Annalisa Barbieri, celebrated columnist and Chocolate Correspondent for The Observer, has chosen these five bars as a great introduction to the world of Craft Chocolate. And we at CocoaRunners definitely agree — these really are five fantastic bars.
Disclaimer: Annalisa Barbieri is The Observer’s Chocolate Correspondent, where she writes the weekly Notes on Chocolate column. Neither Annalisa, nor The Observer, make any money from this endeavour. £3 per box, for the first hundred boxes sold, is also being donated to Camfed, a charity that helps educates girls in Africa and is dear to Annalisa’s heart.
Pump Street – Rye Crumb, Milk & Sea Salt 60%
“This was possibly the first craft chocolate I came across, back in 2015 when it launched, and also my first introduction to a dark milk. I’d moved to Suffolk in 2007 and was intrigued to find a bar made in the same county. This is unlike any chocolate tasted before or since. It’s the slightly bitter, nutty crumbs of the rye bread, actually mixed into this divine dark milk chocolate that captures you, and the salt – perfectly judged – just makes all the other flavours shine. I ate the whole 70g bar in one sitting, later tweeting Pump Street to tell them how wonderful it was and being gently admonished with a ‘you’re meant to savour it a piece at a time’. I replied with ‘I did, just all at once.'”
The rye crumbs give this beautiful bar a sharp crunch and distinctive toasted taste that works incredibly well with the salt, which in turn cuts beautifully through the rich milk chocolate.
Pralus – Barre Infernale Orange
“Ah, where to start with this bar. A great hulking brick of a bar, no demarcations, nothing, so it’s entirely up to you how much you cut. It was one of the first bars I tasted when I became the Observer’s chocolate correspondent. I have a mixed relationship with orange and chocolate – I love the idea of it but too many super sweet Terry’s chocolate oranges have scarred me. But this…dark 75% cocoa on the outside, the most amazing praline inside with a candied orange heart running through it. I’ve gone on to discover almost all the other Barre Infernales ever since and when I was curating this box I insisted this went in it.”
Smooth, intense, fruity, nutty; this bar has it all. Don’t let the bright flash of orange in the middle deceive you – this praline centre is an intriguing combination of citrus fruit and nuts that we find very hard to resist.
Original Beans – Femmes de Virunga 55% Milk
“This bar shocked me. On the front it says Strong/ Stark/Forte. I didn’t expect it to be so smooth. I’ve since learnt that Original Beans chocolate is preternaturally smooth. There isn’t a person I’ve given this to – even die hard supermarket chocolate fans – who haven’t tasted this and changed their mind about craft chocolate. It’s an exceptional dark milk and a fantastic introduction to craft chocolate. Try to eat a piece without going ‘mmmmm’.”
A creamy dark milk bar with notes of cappuccino and roasted nuts, this creation from the women of the Virunga National Park delights and inspires in equal measure.
Tosier – Tumaco, Colombia 70% Dark with Coffee
Tosier chocolate is classy, clean but absolutely full of flavour. Coffee and chocolate is an obvious marriage but it’s often hard to get right. I would keep a bar of this permanently in my office if I could: it’s just so perfectly balanced and remains the best dark coffee chocolate I’ve ever tasted.
This rich and nutty single-origin Colombian cocoa enjoys floral notes and a hint of caramel. The combination with this single-origin Colombian coffee is a match made in heaven, introducing notes of sweet banana and subtle spice.
Bare Bones – Dominican 68% with Salt
“Sometimes I have a piece of this and think, ‘Did I remember it right? Is it really so good?’ and it never disappoints. When I first tasted this I described it in my Observer column as like my ‘food critic in Ratatouille moment’ where everything stood still and I went back to some childhood memory. I actually got quite emotional. The chocolatier Paul A Young introduced me to Glasgow-based Bare Bones and this chocolate is simply amazing. It taste of caramel but that’s so ubiquitous now I don’t want to put you off. Just taste it, sit back, and enjoy.”
A balanced, nutty aroma with flavour notes of salted caramel and roasted hazelnuts. Salt from Maldon brings out the natural sweetness of the cocoa, making this a bar you won’t want to put down.