The monthly newsletter from the Tasting Club
Jingle Bells? Christmas really is on its way – so now’s the time to discover the must-have Club Christmas Collections! Find all three on page 5
Tasting Club Director reveals his scientific methods behind his chocolate scores. Will you agree? Find out on page 6
Taking the Tasting Club to America has thrown up unique challenges, like developing new packaging to cope with extreme heat
In more ways that one, The Chocolate Tasting Club is pretty hot property in the USA right now, as our update of American news shows.
First and foremost, our plan to start our testing, quite fittingly, in New England with both Classic and Dark Introductory Selections has been a great success, although not exactly as we had forecast it would be… That’s because, when we first started working with our partners in America we told them, with 13 years of experience here in the UK and Europe, that about 10% of their tasters would continued on page 8...
What’s Your Favourite Colour? Give us your help in choosing the colour for a brand new tasting selection and you could win one of the first boxes. Cast your vote on page 15
Letter from the
ith all the news from America taking the front page this issue, it feels as if I should be greeting you with a cheerful ‘Howdy!’. The success of The Tasting Club and Hotel Chocolat in the US shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone – because the chocolate market in America is in many ways leading the way with young and exciting chocolatiers. Sure, Hershey is still the leading chocolate brand, but it should no longer be regarded as the national preference! Elsewhere in this issue you’ll see that there’s a Christmas theme running right through it, with the launch of the essential Club Christmas Collections, plus a whole raft of other exciting goodies to make the festive season go with a swing. You’ll also see that I’ve been on a Tasting Adventure and bumped into some fellow Club members, Terry gives us his views on scoring and with the chocolate-laden Christmas season on its way, there’s also a reminder about keeping chocolate well away from pets.
The success of The Tasting Club and Hotel Chocolat in the US shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone – because the chocolate market in America is in many ways leading the way with young and exciting chocolatiers.
And finally, on page 15 you’ll find that we need your help in choosing the colour for a brand new tasting selection. We’ll tell you all about the Milk Selection in the next issue but, in the meantime, you can cast your vote and help us out. Is your Morning to Midnight Recipe Book reserved? See page 4 for details
Until next month, happy tasting!
Simon Thirlwell Club News Editor Send your letters to The Chocolate Tasting Club, Mint House, Royston SG8 5HL, or simply email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or via our website: www.chocs.co.uk 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
nce cocoa beans have been harvested, fermented and dried, they’re then bagged up and shipped off to continue the long process of turning beans into chocolate – roasting. There are several key moments in the making of chocolate and roasting is most definitely one of them, because if you get it wrong, there’s no coming back from it, the cocoa is most probably ruined. The beans are roasted to develop their flavour at temperatures of around 150ºC inside large rotating cylinders,
for anything between half an hour and two hours, depending on the depth of flavours required. Over roasting is usually avoided at all costs as it results in very bitter tasting beans. Roasting also helps to sterilise the beans, make the winnowing process easier and improves the ‘grindability’ of the nibs. Different types of cocoa require different roasting times – fine Criollo beans tend to require shorter, cooler roasts, while bulk Forastero beans tend to need hotter, longer roasting times.
This month’s Prize Draw
D139 Classic Selection
prize draw winner is Mr I Davidson from Aberdeen who wins a White & Light Sleekster Selection. Next month’s prize is a Truffles Sleekster Selection.
LAST CALL FOR…
FROM MORNING TO MIDNIGHT
K72 Dark Selection
prize draw winner is Christine Jones from Weston Super-Mare who wins a Signature Dark Selection. Next month’s prize is a Dark Adventure Peepster.
prize draw winner is Mrs Deborah Bryant from Islington who wins a Rocky Road Giant Slab. Next month’s prize is a Triple Chocolate Wham Bam Giant Slab.
P03 Purist Selection
prize draw winner is Sharon Sawyer from Leeds who wins a Purist Pralines & Caramel Selection.
