The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Pralus Madagascar 75% Criollo Cocoa

Did you know that there are three main varieties of cacao, and that the finest and most expensive one - the Criollo bean - represents less than 5% of the world cocoa production? I certainly didn't know that, and would probably remain ignorant of that fact, had Rob not enlightened me on the matter. Apparently, the taste of Criollo chocolate is quite different from chocolate made from the more common Forastero bean, and so naturally we were quite keen to try a Criollo chocolate. Unfortunately, it wasn't easy to find one, simply because of the fact that 95% of all chocolate is made from Forastero/Trinitario, but that's where living in a huge city like Hong Kong comes in useful. Whilst waiting in line to pay at the supermarket in the mall downstairs, I spotted the word "Criollo" on some chocolate bars near the checkout counters (placing confectionary near the checkout counter is marketing that works). These Francois Pralus chocolates were expensive, more than twice the cost of the last chocolate I reviewed, but it was the first (and so far only) Criollo chocolate I have seen sold in a supermarket (believe me, we looked pretty hard across different stores). Pralus selects cacao for his plantations, where they are grown, harvested and fermented, and then roasted and made into delicious chocolates in his Roanne facility. Pralus makes everything himself, and is one of only three artisan chocolate craftsmen in France. That certainly explains why his chocolates are expensive. I don't think Pralus is a regular item at this supermarket, so I was pretty happy to encounter it. Why are Criollo chocolates so expensive and rare? Because the Criollo tree is so much more susceptible to plant diseases than the more hardy Forastero, so it follows that Criollo plantations have lower yields.

The packaging: "fresh nose, slightly minty and fruity, delicate to the taste, slightly acid":

The first thing that hit me when I opened the package was the aroma. The strong smell wasn't a bad thing, but it certainly didn't smell like the dark chocolates I'm used to. It did not taste bitter, in spite of its 75% cocoa solids content, and in fact has a milder yet complex taste compared to other Forastero or Trinitario chocolates I've eaten. I love the smooth texture on the tongue. The chocolate had a slightly acidic citrus note, which apparently is characteristic of the Criollo. We both really enjoyed it, and wish that Criollo chocolates were cheaper and more readily available.

All that's left of the chocolate at the time of writing:


  1. I wonder where we could get such chocolate wrapped in paper rather than aluminium foil. Metalic wrap has a reputation for tarnishing the flavour.

  2. Interesting. I didn't know that. Learn new things everyday :)