‘hard work’ is done by you, our Tasting Club members. If, that is, you can call the tasting and scoring of chocolates ‘hard work’? Nevertheless, we compile our shortlist of contenders for each category from the highest scoring chocolates of the year. However, a shortlist always needs to be whittled down to a balanced collection of winners, which is when what Angus calls ‘frank discussions’ occur…

“ Over my dead body!”

For a while, the merits of the various Excellence contenders is all Angus and Gabriela would talk about!

On the selection committee this year were Club Founder, Angus Thirlwell and chief chocolate developer, Gabriela Pereira. Both were more than ready to fight for their favourites as the final places were decided in a series of meetings and tastings – where incidentally, the following snippets were overheard. “Over my dead body – Calvados Kick would knock its socks off any day… If there was a smoother praline than Dizzy then I’ll eat the box lid… You cannot be serious – there was nothing more fruity than Blackberry & Pear… OK, I’ll let you have Crème Brûlée if you give me Pecan Danish…” Did your favourites make it into the final box? Well there isn’t long to wait to find out – the chocolate event of the season is coming soon!


Available in Classic, Dark and Elements – coming soon!


Make sure yours is reserved or call 08444 72 70 70


Computer Lends A Hand


Many of the chocolates in your monthly tasting selection are finished by hand, which, of course, demands extremely steady hands.

If you’ve called one call centre you’ve called them all, right? Well, no actually because there are some huge differences between call centres, as you’ll know if you’ve ever called ours. You’re no doubt aware that many companies these days use ‘outsourced’ call centres, predominantly because it’s cheaper to do that, rather than run your own. Unfortunately, in saving costs a great deal can also be lost, like a personal service, knowledgeable staff and a friendly, warm welcome for example. Which is precisely why our call centre is located right in our Royston office. And what’s more, it’s manned by seasoned members of staff with a passion for chocolate, who genuinely care about our Tasting Club and who are there to help our members. Plus, they all get to enjoy a monthly tasting box too – so it’s no wonder that they know their stuff!

Of course, a computer design can only ever be as good as the human who created it!


owever, we don’t necessarily want those hands to be too steady, because one of the attractions of hand decorating is that each chocolate is individual as no two are the same. But then again, sometimes absolute uniformity is required, which is where high tech machines like our brand new computer aided design (CAD) machine comes in. It gives us the opportunity to decorate each chocolate in exactly the same way, which is especially useful when it comes to intricate designs, or precise patterns. Of course, the finished result will only ever be as good as the design you put in. So there will always be a need for talented individuals, with steady hands, to create the designs in the first place!

Rachael is just one of the friendly, knowledgeable staff you might speak to when you phone our Hertfordshire call centre 13

and finally

Chocolate Bonds IN THE NEWS – AGAIN!

If you are a £2,000 Chocolate Bond holder then you’ll be aware that we recently offered you the opportunity to upgrade. The reason we did this was because having had several requests from bondholders to do such a thing, it appeared we were legally obliged to offer the same opportunity to all those with a £2,000 Bond.


nce again we have been truly overwhelmed by the response. First, we raised an unprecedented £3.7 million with the original issue and now we have added nearly £400,000 from members keen to support our exciting development plans. This activity prompted interest by the press and we were featured in The Mail on Sunday

Easter Collection Scores

Easter may well have been and gone, but hopefully these results will bring back some delicious memories. It’s unusual to see the same chocolate topping all three charts, but that’s precisely what our Easter Tablet has done – but then again, we did search high and low to find the antique mould from which we created this exclusive tablet. But then again, it could also have been the winning chocolates we used – a rather special caramel milk chocolate for the Classic and the Mix and our very own 70% dark for the Dark Egg. Is it wrong to be looking forward to next Easter already? 14

on 12th June, in an article all about innovative financing. Club Member, Sue Bowen, was interviewed and gave us a stunning review, explaining how she was paying £17.95 every other month for boxes and now she gets the boxes as the return on her investment in the Chocolate Bond – which is a bigger return than leaving her money mouldering in the bank. Well said Sue!

Classic Egg 1.  The Caramel Easter Tablet (8.83) 2.  Vanilla Almond Crêpe (8.69) 3.  Smiley Face Praline (8.59) 4.  Crispy Duck (8.49) 5.  Blueberry Egg (8.48)

Dark Egg 1.  The 70% Dark Easter Tablet (8.80) 2.  Golden Rum Egg (8.62) 3.  Espresso Truffle (8.54) 4.  Vanilla Almond Crêpe (8.53) 5.  Tiddly Chick (8.52)

Mixed Egg 1.  The Caramel Easter Tablet (8.53) 2.  Crème Caramel Egg (8.46) 3.  Vanilla Almond Crêpe (8.45) 4.  Crispy Duck (8.41) 5.  Extra Thick Shells (8.40)


How do you SCORe your CHOCOLATES ANGUS? Scoring chocolates is obviously a highly subjective process – with different members adhering to very different scales. Which is why we thought it might be interesting to hear how Club Founder, Angus Thirlwell, goes about awarding his scores. Here’s what he told us:

Caught in the act – Angus tasting and rating one of the latest tasting boxes

Well, first and foremost I should say that I do try to be as objective as possible with my scores. That’s to say, I attempt to judge each chocolate on its merits, rather than if I like it or not. For example, I can confess that I’m not the world’s biggest fan of buttercream, however, I can recognise a well made buttercream when I taste one and so will reward it as such (otherwise they’d all get about 4 out of 10 from me!). Here’s the scale that I have in mind whilst tasting chocolates:


This must be the best example of this genre of chocolate that I’ve ever tasted, or have tasted in a good long while – both in the recipe and in the decoration and finish.


A chocolate with real wow factor that must be not only well made and to a good recipe, but also have the looks to match. Critically, though, I will have tasted a better version at some point (see above).


This score represents a very good chocolate that has tripped up on one small aspect of aesthetics. That’s to say, it is a well-made chocolate with a slightly bungled finish.


Here we have the chocolates that I can tell are aiming for the higher echelons and are better than average, but have tripped up on one aspect of the recipe and perhaps the decoration too.


For a chocolate to score 6 from me it must be a fairly run of the mill example of its type, an average kind of chocolate that isn’t terrible but that I probably wouldn’t finish (but then again I taste a lot of chocolate every day!)

5, 4 &3

I’ve lumped these scores together because this is where my objectivity can sometimes desert me, depending on how disappointed I am in these chocolates. For example, if it were a below par buttercream I wouldn’t really be that disappointed, so it might get a 5. If I thought it was going to be a silky smooth praline and it wasn’t, then I would mind more and would punish it with a 3.


This score is reserved for chocolates that have something fundamentally wrong. It would be that the flavours clash, it might be overly sweet, or the recipe has been poorly executed in some way.


These chocolates are utter disasters in my mind and I’ll be having words with someone! Seriously though, disasters can happen to a chocolatier, be it a badly thought through recipe, bad execution, bad decoration or all three. But that’s the beauty of the Tasting Club – we can send messages like this to chocolatiers and they’ll be unlikely to make the same mistake again!


Summer Celebrations Whatever you’re up to this season, there’s a Summer Collection to help you do it. From picnics and lazy lunches, to seaside day-trips, birthdays and all sorts of summer celebrations.

Available online and instore now

The Chocolate Tasting Club News - D139 July 2011  

The latest News from The Chocolate Tasting Club