Standing in the Dark

I’m a sucker for dark chocolate of just about any type, but I tend to avoid the stuff found in supermarket aisles or drugstore shelves. One of the only brands I will buy is Lindt, and then usually only when I know my stash of high-end stuff is getting low and I won’t have a chance to stock up any time soon.

I was in a drugstore last week and was lured to the fancy chocolate bar section where I grabbed a Lindt Creation 70% Caramel. Lindt’s Excellence Toffee Crunch milk chocolate bar with the toffee pieces is one of the few milk chocolates I’ll eat, so I figured the dark bar was probably just as good.

One shelf down was another display of dark chocolate bars; a selection of Nestlé Noir. I had heard good things about the Nestlé bars, but hadn’t thought of purchasing any myself, as I try to avoid Nestlé products whenever possible, just out of principle. But just for the hell of it, I grabbed the Nestlé Noir Eclat Caramel.

First of all, it wasn’t a real comparison, as the Lindt bar had more of a soft caramel filling, whereas the Nestlé bar was chunks of hard caramel, very similar to the Lindt milk chocolate bar.

Both fillings were great examples of their respective caramel style. The creamy Lindt filling was buttery with a brown sugar smell and while it wasn’t oozy, it melted nicely on the tongue. It was a touch sweet for pairing with dark chocolate, but the higher cacao percentage (70%) offset this somewhat.

The Nestle bar was full of tiny pieces of a harder caramel that totally made me think of the crust on a bowl of creme brulee. Again, these are similar to what Lindt uses in their milk chocolate bar, but they worked very nicely with the dark chocolate, even at a relatively low 64%.

The chocolate quality was not so great on the Nestlé bar, with the cliched waxy mouthfeel and slightly cloying flavour. Both bars were shiny and broke cleanly and melted nicely on the tongue.

Overall I’ve been in favour of the Lindt bar, but that may be my inner chocolate snob rearing her head. The Nestlé bar has a total of 9 different ingredients compared to the Lindt bar’s 14. And while that 14 includes bourbon vanilla beans, it also includes **sorbitol**, something completely unnecessary in a bar of chocolate.

But don’t count on the Nestlé bar being out of the woods just yet. I was quite bothered by the packaging which has little “it’s good to know” tips such as how chocolate is a good source of magnesium, and contains polyphenols and how it produces endorphins “which can increase feelings of well-being”. The whole explosion of dark chocolate bars in recent years from mainstream companies is based on a couple of studies that show heart-positive results from eating small amounts of the stuff. But in most cases, the processing necessary to turn raw cacao into a “chocolate bar”, especially one with crap like sorbitol in it, pretty much negates any positive benefits that might result.

I don’t think I’d buy either of these bars again, even in a chocolate emergency. Besides the fact that they were only okay in terms of quality and flavour, they’re likely both made with cacao from plantations where worker conditions are less than stellar. That, combined with the crap ingredients and the slightly skeezy “health benefits” marketing campaign sends me looking elsewhere for my chocolate fix.