Don’t miss the must-have recipe book for chocolate lovers! Our expanded and updated recipe book, Morning to Midnight, is here to help set free your inner foodie with 112 exciting sweet and savoury recipes for all occasions. From casual lunches and delicious dinners, to dishes with real wow factor, cocktails and more, there’s something for cooks of every level. Plus, with 90 contributors, including chefs, cookery writers and celebrity foodies, as well as 130 beautiful photographs, it will also make a stylish coffee table book – when you’re not using it in the kitchen that is! Special members-only price £22.95 (inc delivery) – PRE-ORDER now to make sure you get yours at www.chocs.co.uk/recipebook or call 08444 72 70 70.
Next month’s prize is a Purist Super Boosters Collection.
– score by post or online at www.chocs.co.uk and you’ll be automatically entered into this prize draw
The christmas Collections
MIXED- Classic Collection
This year we’ve created THREE glittering Christmas Collections, so no matter how you love your chocolates, there’s one specially made for you – just choose your favourite from Classic, Dark and now for the first time, Elements. Each one is inspired by the excitement of the season and bursting with festive flavours and splashes of seasonal colours. They’re perfect for handing around and sharing with friends, family and anyone else who might drop in. Plus, they also make rather exclusive gifts for friends and family too!
ALL DARK The Dark Collection
NO ALCOHOL The Elements Collection
It really wouldn’t be Christmas without them! Available for just £24.95 (including delivery) by PRE-ORDER only – please guarantee yours at www.chocs.co.uk/CHRISTMAS or call 08444 72 70 70
Club Founder, Angus (left) and Club Director, Terry often arrive at the same score – despite having very different methods!
SCORING CHOCOLATES –
Having heard Club Founder Angus Thirlwell’s views on scoring, we thought it was only fair to give Club Director, Terry Waters, the chance to air his.
box is Classic and since 85% of members take that or Trio I am obviously with the majority. I love caramel, so still in good company, but over the 13 years I have been involved in the Club since its founding, I have moved further and further away from the sweetness I used to like, and I particularly like combinations in a chocolate that ‘challenge’. So with only those considerations to explain how I get to a score in this category, I award between 0 and 7 points. Something will be badly wrong if a Club chocolate doesn’t get at least a 3, most get 4 or 5, the ‘almost made it’ 6 and the ‘nirvana chocolates’ get the top mark of 7. The arithmetically astute among you will appreciate that my total could add up to 12, but it is rare that chocolates get 11 or 12 and, when they do, they are reduced to 10. My point is that, under my scoring system, a chocolate doesn’t have to be exceptional in every category to get top marks. A champagne truffle is an iconic chocolate and its appearance difficult to make exceptional and hardly innovative in terms of recipe – but a really great tasting champagne truffle should have the opportunity of getting 10/10 and with my system it can! My all-time favourite? Griotte Deluxe – I did say I was a typical member!
oming from a marketing background you’ll appreciate my view on scoring veers towards the ‘scientific’ rather than the ‘artistic’. So no surprise that I have three precise categories in which the scores are distributed – appearance, innovation, taste & pleasure. First, I look at the chocolate and award between 0 and 2 points for appearance.To score zero a chocolate would have to be damaged and the damage caused by ineptness in design and I can’t recall ever giving 0 – typically a chocolate will get 1, with 2 reserved for exceptional design. The Club is all about innovation and so, before I try the chocolate, I look at the menu and consider how inventive the chocolatier has been. I would be on the phone to Angus if I ever awarded 0, but classic recipes with little added will get just 1 point. More creative chocolates get 2 and the extremely creative get 3. Now in both those categories I think I score on an objective basis and that most members would agree with me. But now comes the taste and pleasure element, which is totally subjective. It must be, otherwise how else would you explain why chocolates that come bottom could still get a high percentage of 10 out of 10? I like to feel that I am a typical Club member – my favourite
The Rabot Estate store in London’s Borough Market is a perfect ‘foodie’ setting for a Chocolate Tasting Adventure
