Artisan du Chocolat Tasting - Puzzling but oh-so Pleasurab
Artisan du Chocolat tasting - puzzling but oh-so pleasurable
There is notably a Marmite reaction as our group bites into one of the first chocolate samples of the evening. The most common emotion appears to be that of confusion, and I think to myself: “This is smoky... almost like cigarettes, but surely not?”. A lady in the group somewhat hesitantly volunteers the suggestion that it is tobacco. Now if there’s one thing chocolatiers surely do not need to be too concerned with, it’s making chocolate addictive; chocolate contains amino acids that help to generate serotonin, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘happy chemical’. But clearly this isn’t enough for the Artisan du Chocolat company... Our host, with a smirk, confirms that we are indeed eating chocolate infused with tobacco leaves...
Of course, with reference to addiction I am exaggerating and somewhat misrepresenting Artisan’s intentions. Whilst it is the first adult-rated chocolate I’ve ever come across, in reality there is negligible amounts of nicotine in them. Their tobacco bar is rather a glimpse of quite how innovative and experimental Artisan is. This would be the first of many times that our palates were put to the test – from chocolate ganache infused with Iranian sun-dried limes, to the most unusual yet delicious chocolates made from Venezuelan Tonka beans, which, frankly I had never even heard of, but thoroughly enjoyed the lovely vanilla and almond notes they produce. Artisan call themselves ‘adventurers’, and as the tasting progressed this claim was most certainly vindicated.
Upon arrival at Artisan’s intimate Kensington boutique, we are welcomed with a glass of prosecco - which rather generously turned out to be bottomless. Whilst utterly ready to indulge ourselves in copious quantities of chocolate, we are first teased with an education on how we get from cocoa beans to the delicious chocolate that we are all too accustomed with. Momentarily, our alcohol is put to one side in exchange for Artisan’s cacao pulp juice. Cacao pulp has commonly been discarded as ‘waste’, but this is beginning to change in the chocolate community. This subtle yet sweet drink in isolation has numerous health benefits, but can also be the perfect accompaniment for cocktails like bellinis. Appetites becoming impatient, we are now each given some roasted cacao beans to crack apart. Bitter but with fruity and nutty complexities, the taste from the broken cacao nibs had the sort of chocolately intensity that is experienced with very high percentage dark chocolate. Our hosts give us some of their best-selling 100% dark chocolate to emphasise this point. The chocolate floodgates were now well and truly opened.
As the next sample passes our lips, an anecdote is relayed to us concerning a customer whose daughter had to decline a sample due to lactose intolerance. Saddened by this but most importantly inspired, Artisan came up with their 40% milk chocolate bar, made from almond milk. It is moves like this that demonstrate Artisan’s aspirations to stay current and recognise modern trends. The next chocolate tasting really substantiates this point. We are handed a chocolate with a bright pink tinge to it, and naturally draw the conclusion that it must be flavoured with berries of some kind. While upon tasting that citrusy sour taste did indeed transpire, we learn that there is absolutely no added fruit or colourings. Rather, the fruitiness and vibrancy of Artisan’s La Vie En Rose is entirely brought about by a very new development in the chocolate-making world: the ruby cocoa bean. Ruby chocolate was first introduced to the world in 2017 by Swiss-Belgian chocolatier, Barry Callebaut. While there are differing hypotheses on why these cocoa beans have a pinkish complexion, one theory is that they are unfermented.
Irrespective of how - this was a first introduction to this type of chocolate for the majority of our group, and yet another moment where this remarkable chocolate company had grabbed our attention. Speaking of which, Artisan has the endorsement of some of the most esteemed UK chefs. Gordon Ramsey describes them as ‘The Bentley of Chocolate’, which encapsulates the elegance of the brand. What’s more, Artisan’s sumptuous salted caramels were invented specifically for Ramsey’s menu at Claridges. Their divisive tobacco chocolate was also specially made for three Michelin star chef, Heston Blumenthal, to treat his diners at his famous restaurant, The Fat Duck. As stuffed as Heston’s duck, we are now presented with an oozing hot chocolate macaron paired with raspberry sorbet – the peak of indulgence. But the evening really reaches its crescendo when our hosts offer us the opportunity to try anything in the store– a chocolate free-for-all, you could say. More than happy to oblige, my infatuation with Italian cuisine inspires me to launch myself straight for the balsamic salted caramels, followed by their pine nut and black truffle pralines.
Whether it was caused by the prosecco or the astronomical amount of chocolate consumed, I find myself waddling out of the store with a bag of complimentary mini chocolate ganache Easter eggs. It’s fair to say that Artisan’s chocolate tasting was a magical experience with incredible value for money at only £29. It is guaranteed that you’ll leave stuffed, jovial and not to be forgotten, more educated on chocolate than before entering Artisan’s doors.