The Land of Chocolate

Today I will write the post about the GD chocolate book!!!

In fact, there’s no need for cursing. The chocolate book, aka. Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum was a magnificent read that I thoroughly enjoyed. Which is why I felt it was so important to review it here, and why it’s remained on my desk for the past 3 months as I never seem to have the time to get around to writing a post about it. The downside to this is that I’ve forgotten much of the content of the book, with my single complaint about the publication being that there is no index of places Rosenblum visited or people he talked to or companies he profiled for me to use as a reference, either to find specific passages or simply to jog my memory.

What’s important to note is that Rosenblum lives in Paris, so much of his research is centred on European chocolatiers in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, as well as much national posturing over who has the best stuff.

Rosenblum turns to Chloé Doutre-Roussel – who makes her living as a chocolate taster (tough job, that!), and is widely considered the world’s expert on high-end chocolate – regularly throughout the book, both in terms of profiling the various European companies and in tasting the products from many of the smaller single-origin plantations he visits.

Rosemblum also debunks some myths, such as the idea that most African chocolate is produced with child slave labour. In fact, most small chocolate plantations are family-owned, and while children are certainly put to work on a family farm, the actual harvesting of the cacoa pods requires the strength and skill of a full-grown adult to be done properly.

There are more than a few swipes throughout the book at chocolate giant Valrhona and their attitude towards the chocolatiers who buy their product – even getting in to talk to someone at the company was a trial for the author, and Doutre-Roussel admits to having scaled the fence when she once arrived for a meeting and no one was there to let her in.

But the book is more about the little guy than the corporations like Godiva, of which Rosenblum doesn’t have much good to say. Instead, chocolate fans will recognize names like Pralus, Michel Cluizel and Michel Chaundun. Another reason why an index would have been a good thing.

This is probably not a book that will be of interest to anyone who is happy with a plain milk chocolate Hershey bar. Rosenblum spends much of his time writing about rare, high-end products, trekking through jungles or heading off to almost-deserted islands to visit single-origin plantations or profiling European chocolate makers whose products sell for a premium price. But it’s well written, witty and extremely informative, and is a must read for anyone whose palate turns away from Lindt or Godiva in favour of “the good stuff”.