Club News Editor, Simon Thirlwell, recently received an invitation that he found difficult to refuse – a Tasting Adventure evening at one of Hotel Chocolat’s London stores. Chocolate Tasting Adventures have been created especially for chocolate lovers to further their knowledge of chocolate and take their appreciation of it a step further. But rest assured it’s most definitely not like a classroom –you learn through hands-on tasting. And so it was when Simon arrived at Hotel Chocolat’s Rabot Estate store in London’s Borough Market. He had joined a group of 12 other eager tasters amongst whom, it turned out, there were several Tasting Club members and after a welcome glass of prosecco, everyone sat in their places kitted out with jugs of water and small baskets of crackers for cleansing the palate between chocolates. The evening began with a few hints and insider tips about how best to taste chocolate and then everyone jumped in with a first trial taste of a chilli dark chocolate. After that, the evening proceeded with a series of comparative tastings, in which interesting grades of dark and milk chocolates
were tasted, including single estate and origin chocolates as well as some exciting blends. Each comparison revealed something different about chocolate – be it regional differences, the flavours of different types of cocoa, the influence of terroir, conching times and much more. Simon told us, “One such taste-off involved three Saint Lucian chocolates – one a pure single estate from Rabot Estate and the other two were single origin made from a blend of beans. We had to guess which was the single estate and, as there were Club member witnesses that evening, I must admit that I got it wrong… I’d love to say I was playing devil’s advocate, but in reality I was clearly just having an off tasting day!” Chocolate Tasting Adventures are currently hosted in two London stores – High St Kensington and Borough Market. For more information please see www.hotelchocolat.co.uk/tastingadventure or call 08444 93 10 10. 7
continued from page 1
After a grand opening two years ago, Hotel Chocolat Boston continues to cause excitement, not least with its exclusive Tasting Room. Soon New Yorkers will get their chance to experience British chocolate!
All in all our testing phase in America has gone very well indeed. So well, in fact, that we’re stepping up a gear this autumn and will be aiming to recruit 10,000 new members.
prefer Dark selections. They, however, said that Americans would have a clear preference for dark chocolate and that they’d be needing more Dark selections. They were so insistent that we did indeed send them some extra Dark Selections, not really believing that they’d be needed. And how wrong we were! It turns out that our experience in Britain and Europe counts for little when it comes to American tastes, because 35% of them continue to prefer the Dark Selection – three and a half times more than in the UK! Another hurdle to clear when it comes to sending out chocolates in the US is the weather, or to be more precise, extremes of weather. When it’s hot in the Unites States it’s usually a little warmer than our normally quite temperate climate. Which is why we have developed special packaging to withstand those temperatures and ensure that our Tasting 8
Boxes arrive safe, sound and unmelted – using special, insulated boxes and ice packs. All in all our testing phase in America has gone very well indeed. So well, in fact, that we’re stepping up a gear this autumn and will be aiming to recruit 10,000 new members. That’s as well as introducing Elements into the mix there too, so we’ll be able to see if your US counterparts have a preference for nonalcoholic recipes as well as dark chocolate. Elsewhere in the United States there’s Hotel Chocolat news too. The Boston store in Newbury Street, which is celebrating its second anniversary, has continued to build on the excitement it created when it first opened. Far from ending up in the harbour, as a certain cargo of tea did, our chocolate consignments are welcomed with open arms. Especially, it seems, in the Tasting Room – a specially created space where customers can experience chocolate tasting on a much more personal level and staff can offer tailor-made experiences too. The head sommelier from one of Boston’s leading restaurants has also paid a visit, to host a pairing session with wine and Purist chocolates. And thanks to that warm Bostonian welcome, Hotel Chocolat will very shortly be opening a store in New York too. It will be in the Roosevelt Field shopping mall to be precise, joining such iconic American retailers as Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s in the Garden City location. We’ll give you all the details as soon as it’s open!
Part of the Team’s responsibilities is to record your all-important scores and comments
Meet the Member Services Team If you didn’t know that you had a dedicated team working behind the scenes to look after your every need, then you do now!
o what do they get up to? First of all, if you’ve ever posted anything to the Club, then this is the team that will take care of it. To be precise about it, last year they received 302,845 items of post, with peaks of 50,000 and 45,000 items a month in October and November (coinciding with our autumn campaigns to recruit new members). They also processed over 275,000 Tasting Club payments last year, ensuring that members continued to get their chocolates. However, perhaps more important than that is the fact the Member Services Team are the ones who manage the despatch of all of your regular tasting boxes and your special editions too. So, put simply, without them nothing much would happen at the Club! Mark Pascal, who is in charge of the team, did have one request to make, “Could I please ask that when members send us anything they include their details – name, address and membership number if possible. We receive hundreds that need further investigation, which can delay deliveries and we wouldn’t want that!”
With heart-melting whimpers and plenty of soppy, pleading looks – it’s difficult to say no to sharing your chocolates. But enough about your other halves, because there’s another family member who would love to get into your chocolates.
es, dogs think they love your chocolates too and, as we’ve heard from many Tasting Club members over the years, they will go to great lengths to get it. Although you might have a pang of guilt by saying no, you are in fact doing your pet a huge favour. Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is perfectly harmless to humans (some research points to it being a beneficial stimulant), but it can kill a domestic pet. What is a treat for us is toxic for them. Pets are most at risk from dark chocolate and cocoa powder as they contain the highest levels of theobromine and the amount considered to be dangerously harmful varies according the size and weight of the animal – so it’s clearly best to keep all chocolate well away out reach! But it’s not all bad news, because you can buy specially made doggy chocolates so that Rover doesn’t feel left out when the Tasting Box arrives. Plus, it means that you can get away without sharing with clear conscience. The other half is a different matter entirely though… 9
Classic 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Raspberry Soufflé by O Coppeneur 8.62 (45% scored it 10/10) Love Rat Truffle by E Desmet 8.54 (28% scored it 10/10) Nutty Coffee by K Kalenko 8.50 (34% scored it 10/10) Hazeldamia by R Macfadyen 8.46 (30% scored it 10/10) Pink Floyd by R Macfadyen 8.39 (30% scored it 10/10) Lemon Florentine by G Pereira 8.37 (29% scored it 10/10) Dark Toffee Pudding by G Pereira 8.34 (26% scored it 10/10) Velvet Crisp by E Desmet 8.34 (29% scored it 10/10) Japanese Whisky by R Macfadyen 8.31 (28% scored it 10/10) Vanilla Star by M Meier 8.12 (22% scored it 10/10)
Dark 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Selection – D139
Selection – K72
Pink Floyd by R Macfadyen 8.54 (39% scored it 10/10) Love Rat Truffle by E Desmet 8.51 (30% scored it 10/10) Dark Toffee Pudding by G Pereira 8.49 (31% scored it 10/10) Japanese Whisky by R Macfadyen 8.49 (25% scored it 10/10) Nutty Coffee by K Kalenko 8.48 (31% scored it 10/10) 75% Dark Tasting Batons 8.36 (27% scored it 10/10) Lemon Florentine by G Pereira 8.32 (29% scored it 10/10) Hazeldamia by R Macfadyen 8.25 (26% scored it 10/10) Velvet Crisp by E Desmet 8.22 (21% scored it 10/10) Raspberry Soufflé by O Coppeneur 8.13 (26% scored it 10/10)
Elements 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Selection – S50
Hazeldamia by R Macfadyen 8.64 (26% scored it 10/10) Velvet Crisp by E Desmet 8.51 (21% scored it 10/10) Sticky Toffee Slab 8.48 (39% scored it 10/10) 33% Milk Chocolate, Ivory Coast 8.16 (27% scored it 10/10) Dark Toffee Pudding by G Pereira 7.98 (31% scored it 10/10) Nutty Coffee by K Kalenko 7.86 (30% scored it 10/10) Vanilla Star by M Meier 7.86 (25% scored it 10/10) Rooibos & Cherry Milk Tasting Batons 7.53 (31% scored it 10/10) Meringue Bombe by K Kalenko 7.37 (29% scored it 10/10) 75% Dark Tasting Batons 6.97 (27% scored it 10/10)
Purist 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
Selection – P03
Caramelised Hazelnuts 8.10 (38% scored it 10/10) 85% Dark Chocolate, Ghana 7.60 (0% scored it 10/10) Piedmont Crunch 7.60 (37% scored it 10/10) Coffee & Amaretti Bûche 7.55 (50% scored it 10/10) 74% Dark Chocolate, Mexico 7.45 (0% scored it 10/10) Preserved Ginger 6.50 (25% scored it 10/10)
Have Your Say! Bouquet Chilli & Almond Crunch – Classic Unusual texture, loved the crunch and then the chilli, so pleased you didn’t hold back on that. Absolutely superb. Just a shame there were only 2!
Helen Spearman, Witney
Bouquet Raspberry Soufflé – Classic I thought I’d eaten enough raspberries from the abundant crop in my garden this year, but I found room for this!
Linda Whyte, Milton Keynes
Brickbat Chilli & Almond Crunch – Classic Absolutely disgusting. What made you think this would taste good?!
Claire Bird, Barnsley
Bouquet Love Rat Truffle – Classic Any love rat who came back with some of these would quickly be forgiven - even more so if he then exited smartly and left them all for me! Isabel Stainsby, Glasgow
Brickbat Peared Up – Dark Sweet and sickly, no pear flavour and the thinnest layer of dark chocolate around the milk. A travesty to call this a dark chocolate!
Gillian Scholey, Edenbridge
Bouquet Meringue Bombe – Dark Wonderfully unsweet. My coffee went cold as I enjoyed the lasting flavours.
Sandra Lunt, Cambridge
Brickbat Vanilla Star – Elements This chocolate was let down by its presentation, when first saw it assumed was upside down. Emma Phillips, Hastings
Bouquet Hazeldamia – Elements Absolutely gorgeous. The best praline I’ve tasted for...well, EVER!
Judi Bond, Littlehampton
In The Postbag… General Comments Love the new box! My favourite colour and I do like a regular change in packaging to maintain my interest! Mary Smith, Belper We thought our palates had become accustomed to quality but it seems you can still light our fire. Where do they get all their ideas? Superb. John & Judith Pentith, Wetherby I think the new look and design of boxes is more appealing than previous boxes. Darn Stafford, Leeds Another good mix of textures and flavours, some of which I liked despite myself. Which is what the Club is all about. Lynn Eaton, Doncaster Now using Angus Thirlwell’s scoring guide. It certainly provides a wider spread of scores. Sandra Lunt, Cambridge A box we were sorry to finish, though that is usually the way. Chris Murray, Omagh An absolutely scrumptious experience from beginning to end (which was quite a short time!) Kath Ireland, Peeblesshire This is one of the best selections I have ever had. There are usually an odd one or two not to my taste, but not this time. I loved them all – some a little more than others. Gail Godfrey, Elland 11
SPECIALLY MADE Christmas isn’t just a season full of gorgeous flavours and aromas, it’s also a time for celebrating with friends, for the gathering of families and for giving and receiving some of life’s festive luxuries. Which is exactly why we’ve brought together some of our favourite festive special editions – that are great to have around the home at Christmas and they make rather exclusive gifts too! Plus, you can find the Club Christmas Selections on page 5 and Entertaining with Chocolate is on page 14.
EXCELLENCE For Christmas Last year, by popular demand, we remade Excellence for Christmas and it sold out within weeks! So this year we’ll be doing it again, with a fresh, new batch of this year’s must-have special edition Classic Excellence, available at the usual members-only price of £17.95 (including delivery).
FORTIFIED For Christmas The Fortified Collection is now a quarterly box, which means there are four to enjoy throughout the year. The autumn edition was a complete sell-out, so if you like your chocolates to have a boozy kick, then please order your Fortified Winter Edition as soon as possible! Members’ price £19.95 (including delivery).
for Christmas! THE CHEESE Tasting Experience If you’re partial to both cheese and chocolate, then this could well be the ultimate tasting experience for you! With four artisan cheeses to savour, three grades of chocolate and five different tasting ingredients, it’s a fascinating introduction to the world of flavour pairing. Order now for just £37.95 with FREE courier delivery for Tasting Club members.
ADD OUR SPECIALLY CHOSEN PORT AND SAVE £5! Port for pairing with Dark Chocolate is a special reserve aged ruby port from a fourth generation, family-run house in Porto – selected because it’s the ultimate match for dark chocolate and will be perfect to pair with artisan cheese too! So order this 37.5cl bottle of Port (worth £16) with The Cheese Tasting Experience and you’ll save £5. The Cheese & Port Tasting Experience £48.95 (including FREE courier delivery).
Save £5 on our Exclusive Club Apron Morning to Midnight is our must-have, expanded and updated recipe book, which is a must-have for chocolate lovers – see page 4 for full details. And when you order your copy, you will also receive £5 off our exclusive Tasting Club Apron, perfect for the master chocolatier in your household! Morning to Midnight and the Tasting Club Apron £37.90 (including delivery)
Order any of our Christmas Special Editions at www.chocs.co.uk/reserve or call 08444 72 70 70 13
SO LONG, FAITHFUL OLD BOX!
Although the new-look boxes have now been rolled out and we have said goodbye to the old style design, we were delighted to receive this lovely work of art as a fitting way to say goodbye. The handiwork is by Amie Kelf, age 9, who is a real fan of the old style boxes. Every month she colours them in and each one is different. If they are all as good as this one, then the Kelf household must be a lovely, colourful place indeed. The design for this box lid was originally inspired by a photograph that Club Founder, Angus Thirlwell, took during one of his first visits
A colourful send off for our old style box!
the Rabot Estate on Saint Lucia. It was taken between the cocoa trees, looking down towards the sea. There’s a tantalising glimpse of the iconic Petit Piton Mountain and the old estate house in the background, with Trinitario pods and cocoa leaves in the foreground – hand drawn in the simple style of pen and ink. Thank you Amie and if we find any stray lids, then we’ll be sure to send them straight to you!
Entertaining with chocolate Includes all you’ll need for a hugely enjoyable session of tasting and flavour pairing – so that you and your friends can have fun whilst taking your love of chocolate a delicious step further. Entertaining with Chocolate is three adventures in one! 1. Chocolate Tasting – with 80 milk & dark chocolate pieces (8 x 10 different chocolates) including single estate and origin chocolates, with expert tasting tips and notes. 2. Chocolate Pairing – learn how to draw out the flavours of different chocolates by pairing them with different ingredients. Includes sea salt, almonds, orange pieces, cocoa nibs and hazelnuts, as well as your expert guide. 3. Wine & Chocolate Pairing – search for the ultimate chocolate and wine partnership with our tasting guide (wine not included). Featuring tasting tips, recommended wine list and professional pairing examples to get you going. 14
Members’ special offer £40.00 – WITH FREE DELIVERY (worth £4.95) Order now at www.chocs.co.uk/entertaining or call 08444 72 70 70
VOTE NOW TO CHOOSE The New Selection’s Colour – and you could win one of the first boxes
The brand new Milk Selection is on its way – and as the name suggests, it will be utterly devoted to mellow milk chocolate. We’ll tell you more about it very shortly, but in the meantime we need your help to choose this new selection’s colour. Below you’ll see the three colours on our shortlist, just vote for the one you think best suits The Milk Selection and the one with the most votes will win. PLUS – we’ll choose one entry at random to receive one of the first Milk Selection boxes, so get voting!
Vote for your Favourite
✁ Tear or cut along dotted line
Tick one of the boxes below and SEND your entry form to CTC Milk
Selection, Mint House, Royston SG8 5HL or you can vote ONLINE at www.chocs.co.uk/milk
Name Member No. All entries must be received by 14th November 2011 15
CORPORATE christmas gifts It’s time to get the bauble rolling!
Take a sneaky peEk at our spectacular range of seasonal gifts and you’ll find there’s something for everyone – from handy-sized gifts, to luxurious chocolate hampers and our eye-catching Bespoke Service. They’re the perfect way to ensure your brand really sparkles this Christmas. Contact the Corporate Team to find out more, including volume discounts. Call 08444 93 10 10 Email email@example.com or find us online at www.hotelchocolat.co.uk